Can divorced couples live together? Living together after divorce or during the proceedings often becomes quite challenging, especially when separation is inevitable.
If you're facing similar circumstances now, you should definitely take good care of yourself to ensure a better future when the pain is over.
After all, life's not going to end after divorce – so take care of your well-being now!
For starters, you need a good survival plan and a set of house rules to live through the difficult times until you finally part ways.
Below you’ll find 15 tips on how to overcome the various troubles you might be facing with your former partner and 7 ground rules for living together under one roof.
They will place you as the hero of your journey to a better future!
But before we start, there's one crucial thing that you should take into account if you want to build a wise and fruitful communication plan with your ex-spouse.
No matter how hard it is to live together during divorce, always stay mindful! Always remember that "this too shall pass.” So follow these tips to make your life as vibrant as possible under the current circumstances that you may be unable to change.
7 Ground Rules for Living Together While Divorcing
Create a new budget
Imagine that you are living not with your ex but rather with a flatmate, as strange as it sounds. How would you plan your budget in this case? You would probably have two separate households and a few shared expenses, such as electricity bills or rent.
Also, avoid making expensive purchases because you don’t yet know what property you will be left with after the divorce.
Note that the overall household income might also decline, especially for women. Statistics show that single-mother families’ income was three times lower (about 25 thousand a year) in 2012 than an average two-parent family earned.
For single-father families, the figures are slightly higher. They made about 36 thousand a year.
Allocate responsibilities around the house
When people share a flat or a house, they usually split the responsibilities. It doesn’t mean that you need to go back to how everything was during the marriage. Instead, write down all the things that make your home a comfortable place and stick to them.
For example, you can agree that the dishes and the bathtub should be washed right after someone uses them.
Don’t sleep with your ex-spouse
Sex with the ex-partner before the divorce is final may complicate things. Firstly, there’s a risk that your living situation will cease to be a carefully planned cohabitation as roommates, and the boundaries you’ve established will be ruined.
Secondly, some states, such as Georgia, could reject your petition for divorce if you filed it because of irreconcilable differences and then slept with your soon-to-be-ex.
By immediately discussing the boundaries of your relationship, you can eliminate possible conflicts in the future.
Plus, it’s good for your mental health. “Setting boundaries and becoming more assertive is a way to take care of yourself emotionally during your divorce,” says Susan Allison, the author of “Conscious Divorce: Ending a Marriage with Integrity.”
What you can do is set the time and place for everything. For example, decide how to divide the rooms and shared spaces.
You can even schedule the use of the kitchen, living room, and bathroom, which will help you have less contact and maintain personal space.
Plan to live separately
You can’t live together with your ex forever, even if this cohabitation seems bearable at the moment.
If you can’t afford to live separately while the divorce is still pending, wait for the property division decisions to be made by the judge, and then start saving money.
“You will also want to take into account any child support payments as they will reduce the available financial resources,” says Dr. Mary Welstead, the author of “Divorce and Separation: A Legal Guide For All Couples.”
Don’t fight in front of your children
In his book “The Truth About Children and Divorce,” Dr. Robert E. Emery encourages ex-spouses to establish a good co-parenting relationship from the outset.
“Around the kids, say nothing if you can’t say anything positive,” he says. By refusing to get into a fight with your ex, you’ll save your kids from additional emotional trauma.
Don’t use the kids as leverage
If the child custody has not yet been allocated, do not limit the amount of time your children spend with the other spouse. They should not serve as an instrument for manipulation or blackmailing between the spouses.
All disputes with your ex should concern only the two of you and not your children. So both parents should have equal parenting time with the kids.
Survival Kit for Those Who Have to Divorce but Stay Together
Now, let’s dive deeper into the practical strategies you could use to create a comfortable cohabitation with your ex during your divorce.
Tip 1. Avoid Conflicts as Much as Possible
If you are divorced and living in the same house, things can get incredibly nerve-wracking if you can't stand being around each other anymore.
Even if your divorce is amicable, there could be lots of arguing. Hostile relations make things even worse, so avoid overt conflicts with your ex-partner.
