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Broke Up But Still Living Together - Relationship Advice

Updated on July 28, 2010

Dear Veronica,

Veronica, I live with my ex and we are talking about ending the romantic relationship because we aren't fully happy in that aspect. We are best friends and love living together. Is it ok to stay there, perhaps eventually each of us dating other people but also have the possibility of us rekindling? It is known between both of us that we do wish we could be together but the current issues are making us explore the other choice of separation.

He will not commit to me but hopes he is still in the running for someone I will marry in the future. He encourages that I go for the guy I'm interested in now and says he would do the same. But I am interested in something long term so do not want to start with this new guy unless it has a good chance of succeeding, it has to begin in the right way. Would living with my ex be unfair to him? I would be fully honest about everything to them both.

I live and work in an urban city. Renting a room is extremely expensive and I don't like living with strangers. The places I could afford are not nearly as nice as the home we have. He owns it and I pay him rent. We have more than one bedroom. We are in our midtwenties if that helps also.


Dear haileyk,

Your comment about renting a room being expensive and difficult is an excellent one. I have gotten some emails from people in similar situations from apartments in New York City to married couples now divorcing in big houses in Connecticut. In today's real estate market and poor financial climate, moving out just isn't an option for some people. Plus as you said there's the safety factor of finding roommates or moving to a more affordable area

I make every effort to give sound advice but I also try to be realistic. I'm not going to tell you the best thing you can do is figure out a way to move out. It might be great advice, but I've got the feeling that in your situation as in many many other people's situations, it really just is not financially logical, practical, or possible.

So let's look at your situation in that light. Let's take moving out off the table and consider your living situation to be a reluctant reality right now. I'm going to offer some broad advice for everyone in that set up, and then I'll wind this article up with a little insight just for you, haileyk.

No matter if you were married, long term relationshipped, or just in a normal early relationship with this person, making the transition to roommate is a lot harder than you may realize. The first thing you need to do is to sit down with the ex and discuss the 6 major areas of concern in making the transition from lovers to roommates.

1 - Money

You and your ex most likely lived somewhat jointly regarding finances. If you were married you were all up in each other's bank accounts and had joint credit cards, both names on the mortgage, whatever the situation. But even if you were just living together and splitting all the bills 50/50, there was some sense of communal non-issue about who bought the toilet paper or whose shampoo this was. Who will buy and replace the lightbulbs and garbage bags. What happens if one of you is late with the rent. Whose computer is that, who broke the lamp. Furniture gets broken, used, stained, replaced. Having to split up belongings isn't just about who gets what, it's also about who can use what and who who has to replace what and who is allowed to throw out what.

This is as unique a situation as you are. You need to talk with your ex all the way through this. From how the bills are getting paid, to what happens if one of you ruins a piece of furniture. You can't anticipate every financial thing that could occur, but you can get a feel for each other post-relationship on how things may wind up going. The bill paying is big, and you need to smooth that out. Maybe you can make an agreement like, either one of you because of job loss or serious illness can be up to 30 days late with their half of the bills, but no longer than that or this arrangement is off. If you have separated things differently like she's going to pay all the bills as the bread winner but he's going to stay home do all the housework, watch the kids and cart them around to all their activities, that's great. But verbalize the contract together and then make some notes.

2 - Privacy

When you were the partner, you went in his wallet to grab his half of the pizza money. Or maybe you were allowed to open his mail. Maybe she was cool enough to do your laundry. Or maybe you were allowed to go through her desk drawers to look for scotch tape or a piece of gum.

These are hard habits to break. They were easy and you didn't have to think about them. Even now it seems like they are no big deal. Well, that's going to change. As soon as one of you starts dating, or has something they feel is private, this is going to blow up. So nip it in the bud. When you talk about the arrangement, make some agreements on this. Draw some reasonable lines. Obviously one of you can't make "the living room" off limits. But you can ask for privacy to be respected with clothes, wallets, briefcases, computers, dressers, desks, etc. If you're able to have separate bedrooms that should make this easy. Even a simple agreement of "If it's in my bedroom it's private" will save a lot of confusion and upset later.

