Broken up and still living with your Ex? Advice on handling the nightmare

Sharing a home with an ex is obviously a very bad idea, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Here’s some expert advice on how to cope



The other day, I was listening to a radio call-in show about sex and relationships, and one of the stories really struck me. A young woman had recently broken up with her boyfriend of two years, but they continue to share an apartment. They were trying to transition into roommates and friends, switching off nights sleeping on the couch and bed. She recognized that the situation was pretty awful, but wasn’t sure she had a lot of other options. “Together, we live quite comfortably,” she said. “But on my own I would be poor.”

Awkward moments in the kitchen

What a nightmare. If you’re anything like me, once you break up with someone you don’t even want to run into them on Facebook, let alone standing at your kitchen sink. But, with just the wrong set of circumstances – money problems, stubbornness or a lack of friends and family with pullout couches – it can happen. Anyone who has recently tried to find an apartment, especially in a big city, knows that finding a clean, safe, decently located place that fits your price range isn’t easy. And if your family and most of your friends live elsewhere, your post-breakup options can be pretty limited.

Dr. Kimberly Moffit, a psychotherapist based in Toronto, says that in her practice she sees exes who try to live together – and that it usually isn’t pretty. Any number of problems can arise. It can be tough to know where to draw boundaries, especially when it comes to physical contact. Are you going to keep sharing a bed? Is it okay if he walks in while you’re in the shower? Will the cornflakes continue to be communal property? Once you break up, it’s no longer “our milk,” but a heartbreakingly pragmatic arrangement. “A lot of the joyous activities wouldn’t be joyous anymore,” says Dr. Moffit. “And, of course, it would be much more of a roommate-style relationship where what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine.”

Plus, instead of the nurturing, loving environment you were once able to provide for each other, you’re now faced with either simmering resentment, outright hostility or something. And to make matters worse, you probably still love the jerk. Continuing to have sex, of course, is the most complicating factor, as you’re simultaneously comforted and suffer an emotional setback.

Space –both physical and emotional – is essential to recovering from a broken heart. “It’s very difficult to deal with a breakup if you have the same group of friends as your former partner or if you work in the same environment – especially when they begin to date,” says Dr. Moffit.

Where to draw boundaries

And so that’s why any couple that lives together after a breakup – whether it’s for one awkward week or six terrible months – needs to draw some boundaries. Figure out where you’re each going to sleep and what your new comfort zone is with nudity and physical contact. If you’re both planning on dating again, it might be appropriate to enforce a no-sleepovers rule so you’re not confronted with how easy it appears for your ex to get over you.

Dr. Moffit also advises discussing all of the household responsibilities again – who’s going to be doing the cleaning, whether you’re doing separate grocery shopping now – to make sure you’re on the same page and that things are equitable now that you have to step out of the roles you played in the relationship and into a more pragmatic arrangement as roommates. It’s not realistic to expect to be friends right away, so you might want to try to minimize the amount of time you spend together and instead turn to other parts of your support system.

With some compromise, compassion and maturity, you can make the best of any less-than-ideal situation. But Dr. Moffit’s ultimate advice? “If there’s any chance you can get the hell out of there, do it.”

2 comments on “Broken up and still living with your Ex? Advice on handling the nightmare

  1. I can relate to this. My ex and I live together because we bought a house together. The HARDEST part is that we still care about each other, I still have feelings for him and we usually get along very well. I honestly don’t even know why he wanted to break up, besides the fact that he’s never had a long term relationship before ours because he does not like to get too close to people. On top of that his mother lives with us as well because she will not take care of herself and he feels like he has to do it. As a side note I even suggested she live there to make his burden easier but that seems to have blown up in my face as well. I am just not sure how to handle the idea of him dating someone else. He tends to say he will and will sign up on dating websites only to deactivate them a few weeks later and say he’s not interested in dating. Then he tries to get close to me again physically and mentally. It’s kind of a perpetual see-saw of emotions and behavior that can be difficult to deal with.


  2. My ex and I moved to Oregon about a year and a half ago and after a year broke up. We had been living like roommates for awhile and decided that clearly we weren’t even in a relationship so why keep pretending. We still live together and hang out together and act like best friends. What breaks my heart the most is when I look at him I still see the man I want to be with, but he’s not sexually attracted to me anymore. While I can deal with this fact most of the time I go through phases and start fights and question him on how he could do this me. I’m aware of how unhealthy our situation is, but financially, we need each other right now. We have a roommate so we share a room and a bed still. It’s seriously one of the hardest situations I’ve ever been in emotionally. It’s like waking up every day with a constant reminder that you’re not good enough to be with in the eyes of this man. We will most likely live together for another four months before we all part ways (including our roommate). It sucks. We have so much fun when we’re together. We’re just not sleeping together. I’m okay most of the time but my heart still breaks over and over. I know we need space. The sick thing is part of me is relieved we still live together because I’m afraid to be without him. I am lonely. What I really am is confused! Obviously. Any advice is seriously appreciated.


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