ISTP – ESFJ Relationships: Andy McNab on Love

Andy McNab ISTP: SAS team waiting to board a flight

This week we explore an ISTP – ESFJ relationship with two special guests. We are joined by Andy McNab, an ISTP, and his wife, Lily McNab, an ESFJ, in their first ever exclusive interview as a couple. Andy is an ex-SAS hero, functioning psychopath and best-selling author. Andy and Lily met 22 years ago and they would be a perfect personality match on So Syncd.

In this interview, they talk about their polar opposite personalities, how Andy’s psychopathy impacts their relationship and their badger cam (don’t ask!).

Andy McNab ISTP: Bravo Two Zero team photo

Andy McNab is the author of the bestselling book Bravo Two Zero, in which he writes about his time in the SAS, including a mission during the Gulf war which resulted in him being imprisoned and tortured for six weeks. He also co-authored The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success.

Andy McNab’s new action drama movie, SAS: Red Notice, is available in the US and UK now.

You can listen to the full interview on Personality Love Lab, Spotify and Apple podcasts.

How the ESFJ – ISTP relationship started

Andy and Lily met 22 years ago. It wasn’t love at first sight but there was a mutual attraction from the moment their paths crossed. “I’d got out of the military and wrote my very first book. Lily was working for the publishers,” says Andy. “She didn’t have anything to do with the publishing of my book and then she left to go and work for another publisher, so I didn’t see her for a couple of years.”

They discovered that they were both single a couple of years after first meeting. They were almost living next door to each in London so Andy asked Lily out for a date to a local romantic pub.

The ESFJ – ISTP first date

“It was nice because I already knew him really well as we’d worked together,” Lily says. “We chatted a lot and then snogged in the car park, so it was totally a date.”

Both admit there was definite chemistry from the start.

“When we were working together in publishing, I didn’t really fancy him then because he had…,” Lily stops to rephrase her words. “He was really fun and I really liked him and he was chatty but he had this terrible handlebar moustache. It was like some ex-military thing. It was quite a seventies porn-looking moustache.”

Andy jokes that he looked like a German porn star.

However, when they met for their first date Andy had just returned from working on a film in Hollywood and had been “Hollywood-ized” as Lily describes it.

“He’d shaved this horrible moustache off,” says Lily. “And he was wearing Robert De Niro’s leather jacket because he’d been working with him and looked really cool.”

Nevertheless, however cool Andy McNab looked, that wasn’t the main reason for Lily changing her opinion of him.

The ESFJ – ISTP relationship spark

“He has a real quiet confidence that I like,” says Lily. “I can remember being at a party and you just kind of felt his presence. He’s kind of got it all covered but he’s not showy-offy. He’s really practical, action man-ey and gets on with it. You know that if the shit hits the fan, he’ll be there to sort it.”

Andy, on the other hand, was attracted to Lily’s empathy, which is something he’d struggled with, being a functioning psychopath.

“I think that she’s just kind and…has empathy,” says Andy. “Sometimes to the point of annoyance. She does worry about everything and everybody and wants to do the right thing.”

Andy McNab: the unlikely introvert

You might assume, because of his action-packed and colourful history, that Andy McNab is an extravert, but actually he’s not.

“The older I get, the more I think about it: I just don’t like gobby people,” he explains. “Working in media there are a lot of loud gobby people.  They’ll just shout over a problem as opposed to sorting it out.”

Although, when he needs to, Andy can turn on the charm.

“Yeah. There’s a time and a place for everything,” says Andy. “A few days ago I was at a meeting in trendy Soho with actors. I’m sitting there going, ‘This is bullshit.’ But rather than joining in, I’m just smiling, like, ‘It will all end soon.’”

Making their ESFJ – ISTP relationship official

They first considered themselves a proper couple when Lily moved into Andy’s London Bridge flat although Lily says she doesn’t remember a time after the first date when they weren’t a couple. 

ESFJ ISTP Relationship: Moving in together in London Bridge

“The moving in together was casually done. It wasn’t like a dramatic, ‘Oh, I love you so much. Would you like to live with me?’” says Lily. “It just made sense.”

“I was waiting for her to say, ‘Do you want some money towards the electrics,’” says Andy. “That didn’t happen!”

ESFJ – ISTP complementary personality traits

Their ISTP – ESFJ relationship works so well because they have complementary strengths and weaknesses.

Lily discovered her Myers & Briggs personality type fairly recently. “It made sense to me. We’d had our personalities tested in a different way previously, so it consolidated what we had already known.”

