Can I just have a checklist for the move-out/break-up?
July 9, 2019 2:00 AM   Subscribe

After many years of not being happy in my relationship—neither of us being happy, as we’ve been exploring in couples therapy—I’m ready to finally end it. I have set a deadline for myself to have the talk this week. We live together, and are late 30s/early 40s, and it's been 7 years. No kids. I need help in the pre-move out, particularly for how to deal with the "landlord," which means my relatives (but not me in any way).

One of the biggest challenges in the relationship has been that I have to do all the “executive-function” labor, like making plans with friends, suggesting activities, organizing the weekends, even keeping the house organized at all. (And I do mean *at all*, since I tend toward piles of stuff I don’t know what to do with.) When I think about the actual process of separating the stuff of two people’s lives, I expect that my partner will go into shock at it being finally over, and not be willing or capable of doing anything for up to several weeks. Which means I’ll have to do all the work, before, during, and after.

But I am a roiling sea of different emotions. I recognize that I’m not thinking entirely straight right now, because I am alternatively feeling sad, lonely, disconnected, unappreciated, unloved, unsexy, angry at the lost years, like a failure, and on and on and on. It is hard enough to give myself permission to leave.

So I am struggling, hard, with how to do all the practical stuff. I expect to be the mover-outer. First question: What are the mechanics of actually leaving? Do I pack an overnight bag and go? For a week? For longer? How the hell do I manage the conversations of stuff we bought together, and who gets to keep it? What about the stuff I don’t remember where it came from? How do I manage my family, who will be…actually I don’t even know?

Another, bigger complication: the condo where we live and pay rent is owned by my family (but not me personally). I have no problem with my partner staying in the condo indefinitely. My partner is not a bad person, nor did they mistreat me. It is unlikely that partner will be able to find a place to stay in the short term anyway, since we are near my family and not partner’s and empty apartments are scarce. Second question: How do I deal with the condo? I don’t know how to deal with the shelter problem, since I don't know what my family will say. I feel like I have to have a proposal for the family. I don't know what that should be, or how to do it, or anything at all.

All of this feels completely overwhelming. I have a place I can stay on initially moving out. But I don’t/can’t make good decisions about what preparation I need to do beforehand. All help is appreciated. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you want to do the kind thing and not blindside them and kick them out in the street - which is admirable, as the balance of power is on your side if your family own the place. So first, legally I assume you have to give them a certain amount of time to get out and it sounds like you’re prepared to extend that. By how much exactly? I’d have a time frame in mind because it sounds like you STBX (soon to be ex) may take advantage of the fact that you’ve already left and are doing all the breakup legwork so to speak.

As long as you’re out of the picture their incentive to go is much less, unless the rent is prohibitive. I’d basically have the landlord give them xx amount of days to leave, mostly so they can’t take advantage of you and linger forever, trash the place, your things, whatever. I’m not saying it will happen but who knows how your STBX will take it.

So far as your possessions, take any critical things with you. The obvious legal documents etc but also irreplaceable thing whether it’s your grandmas quilt or photos. If you’d be destroyed if anything happened to them, take it as you first leave. The rest is just stuff. Later you can divide things up regarding how much you like it vs how much it’s worth fighting over. Hint; very few things are worth fighting over. Let him have the ten year old microwave. But give him a deadline to take it all and be out. Otherwise it drags on (ask me how I know.)

So far as your family, unless this guy has been abusive and it sounds like he hasn’t, don’t badmouth him to your family. Just say things haven’t worked out, you’re going your seperate ways. You’d like things to be as amicable as possible. Tell him the same thing and then try and make it so. It might take a few months to sort it out. Deep breaths. Try not to let get emotional over the logistics and be as kind to both of you as you can, but don’t get dragged into drama. Good luck.
posted by Jubey at 3:01 AM on July 9, 2019

Just a quick note that OP didn’t use he/she pronouns for themselves or their partner.
posted by sacchan at 3:18 AM on July 9, 2019 [11 favorites]

Having a third place to store things while the change settles can help, so renting a space at a storage facility gets the condo out of the middle for the last day. You might want a small space for your protected things. This also gives them a temporary destination while they sort out housing, especially if they want to keep a large item (sofa)and think you might hold it for them . It gets you out of the middle after the due date. I’m thinking of two spaces at two different facilities if that’s not clear.
posted by childofTethys at 3:25 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m so sorry about the pronouns!
posted by Jubey at 3:38 AM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

It is kind of you to consider their housing needs. How likely is it that your folks would want your ex as long-term tenant, effectively as third party tenant, when so far they were renting to family? That may not be acceptable to them so you may want to plan on staying in the place yourself and expect them to move out. They can avail themselves of storage facilities and make use of short-term solutions like becoming somebody’s roommate for a while whilst they work out what they want to do next. They may not even want to stay in your location permanently if they are no longer with you.

