After making the difficult decision to divorce, many people find themselves in the very difficult situation of living with the ex, or more accurately soon-to-be-ex (STBX).  In fact there is some evidence that this is a growing trend.

It’s an uncomfortable position to be in.  If you have a have a property together, it takes time to sell a property and/or find somewhere new.   Perhaps one of you believes that they have a greater right to the property by staying there (this is not true*). Perhaps they or you are staying in hope of winning back the other, or simply want to stay with the children as long as possible.  

Moving out is difficult but living together is actually harder.

Why is living together so hard?

Living with your spouse may have been hard at the best of times.  However, living with your STBC is likely to throw up additional difficulties.    

One issue is that there will be a host of powerful and mixed emotions as you are grieving the loss of the marriage and are angry with your STBX for causing you this pain and yet still love them.  

You will want to comfort each other but in some ways, this act of kindness will just make you miss the marriage more.

There is also the issue of attraction; many people report desiring their partner more when they are divorcing as they seek some comfort and intimacy.

As well as some of the issues, breaking up involves new boundaries and behaviours, which feel very unnatural and strange to implement.  This is even more difficult when you are seeing the person every day, as it can feel as though you are shifting from one set of rules to another overnight.

It is therefore no surprise that this environment will leave you feeling drained and is a hotbed for arguments.  The person you are trying to get space from is in your space.

 

Top tips to make it easier

Both of you need to sit down together and think of ways that you can give each other space and respect each other’s boundaries.  

Making space

  • Avoid being in the same home together. Try and take it in turns to stay at a parents’ or friends’ houses when you can.  At least try to spend the evenings apart.
  • Start doing things with the children separately to get them used to the idea of being alone with you.
  • Do not sleep in the same bed!  Sleep on the sofa, floor, the bathtub…. Sleeping in the same bed is just too tempting or awkward.
  • Do not hang out together.  This will lead to confusion or regret about your decision to leave if you are having a nice time, or it can lead to arguments as you are both emotional.
  • Keep the conversation polite but do not try and ask too much about each other’s lives.

 

Boundaries and rules

small house model over wooden table outdoors at garden and kid playing. selective focus . filtered image

Discuss how you will make the cohabiting work and set up some rules?  This might include:

  • How much you will talk
  • Your new routines e.g. who will do the shopping, cleaning etc
  • Who gets to watch the TV
  • How you will share the costs of living
  • How you will look after the children
  • Whether or not you can have friends over

Sort out the finances while you are living together?

  • Write down all expenses on a spreadsheet and decide how to split the costs
  • Seek legal advice if you are not sure about what cash you are entitled too

Keep your dignity & respect the other

Remember that this is someone you love/used to love and might be the parent of your children.  Therefore always ask yourself “will this upset the kids?” and if it will, do not do it.  Also avoid being petty, even if they are.  If they are arguing over what is theirs and yours, just let them have what they want and then ask for something you want.  

Tips for respecting each other:

  • Do not bring a new partner home, no matter how long you have been seeing them
  • Try to avoid shouting, name calling and saying hurtful truths, “e.g. I always hated your parents”
  • Try not to argue about which stuff belongs to who.  This can be done calmly when you are both feeling in the right mindset.
  • Let things go.  If they are trying to provoke you or cause you anger, just try and let go of the resentment and compassionately remember that this is a difficult time which will pass

Remember why you left your spouse

As you let go of the bitterness and try to relax into the divorce, you might start to see the good sides of your partner again, therefore it is useful to write a list of why it is a good thing to not be with that person and what you want in your future.

Try and move out as soon as you can

For the sake of your, mental health, try to exit as soon as possible.  Discuss together a “moving out timetable”

 

Please do comment on this article and share tips.

Dr Isabelle Hung

Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.

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