Likewise, for Andy, delving further into personality types and how they match explained how their relationship has worked so well.

“It showed that it actually did work as well,” says Andy. “Doing the Myers & Briggs test in New Zealand actually reinforced what we already knew. It was good.”

Andy McNab on discovering he was a psychopath

Both believe that knowing their types has helped to create a mutual understanding. “Before, when we’d done the test, when I was asked to be part of the trials to do with psychopathy, I found l registered quite high on the [psychopathy] scale,” says Andy McNab. “It was done at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford. I came back and I said to Lily, ‘Oh, I’m a psychopath.’ She went, ‘Yeah? And? What’s new?’ Interestingly, from then it was like a little light going on. You think, ‘Ahh right, that’s why it is.’

“It’s a clinical thing where the amygdala in the brain doesn’t work [for me], so it does all different things. You think differently. The way that you look at the world is different. So that was great.”

Why the ESFJ – ISTP relationship works

The psychologists conducting the test them had to work out how their personality traits work together.

“The psychologists were saying that the relationship really works, because what she does is grip me, but in a subtle way, because she knows how to do it,” explains Andy.

The same psychologists tested Lily too.

“Andy was off the Richter scale of psychopathy really,” says Lily. “But as a good psychopath – and there is a difference – he’s not a kind of crazy mad psycho killer psychopath. Because of that, I did some simple questionnaire type tests to see what kind of wife a psychopath would pick. When the results of those tests came through, I was off the Richter scale in the opposite direction.

“I was all about the feelings, receiving, responding and terribly good,” says Lily. “The professor who did the test gave me the results by email and he said, ‘I can’t believe how extreme you are. How opposite you are to Andy. The only other thing I’ve got to say to you is…’ and then he wrote in capitals: ‘RUN!’”

Andy McNab on realizing he was different

Andy McNab first realized he approached the world in quite a different way to most people when he was as a child. “Ever since I was kid,” says Andy. “I was in the kid’s home and then I was adopted when I was five. I thought that was the normal thing you do. You go from a kid’s home, you go to a house and then I thought, ‘Well, I’ll stay here until I’m 16 and then I’ll leave.’ That’s always been in my head because I think, ‘Well, yeah, I don’t really want to be here.’ I want to do other things. So the way I looked at the world was different and certainly, in a way, as a kid, it’s counterproductive.”

His adoptive family moved around a lot in London. Andy went to nine different schools but learning didn’t interest him.

“As a 16-year-old, I was what was known as Key Stage Two reading – I had the reading age of a nine-year-old,” he explains. “But I thought, ‘What do I care, you know? Because I know everything will be alright.’  Being a psychopath gives you an amazing amount of confidence, but certainly as a kid with nothing to back it up with.”

Andy McNab on the benefits of being a psychopath

Andy McNab: SAS fighter jet

Joining the army and then the SAS was a turning point for Andy McNab. “I really liked the military,” says Andy. “You hear all the horror stories, the bullying, the suicides and all that. In my head I’m going, ‘Well, they’re just weak. They shouldn’t be here.’ It’s clearly not the case. The thing that the psychopathy gives you, is that you really don’t care.”

“I really liked the military,” says Andy. “You hear all the horror stories, the bullying, the suicides and all that. In my head I’m going, ‘Well, they’re just weak. They shouldn’t be here.’ It’s clearly not the case. The thing that the psychopathy gives you, is that you really don’t care.”

Andy sees a lot of his psychopathy, which was only diagnosed around eight years ago, as a positive. “There’s nobody, whether they are dysfunctional or functional, who would not choose to be as they are [as a psychopath], because there’s so much freedom,” he explains. “I am three points ahead of where I would be to go to Broadmoor [a high security psychiatric hospital]. I’m just three points off the maximum.  There’s only about four people that are maximum. For me it was like the lightbulb going, ‘Oh right. It all makes sense now.’ I understood what goes on in the brain or actually what doesn’t go on in the brain, why the neurons retrace and make new pathways and why that happens.”

Psychopathy and marriage

However, the diagnosis didn’t shock Lily. “We’d been married for a long, time before we ever knew [for certain] but I probably knew about two years into marriage that he wasn’t normal, there was something odd.

“I can remember the exact moment when I thought, ‘This man is weird.’ I had a cat and my cat died in the cat basket from rat poison overnight. Rigor mortis had set in so the cat was frozen solid, curled up in a circle in the shape of the cat basket, like a polo mint.