Especially if they are the sort of person to get so overwhelmed that they won’t do anything for weeks you do need to implement reasonable but clear timelines for things to happen. Including that after a certain point, you will take all their stuff and put it into a storage facility paid for x time. Otherwise you’ll not be able to get on with your next steps because you’re always waiting on them. They are just as much an adult as you so it can’t fall to you to organise their next steps for them.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:48 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Have your mail forwarded to a post office box before you move out and until you get settled. I think you can do a temporary forward for up to a year, but check with USPS.
posted by jointhedance at 4:01 AM on July 9, 2019

I was in a fairly similar situation - length of relationship, no kids, renting - when I left my husband. The conversation was the hardest part. I ended up staying there with him for seven weeks while I looked for an apartment and waited for it to be vacated, which I do not recommend (always have a bathrobe, friends!). In this case if the family who owns the condo is OK with them staying, you might want to be ready with a packed bag when the conversation happens, with the knowledge that it might not be necessary to take off that day.

This is so individual. I'm sorry you're going through it. But being out of the wrong relationship is good. Feel free to memail me if you want.
posted by wellred at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I do not know the legalities of where you live, so I do not know if this applies to you, but it would behoove you to find out if you guys are in fact common law married by now based on the laws of your jurisdiction and whether that has any impact on decisions you might make about staying or going from your home at this time. Sometimes the spouse that leaves gives up certain things that s/he may not have intended to give up by leaving. I left, but I was lucky that my ex was either benevolent or inept or both, so I didn't end up with any legal ramifications when it came to the actual divorce.

YMMV of course, and good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:07 AM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

As far as actual leaving mechanics, the few times I've been in a similar situation it worked like this.

- Have the talk. Have a place to stay that night (friends, whatever) and for the next few nights.
- Arrange a day in the near future when you will come and get your things. Decide if you want to work this out with your ex (i.e. have them there and make decisions with you) or not. If not, arrange for them to be somewhere else while you come and get your stuff. Bring a truck and friends, etc.
- Have a regular meetup with your ex (just coffee or something) every week or every other week or so for a while so that you can go over things that fell through the cracks. This is not "Let's talk some more about our relationship" time, this is "Hey I got the bill for the __________. How do you want to handle this?" Making this regular means there aren't a bunch of random emails or phone calls that can be disturbing if you're trying to move on or go nearly-no-contact. This way it's scheduled and you can move on with the rest of your time not trying to figure out how to communicate.

As far as the condo, I think the usual drill is.

1. Figure out with family whether it's OK for them to continue renting to your ex. They may be okay with this, they may not. Figure that out first.
2. If they're ok continuing the deal, then your ex and your family can work that part out and you are basically done with it. Do not mediate the relationship.
3. Because having your ex still renting from your folks might be weird, I'd give it a finite timeline (3 months? 6 months?) that you work out with your folks. Then either you can move back in or just move on at that point.

As far as "Who keeps what" my usual rule of thumb is that the leaver has to sort of take some lumps in terms of this situation (esp one like yours where no one is a bad person) and try to be gracious about dividing things. Continuing to argue about stuff is just prolonging the relationship, only in a bad non-productive way. Obviously if money is an issue that's a different story than if one or both of you can just re-buy things.

Best wishes, this isn't easy but I think you'll feel better once it's in process no matter how well or poorly it goes.
posted by jessamyn at 6:23 AM on July 9, 2019 [8 favorites]

If you have decided you are going to go, then going is your job and staying in the relationship and taking care of them is absolutely not. Done wrong it's the proverbial trying to cross a chasm in two jumps. You may be the one doing all the logistical and executive function work and all the emotional labour, but the whole point of leaving is that now you are going to stop. The question is when you are going to stop and staying in touch and helping partner move is a good way to turn the situation twice as complicated and labour intensive.

I would have a brief conversation with partner: I have irrevocably decided that we are breaking up. Logisitics of who, when and how will have to be determined.

Then I would have a conversation with the condo owners, and find out if they are going to make demands on you and what their expectations are.

Return to partner and inform them of what is now necessary, whether the condo owners want your partner out as of August 30th, or would like them to stay on as a tenant, etc.

Then start packing and looking for a place to go

If you have any worries about your security (emotional security, and the fear that you will apologize for trying to break up and promise to stay forever because they are sitting there silently looking so sad counts) you need to have a fast departure plan and support for this departure in place, so you get that ready BEFORE you inform the partner.

If partner works and is out of the home for any predictable time, that is your best time to pack and retrieve stuff, if only because you will use your time less productively if you get distracted by the fact that they need lunch.

