When is it OK to start hooking up after a break-up?
March 10, 2009 6:40 PM   Subscribe

If you are living with a recent ex--and you can't move for a few months until the lease is up--how do you handle dating and hook-ups? If you are ready to move on, but they may not be, of course you're not bringing anyone home but at what point in time is it reasonable to, well, not come home at night? What is the etiquette in this situation?

You have a lot of respect for your ex even though you aren't dating them anymore. You're just trying to figure out how to balance that respect and consideration for them with the belief that they shouldn't really have control over what--or who--you do.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it is only a few months, I think the adult thing to do would be to avoid bringing home a date or a hook-up and go to the date's place instead. Even though you claim to respect your ex, there could be some hurt feelings and more than a little awkwardness.
posted by sararah at 6:45 PM on March 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Wait to have overnighters until you move out. Anything else will hurt your ex, and it doesn't sound like you want to do that.

The only exception would be if the ex starts staying out overnight on dates, or brings a date home.
posted by amro at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

that's a tough one.

i have not been in this situation.

however, i will comment (b/c that's we do here at mefi).

i don't think that you showing respect for the recent end of a relationship (apparently amicably since you say you respect said ex) by coming home at night is a bad thing or is your ex controlling. i think it's you showing that are respecting the relationship that used to be and the friendship (?) that still is.

i think it would be sportsmanlike conduct to just keep coming home until the lease is up.

on preview, agree with sarahah.
posted by sio42 at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are times when the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is perfectly appropriate and practical, (however problematic it may have been regaring homosexuality in the military). This is one of those times. Use it in conjunction with sararah's advice.
posted by orange swan at 6:50 PM on March 10, 2009

I've been there on both sides. amro's answer is the most humane and prevents any drama.
posted by batmonkey at 6:53 PM on March 10, 2009

If you have knowledge that they are not ready to move on, then you are being considerate, not controlled if you don't shove your new relationships in their face.

Otherwise the really civil thing to do would be to find a place to stay until the end of your lease and/or help your ex find a subletter for your space if such a thing is possible.

The etiquette is that you are technically free to pretty much do whatever you want within whatever guidelines you and your ex have decided on. However, the graceful and compassionate response is to not do anything that will make your ex feel bad; the lease is a shared burden that is pretty awkward for both of you and if both of you are trapped by it (because of money or circumstances) trying to tread extra lightly is the appropriate response in my etiquette book.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 PM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

If it's really *can't* move out, instead of "it's quite a bit more convenient for me to stay in this situation and continue to enable the dysfunctional relationship," and if there really is respect for the ex, then etiquette and common sense dictate that you both keep it in your respective pantses for those few months. Even if you come to some sort of agreement that you think is mutual, and one of you starts going out or bringing people home, there are going to be hurt feelings, and that respect will disappear.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:03 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with the above, and adding a tangential consideration:

If you do choose not to come home at night, it's a good idea to have moved any personal items of financial or sentimental value into storage beforehand.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:04 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

sararah and amro have it. The respectful thing to do is just wait until you're out on your own, I'm afraid. Or at the very least, keep it away from the house.

An ex stayed in my apartment for a month after we split up. It was hard enough hearing her talk on the phone with the guy she was leaving me for.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:06 PM on March 10, 2009

I can't imagine someone being attached emotionally to someone else and not being hurt by that person not coming home at night. If you want to hurt this person, and potentially escalate things, go for it. If your sex life is more important to you right now than this person's feelings, then go for it. But if you don't want to rock the boat, then don't give your ex any reason to know that you are having sex.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:10 PM on March 10, 2009

Honestly, this may not even be a consideration. I seriously don't think I'd consider hooking up with someone who was still living with the ex. That's recipe for more drama than is necessary for a simple hook up.