“I didn’t know the cat was dead but Andy saw the cat was dead and he was carrying a paintbrush, a jar of white spirit and a big jar of paint in the other hand, so he didn’t have any hands to pick up this cat. He put the paint jar down and then threaded the cat over his forearm and then picked the jar of paint back up again. Then he came into the sitting room and said, Lily, ‘I think your cat has died.’ I looked at him and literally my beloved kitten is swinging off his arm. There was no sympathy, no empathy, no hug, no ‘I’ll make you a cup of tea.’

“I then burst into tears and he doesn’t hug me, he doesn’t get me a cup of tea. I’m thinking, ‘Hmm. This is a bit weird.’ He just like stands there with this cat swinging off his arm.

“We were leaving to go on holiday the next day and he said, ‘Well, I know the cat is insured and you can claim it back if they get rat poisoned. So I’m going to put the cat in the freezer. We’re going to go on holiday and when we come back from holiday, we’re going to defrost the cat, take it to the vets and then we’ll get the money back.’ I just knew in that instant that this man is weird.”

Andy does not see it as weird. “What’s the point of insurance if you’re not going to use it?” he says.

Lily on the other hand explained that this was not normal behaviour.

“I can remember having to say to him, ‘no, we’re not putting the cat in the freezer.’ I made him bury the cat properly,” says Lily. “I also pointed out that if someone’s beloved cat has just died, you’re supposed to hug them and make them a cup of tea. Then put your arm around them and be nice. He has no empathy.”

Reading emotions as a psychopath

To help Andy understand emotions, Lily had to give Andy a list of emojis that he can refer to when needed.

“That was shocking, because he was learning what these emojis were…happy, smiley, sad, just a normal face. It’s not like the complicated ones, like rage or grief or something,” says Lily. “It was all brand new to him. We were about 17 years into marriage at this point. I thought, ‘Why have you never known I was sad for 17 years? What is going on!’”

Now Lily tells Andy when she is sad and doesn’t expect him to read the unspoken signs. However, before the psychopathy diagnosis, it was tricky.

“Because Andy would naturally do nothing, I’ve become quite independent and good at looking after my own feelings,” says Lily. “Like at funerals, Andy can be very hearty at funerals. Everybody’s mourning, grieving and crying and he would walk up and he’ll just go, ‘Hello!’ and shake hands with everyone and tell some hilarious anecdote about his journey up there. He’ll then tell some funny stories. So, I have to say to him, ‘It’s a funeral. Everybody’s really overwhelmed with grief. You just look at their faces, just be led by them and just kill the heartiness.’”

Andy is now more aware of these situations – with the help of emojis.

“It’s very hard [for me] to recognize faces. It’s slightly like autism,” says Andy. He has become proficient in faking emotional reactions though.

Creating cold empathy as a psychopath

“It’s called cold empathy. One of the reasons why I’m functional with the psychopathy is that I can create what’s called cold empathy,” he explains. “Say your dogs are dead. I really don’t care, but I understand you care. I understand then I have to show, ‘I got it. I understand that you’re sad,’ so like flowers. I used to get it all wrong. I’d think, ‘Oh right, it’ll be a cup of tea,’ and she’s like, ‘No, it’s flowers and a card.’”

Every thought that Andy McNab has is driven by pure logic.

“Sometimes I find that he just has a real freedom and he does what he wants,” says Lily, admitting that she often envies this reaction. “He is not bound by the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘woulds’ and the duties and the morals.”

She finds this attractive in him. “There’s a fearlessness and a super confidence that I envy,” says Lily. “You probably have a lot more fun in certain situations because you’re not thinking that anxious thing and worrying about the outcome.”

How Andy McNab scores on our personality test

It’s clear that Andy McNab is very much led by his head. In our So Syncd personality test, he came out as 100% thinking which is almost unheard of and Lily is very much led by her heart.

Lily agrees: “Together it obviously works. It’s a good blend. Although sometimes it takes the romance thing out of things!”

Ultimately, Lily felt mainly relief when Andy was diagnosed as a psychopath. “It somehow took the responsibility off me to try and make things right.” She admits. “I just thought, ‘Nobody’s going to win against a psychopath. I’ll just let some of that go. I’ll do the best I can.’”

She took this approach when Andy chopped off the top of his finger with an electric saw and Lily found him sticking it back on again with Superglue. “I just let him get on and superglue his finger together, if that’s what he wants to do,” she says.