As soon as you have had the "It's over," talk you need to spend the least amount of time possible interacting with or thinking about your partner. This means separate meals. This means not comforting them if they are blue, or talking all night in hopes that you will hit on something to say that will give them closure. From now on, polite, distant. You may want to ration yourself to 100 words per day, if you have trouble with getting yourself trapped looking after them, or venting at them.

If you are the one staying and they are the one going then you may have to do their entire move for them. If so, inform them in terse sentences what you are doing and again avoid conversations. "Is it okay if I...?" is going to trap you, so, "Since you didn't sign with any of the four places I found for you to go look at, I have asked Dave to take you to two places on Wednesday after work," is a much more effective than having to work around their needs. This is assuming they do absolutely nothing.

Obviously this should be done kindly and with some affirmations of their value and worth in abstract terms, and with no malice, so if you get stuck with all their logistics, then you don't get rid of their stuff, you get it to their new apartment or into storage without tossing out that stupid picture of them and the grade seven basketball trophy. Old chip bags can go in the garbage, but anything not equally garbage is up to them to sort or reject.

If there is no malice or danger to you or your stuff, you may wish to move out for a month and abandon everything you don't immediately need and go no-contact, to ensure they get the idea that you are gone and not coming back, and give them a chance to take ownership of the situation, and recover, without you taking over and helping. They may or may not use that month to do anything, but that is not the point. The point is to make it clear to both of you that you are not going to be doing emotional labour and executive functioning for them any more.

They may abandon a whole whack of stuff - consider getting them a storage locker if they do that, or get clear permission that they would rather it go in the trash and they do not want it. People with executive function disability would often rather purge than sort or deal with, so they may indeed want to abandon all their mother's books that they love so much, and that new electronic toy that was so expensive, because it is actually easier and more practical for them to let go of the attachment and the investment than it is to come over and pick up a few already packed for them boxes. That is okay. It's not you, but it is perfectly okay and valid. It's just a traumatic kind of Marie Kondo purge.

Be aware that you may need duplicates of stuff in order to end up with two functional households. Whoever brought the item in gets to keep it, but if it was brought in during the cohabiting period, then go by emotional significance to decide who gets the mixing bowl, and err on the side of letting them have it when feelings are about equal. Since you are the one who is better with stuff, then replacements will be more fun for you than for them. You will probably enjoy finding a nice new mixing bowl, whereas they will probably end up using a five gallon ice cream container that was previously used to store pet food and still smells slightly like it.

Be aware that caretaking behaviour on your part may be a reaction to anxiety, and make sure that you do not over caretake them. If they lose their job because they missed the bus because you didn't wake them up they were going to lose their job anyway since you have decided to break up. And you are still right to break up. But continuing to wake them up means you have not broken up.

It's a fine line to aim for being that Saint who was so kind after the break up, to being that patsy who let them keep freeloading. Use anger as a gauge. If you feel angry at the idea of doing somethng for them, then it is your signal that you should NOT do that thing, and that you most absolutely especially should NOT yell at them, or be irritable or write them angry notes. As soon as you are being unkind especially retaliation, you have lost and have become the bad guy. So the critical thing is to get as far away from them as much as necessary that you are never unkind. Remember, this person is your Ex and no longer gets any space in your head.

The final back up plan is to just go abandoning all or most of your stuff, apologizing profusely to the condo owner and paying a damage fee for them to trash your abandoned property. That is a better scenario than staying with your partner, after spending seven months house hunting for them to move out, or spending seven miserable months sorting to try and figure out what is yours and what isn't and then going without it, only to have them crash one night in your new apartment and it somehow extending to the rest of your life.

This is going to probably be a really lousy summer and possibly a lousy fall. So look after yourself and find good places to deal with the needs your partner used to meet (or fail to meet.)
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:37 AM on July 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

In a similar situation, I had packed up and removed my most valuable smaller items to a friend's house, plus clothes etc before having the conversation. I had arranged a sublet with a friend too, and was geared up to move everything there. I can't really speak to the other things exactly, but planning for a worst case scenario reaction (even from a totally calm, rational, nonviolent person!) made planning in advance like this an emotionally safer option.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:43 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

The condo conversation can go like this: Partner and I are breaking up. Do you care who stays, if either of us do? You go looking for information, not go looking to provide solutions. Good communication requires you to listen first. So don't be afraid to go to them with no solutions at all. If you have solutions ready to hand you may be oblivious to the fact that they have their own needs or solutions - they might be looking for a tenant for another unit, or they might prefer your partner to stay over you, since partner is a big scary guy who keeps the loiterers away from the building, or she always clips the flowers out front. So find out what is going on with them and then tell them you will get back to them promptly with what is going to happen, when you figure that out.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:48 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oof, I also just navigated kicking my ex out of the place we rented from my parents on -mostly- amicable terms. Originally, the plan had been that we would live there together separately and help each other sort out our next moves - nope, I was too upset, so I took a week's worth of clothes and stayed with my parents and then came back to talk about it again. I talked with my parents and they were impatiently okay with letting him stay for a couple of months to get his things in order. Nope, he was too upset, and spite helped him get the ball rolling on having his dad move him out of state the second weekend.

