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Divorced But Still Living Together | Guide How To Deal With It

Anna Khmara

Anna is a certified life transformation and relationship coach with an in-depth focus on positive psychology and transactional analysis. Using her 3+ years of experience, she helps her clients understand the essence of the problem, build self-esteem, establish healthy relationships, find harmony, and manifest their dreams into reality.

For many unhappily married couples, divorce is not only the end of a failed relationship but a chance to start again from scratch. Ideally, ex-spouses separate and start a new life away from each other.

However, as it turns out, not everyone can enjoy freedom right away. Some ex-spouses have to continue living in the same apartment after they get divorced.

But is living under one roof a good idea for divorced couples, and how to make it work?

This guide will inspect the reasons and challenges of such a choice and determine the survival plan for living together after divorce.

Why Ex-Spouses Live Together After Divorce

The phenomenon of living together after divorce proceedings are over occurs for a number of reasons - financial hardship, children, or different psychological issues. Let’s look closer at some possible motives.

Financial reasons

With divorce costs piling up, many couples cannot afford to live in separate residences after getting a final decree. Having one job is often not enough to pay the mortgage or rent a house or an apartment.

For example, the average house price in the U.S. is approximately $287,000, according to zillow.com. That’s why quite a few ex-spouses choose to cohabit as roommates and share one living space.

Selling a house and dividing money can also be challenging at times. For example, it’s not uncommon for a home to be on the market for two or more years in small towns.

So, if buying out one’s share is not an option, and the housing prices are too high, the couples have no other choice but to stay together until their financial situation improves.

Because of children

Another reason why former spouses choose to cohabit is to minimize the adverse effects of divorce on their children. But, unfortunately, the kids do not always benefit from such an arrangement.

Some children do better after their parents’ separation than others. What’s the secret?

Is it because the kids spend equal time with each parent?

In part, yes. But the quality of communication is a more critical factor in a child’s well-being than the parenting schedule, believes Ann Buchanan, a researcher of children’s development and impact of divorce on their lives.

In her opinion, “appropriate emotional support” and avoiding “depressed parenting” are key factors responsible for a successful parent-child relationship.

Let’s consider the situation when the co-parents live apart but are civil around each other and their kids. Wouldn’t it make a better environment for a child than if the parents lived together in an emotional war zone?

Therefore, conflict is the main predicting factor of how children will feel after their parents get divorced.

To hide divorce from others

Some couples are afraid or do not want to inform family and friends about the divorce because not all of them are supportive and can understand the feelings of others.

This behavior is also typical for insecure people who are afraid to admit that their marriage did not work out. In addition, some people, particularly women, are not emotionally prepared to live alone, so they cling to the only way of living they know.

But this is just an illusion of a relationship. Sooner or later, one of the ex-spouses will understand that they should move on and find happiness independently.

What Can Go Wrong?

Life under the same roof is connected with different situations, which will not always be pleasant. Former lovers have to negotiate different rules of housekeeping and face multiple challenges.

For example, decisions previously made by default in the family require detailed discussion in the new circumstances. It applies to both interpersonal and household issues.

Below are several difficulties typical for ex-spouses living together.

The circumstances that led to divorce did not vanish

If spouses have not learned to negotiate during their marriage, a divorce can further exacerbate existing conflicts. Some ex-partners may even try to escalate the tension to avenge past grievances.

In this situation, it is unlikely that former spouses will respect each other’s boundaries or successfully negotiate the terms of their cohabitation until they resolve their conflicts.

Relatives and friends do not support the ex-spouses’ decision to live together

The couple’s decision to stay in the same house after breaking up may seem strange to close friends and relatives. They could express concerns about the entire situation and doubts about the soundness of such a living arrangement.

Concerned relatives and friends need reassurance that the ex-spouses are in control and plan the next steps carefully. Sharing a few details of this plan will help calm them down.

One spouse will hope for reconciliation without the other spouse’s knowledge

Some ex-partners recall pleasant moments shared in the past and want to renew the broken relationship.

Betty B. Young, the author of numerous books on interpersonal relationships, thinks that it happens because of the “fear of losing your partner forever, being alone, not finding someone else to love, or not being able to survive financially on your own.”

However, if such desires are not mutual, both of the cohabitants would feel uncomfortable and stressed.

Bringing romantic partners to the shared space would be awkward

If former partners begin dating someone while living under the same roof, keeping the new relationship a secret will be pretty tricky. Imagine that one of the ex-spouses brought a new girlfriend or boyfriend to a shared family home.

Most likely, it would cause a lot of embarrassing situations for all the residents, including children.

Children might experience additional mental strain

Parents who decide to end their marriage may retain strong dislike for each other. For example, they may continue fighting in their kid’s presence. Consequently, involving a child in conflict after a divorce can be more emotionally damaging than when the co-parents live separately.

Living together may result in a common-law marriage

“In some states, there is actually a legal relationship that arises when you live together for long enough,” says Charles Scott, a family lawyer from Florida.

The family law of these states recognizes it as an informal type of union that does not require obtaining a marriage certificate. If the couple lives together and represents themselves as husband and wife, they are in a common-law marriage.