3 - Physical Contact & Voyeurism

When you were dating her you were allowed to use the toilet while she was in the shower. Maybe. Or you thought nothing about running out to the dining room to grab your ringing cellphone even though you were half asleep in just your bra. Maybe it's so hard for the two of you to get showered and dressed and out of the house for work in the morning that you just don't care who is running up the hallway half naked or who made coffee in their panties.

There's no wrong agreement. There just has to be an agreement. Maybe you honestly don't care who's naked in front of whom. Maybe the break up has been painful and you really can't handle seeing him nude. Also keep in mind that one of you may have an overnight guest, so the ex that is making coffee in their underwear runs the risk of being seen by a stranger.

At least loosely express your feelings in this. Even if you're agreeing to still having casual sex as ex's until one of you starts dating someone else, that's all well and good and only your business. Just make sure you've both expressed your thoughts on this and that you respect each other's needs.

4 - Dating & Overnight Guests

As mentioned above, someone eventually is going to move on. And that's going to rain all kinds of crap on your parade. Your best off discussing this now before it happens.

At least get your feet wet on this topic and discuss the logistics of one of you having an overnight guest. Is there a separate bedroom? Are there children in the house? Little things like if your over night guest uses the shampoo and conditioner in the shower, is that going to bother your ex?

Keep in mind that getting over a relationship involves healing time. You're not really getting that time when you remain cohabitational. So you may be jittery, sensitive, judgmental, childish, or selfish. These are all normal little phases of a break up. Additionally when you break up, you don't usually have to see and deal with the ex's new dating arena. Hearing through the grapevine that his new gf was with him at dinner last night, is a lot different than hearing his new gf moan while having sex, fart in the bathroom, or say something snotty about the couch in the living room that you picked out.

It would be really great if you could set some tight limits on the dating interactions out of respect for each others pain and healing. If you can agree not to bring dates home, and not to have sleep overs, you will have eliminated a huge number reasons why this living-with-the-ex thing fails. I realize this just may not be feasible, but if you really make every effort you possibly can, from meeting your dates at the restaurants, to going to their place, to not having them call on the house phone, you really will be doing yourself a favor.

5 - Respect Your Roommate

Treat your new roommate old ex with respect. When you were dating or married you may have felt entitled to yell if he was late or make him pick up his dry cleaning. You can't do that as a roommate. If he has no clean clothes, that's his problem. If she's late, she's late. If she doesn't pay her cell phone bill, it gets shut off. That's it.

Work extra hard at being a good roommate. If you've agreed that to save money one of you is cooking dinner at home a couple nights a week for both of you, make every effort to be there on time and to say thank you. When she was your girlfriend maybe you felt it was OK to call her at the last minute and say you can't break away from work. Well you can't do that now. You have to stick to whatever roommate agreements you've made. Don't say you'll be there for dinner if you're not sure you can be. Don't say you'll do the laundry if you don't think you can fit it in. It goes both ways. Remember you're dealing with a roommate in a somewhat professional manner. Once you start abusing the relationship and lose sight of it's nature, it's doomed to fail.

6 - An Exit Plan

You're living together because one or both of you couldn't afford to move out and live on your own. Well what happens if one of you winds up in a committed relationship with someone else and suddenly has the means to leave?

If you're the one moving on you'll be inclined to say hey it's not your forever-problem about how your ex is going to make ends meet, and you should just be able to take off and leave them to figure out what they're going to do. However if you're the one getting left behind this is scary and hard. You don't want to begrudge your ex their life and happiness, but what about you? You can't afford to live alone. This has been established by the sheer nature of your arrangement to begin with.

One way to handle it is to negotiate a "lease" or partnership agreement initially, and renegotiate this contract every few months. By simply putting a finite amount of time on this arrangement you eliminate the risk of leaving your partner shocked if you get the chance to go.

Begin with 3 months. Promise each other you will stay in this situation as agreed paying your share or doing your share as agreed, for the next three months. If you meet someone else and have the opportunity to go, you have to wait until the end of the three months. You both can feel safe and secure for three months.

