I found myself in the unfortunate situation of having to live with my ex last year. I had lived my life to the age of 23 assuming that relationships ended when someone betrayed you in unthinkable ways, meaning you would have no choice but to cut it off. But it turns out a relationship can just run its course, and unfortunately that can happen after you’ve signed a rental contract. Here are 10 steps we took to navigate our way through sharing a roof, and a bed, until we were able to move:
1. Find Common Ground
Find something that’ll bond you and get you through it. My ex-SO took up watching The Walking Dead, and I found myself joining him. A zombie apocalypse can actually make your situation seem quite idyllic in comparison.
2. Be Patient and Kind
Your emotions will be heightened, and you can’t necessarily lean on each other like you used to. We all process things at different speeds and in different ways, so it is important to be kind and allow space for this process.
3. Don’t Sweat the Small Things
On the way out of a relationship, things can get bitter when you find yourself bickering over the smallest of things. Squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom rather than the top, water left around the sink, not rinsing plates before they go in the dishwasher: we’ve all been there, and the claws can come out. But now that there’s a limit on your time together, you won’t have to deal with it for much longer, so just bite your lip and try to avoid an unnecessary fight.
4. Cry Together
Being under the same roof is going to take its toll, and it’s likely there will be tears. You might as well quit bottling it up and do it together if you can. Release all that weight and tension, express yourself, and steal a friendly hug . . . then reach for the Oreos and throw on an episode of TWD. You’ll sleep more soundly once it’s out.
5. Avoid Alcohol
As tempting as it may be to hit the bottle, perhaps hold back on the drinking while still living together. It’ll heighten emotions, challenge communication, and could add real complications. Make like me and trade in your gin fix for a tea addiction; your skin will thank you.
6. Have a Sleep Backup
Sharing a bed is one of the biggest hurdles of living with an ex, so if it becomes too much, take turns on the sofa or inflate that airbed. You’ll need the space, especially when your body clocks won’t be syncing in the same way.
7. Get Good Sleep
The constant stream of emotions in your own home can become exhausting, so make sure you get extra sleep during this time. Try for earlier nights, if possible, and give yourself a bedtime ritual. I went for lavender oil on the pillow, Brian Eno on repeat, and a diffuser with eucalyptus.
8. Find Your Sanctuary Elsewhere
Whether it’s your workplace, a friend’s house, or a local coffee shop, find a home away from home that you can find sanctuary in outside of your living space. This way, if it starts to feel suffocating, you have somewhere to retreat to with ease.
9. Stay Social
Don’t alienate yourself and let emotions consume you. Grab a Five Guys with a bestie, take a book to the park, or go home and spend time with family. Family time fed my soul during this period, as I admitted defeat and let my parents care for me in the nostalgic way they used to when I was a teen and had a bad day.
If you can’t see your friends for whatever reason, make sure you communicate. On an especially challenging day, a friend from out of town got my favorite pizza and beer delivered to my door, and I accepted in tears. It meant more than she’ll ever know.
10. Make the Most of It
If you decided to live together in the first place, chances are you shared some really good times. Don’t sh*t on that. Remember the good and try to filter out the sour. Be stupid and childish if need be. Snapchat filters will help with this. Hitting your ex with a spatula while he’s showering will, too. Find your weird and roll with it. Honor what you had.