How to establish rules for a newly broken-up couple living together.
June 11, 2006 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Break-upFilter: What are the rules for interaction between a newly-separated duo who still plan living together for now, and is there a way to make things less awkward?

A friend of mine has just broken up with her boyfriend (with whom she lives). They're on amiable terms and have agreed to continue living together for at least the forseeable future, but neither is quite sure what the rules are now.

What are the limits are, or, ways that they can figure them out together in the least uncomfortable way possible for both of them?

Any tips on making the situation a bit less awkward for both of them??
posted by Glitter Ninja to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had the same situation last week (broke up Monday and she moved out Friday). We were on good terms, but it was still really strange and awkward no matter what. Certainly make sure your friends discuss and agree on any financial committments, as this is always a source of tension. Also, the sleeping arrangements need to fair and *ideally* separate. No "backsliding" (sex after the breakup)!!! I can't emphasize that enough.

Bottom line is that it will be awkward and if you are prepared and accepting of that, you'll do fine. Make sure each person has their own personal space, and also has privacy every now and then (phone calls from consoling friends, "venting", etc.). My ex would go run errands during my time off work so I could have my "alone time", and I'd make sure I'd be away and respect her time alone, too. (Since I initiated the breakup, she needed her fair share of the privacy and time to be on the phone with family and with friends, so that is certainly something to be considerate of depending on the circumstances of the breakup).
posted by galimatias at 7:18 PM on June 11, 2006

This inevitably sucks for one of them as the other will start dating and there's almost nothing worse than listening to your ex get laid.

You don't mention how long they were together, if it was months then things could be decent. If it was years then I'd just cut my losses and make a cleaner break and move on.
posted by fenriq at 7:33 PM on June 11, 2006

As far as I know, it was two years, and they were engaged.
posted by Glitter Ninja at 7:44 PM on June 11, 2006

Why are they still living together? Financial reasons, or because they really think the friendship will be better for it?
posted by occhiblu at 7:49 PM on June 11, 2006

The rules are: you figure out how to move out as quickly as possible. Even if one has to go to the other side of the world or something.
posted by bonaldi at 7:53 PM on June 11, 2006

Break-upFilter: What are the rules for interaction between a newly-separated duo who still plan living together for now, and is there a way to make things less awkward?

Shoot them both now. It'll make them and their friends less miserable.

In short, it's a bad idea. When a break up occures, a break should occur. They can have coffee in 2-6months and then be friends, but for now, they really should not see each other at all.

But since that's NOT what you're asking:

separate rooms for sleeping. no showering together or sex of course. decide who's paying for what and stick to it. slowly or quickly separate your stuff (depends on the couple). some might be ok with slowly pulling apart, others might need a more drastic break.

But really, they need to talk about it and first admit it's going to be strange and agree to work and WORK HARD on really breaking up.

And they really need to agree that with each other that sex with other people is perfectly ok and that the other might hear the sex going on and that's just too bad. Life goes on.

but really, one of them needs to move out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 PM on June 11, 2006

Nothing good can come of this. Nothing. Someone has to be the adult and leave.
posted by frogan at 8:34 PM on June 11, 2006

The answer depends heavily on whether there is a friendship. Is there one, and might it become a positive thing? Work on that and the rest will fall into place (then you can tackle the issues of new SO's, etc, after the breakup fallout has settled). If there isn't, then effort should be focused on getting outta Dodge.
posted by hodyoaten at 8:46 PM on June 11, 2006

If they are renting, call the landlord and get the one who is moving out off the lease. If they own their home, resolve it now while they are amiable and either sell it outright or just have the one who contributed the most buy out the lesser-contributing party. A good friend of mine got screwed out of his life savings after putting a down payment on a house with his fiance, who later dumped him and forced him to move out and sign over the house through some devious emotional terrorism. Oh yeah, and they started out on "amiable terms."
posted by MrZero at 8:58 PM on June 11, 2006

a friend of mine just broke up with his fiance - they were dating for 11 years and engaged for the last 4. They lived together for about a month until he found another roommate. Bottom line is one of them has to move out and I think it's just common courtesy to keep any and all liasons out of the house until one leaves.
posted by any major dude at 9:42 PM on June 11, 2006