Maybe it won't be a new relationship that allows you to leave. Maybe it will be a job transfer, or a promotion, or an invitation to live with a family member or friend. Maybe you will inherit some money or get a big bonus. Whatever the change is, you have to honor the time limit commitment, and make sure your ex has that amount of time to figure out what they are going to do.

At the end of the time frame if nothing has changed, that's fine. Commit to the next 3 months, or whatever. Keep in mind this is smart with any roommate or living situation. This isn't just about your ex, this is a normal rooommate or renters contract. Most people in any combined living situation can't just leave, and screw over the roommate without winding up on Judge Judy getting their ass handed to them.

If you really don't want to do the time frame thing, then do a "notice of departure" thing. Agree that neither of you will ask the other to leave or move out themselves without giving a 2 month notice. 30 days is unreasonable. If it's a house, it should be more like 6 months. But whatever it is you decide on, agree to it mutually and then jot it down where you can both initial it. Even if this is a divorce with kids involved and a house to sell, make an agreement that neither of you will break this living together agreement with less than 4 months notice or whatever time frame you set. You might feel now that it's unnecessary since he would never let anything happen to his kid's home. You might feel that way now. But anything can happen. Protect yourself, your kids, and each other, by making a simple agreement and sticking to it.

Haileyk, you have unfinished romantic business with your ex. His saying he wants you to date someone else that you're into, but hopes that you two wind up considering marriage in your future, indicates a very young probably pre-frontal lobe mind. He may be very sincere and that's sweet. And he may be handing you a line he thinks will make it easier for you to move on. I really don't know. But I can read in between your words and see that there is a lot of emotion there and a lot of early life reality. It's going to suck when you see him bring other girls around. And it's going to be worse when you two have a night home alone together and wind up hooking up, or even just talking and feeling close.

Your situation may lead you two to having a great friendship that you've earned the hard way. It may bring you two back together. But it also may leave you two hating each other in a very big way. My advice is to work out those 6 issue areas now, and then just be careful. If for any reason this gets too painful, even though you are financially pressured, try to figure out a way to move out.

Good luck to you. I hope you'll keep us posted.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I am kinda in a similar situation involving my ex and I. She has started dating and even being intimate with other people, while she still sleeps naked next to me. Is she doing this because she is trying to get over me or is she being spiteful. I love her with all my heart and I would love to be with her again but I don't know how she feels I need help bad

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Ok I know this is old so I'm praying it's still gets checked. So me & my ex still live together she has no where else to go with very little money we live in NYC. We share the same room still sleep in the same bed we have been broken up for 3 months now in witch I had no say in. Now some days I'm ok with everything then there's other days where I'm struggling to not still be in girlfriend mode. She (yes this is a lesbian relationship) sometimes does the same where she gets a little jealous she said she loves me but doesn't want to be in a relationship. I still do everything for her cellphone clothes footwear etc..... How do u live with an ex when ur not even a bit over them please help I'm losing my mind.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    how i get my ex gf if shes dating someone else then we are living together.. the hurt side, she’s sleep with him almost every night and she will come back in our apartment for her things then go back to this guy.. it hurts me so bad since i feel ive move on when i didn't see her but if she comes back her in apartment, my feelings towards her will come back again and i ll show her that im desperate coz i miss her and i try to convince her to get back.. i cant control myself because i love her so almost 2 months since we broke up..please give me advice..