That said, the honorable thing to do would be to wait until you have your own place to start with the overnighters.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 7:11 PM on March 10, 2009

I guess my answer's a little different from the others here. I feel that if your breakup was amicable, or at least more of what you wanted than what the other person desired, I think you owe it to them to keep it cool and not date too much while you're still living with them. If it was the other person who initialized the breakup, I don't think the same is true, really.

Either way, though, as jessamyn said, the lease is a shared burden. This burden is one you signed up for without knowing this is how it would end. That doesn't matter, though. You've made your bed, so you get to lie in it now, so to speak. In a way, consider this a hard lesson learned; you try not to sign leases with people that you don't have a future with. (Not saying you didn't do that, but yeah.)

I'd caution doing much of anything that gives off a bad taste. It's hard enough living with a flatmate when you're not getting along. It will likely be a hundred times harder and more personal to get along with an ex in that scenario. Is dating right now so important to you that you're willing to come home to questions, hurt and turmoil? Is dating right now so important to you that you're willing to [possibly] have your ex, when he/she moves out, talk about what an insensitive jerk you were? It's all for you to decide.

A few months isn't long to go without any serious dating or sex. If I were you, I'd just hold off. It's unlikely that the "right one" will come along in those three months, and, well, if they're the right one, they'll be happy to wait until you've moved into a better living situation.
posted by metalheart at 7:25 PM on March 10, 2009

The other question is, up until a few months after breaking up with someone you moved in with, are you really ready for serious dating?

Sure, go get some if you want, but don't spend the night.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:43 PM on March 10, 2009

I would suggest you make a pact with your ex. You both agree to not discuss your love life, not to ask each other questions about hook ups, dates, etc., and not to bring dates home. If one of asks the other for information, s/he is violating the pact, and should be reminded of that. It's only for a few months.

Good luck.
posted by Piscean at 7:46 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your ex broke up with you, I would say that staying out overnight is ok if you have to, but I would make an effort to avoid it. If you broke up with the ex, wait. Mutal break-up, wait.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:33 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

anon: You have a lot of respect for your ex even though you aren't dating them anymore. You're just trying to figure out how to balance that respect and consideration for them with the belief that they shouldn't really have control over what--or who--you do.

Breakups can be hard because the healthiest thing to do is also the most counter-intuitive. The process of ending a relationship is the process of putting distance between yourself and the other person and of severing ties, and we all naturally assume that distancing and severing is equal to confrontation or argument or active disagreement. I think that sometimes this happens easily because in these situations we're often in pain, and we get temporary relief from our pain when we lord it over others.

This is what you want to avoid. I know you're not actually asking for confrontation, and I know that's probably not a conscious desire of yours, but I notice that you say that you've moved on even though your ex hasn't. Doesn't that seem like it'll almost certainly lead to confrontation?

Remember the common saying, which is very true: the opposite of love isn't hatred; the opposite of love is indifference. The only healthy way to deal with confrontations is to finish them with reconciliations; but you're no likely to want to do that any more, so you won't have a healthy out in an argument. So avoid situations where there are confrontations.

Like I said above: this will seem counter-intuitive. You'll say to yourself, "I'm free now! He can't control me. I can do what I want!" It's natural to be feeling that way right now - but in order to make the breakup healthy for yourself (and for him, of course) you have to suppress that, because that feeling is a feeling that wants to confront him, and then you'll be back in the thick of relationship problems. Be indifferent, and choose the path that makes things easiest.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 PM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you can't sublease, just hold off some. You can always take care of things in the daytime and stuff.

Tell me somebody's on the couch.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do not under any circumstances bring home a "guest" unless the ex gives you explicit "permission" without being asked. And then, don't.

Remember this AskMe question? Well, it was your old pal, yours truly, OC. And yours truly realized he had to move out statim before he got a butcher knife to the sternum, and so he did. And this was with both of us more or less doing everything "right."

Some special, perfect, unique ex-couples may be able to handle the scenario you are outlining. We were not one of them. Chances are you guys aren't either.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:02 PM on March 10, 2009

I have been in this exact situation. It can only end badly if you start bringing people home. Trust me on this. BADLY.