I tried a similar thing during the break up of my first marriage. We were both ready for the split, it seemed like we could wait the month or two to settle things (I can't remember what needed my attention). I split after a week or two- I was simply too hard. I don't think friendship is relevant. After two years or so there is bound to be an under tow of emotion dragging them both to places unexpected. But then- that was me.
posted by pointilist at 9:46 PM on June 11, 2006

is there a way to make things less awkward?


Someone upthread said, "Someone has to be the adult and leave." That's about right. I'm sure your friend probably thinks, "Maybe most people can't make this work, but we're mature and there's no reason we can't just be friends."

Some people insist on learning everything the hard way.
posted by cribcage at 9:55 PM on June 11, 2006

I did this because for various reasons it was difficult for me to leave right away, and it didn't kill either of us. Here's how we negotiated things, with the caveat that if there's a lot of anger or other high emotion involved, it won't work for your friend:

1. We planned a definite end date, so we both knew when I'd be moving out and living elsewhere. It was no more than a month or so. Nothing helps keep things amicable more than this, because you both know exactly what to expect. I've no idea how to deal with a long-term living arrangement with an ex but it's not something I'd want to try to figure out.

2. I boxed up and stored most of my things elsewhere so that he could arrange things as he wanted and so my move would be as simple as possible once the time came.

3. No sex, no relationship talk, no hashing things out. That part was done, and if it we were ever going to try again, it would have to be after some time apart. It can be very tempting to break this rule. We didn't, and I'm glad.

4. Neither of us dated, nor wanted to, so that made things easy. That's part of why it's vital to have a move-out date: it's not as hard to wait until you're apart to bring someone home. No matter how each feels about it, there's nothing that says "I'm on the rebound" like introducing your date to the ex watching bad TV on the sofa.

5. We kept out of each other's hair as much as was feasible: I mean, duh.

We're still friends; in fact he was just over today with his wife. He's a good guy; he just wasn't the right one. If your friend can say that about her ex, this can be done, but not without keeping the new boundaries between both very clear at all times. If she's got any reason to suppose that's going to be really tough for either of them, she should leave. Good luck to her.
posted by melissa may at 10:06 PM on June 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

I am going through this situation right now. My fiancee and I broke up, and I am still living with her. The rules are, as of this moment, stay out of the house as much as possible so I don't have to deal with her until the lease is up. Tell your friend to get the fuck out of there. We are still friends, yes, but we will be better friends when we both have a chance to live on our own and live our own lives, unintwined with each other.

Pardon my grammar, I've been out all night avoiding my ex through drinking. That should be enough proof for your friend to get the hell out of there.
posted by Loto at 10:20 PM on June 11, 2006

There's a movie about this out. Perhaps you've heard of it, as it has gotten a wee bit of publicity. Maybe you should see it together.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:21 PM on June 11, 2006

Er, umm, I mean, your "friend" and her ex should see it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:21 PM on June 11, 2006

I tried this once and was miserable. That doesn't mean that someone else could make the situation work, but firsthand experience says that both parties had better have the patience, maturity, and emotional foundations of Buddha or it will end badly.
posted by lekvar at 10:52 PM on June 11, 2006

I think that finding, and using, people outside the (ex-)relationship for support might be key here. When I tried this with an ex -- we broke up at the beginning of the month and the landlord wanted a full month's notice for ending the lease -- the major problem was that we were both hurting, and I think we just started to resent that the other person couldn't help make the hurting stop. And the resentment built up, and built up, and built up. What had started as an amiable break-up became total hell on earth.