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I have a similar situation to this. Things have been going south between my ex and I for a long time, and we finally ended it a couple months back. At first I thought I was over her completely, but one night at a party she got drunk and took a guy to her bedroom. Seeing that hurt a lot, and I realized I had never had the time or separation needed to really move on. I want to try to make it work because I have given a lot of thought as to why things went wrong and feel I am changed man, but she says she has no romantic feelings for me anymore. The situation is made worse because we own a house together -- both names on the deed and mortgage. I feel kind of used because I handle all the bills and during the 2 years we have been living here, she has only given me 1/8 to 1/9 of the total mortgage + utilities each month while I have been putting something like 75% of my paycheck towards keeping the home. I realized the situation would be like that in advance so it's sort of my fault I'm in this situation, but I honestly didn't mind it when we were in love and I feel like she rarely shows any appreciation for my efforts. Meanwhile, she is a student working part-time and collecting partial unemployment and there is zero chance she can survive without someone there to support her financially. Worse, there is very little chance we'll be able to sell the house any time within the next couple of years. She says I am one of her closest friends (I am probably her 2nd best friend if not best), and she obviously means a lot to me, but I feel like I can't move on while living together with her in this house. The only way I see out of the situation, unfortunately, is to just walk away from the house and mortgage, but that would force her to quit school just so she could support herself.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I just read all of this and I'm glad I found this. My fiancé has been saying for the past couple of days that he is not happy. He is blaming it on his PTSD from Afghanistan and all he does almost everyday is drink and spend money on beer instead of bills. I have tried to get him to go to counseling and offered to go with him. He has not done so yet. He gets angry when he drinks and says he is scared what he might do to me. He's even talked about killing himself. I feel like I am holding on to what we had before he deployed in May of 2009. He got back in April 2010 and doesn't seem the seem. I feel like I am still waiting for him to "get back" and am beginning to wonder if I should infact move out like he suggested.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Are the both of you all up in each other's bank accounts and had joint credit cards, and are both names on the mortgage, whatever the situation?

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Veronica thank you so much for the detailed reply and I think it will be able to help many others. To give you an update on things I decided not to pursue the man I was interested in since the crush felt so trivial compared to the love and relationship I share with my "roommate". I have talked further with him about our unfinished romantic business and originally I had decided that if he still gave me his default "undecided answer" about serious commitment then I would move out and move on. When it came down to it he still gave me the same answer and said we are happy now and wants to keep things the same way... I could not follow through though and told him maybe what we need is more time even though now it's been over 3 years we've been together.

    We are sexually exclusive and he says he doesn't have much interest or time at all to date anyone else. He said we can call each other boyfriend girlfriend because it's much easier to explain to others. But he believes that we shouldn't plan out our lives together. He is not ready for that and cannot gaurantee that it will be me he marries but says he does hope so. I had been disagreeing with him about how to approach this type of partnership in life but because we are so happy I am starting to consider if I should stop worrying about a structured plan for us, stop fretting over a verbal promise of commitment, and just enjoy life and see what happens. I don't want to lose him and everything we have. Is this the way to be happy and to make myself calm down or am I getting to be like desperate women and sacrificing too much of what I want? As I try to think more clearly.. Is my desire for commitment really worth losing everything I have now? I feel like I am running in circles

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 

    8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    I am sure I did not "create" this statement! If the statement can be a "tool" to communicate, Lord knows we need all we can gather... If the door fits the door frame, it is a "match..."

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Thank you dallas93444. I ove that line - life is a construction process. You're so right. Demolition is part of the rebuilding process. I will so be using that. I'll give you credit ;)

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 

    8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    I agree with your comment, "My advice is to work out those 6 issue areas now, and then just be careful." Life is a "construction" process... Sometimes we must "demolish" to rebuild, or remodel.. Another good hub!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it sounds like your sister made some good choices. I know a few people in divorce or break-up mode that simply can not financially swing separate residences. I hope they'll consider these 6 basic issues when trying to make a go of it.

    And you're welcome about the other Hub. That was not like me, and I was hesitant to do it, but felt I had to. I try to let that one alone, and let the commenters get emotional and angry and find their own way. I only step up and say something occasionally, and I very, very rarely deny a comment.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    One of my sisters lived with her ex as a friend for close to two years mainly due to financial reasons. When she recently started seeing someone else she realized it was time to move out on her own and I think she made a wise decision as it was causing tension. In her case she never brought her new friend into the home but she started spending some nights away. My sister is in her mid 30's and this is the first time she's lived on her own (without a husband, boyfriend or roommate) so I think it's positive for her. I think this is going to be a lot more common with the economy, especially when people are used to a certain lifestyle. And Veronica, thanks for your response on the other hub.


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