To avoid this situation, ex-spouses need to clarify their status to everybody around them and do not sign any documents (such as a mortgage) as husband and wife.

How to Make It Work?

Even if the divorce occurred by mutual consent, seeing each other on a daily basis after separation is difficult for both parties.

Ex-spouses should consider establishing new house rules when living together to alleviate this psychologically tricky situation.

Since people inevitably alienate both emotionally and physically after ending their marriage, it is difficult for them not to cross the line of civil communication.

So, how to avoid turning your family home into a battlefield?

To make it right, you should establish ground rules as early as possible and strictly follow them. They will help maintain the status quo in communication even if other circumstances change.

Below are the essential tips for living together after divorce.

Survival Tips for Living with an Ex-Spouse

Temporary cohabitation should not become permanent.

The most important thing is to decide in advance until what point you are going to live together.

For example, it could be until your child goes to college and moves to the dorm. Or, you are waiting for buyers to appear for your home. You can discuss this issue with your ex-husband or wife from time to time to monitor the situation together.

Come up with a schedule for expenses.

For example, if you rent a house, decide how you should divide the monthly payments. Next, consider other household expenses, such as bills for electricity, phone, trash service, etc.

Finally, it would be a good idea to discuss child-related costs. For example, if one parent has child support obligations, they could be adjusted to the current situation.

Divide your living space.

For example, an ex-husband can take a basement, and an ex-wife can live upstairs.

If it is one apartment, divide the rooms among the two of you. In some areas (bathroom and living room), you will inevitably sometimes intersect. To reduce confusion, you can work out a schedule to use shared rooms in turns.

Keep your emotions under control.

Seeing your ex every day is challenging and requires patience and self-control. By maintaining psychological balance, you can endure this period more easily.

Divide household responsibilities.

Imagine that your ex-spouse is a roommate and decide who will take the trash or clean the house. If you have entirely separate living spaces, each of you is responsible for it.

But if a few rooms are shared, e.g., a kitchen, you have to agree to keep it clean either in turns or after each use.

Agree to date outside the home.

Bringing new romantic partners into the house will create tension between the former spouses and completely confuse the children. Also, agree that only current residents will live in your home.

It is unlikely that you will be glad if your ex-spouse’s new love interest starts living with you and will braid your daughter’s hair every morning.

Prepare a co-parenting plan.

If you have a court-approved visitation schedule and a child custody order, you can follow them with minor adjustments. For example, each parent chooses what activities to engage with the child in their assigned time.

You can also add new provisions, such as who will take your child to school and who will pick them up afterward or take them to extracurricular activities.

Avoid conflicts in the presence of children.

If, after separation, you live under the same roof and raise children, this imposes a serious responsibility on your behavior as a co-parent.

Remember that children should live in a calm and peaceful environment. Plus, fighting in front of children can also lead to “violent temptations and fights with other kids,” says Susan Wild, author of several books on relationships and parenting.

She adds that children are very impressionable and follow the behavioral patterns they see at home.

Be honest with yourself and decide if you want to recover the relationship.

Maybe it’s also what your ex-spouse wants. There are many instances when a couple starts dating again after a divorce.

If it’s not your case, make sure that both of you understand that a reunion is unlikely and that you are planning to start a new life. If one spouse continues to love the other, living together can be stressful for both and, therefore, is not the best idea.

Brief Survival Plan: Things to Avoid When Planning Cohabitation after Divorce

  • Don’t stay together with an ex who has issues with alcohol or drugs. Even if they promise to break the habit, stay away. The same goes for violent behavior. If your spouse abused you physically or mentally during the marriage, they most likely would do it again. Staying with such a person may be dangerous to your health and life.
  • Don’t live in the same room or sleep in one bed with your ex. It will only confuse you both more and upset the fragile peace and understanding.
  • Don’t focus on the hurt your ex has done to you during your marriage. The past will not allow you to move on if you continue to return to it mentally.
  • Do not postpone the solution of the housing issue. Your goal is to free yourself from your ex-spouse eventually and maybe get married to someone new. And the chances for that are pretty high.

According to a Pew Research report, 60% of people aged 35-55 remarry after the divorce.

Things You Should Consider Doing to Endure Cohabitation with The Ex-Spouse

  • Try to be civil around your ex-partner. It will reduce emotional stress and establish at least neutral communication. Few people manage to remain friends, but it’s worth a try. Respectful relationships will also help you keep an existing social circle, including your ex’s friends and family.
  • Make the entire situation clear to the kids. Explain to your kids the type of relationship you now have with the other parent, or else they could ignore the fact that you got divorced and think that everything is still the same.
  • Enjoy your newfound freedom, even if you have to live with your ex. Now, when the divorce process is finally over, you are responsible only for yourself and your children if you have them. You don’t need to listen to your spouse’s comments about dinner anymore, wash their clothes, or ask their permission to hang out with friends. It’s finally time for self-care and doing what you want.

A Few Final Words

After a divorce, living together under the same roof is a real test of character and nerves. But by staying calm and respectful to your ex-spouse, you can get through this situation with dignity until you find a way to live separately and start an independent life.


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