20 years and done. Now what?
March 5, 2019 10:40 AM   Subscribe

My 20+ year relationship ended tonight. I am both heartbroken and relieved (if that makes any sense).

Discussions about the relationship have been ongoing since the new year, counselling was attempted but it didn’t take for either of us.

So now we have to separate our lives, our things, our finances etc. How do we go about this? And what should I make sure to do that I probably can’t even think of right now?

For reference, we are not married, nor do we have a civil union. There are no kids and we rent our flat (though the contract is only in my name).
posted by She Kisses Wyverns to Human Relations (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Does either of you want/need to make a clean break? Or do you intend to stay friends in the short-term? How amicable is this?

That determines a lot. I think the more one or both of you needs a clean break, the more important it is to deal with moving and housing logistics as a top priority. In that case, one of you should get a temporary place ASAP and move out all your carry-ables. The rest should be done as below with one difference: you should both immediately identify the most serious money and property related issues and solve those ASAP with the understanding that anything that isn’t solved now might not go your way or might be delayed in resolution.

If you’re both okay with some delay, I think splitting finances cleanly is probably first up. You can make an appointment to sit down with all the necessary documents and decide what each of you needs to do to effectuate a clean split. Then one of you, probably your partner, will have to find another flat. After 20 years, you have some obligation to smooth a transition for them, and with settled finances, you should be able to commit a certain amount to moving, seeking a new flat, furniture etc. with the expectation that they’ll be able to carry the rest. This is when you should decide who gets what furniture.

After you’ve split finances and figured out moving expenses, and determined where the furniture will go, it’s time to set a firm date for the move. There should be a “being out by Now would be nice” date and a “will be gone even if it’s inconvenient for them” date. Once moving day is set, you should go through carryables that are plausibly belonging to either of you and determine who gets what. There are a number of ways to do this. I personally favor both people making a list of what they can’t live without and then comparing lists. Everything else can go or stay on a turn-taking basis.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Your ex is still your ex. You cannot expect them to behave better or be easier to deal with now than they were when you were together. Be really really honest with yourself about your mutual ability to cooperate on logistics and don’t hold out hope that they’ll be better than their worst point in your relationship. For example, my ex husband was never cooperative or reasonable about money and had serious compulsive spending issues. I stupidly thought we could collaborate on a financial settlement. This was a dumb thing to think! It didn’t work! Hope springs eternal, but you should go out of your way to quash it.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:10 AM on March 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you have shared finances and assets that you consider worth protecting, you probably want to contact an attorney before one contacts you.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:11 AM on March 5, 2019 [14 favorites]

Sorry to hear about this.

I engaged an accountant to help separate finances but no attorney. My ex was pretty aggressive about separating once she determined she was done but even so we shared responsibility for some pets so I wrote out an agreement there. Also there was the matter of a quitclaim on the car.

Given the flat's in your name maybe a quick renter's agreement even if your partner isn't paying? Just for incidental liability. You might also review insurance and benefit arrangements depending on where they stand.
posted by kalessin at 11:38 AM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Heartbroken and relieved is a very common emotional reaction to the end of a relationship that isn't working.

I'd suggest getting as much physical space from each other as soon as possible. It's much harder to actually have the relationship end while you're still sharing space and your daily lives. Since the place is in your name: is it possible for your ex-partner to find a couch or guest room at a friend's for a bit? Or perhaps you all could take turns doing that? In my own marriage and in a long-term relationship of a friend that ended: it's incredibly hard to disentangle while you're co-habitating.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:18 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

your partner needs to move out. even if you still love each other, even if you plan to remain friends, you need to get some space (i speak from experience).

each of you should open your own bank accounts and start having your direct deposits and whatever else directed to those. as soon as any outstanding "joint" stuff is taken care of, close your old joint accounts.

update your will and other documents. update your beneficiaries on any insurance plans.

update your emergency contact info wherever needed when you next visit there (no need to go on a calling spree or anything, can be done as you go along).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

These are all good practical recommendations, but let me offer a few mental/emotional ones:

Are you in therapy? 20 years is a long time, and no matter how/why it ended, you're going to have a lot to process, and professional support can be a huge benefit.

Find what Captain Awkward calls Team You: the friends and family who will be there to help and listen and remind you why this was a good thing in the long run.

If you can, try to build some new routines that are for yourself, that don't have associations with your partner, and where you can take care of yourself.

Remember to eat and sleep and do all the boring but necessary things to stay alive and healthy. If your job offers sick leave, be prepared to use it for mental health days if you can.

Be gentle with yourself. This is a huge life change. Good luck.
posted by epersonae at 1:14 PM on March 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Confirm that in your geographic area, living together that long does not make you common-law spouses. Or give your ex tenancy rights to your flat.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thank you for your answers.
An appointment has been made with the bank to separate finances. ‘To do’ and ‘I want / don’t want thing x’ lists have been started.

I have been clear that anything he doesn’t take with him that I don’t want will be given / thrown away.

He has left the flat to stay with a friend from work while finding another place to live. I have asked him to aim to be fully moved out by the end of this month.

I am sleeping and eating and have engaged a therapist. My boss is being very supportive.
posted by She Kisses Wyverns at 12:44 PM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

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