Other circumstances made my situation more intense than the norm, but I think Loto's got the right idea. Move out as quickly as possible, and avoid each other as much as possible in the meantime. Get help from friends for the emotional processing so you're not just staring at your ex thinking, "You asshole, why can't I talk to you like I used to when I was upset?"
posted by occhiblu at 11:02 PM on June 11, 2006

I would like to second everything melissa may said, but especially the point about setting a definite end date.
posted by teleskiving at 4:32 AM on June 12, 2006

Did this, own the t-shirt.

Seconding everything people have said about getting out. Things may be cool for the moment, but that's just the calm before the storm. Sooner or later, buried hurts will surface and will turn things really sour and delay the start of an actual friendship down the road.

In my case, the still-living-together window was still open on Valentine's Day. Ungh!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:10 AM on June 12, 2006

Nothing good can come of this. Nothing. Someone has to be the adult and leave.

Seconded. It's one thing to stick it out for a week or two while looking for alternate accommodations, but "for at least the forseeable future"? That's crazy talk. Get some sense into your friend.
posted by languagehat at 5:40 AM on June 12, 2006

In college, I lived with a boyfriend for a year, moved out, broke up, then he moved in with me and other roommates. Some of our friends didn't realize we weren't together. Yes, it was really hard when he started dating someone else. It was also confusing for guys who wanted to date me. But then six months went by and it was totally fine. We lived together in the next place, too. We're still friends.

Not everyone approaches relationships using the slash-and-burn method.
posted by nev at 6:13 AM on June 12, 2006

post-college I moved across the country and into a house with my boyfriend of two years and several others. Within three months, we were broken up - but he moved to the basement and I stayed in "our" room.

If he had stayed down there most of the time, MAYBE it might not have been so bad. But he didn't - he spent a lot of time in common areas of the house, and up in our other housemates' rooms. I had no space in which to move on from him, so instead I just holed up in my room, listening to headphones and trying to block out his presence aurally.

In retrospect, I should have found a room somewhere, anywhere, and gotten out. Because the time spent in that house with him still there was one of the most painful things I've experienced.
posted by pinky at 6:38 AM on June 12, 2006

I did this for over six months, and I thought it worked out great, but I think that was an exceptional case for several reasons: 1. the reason we broke up was because we were great roommates, but not 'meant for each other'. 2. it was pretty mutual; within a month or two we were both dating other people while we lived together; 3. the period of time we lived together broken-up included no major holidays.

Here are a few of the guidelines we used:
- No nudity.
- No dates over for sleepovers or for dating - pick-ups and drop-offs only.
- All expenses need to be split evenly and fairly, and this should be addressed in an open manner - if you haven't already split finances, sit down together and work it out. This scenario assumes renting. Be very upfront about plans for moving out, and talk about the lease.
- Separate bedrooms.
- Bathroom/bedroom doors closed when in use.
- No getting back together, ever.
- Spend less time at home. (Work late, get involved in a gym, a bingo night, a singing group, or whatever it takes to get out of the nest)

If you(r friend) find/s yourself breaking or even resisting any of these rules, it is time to move out.

I also strongly believe that while a situation like this can be amicable, it is by definition temporary. You MUST make your plans to move out, and I suggest you accomplish this before Thanksgiving, because it's bound to get ugly during the holidays.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:24 AM on June 12, 2006

Tried this. Bad bad bad mistake. One of my best friends said "she won't respect you unless you kick her out," and I should've listened. We were friends before, but there's no chance of recovering that now.

We had separate rooms, and the only rule I laid down was "don't bring any lovers back here." Within a month she brought someone home and showed off in front of me -- bedroom door open.

Maybe your friends are more mature, the "kick the other person out" is not for everyone, but the situation has the potential energy of a bowling ball at the top of a staircase.
posted by Mozai at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2006

« Older Please share your roofing advice.   |   Show a veteran Myrtle Beach goer a good time. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.