The freedom that comes with being a psychopath

Andy McNab admits to liking being a psychopath and the fearlessness that comes with it. “It’s absolutely freeing. Even work-wise, instead of trying to get to somebody who really can’t make a decision, I just go to the guy who can. 

“Last year we tried to get to Bernie Saunders {American politician] when he was in contest. We thought, ‘Let’s try and get hold of him.’ I just rang the office and said, ‘Is Bernie in?’ The guy went, ‘Yeah, hold up.’ So I spoke with him and I said, ‘Well, mate, this is what we’re after. Are you up for it?’ And he was so it was great.”

Even though Lily is more relaxed about Andy’s lack of empathy these days, she does admit it’s hard being married to a psychopath. “I think it’s just been like one long process of negotiation,” says Lily. “If I was at death’s door, he could imagine himself being at death’s door and he would do everything to save me. But if I just have something like flu, he wouldn’t consider that very much.”

Getting that adrenaline fix

Andy McNab’s lack of fear has enabled him to do things that others, like Lily, wouldn’t do. “Because of my military background everybody expects me to be like this action man,” says Andy. “I skied to the North Pole, skied to the South Pole, down the Cresta Run, but everybody thinks I’m gagging to do it. I’m not, I get asked to do it and I think why not? And then everyone’s going, ‘What? Are you going to the South Pole? But it’s not brain surgery. You just put skis on and go. So there is more fun in that way, because there’s more opportunity.”

Andy McNab personality type: Three dare devil skiers on the mountain

He has recently turned down one high-adrenalin adventure though. “I got offered to do this flight to the Point of Inaccessibility [point on the Antarctic continent that is farthest from the surrounding seas],” says Andy. “It’s the only thing I’ve turned down because my daughter is getting married and she said, ‘Well, we don’t want you to get dead before the wedding.’”

He says that nothing scares him but not in a bravado sort of way. His fight or flight response just doesn’t work. “I don’t lose out on joy and happiness because there’s nothing to lose [out on] because it doesn’t exist.”

What it’s like being married to Andy McNab

Lily explains that there’s real upside to being married to a psychopath. “Because he’s super confident, I never have to build his self-esteem. Nor do I have to absorb his emotions.”

However, there is the question of whether psychopaths can really feel love.

“If you’re looking at love as an emotional contract, well, no,” says Andy.  “The way that I look at it, is it’s more like a mutual contract. We’re looking at this Victorian idea of love, so there’s commitment, fidelity, all these sorts of things that were part of this love concept. Well actually that’s really what two human beings should be doing anyway, without the love. If they want to be together and to do that living thing together with mutual respect. That love thing is a contract.

 “I feel that I’m more committed than most of the people I know. To me, it [love] is just a word. Because actually, even in a love relationship, there has got to be mutual respect and 100% commitment.”

It’s not exactly how Lily would like him to describe love!

“I don’t know how romantic that is!” she laughs. “I think he’s right and there is a commitment. It’s a choice and you choose to love someone every day. I can see that. I would say I feel the same way, but I can’t help feeling there’s a little bit of the fun and the romance lost in your description of it! It wouldn’t be quite my view love. But I feel that you love me.

The heavy conversations of the ESFJ – ISTP relationship

“I did once ask him, ‘Would you be really sad if I died?’ I was expecting him to say, ‘Yes, I’d be devastated, I wouldn’t find another woman for at least 10 years.’ But he said, ‘Well, we just don’t know, do we?’ We’d been together for 15 years and I said, ‘I think I’d like you to be a little bit sad.’ And he said, ‘Well, I probably would be…for a week or so. Maybe two weeks, but we don’t know. Nobody knows. We just don’t know. I think probably I’d be sad for a week or two and then I probably would just think crack on.’

“I remember thinking that was quite a disappointing answer, but I suspect it’s a truthful one. I might be romantic, but I’m also pragmatic. Why would I want him to be sad after I’m dead, you know?  Much better that he’s happy and cracks on.”

As far as Andy is concerned, it defines his understanding of love. “That’s part of the commitment,” he explains. “It’s saying, ‘Well, answer it truthfully.’ I look at that as part of the commitment.”

For Lily, the meaning of love is less pragmatic. “The commitment, the loyalty and the getting up every day and choosing to love someone,” agrees Lily.” But I do believe in the romance and this amazingly powerful emotional attraction, sexual attraction, all of that. I also think it’s about bringing out the best in each other, supporting each other and seeing each other develop.”

Lily has been married once before and Andy has been married four times before but, since this marriage has lasted 20 years, it clearly works like none of the others.

