This article was published on May 6th, 2020
You hate him, can’t stand him, but can’t escape him until the shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted. The plan was to part ways soon after your breakup, but then COVID-19 hit, shattering your grand march into singlehood. Welcome to life with your live-in ex.
The good old days are long gone. Your newly minted live-in ex won’t make you breakfast in bed. While at it, kiss your sensual shower and movie marathons goodbye. You can only move on and heal.
Moving on is hard enough when living separately. Tack in cohabiting and pent-up anger, and you get a powder keg of baggage, pettiness, and immaturity. Breakups bring out the worst in people.
7 ways to make your cohabitation manageable
The good news: You are not alone. One survey found that 38% of renters broke up and still lived with their partners. Of those, 61 percent stayed for up to a month or more, while 13 percent stayed for up to a year.
Here’s how to survive your ex while cohabiting.
1. Don’t have sex
Let’s emphasize that: DO NOT HAVE SEX!
Think of it this way; sex revolves around intimacy – the very thing you and the ex don’t have right now.
Engaging in post-breakup sex is akin to scrapping the scars on a healing wound. It’s painful, leaves you feeling shitty, and delays your healing process.
There’s some science behind this simple advice. During sex, your brain releases oxytocin, the body’s feel-good hormone. However, according to a recent study, men and women react differently to spikes in the hormone.
For men, it causes them to focus more on their partner’s negative traits and dislike them even more.
That romp in the sheets will just make things worse.
2. Set clear boundaries
Define clear boundaries to survive your live-in ex. Therefore, the dynamics of your relationship no longer hold and must change to reflect the new reality.
Talk about the mechanics of living together. What does that entail? Who occupies what space in the house? Who does what and when? How will you be sharing the area while giving each other the space to heal?
These are some of the questions you must answer. Develop the rules of living together – like roommates. Also, agree on the rules on when it’s okay to have friends over or start dating again.
Special tip: Discuss and agree on the ground rules through text and email. It creates a trail of evidence on what each has committed to if they ever renege on their word.
3. Reset your relationship dynamic
Your emotional dynamics should also change. Your previous relationship was like a partnership; you did almost everything together.
However, that’s not the case when cohabiting. Establishing responsibility for even small things like grocery shopping or taking the garbage out saves you the misery down the line.
Resetting relationship dynamics prevents resentment and resets unhealthy imbalances. It puts you into roommate/contractual mode.
4. Rebuild your identity
Breakups provide a fresh start to rediscover yourself. To survive your live-in ex during the lockdown, you have to start rebuilding your identity.
Rediscover things and hobbies that interest you. While at it, decouple anything that both of you shared, from bank accounts and bills to memberships and other activities.
Develop your unique sense of identity, utterly different from your couple’s personality. You can, for example, re-arrange your stuff and space if you can’t wholly redecorate.
A sense of control over your space energizes your healing, making it easier to bounce back eventually.
5. Lean on family and friends
Breaking up triggers isolation, especially when cohabiting with your ex. You can no longer share your innermost feelings, affection, or touch each other.
Spending time with a loved one such as a friend or close family member can cancel out the feelings of isolation.
Furthermore, talking about the breakup, including your feelings about living with your ex, can help speed up the healing process.
6. Divide your home space
In most roommate arrangements, each member has a separate private space while you share the common areas.
Your breakup ended the “we” part of the equation and thrust you into roommate territory. As such, it’s good to have private spaces for each person. It can act as your retreat for privacy, or to spend some quality alone time.
If you can’t each have a private space, have clear boundaries around personal stuff. The goal is to empower you by giving you that sense of independence.
7. Adapt to the new normal
Acceptance is the first step toward healing. The breakup happened, so what? Worse has happened.
Deal with your baggage and start the healing process. Understand that people don’t have a relationship with romantic partners. You won’t go crying to him because some guy dissed you, or you’re struggling at work.
What does that mean for your relationship? How will you handle the physical separation when the time comes? How do you plan to live the rest of your life?
Cohabiting with your ex isn’t ideal, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Finances, for example, sometimes limits moving out. To survive your live-in ex now, or any other period, follow these tips and keep working on you.
To borrow from Gloria Gaynor, “You will survive.”