I Share A Bed With My Ex — But It's Not What You Think

Most people don't understand our situation.

Last updated on Apr 09, 2023

woman laying in bed looking at phone with man sleeping next to her ASDF_MEDIA / Shutterstock

Since I separated from my partner Jo* about five years ago, our daughter Riley* has spent equal time with us, mostly in a week-about arrangement. But these days, it’s not the youngster who does the weekly transition between houses, but her two mothers.   

Sometimes the best ideas emerge when the logical part of the brain is off-duty.

Jo and I weren’t even talking about care arrangements, but throwing around ideas about something else we continue to share: an interest in buying property. 


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I had planned to keep renting in the same area and buy an investment property in a more affordable regional area. When the housing market took a dive, I realized I could afford to buy a small apartment in a cool inner-city area. It would be a great investment for sure — but wait — what if I actually lived in it? Imagine the rent I’d save, not to mention the pain of being a tenant.

This crazy idea was starting to make a lot of sense. 

The minor problem of where Riley would stay was rapidly dispensed with: in my week with her, I’d move into Jo’s spare room and she’d move to my apartment.


Riley would remain in Jo’s much larger apartment. Jo jumped at the chance to live a cool inner-city life every other week. 

But the plan was not just about two middle-aged parents attempting to relive their carefree youth — it also had a solid child focus.

Riley’s first year of high school had been challenging: getting her head around multiple teachers, classrooms, and homework assignments, making new friends, and establishing a new routine — not to mention the all-encompassing angst of being thirteen.

We were open to anything that would lighten the massive new mental load for all of us.

What if we could eliminate the daily torture of keeping track of her belongings and the inevitable trips between households when something was forgotten?


What if she could just have one set of everything in one place instead of buying doubles? Removing this layer of complexity was a no-brainer.

The deal was sealed when I bought the apartment and so far, so good.

Now it’s the adults who absorb the practical challenges of moving between two homes.

But there’s not much more to it for each of us than giving the place a quick going over and throwing some things in a bag before heading off each Monday.

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It hasn’t eliminated all the challenges in Riley’s life but at least it’s freed up some head space for her to deal with them. Provided she hasn’t left her things at school or somewhere else, they’re at her fingertips (albeit under a pile of clothes) when she needs them. Having routines and rules tied to one environment makes them easier to follow consistently. 


The only thing that changes in Riley’s life is the parent she finds rattling around the home each Monday evening. As far as she’s concerned it’s a shift change on some kind of parental concierge desk. As long as her needs are taken care of, she’s not concerned and we’re both only a text or phone call away.

And yes, as parents, we get to have a part of our lives that isn’t tied to the part of the city that our daughter’s life is. 

Each of us is totally focused on Riley when it’s our week. But when it’s not, we have a lot of freedom to do and be what we want. It’s the best of both worlds.

Of course, being able to maintain this kind of arrangement depends on certain things being in place. We’re both fortunate enough to have secure housing: everything would be thrown up in the air in an instant if one of us had to move out of a rental property.


There’s an enormous amount of trust involved in opening up your home to your ex-partner.

The circumstances of my separation from Jo didn’t give rise to distrust and neither of us has had cause to think badly of the other since. While our relationship as a couple didn’t work out, we’ve been able to develop a co-parenting relationship that is completely independent of it. 

I tend to refer to Jo as my co-parent because it captures our relationship better than ‘ex’.

We’re good friends and I consider her part of my family. There’s no doubt I can rely on her in ways that I can’t with actual family members.

I work in family law and I know that this is far from the norm.


When most people think of post-separation parenting, what springs to mind is anything from grudging resignation to entrenched conflict and sadly, sometimes violence. Co-parenting is an abstract and distant concept.

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While being in an LGBTQ family isn’t immune from the same problems as other families, there are differences in how we approach separation.

We’re not tied to the gendered parenting roles that underpin battles over ‘custody’ and ‘visitation’. From when Riley was born, we shared her parenting equally because it didn’t occur to us to do it any other way. There was no gender binary to define us as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers.


Sharing the care of Riley post-separation was a logical extension of how we had always parented. B

ut for the majority of heterosexual-parented families, it is still the mother who takes on the primary responsibility for the children’s care.

Even with a ‘hands-on’ father, much of the day-to-day decision-making and admin around the children’s lives is still seen as the mother’s domain. Tension arises after separation if fathers aren’t adequately equipped to take on those responsibilities when they have children. 


A good co-parenting relationship doesn’t magically emerge from the ashes of separation. But it’s much easier to build when you can tap into an infrastructure of joint decision-making, equal involvement, and open communication that was set up pre-separation.

I’m proud of what my family has achieved but it often feels like we’re going against the grain.

Health, education, and other systems are still based on a primary/ secondary carer model and make it difficult for both parents to engage on an equal basis.

Employers are being more flexible about accommodating mothers’ care responsibilities but more reluctant when it comes to fathers. It reinforces gendered parenting patterns by making it much easier for families to default to them than to try and do things differently.


My family arrangement is just one example of what is possible. All families deserve to forge a life pre and post-separation that is based on their needs, not on a preconceived idea of what families look like. But society needs to step up and support them to do it.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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Jae Lewis is a freelance writer and lawyer who writes about love, marriage, and divorce.