A perfect personality match

“I’ve actually found someone that is compatible because certainly when I was younger and getting married in the military, there were incentives to get married,” Andy says. “You get married and you have 2.4 children and a house and a garage. Clearly nothing was compatible, so it all sort of went wrong. I think that this time it’s the commitment because we’ve decided to be together from my point of view, but also the compatibility of our traits.”

Lily feels that marriage this time round is totally different to her first marriage. “With my first marriage, he was a really fabulous guy but we were much more similar,” says Lily. “Andy and I are opposites Because we are obviously at opposite ends of the scale, there’s a lot to learn from each other.”

The day-to-day life in the McNab household

There’s never a dull moment.

Andy is working on lots of different projects to do with his new film SAS: Red Notice, publishing, and the military stuff that he’s still involved with. They both spend time discussing each other’s work ideas.

“It’s great because sometimes Lily has really weird ideas,” says Andy. “We talk a lot about what I’ve been doing and ideas I’ve got for going  forward and she might go, ‘No, you don’t want to do that.’”

Lily is happy to help. “I just like a bit more structure than you,” she adds. “You’re very nomadic and don’t need any kind of structure at all, whether that’s food or life, but I just like a bit of an order. I like a Plan A and a Plan B but I definitely need a Plan B with Andy!”

This is exactly what you’d expect in an ISTP – ESFJ relationship.

Andy McNab’s perceiving tendencies

Lily also loves a good to-do list which is a typical judger trait. However, Andy, as a perceiver, is happier when he can keep the options open. He can feel a bit boxed in by having a plan.

“Andy can actually only plan three hours ahead I realized,” says Lily. “If it’s two o’clock in the afternoon and you say, ‘Oh, what would you like for dinner?’ He’ll look at me like I’m absolutely manic. He’ll say, ‘Well, how do I know!?’”

ESFJ ISTP Relationship: Yoga instructor in the sunset

An average day on the weekend (if that’s possible) would be Lily teaching yoga and Andy obsessing over his lawn – a new fixation. “I tried lion poo to get rid of the badgers because they were eating the grass,” says Andy with excitement. 

Lily accuses him of becoming obsessed with his lawn and even more obsessed with badgers since lockdown.

“Well, you just cut the grass and then the badgers come and eat,” says Andy in his defense. “You get it [lion’s poo] on Amazon. But it didn’t work, they just eat it.” He also has a badger cam!

ESFJ – ISTP relationship learnings

Lily McNab believes that she has learned some good tips from life from Andy.  “One of the things I’ve said I’ve learned is that you just only worry about what you’ve got control over,” she says. “If you haven’t got control [over it], you don’t waste a single second on it. You push me out of my comfort zone, or you used to. I’m on to you now.”

Unfortunately, that was not the case when they were first together.

“We went diving in the Maldives,” says Lily. “We’d gone out on our first ever dive. I couldn’t remember what weight that you had to put on you when you dive off the boat to help you sink down. 

Andy couldn’t remember either. So he just made something up. He went something like, ‘It’s 10 kilograms.’ And I believed him in those days. I clip this 10 kilogram weight onto me and then I walk over to the plank. I was just about to dive off and then the captain shouted to everybody, ‘STOP THAT GIRL!’ It was really embarrassing and I got back in the boat. Andy had put this vast weight on me and if I’d dived, I would have sunk down to the bottom and never, ever come up. 

“He wouldn’t care if it was the wrong weight on him because he’d dive off and think, ‘Oh, I’m sinking to the bottom. This isn’t very good.’ So very calmly, he’d unclip his weight and be fine.”

Andy justifies Lily’s brush with death by saying: “Yeah, it’s all quick release.”

However, Lily explains that Andy can’t imagine her thought pattern and anxiety. “He can’t think to himself that I am really nervous, I’m not thinking, I’m going to panic under water and won’t be able to unclip the clips. I’m going to get in a total state and die. That wouldn’t cross his mind.”

The pros and cons of comfort zones

As awful as this diving drama was, it did teach lily a good lesson. “I think that taught me that actually I shouldn’t let myself get out of my comfort zone and I should trust my intuition,” she says.

However, mention the words ‘comfort zone’ to Andy and he barely registers the concept although Lily has pushed him out of it in his own way at times.