I know you feel like you're independent of this person, but you're not, you're still roommates, and if you start dating someone new, you have to go to that person's house.

Please trust me on this one.
posted by MythMaker at 10:35 PM on March 10, 2009

Definitely don't bring anyone home. However, if it's been a while, it's perfectly reasonable to stay out over-night. Since you're anon, I don't really have a way of knowing your age, but aren't there other reasons you might stay out late or overnight? I've personally stayed up until 6am some times just hanging out with friends, having a good time, no hookups required.

So yeah, keep it on the down-low, but if the relationship is getting to the point where you want to spend the night, I say go for it. You shouldn't have to sabotage a developing relationship for the feelings of your ex. Otherwise I fear we might have another AskMe on our hands pretty soon:

"I'm dating a wonderful person, but they're still in a lease with their ex, and (he/she) won't spend the night over at my place because they don't want to hurt the ex's feelings! Is (he/she) still hung up on that ex?"

It's wonderful that you're concerned and being considerate, but it's really not your ex's business where you are at all hours, and at a certain point the ex will figure out that you're dating anyway, even if you do avoid overnights.
posted by explosion at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2009

I did this with an ex who is now my best friend, the person I will gladly name each and every of my future progeny after, but whom I will never date again.

Living with my ex-boyfriend alone nearly killed both of us emotionally. Seriously, I think we're both still feeling the reverberations of the trauma of occupying the same connubial bed but lying there in stone silence, hating each other. You should not, cannot, will not bring anyone home to the apartment that you share. Ever. Duh.

And as someone who has been brought home after a third date situation where "Oh it's fine, my ex is totally cool with the girls I bring over," was offered after I darted out of the kitchen, flushed and drunk and wondering why this dude's female roommate clearly wanted to disembowel me with her beady razor eyes, I can tell you this:

Having an ex occupying your hook-up premises will immediately kill your game. There is nothing unsexier than implicitly relaying to your current romantic interest that you have not yet totally sorted through your baggage before going out on the town. Unless that person is a raving masochist, they will probably not be thrilled to be vertex A in love triangle ABC. Just keep it in your pants another few months for everyone's sake.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:04 AM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, my, I have been in your shoes. And I have an ex who hasn't spoken to me in months, and despite all that "let's stay friends!" talk, will probably never initiate contact with me ever again. So maybe you should take everyone else's advice.

In my case, the ex knew I was dating someone. I would give him a heads-up on the next time he'd see me, because even though we weren't dating, if you're used to caring about someone, it can be kinda worrying when they just disappear.

I didn't say I'M GOING TO GO OUT AND GET BIZ-ZAY TONIGHT; I'd say "I'll see you sometime tomorrow."

Of course, we were both spending as much time as possible not in the house we shared where every molecule of air was livid with awkwardness, and we barely saw each other anyway, so that made things easier. I'd say, spend as much time as possible outside the house, whether it's visiting your parents, going camping, or spending late nights out with platonic friends. That way it's not so obvious when your absence is noted.

Or maybe you should just wait. I can't see this situation turning out amazingly well no matter what you do, but yeah, I probably could have done it better.

posted by Juliet Banana at 8:10 AM on March 11, 2009

Well, my boyfriend of nearly 8 years and I started dating while I was living with my ex, so I wouldn't say that living with your ex is entirely problematic on the getting dates front. It had been six months since my ex broke up with me; he had been going out on dates and spending the night, but he completely lost it when I started dating. I would say no matter how hard you work to sort things out, there is some stuff that can't be accounted for (like your ex completely and unreasonably freaking out and reading your IMs with a packet sniffer and other dumb crap like that). If you prefer to avoid drama, regardless of any "etiquette" that you two have worked out, just hold off for a few months. If you can't wait even a few months to hook up, move out.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2009

And really, you should be talking to your ex about the reasonable arrangements, not us. We're not living with you.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2009

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