Broke Up But Still Living Together - Relationship Advice
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.
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.