James Argent addresses rumours he’s reunited with ex and former co-star Lydia Bright (Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
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James Argent has set the record straight on rumours he’s back with his ex-girlfriend Lydia Bright – as the speculation is stopping them from finding real love with other people.
Pictures of the former TOWIE childhood sweethearts appearing to be getting close again have surfaced recently, after Lydia split up with boyfriend Lee Cronin last year.
But Arg, who recently lost 13 stone after life-changing £10,000 gastric sleeve surgery, has now revealed that while the pair have discussed rekindling their romance, they ultimately decided to just stay friends.
He says: "We want to be in each other’s lives forever. She’s one of my closest friends. We care about each other and respect each other but we think anything else than staying friends would jeopardise that.
James Argent has been setting the record straight regarding his love life
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
The former TOWIE star pictured last year with his ex Lydia Bright
"I want to be able to see Lydia when I’m not having a good day as she’s somebody I turn to for help, but we can’t do that at the minute because we get pictured and everyone says, 'they’re back together'."
The pair’s on/off relationship was a key storyline in ITV reality show The Only Way is Essex.
They broke up in 2016 after Lydia reportedly came back to their Essex home to find recovering drug addict Arg "out of it".
Now the new speculation is also stopping them both him and 30 year-old Lydia starting relationships with other people, he fears.
The reality TV stars first got together way back in 2008
The on-off couple finally split for good in 2016
(Image: Getty Images)
"She’s got great guys out there who might want to date her and won’t bother asking her because they think that she’s seeing me, and I have girls who think, 'hang on, aren’t you with Lydia' so they don’t bother with me either.
"It’s frustrating,” says Arg, 34.
Lydia is not the only member of the Bright family supporting Arg through his troubles.
As we sit chatting on his living room sofa at his home in Essex, he receives a text message from her mum Debbie. It says: "If you always think happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are".
Arg is also close with Lydia's family
"She sends me these little quotes and affirmations all the time,” says Arg.
"I’m not into spirituality that much, but in recovery they say it’s good to start off the day by talking about something you’re really grateful for.
"I like it when Debbie sends me these things. They’re relevant to me and always put a smile on my face. She’s like a second mum to me."
Arg also had a long-term on/off relationship with another TOWIE co-star, Gemma Collins.
Arg poked fun at his ex's engagement news last year at the darts
(Image: CLICK NEWS AND MEDIA)
The former couple had a bitter split in 2020 but appear to be on good terms now
But there’s also no sign of a reconciliation on the cards there either, after Gemma reportedly became engaged to her current partner Rami Hawash.
Arg was recently pictured at the Darts World Championships in London holding up a sign which said 'GC call off the engagement!' – but he says this was simply boys’ banter.
"As everyone knows, you go to the Darts and you write something silly on the boards," says Arg.
"It was just lads’ banter. I know for a fact Gemma wasn’t offended – she saw the funny side. I also got to know Rami well in the early days of filming TOWIE so I’m really pleased for her.
Arg is up for performing at Gemma's wedding to Rami
"And if she does get married, she needs to make sure she books the Arg Band because we would love to play the GC and Rami’s wedding."
Arg and Gemma split in early 2020, again partially due to the former’s cocaine problems that saw him spend £500 a week on the Class A drug.
In a recent interview, Gemma, 40, claimed she saved Arg from death three times and "never got a thank you" – but he insists the pair have remained good friends.
"Believe it or not, when I am struggling or need someone to talk to Gemma is another person I can send a message to or phone," Arg says.
"We are mates. She also gives me fashion advice. I was never into designer clothes before I started going out with Gemma, but now if I go up to the West End to treat myself to something at Harrods or Selfridges I send her pictures of it to get her seal of approval."
Gemma and Arg's on-off relationship began way back in 2012
(Image: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)
So resolutely single and newly slim Arg is looking for love. He says his friends are hoping he will "meet someone nice" and can start a family with this year.
"You can leave my Instagram details at the end of the article… I’d love women to slide into my DMs," he adds, laughing.
In yesterday’s Daily Mirror, we revealed how Arg had piled on the pounds after his long-term binge eating disorder dramatically worsened during lockdown.
After becoming the heaviest he had ever been – 27st at 6ft2 – he’s now gone down to 14st after the gastric sleeve surgery last April.
With his new-found confidence, Arg, who set to appear in upcoming E4 show the Real Dirty Dancing, now wants to follow in the footsteps of so many of the other TOWIE cast and star in some of the biggest reality shows on TV.
He says: "2022 is my year. I’m in a great place – so bring it on… whether it’s Celebrity SAS, Dancing on Ice, I’m a Celeb or Strictly.
"I’ve watched my best mates all do the jungle, seen Mark Wright do Strictly. Now is my time, I’m ready physically and mentally to do one of those big shows."
Away from TV, his main focus is booking in music performances including a summer residency at Olivia’s Bar in Marbella with the group he fronts, the Arg Band.
A newly-slender Arg is a big fan of swimming
(Image: CLICK NEWS AND MEDIA)
And with a new-found love of swimming, he hopes to do at least one big swim this year – with his sights set on crossing the English Channel in the future.
"It’s my big dream – it would be me leaving my mark and a bit of a legacy," says Arg, who took part in Channel 4 ’s Sink or Swim in 2019 which saw celebrities fail an attempt the complete the feat for Stand Up to Cancer.
"It would be summer next year that could be the earliest I could try it. Due to recovering from my operation and swimming events I’d signed up for being cancelled due to Covid I’ve not had enough time to train to do it sooner than that."