Keeping conflicts to a minimum is an essential part of self-care because there is no person more responsible for your well-being than you. So refusing to unload negative emotions on your partner is, in a way, expressing love towards yourself.
Remember that disputes with your ex are likely to evoke quarrels, and they rarely solve anything. So shouting matches won't help. Instead, staying calm will make life easier!
Try mindfulness meditation daily to put yourself in a tranquil state of mind. Two specific styles that have caught on these days are Self-Compassion Meditation and Train of Thought Meditation.
Limiting conversations to facts only without judgmental comments will foster mutual respect and make your life much easier! You might also want to use the BIFF model created by Bill Eddy - be Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm.
If you find enough strength not to start an ugly conversation with your ex-spouse and stick to the facts instead, you'll keep conflicts at a minimum.
Tip 2. Don't Get Angry in Response
This tip will come in handy if your ex-spouse brings aggression to the table. Remaining silent and keeping a clear head while they blow off steam could save you from unnecessary stress.
Moreover, when they calm down, you'll be able to decide whether you'd like to talk it out or just skip the interaction if you know that it will lead nowhere.
Anger makes people act against their best interests, so anger management is crucial if a person wants to improve their well-being in the long run, writes Steven Stosny, Ph.D., for Psychology Today.
To manage your anger, try counting to 10 and taking a series of slow, deep breaths. It will help you to withdraw from the emotionally charged situation mentally.
Remember, you're not alone! According to the American Psychological Association, between 40 and 50 percent of U.S. marriages break apart. And many of those people are living together in the same house while divorcing.
You share your plight with all of them, so why not try out divorce group therapy?
You need support from people who truly understand how bad it feels to split up with a loved one and then remain under the same roof with this person. Make sure to use their personal experiences to enhance your well-being!
Tip 3. Stop Overreacting
It's perfectly normal to feel outraged when you're living together while divorcing – but avoid overreactions. Keeping calm will allow you to restore your inner strength faster and ensure a safe environment for your children if you have them.
Overreactions are rarely justified, believes Judith Siegel, Ph.D., a clinical social worker. Instead, they often create many unpleasant situations and conflicts that can be avoided if people learn to control their emotions.
It's essential to realize that when you live together in the same family home, you have to separate mentally and emotionally from your ex-partner. So, protect your personal boundaries and don't let your former spouse violate them.
You're no longer a couple or the same family unit as you were before, so it is time to understand that each of you has to abandon old habits and start a new life.
Building "escape routes" can also help you out whenever your ex entangles you in an unpleasant conversation. For example, prepare a set of quick subject-changers to redirect your former spouse's attention to another topic.
If you don't want to talk, come up with decent excuses that will help you politely avoid the conversation.
Tip 4. Spend Less Time Together
Although sleeping in the same bed may seem awkward when you're going through a divorce, some couples still do it for various reasons. Whatever they may be, you're at significant risk of losing sleep quality.
Moreover, sleeping in the same bed could confuse your children if you've already told them that their parents are splitting up. So consider sleeping in different beds or even separate bedrooms, if possible.
If you have several rooms in your house, choose one and put all of your belongings there. If both of you remove your things from the "common area,” such as the kitchen and living room, you will meet less often. In addition, it will help you separate from each other less painfully.
Also, if you're having privacy issues, consider putting a lock on your door to protect your personal space.
Tip 5. Minimize Your Communication
Most couples who are divorced and living together often argue, making their forced cohabitation far from comfortable. So, if you're still living under the same roof, keep your interactions to a minimum!
Even if your communication is more or less friendly, keep in mind that it's essential to see each other less often. Why's that, you ask?
The thing is, interacting with your ex may keep you from healing and moving on. Plus, staying apart can make living together during divorce proceedings less toxic.
Use email or social media to discuss arrangements and make appointments. Firstly, you won't have to go through shouting and screaming again and again.
And secondly, you'll have written evidence of the things you agreed upon, so if your ex-partner attempts to duck responsibility, you can simply screenshot the message as proof.
On the other hand, if you're craving a bit of chatter but your partner doesn't want to talk, it's probably better to stop trying.