The first couple days I stayed there, I tried to have calm conversations about splitting up the stuff, but he was noncommittal and I got snippy and nothing got done. So I let him pack up whatever he wanted while I was gone and take what he could in his dad's truck. What was left, I piled up together and then called him and went through it broadly to see what I could throw away (most of it) and what couple of things I wanted I could keep, and the rest I brought in my car to him, because my parents wanted the place empty as soon as possible so they could get on with selling it. Some stuff like stray papers and five lotion bottles I just boxed all up together to let him deal with it, but done and done, out of the way.

Minor advice to add onto the strategies other people said - definitely take the things that you care what happens to them at soonest opportunity. Stay out of the condo and have little and business-only contact until they're gone/staying and you're gone. If they're staying, definitely have a rough end date that they and the relative agree to. If they're leaving, make peace with losing most of the things and/or managing their business if it gets things done easier and faster, but do not manage their feelings about anything. I like the framing above that it's just continuing the relationship when the point is to end it.

Don't feel super bad that you're doing this to them, they're an adult, they can survive a less-than-ideal move or living situation, you are getting out of this relationship so that everything's not your responsibility anymore. Do feel the anger that they did this to you but probably when you're away from them. As best, best intentions as me and my ex went into this with (although it sounds like we shared similar problems), as much as you or they think it, you just aren't the person that can help your ex once you're out of the relationship, and your goal should be to disengage as quickly as possible, with nice as an afterthought, so you can get on with the practical steps as well as the emotional processing and healing.

Good job doing this! I hope you get to be lazy for a while when everything's done.
posted by gaybobbie at 7:53 AM on July 9, 2019

I went through this a few months ago. Make a plan.

In my case the idea was to break up and move out on the same day. You need the move-out to be permanent or else the breakup will not be successful and you'll get sucked back in to the relationship. I booked an AirBnB for a whole month a few days before leaving. I planned to give my ex two months to decide whether to keep the apartment or not. They could either stay and finish the lease term (another 7 months), or leave and I would move back in to finish the lease. Having an AirBnB for a month gave me a stable, furnished home, and I needed that base to keep my mental health in good shape. Just one month gave me the option to accelerate the plan if my ex decided to choose sooner. They didn't, so I got a different AirBnB for the second month.

I took only my clothes and laptop with me, and a couple sentimental things. I left all of the furniture and housewares with my ex. For me, part of the process of deciding to leave was breaking out of a codependency and re-establishing my own independent identity. I wanted to get my own place, decorate it the way I wanted, and start over from scratch. So in a sense it was easy to let go of the physical possessions. I don't miss any of them at all.

In the second month I started to scope out new long-term housing. Once my ex committed to keeping the old apartment, I leased a place I liked and moved in. And it's great. It's really great. I don't quite know how to describe the feeling of freedom. I can feel it in my chest, it's like the air I'm breathing is different somehow. Even months later.

You are doing the right thing. The feelings you are having are the normal feelings to be having. The next steps are difficult and painful, but things will start getting better fast. I'm happy to memail anyone who wants to talk more.
posted by Arctic Circle at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

It is kind of you to consider their housing needs. How likely is it that your folks would want your ex as long-term tenant, effectively as third party tenant, when so far they were renting to family? That may not be acceptable to them so you may want to plan on staying in the place yourself and expect them to move out.

This may not be acceptable to the OP, who wants this to go smoothly. I'd suggest having the family let the ex stay until the end of the lease (there is a lease, isn't there?) and then the ex will move out. This would feel more natural than an abrupt vacate order (leaving at the end of a lease is something we all understand), and also, any remaining furniture or other stuff would still be there, whereupon you could move back in if you wanted to.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:13 PM on July 9, 2019

If you don't care about staying in the condo, I'd make plans to move out yourself and your stuff immediately so you don't have to wait around for them. Minimize your emotional labor by gathering together everything you want, asking, "Is there anything here you don't want me to take?" and removing your share immediately. The work to remember who technically owns each individual thing just isn't worth the energy, especially since it sounds like the burden would be placed almost solely on you.

Let them deal with their own stuff, but be prepared to remove whatever they leave behind for the sake of peace with your landlords.
posted by metasarah at 6:06 AM on July 11, 2019

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