I. Can’t. Even.
Those are quite honestly the first words that pop into my head when a client or friend tells me they are going to continue living together while pursuing divorce.
Then I have to step off my soapbox and put down my assumptions and listen.
Living together throughout the divorce process has become increasingly common, for a number of reasons:
- Protecting your rights to the marital home. Until your assets have been negotiated, divided and the divorce decree granted, the marital home is basically up for grabs. Both parties have an equal right to it so, until that final dissolution happens, it’s kind of a share and share alike situation.
- The kids. If you have kids, you are co-parenting kids. Especially at the beginning of a divorce, continued upsetting of the apple cart, so to speak, may not feel like the right thing to do for your kids. Certainly, in some respects, it may be a lot easier to share parenting responsibilities if shuttling back and forth between two residences is not yet added to the mix.
- Financial stability. It simply may not be an option for either one of you to move out yet. Divorce in and of itself is expensive. One of you may have been a stay-at-home parent who is now looking for work. There may be a dramatic difference in your incomes, and moving out at this time will drop one spouse to the bottom of the barrel in terms of standard of living. Perhaps you are trying to get any debts you have paid off so you can each start with a clean slate.
Whatever your reasons are for staying under one roof, it’s not going to be all that easy. After all, if living together was going well you probably wouldn’t be getting a divorce, right?
So…how are you going to get through this?
No matter how contentious your relationship is (with the exception of domestic violence, of course) you must sit down and agree on some new “house rules” in order to make it work.
Here are a few tips to serve as a jumping off point:
- No fighting. I know – if you didn’t fight things would be great, right? Think of it this way: if you were at work and there was a colleague there that you did NOT get along with, would you engage in knock-down-drag-out fights with them? Of course not – both of you would end up getting the boot! Most likely you would find a way to minimize contact with them, hold your tongue when they said something idiotic or inflammatory, stick to basic information exchanges with them, bide your time until one of you moves on. This is the same spot you are in right now. Employ your most diplomatic self and figure out how to minimize the situation. This includes argument baiting. You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to!
- Set the ground rules. “Okay – we have to live together but as separate people. What does that look like to you?” LISTEN to what your soon-to-be ex has to say. Consider it carefully. Then share what it looks like to you. Where do you two match? Where do you differ? This is a negotiation. Be prepared to give a little. Be prepared to stand firm on what you will not accept (you know – no date sleepovers, wild parties with their poker buddies, etc.)
- Establish privacy boundaries. It could mean space in the house – separate bedrooms or sleeping arrangements that the other person does NOT invade. It should also pertain to information about who you are with, who they are with, what each of you does with your time and so on. You are soon going to be living separate lives – start practicing what that means now.
- Agree on some alone time. Meaning “you can be in the house alone on Tuesday evenings and I can be in the house alone on Thursday evenings” or something to that effect. Setting up some kind of schedule so you can be in the house without the tension of your ex lurking around every corner – and vice versa – is particularly important if you can barely stand to be around each other. Just minimize contact as much as you can.
On your own, try to set up some kind of escape clause. Like, if you cannot stand it one second longer you will go to your parents/friends/movies etc.
Just be sure to give them a heads up and have their consent that you can pop over when you really need to.
Don’t wear out your welcome though. Spread the love amongst a few friends and some places you feel good at.
Even though you are living together now, start thinking about and planning for how you will be living separately.
If you will eventually be moving out, look at places now, so you have a good idea what is available and how much it will cost.
That leads me to the next point: budget.
Know what you need, not only to live alone but how you will divide expenses now, while still living together.
Creating a budget based on your income and beginning to live in accordance with that budget will be a huge help when you have to make the transition to really doing it all on your own.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg.
Only you will know what things you will need to focus more attention on, and those things may not even be on this list.
Spend some time on your own creating a list of what challenges you will be facing and some potential solutions for those challenges.
As with all other aspects divorce, being prepared is key, being flexible is critical, and being patient is everything else.
P.S. Did you get everything you needed from this article? No? Maybe it’s time for a little more.
My goal is to meet you where you are and walk with you until you’re ready to set out again. A little strategy goes a long way. Let’s set up a mini-strategy session to get you started!
And don’t forget to grab your FREE Divorce Survival Kit before you go!
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