After all, the relationship is over, and there's nothing else to discuss besides your shared responsibilities.
Tip 6. Avoid Meeting in Shared Living Spaces
Avoiding each other might do more good than bad in the long run, so don't be afraid to set boundaries if you feel that you can't tolerate interactions with your ex-spouse anymore.
Making a schedule for sharing common spaces is a good decision when partners are forced to live in the same house during a painful divorce.
If the relationship with your ex is unbearable, try dividing the house. It means that you will no longer be in the same place at the same time.
Decide when each of you will be in the kitchen, the living room, and other shared spaces, and don't change these living arrangements once you've set them.
Tip 7. Stay at Home Less Often
Staying out of your ex-partner's way may be a great solution no matter what other people think about it. However, even if you've managed to make your cohabitation after divorce quite tolerable, you might still be losing energy due to enormous stress.
Remember that your well-being is the most important thing, so make it a priority. Do your best to redirect your attention to your hobbies and stay at home as little as possible.
First off, being around less will be a welcome distraction from the hardships you're going through at the moment. Secondly, it will refill your inner tank of emotions and help you fight depression.
Go to a dance class or the gym, attend a meditation workshop, or talk to your close friends over a cup of coffee. The critical thing is to get yourself out of the house if it feels like a dreary space.
Please note that you shouldn't keep silent if your partner poses a threat to your well-being or life. Instead, get local support or legal advice. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline if your partner has physically injured you or abused you emotionally.
Tip 8. Don't Bring Your New Partner to the House
Are you living in the same house during a divorce but involved with someone else? Avoid bringing this person to your current residence before you or your ex-partner moves out.
It will be much safer to keep your new romantic relationship a secret until you get all the papers ready. Otherwise, you'll put both yourself and your new boyfriend or girlfriend at risk of a serious conflict with your ex, which could be detrimental to your new relationship.
You should be twice as careful if you have kids, as some information could get back to them and hurt their feelings.
Studies show that most people start dating a few months to a year after divorce. Yet, many psychologists warn the ex-spouses not to introduce a new partner to children too soon. You cannot be sure of their reaction to the news.
As a matter of fact, you can't predict your reaction to their reaction either. After all, you're especially vulnerable at the moment. However, if you're sure that you'll be able to defend your personal boundaries and get support – go ahead!
Tip 9. Have a Small Talk with Your Children
The time will come when you have to talk to your children about the divorce, and this is not something to be afraid of (if you do it right)!
Most parents don’t tell their children much about how their lives will change after divorce, says psychologist Philip Stahl, Ph.D.
It makes them feel “scared, confused, and overwhelmed.” He strongly suggests talking with them about child custody arrangements and visitation schedules before settling on anything.
Most importantly, you need to provide your kids with an age-appropriate explanation. In other words, spare your 5-year-old kid a long-winded, blame-ridden separation story, and avoid making comments about how you're just staying together for financial or other reasons.
If you don't know how to tell the kids that you and your partner are no longer a couple, use their favorite children's stories. Imagine that you and your wife or husband are the main characters.
How would you describe the plot twists if it was your own story? Once you've imagined it, you'll find it easier to select an age-specific approach for your kid.
Don't forget that truth is better than lies – you just have to select the right time and format of the story you're going to tell. Lying may seem an easy way out at the moment, but it can be detrimental to your children’s mental health in the long run.
Furthermore, giving them false hope may lead to more significant disappointment in the future.
Find several tips for talking to your child about parenting time arrangements here:
Tip 10. Share Parenting Responsibilities and Consider Shared Residential Parenting
Even if you and your former spouse hate each other, this should not make its way towards your kids.
Make it crystal clear to your child that both Mom and Dad continue to be interested in them.
Making a parenting schedule and taking weekly responsibility shifts is often the most convenient way for parents to pay attention to their children if they live together while going through a divorce.
So, school pickups and after-school activities should not fall on the shoulders of just one spouse. Instead, the mother and father should perform similar duties so that the child feels loved by both of them.
You might want to make use of a calendar or another online tool to share the parenting time and avoid possible conflicts with your ex-spouse.
