Living with Your Ex: Can it be Done?


By Morgan Vines, Editorial Staff

Anyone who watches “Jersey Shore” can see that living with your ex is never a good idea, even if it’s for easy money and another 15 minutes in the spotlight. Yet it’s not that uncommon for couples who break up or divorce to stay under one roof, especially with the recession tightening every household.

With rents and mortgage rates so high in many cities, couples are moving in together to save money - without an exit strategy. It’s an exciting step and no one wants to think ahead to the possibility that it might not work out. As a result, more and more couples are stuck waiting out a lease or hoping that the housing market will improve. With two hurting exes sharing the same space and possibly the same bed, the situation could turn explosive without a set of mutually agreed upon ground rules.

Here are our five tips for keeping the peace:

1. Set an "out" date
Sharing a bed with your ex only seems to work when couples distance themselves for a period of time and then move back in together. “Leave as soon as possible,” says Terry Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage. Make sure this is only a temporary situation by giving yourselves a deadline. Decide which one of you is going to move out (if not both) and concede that it will take a little time to save up or find a new place. By establishing a time frame you’ll avoid unnecessary fights. Having the end in sight makes it easier to endure the bad habits that would normally irritate you.

2. Divide expenses
When couples move in together, what’s yours becomes mine and vice versa. After the relationship breakup, you slip into the roommate zone, and no one wants their roommate finishing off their favorite craft beer. To ease the transition to your new independence and avoid conflict, settle your tab in advance. Sit down and make it clear who will pay for what and how much.

3. Keep doors closed
There’s a reason rooms have doors, and it’s easy to forget this when you become comfortable around someone. But changing, showering or peeing in front of your ex is too much. Break the habit and set boundaries. Nudity only makes an awkward situation more uncomfortable. Respect each other’s privacy and resist the urge to tempt their sanity into submission.

4. Sleep alone
Moving on after moving in is challenging. To start the healing process and make bouncing back possible, treat the breakup as if you’re not forced to share the same space. It’s crucial to avoid confusing your emotions by cutting off all physical affection. You have to get used to being on your own without using your ex as a crutch. Don’t blur the line. If you’re stuck with only one bed, invest in an air mattress. And don’t bring anyone else home either. It’s painful enough to spot your ex with someone new, but to have to listen to them going at it in the next room is brutal. Besides, “Want to come home and meet my ex?” is not the best pickup line.

5. Define your space
Since you can’t cut off all contact, try to avoid your ex at all costs. Give them room to breathe and enjoy
your independence
. Breakups tend to make people crazy enough to do things they wouldn’t normally do, like snoop. Relate relationship counselor Denise Knowles warns, “The most important thing is that you both have to be really strong on where your boundaries are from the word 'go'." Give each other space to talk to family and friends in private. A strong support system is even more important when you lose the person who shared every part of your life. If you’re both working on bouncing back, the times you do run into each other will be more pleasant and less awkward.

Living with your ex has every opportunity to end in disaster. But if you have no choice, strength and maturity on both sides will make surviving the situation possible. Just don’t drag anyone else into your “it’s complicated” arrangement.

Can living with your ex ever work? Have you dated someone who still lived with their ex?

Morgan Vines is a writer with a background in television production. She can be contacted at

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