Breaking-up when you live together

How to survive a breakup when you live in the same house

by Jo Middleton - April 27, 2017

Relationship breakdowns are never easy, but they’re even more difficult when you live together. Jo Middleton shares her top tips for surviving a break-up when you live in the same house.

A good few years ago now, I went through a very difficult break-up. The decision was a hard one as it wasn’t a question of either of us having done anything awful. We just came to the conclusion that we wanted different things, which was very sad.

What made it much worse though was the fact that we shared a house and, for a good month or so at least, neither of us had anywhere else to go. We’d made this impossible decision but instead of being able to get on with the process of moving on, we had to share a small house. Share a bathroom, share a kitchen, and eat meals together – all as though nothing had happened.

It was pretty heartbreaking.

On top of that you’ve got the awfulness of splitting up your shared possessions. I remember one, especially horrible evening, just after my ex had left for good, when he came back to collect a bookcase. It was a two person job really, but all I could do was lie on the sofa and sob quietly to myself while he got sad and cross, trying to wrestle with a huge bookcase by himself.
Time went on and things got better, as they have a habit of doing. Even so, I totally empathise with anyone going through a break-up when you live in the same house as your ex-partner. It can be a nightmare, emotionally and logistically. So, here are a few tips to help if you’re going through a break-up with someone that you live with:

Establish boundaries

However long you’re left sharing the house, you need to create your own space. Continuing to share a bed, for example, even if it is the comfiest option physically, isn’t going to be emotionally comfortable for anyone. Sleeping separately needs to be at the top of your list.

Avoid the temptation to get back together

The period immediately after a break-up is an odd one. Part of you might actually feel like things are easier now than they were before because you’ve got over the hard part of committing to a decision. Don’t mistake that feeling of relief as a sign that you should get back together.

Get a mediator

If you’re worried about things getting nasty when you divide up your possessions, consider roping in a mutual friend or objective relative to be there when you do it. Just by being there they might help you and your ex moderate your behaviour and deal with things more calmly.

Set an move out date

It’s good for both of you to have an end in sight, no matter how far off it is. Setting a date from the starts gives you both clarity and stops the situation dragging on awkwardly for months with neither of you wanting to raise the issue.

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Don’t rush decisions

You’re hurt right now, and we often rush into bad decision when we’re hurt. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re thinking rationally about things like splitting up your possessions, take some time before committing yourself. I made a grand gesture and left my ex with the painting of a prawn that I loved. On reflection it was the right thing to do but damn, I miss that prawn.

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