“Years ago, we lived in Norfolk and the set-up there was very traditional where you had the hall with the farms,” says Andy. “We’d end up going around to these people’s houses and it was getting actually quite boring.  I sat there once, and I couldn’t understand this woman’s polite dinner talk because her accent was so RP [posh English]. I said, ‘Look, I can’t understand you,’ which was good because then it was sorted. But then, Lily didn’t really like that. But it felt uncomfortable in a way that I really didn’t want to be there”

Lily saw it as verging on rude. “There are social situations where I probably would’ve got you out of your comfort zone,” she says.

ESFJ – ISTP relationship conflict

When it comes to conflict, Andy and Lily McNab take a very different approach.

“Well, he shouts. I’m very calm and it escalates,” says Lily. “Then all I do is I just bring it down. He goes away for about a day and then he calms down and buys me some garage flowers.”

Lily is more expressive with her emotions and voices them but she does get enraged by Andy’s reckless sense of fun, especially when entertaining friends’ children.

“We had a house in the South of France, and we had lots of friends staying. We were doing a barbecue and I was doing all the food,” says Lily. “There were four young lads aged eight to ten and I said to Andy: ‘You entertain the kids and I’ll just do all the rest of it.’ So he was having fun with the kids and I can hear them laughing. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s great. He’s entertaining the kids.’ At one point I went around there and they were being really entertained because he was teaching them how to fire eat with…paraffin.

“He’s teaching them how to put paraffin in their mouth and he was just about to teach them how to light it and blow it out and I go, ‘Are you out of your mind!?’”

Andy says with typical understatement: “It wasn’t a good weekend, was it? But the kids loved it. It was good fun.”

Lily wasn’t convinced. “He doesn’t have that sense of danger. He goes: ‘Well they’re very sensible. I’m teaching them what to do right.’ But of course, they completely loved him! Then later he burnt all the sausages but these kids were so happy and so loyal to Andy that they were munching these burnt sausages going, ‘They’re absolutely delicious!  They’re really nice!’”

Andy’s psychopathy means he never feels regret.

“He has probably said sorry twice in 20 years,” says Lily. “But, to be fair, he has bought a lot of garage flowers,” which is Andy’s way of saying sorry.  

ESFJ – ISTP relationship challenges

And what would they change about each other’s personalities if they could?

“I would want Lily to calibrate the empathy so it’s more focused because there’s so much empathy going out for everything, from an ant to a Martian,” says Andy. “I think because there’s so much energy that you use with things you’ve got no control of.”

The opposite goes for Lily’s changes in Andy. 

“I would make you more empathetic, just a bit more,” she says. “It would make my life a lot easier if you would just get how I felt more easily. And I would change when you get angry and you explode. I would skip to the next day when we’ve actually worked it out.”

But nobody says being married to a psychopath is easy. “I’ve been married to a psychopath for 20 years,” says Lily. “I’ve had 20 years of challenges but never a dull moment.”

In the early years of their relationship, Andy was a way a lot that that caused stresses and strains.

“I wasn’t so strong,” says Lily. “I was a bit needy in those years.”

Andy remembers the fallout. “I was in a Los Angeles shopping centre having a row with Lily on a mobile phone once. My bill was $400 and her one was about £600 from a hotel phone.”

Andy was happy to go wherever the work and excitement took him but that didn’t work for Lily. “I think I’d imagined a marriage where your husband was around,” says Lily. “When suddenly you were off all the time. That was really hard. Over 20 years, there have been times when I think both of us have felt, ‘Does it need to be this hard work?’”

Andy doesn’t agree. “No one’s keeping you there. So you do the best you can and if it works for you, you’re there and if not you go,” says Andy. “In my head, I’m going away earning money because it’s buying all the stuff.”

The upside of this is that it encouraged Lily to be more independent. “Eventually, I just thought, ‘I can’t live my life like this. I’m wasting months and months of my life each year, because he’s just not there.’ I just sort of started going out and creating my own life, getting more interesting jobs and doing things that I wanted to do.”

The future

They have survived a lot and look forward to the future together.

Andy wants to stay fit and having some fun. “We’re all dead soon, so it’s like staying fit enough to be able to do stuff,” he says.

His ideal scenario would be living in totally different countries every three months. And he wants to learn more. “Because of not having an education – getting an education for me was in the military – what I’m finding now is I’m getting the time to actually catch up. Not so much an academic education, but all the stuff where you’d, say, read Dickens,” he adds.

Lily wants to be calmer, more settled and do less running around. She also reminds Andy: “You’ve got badgers to think about.”

At the end of the interview Lily admits jokingly: “I’ve learned a lot about my marriage.”

And so have we.

Andy McNab and Lily McNab’s real names have not been used for security purposes.

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