Just schedule all responsibilities on something like Google Calendar, or try a co-parenting app.
According to recent research by Linda Nielsen, kids who spend at least 35% of their time with both the mother and father tend to be happier.
So, if you care about your children's well-being, don't decide who they will stay with – share parenting responsibilities instead.
Most kids from the research mentioned above felt happier because the quality of the relationship with their fathers remained high level.
On the contrary, the children living with their mothers gradually lost their connection with their fathers, which worsened the quality of their life.
As you can see, living together after divorce is not necessary for children’s well-being, and there are much better options to make everyone happy.
Yet, it is much healthier if both parents take care of the children after the divorce when the former family unit stops living under the same roof.
Tip 11. Treat Financial Arrangements Like Business Partners
No matter whether you are staying together for financial or other reasons, you'll have to make arrangements for ongoing expenses and household bills while you are living together after divorce or legal separation.
You should sit and talk things through like business partners about who will pay for what expense.
Otherwise, you might find yourself in an unpleasant situation where you bear too much financial responsibility or where your partner accuses you of not providing enough money to pay the bills.
Even if it is hard to talk to your former spouse, you must discuss financial issues, especially if children are involved. You might maintain the financial status quo or speak about significant changes – the key thing is not to keep silent.
So, settle budgeting issues with your ex as early as possible, and make it as detailed and specific as you can.
Don't be afraid of being perceived as a penny pincher – there is nothing wrong with being precise regarding financial responsibilities after divorce.
Additionally, you can keep track of your budget and double-check whether your ex is sticking to the agreements you’ve made.
Tip 12. Interact in a Respectful Manner
If you’re forced to communicate with your ex for any reason, do it with decency. In other words, don't shout at your former partner or accuse them of the sins they've committed.
Even if you're deeply hurt (which is almost inevitable during a divorce and legal separation), show respect to yourself first and foremost. People who genuinely respect themselves rarely start big fights.
So stay mindful, take a deep breath and focus on the fact that you'll get away from it all as soon as the new living arrangements come into force.
Showing cooperative behavior will also be helpful if you're still hoping to make peace with your ex. Again, nobody knows whether it's possible, but you will boost your chances if you behave reasonably.
If you do so, your ex-partner will see that you respect their choice, no matter how hard it is.
Tip 13. Understand the Existing Differences
Couples living together after divorce should understand that there are differences between people's behavior.
For example, one person is prone to display much more emotions than another. We usually define them as extroverts.
However, when it comes to divorce, they are likely to express lots of negative feelings due to the pain they are going through. On the contrary, introverts prefer to remain reserved. They tend to stay unemotional even if they feel deeply insulted.
This paradigm can be applied to numerous cases of divorcing couples that attempt to agree on the terms of the divorce or legal separation.
Understanding the potentially significant difference between two people can help you deal more smoothly with everyday challenges while ending a marriage.
Tip 14. Take Care of Your Mental Health
According to research, in the first few years after a divorce, the ex-spouses often experience a decline in their mental health. But the adverse effects eventually vanish when people adjust to their new life.
Those living together while getting divorced are often hit with an extra dose of stress because they have to see each other every day and can’t move on. For this reason, it’s essential to monitor your mental health daily. Adjusting your mindset might be hard work for you, but the result is definitely worth the effort!
You can use the mantra "it will be over soon" whenever you feel desperate. Remember that even if you are still living together, it is just a temporary state.
You can also try wearing a bracelet on your wrist. If you feel that you can't take it anymore, simply take it off one hand and put it on the other! Use this little routine whenever your divorce seems unbearable to remind yourself that you should switch your attention from the present to the future.
Take the bracelet and say to yourself, "I am now on my way to freedom. I'm doing my best to get there. I will eventually move to my own space, and these issues won't matter anymore very, very soon."
In other words, think more about your bright future instead of focusing on the current situation to keep calm.
Find 11 small but meaningful ways to take care of your mental health here:
Tip 15. Practice Mindful Compassion
You can try sending compassion and love to your ex-spouse instead of getting overwhelmed with anger. Compassion is a mindfulness-based practice that aims to replace your negative emotions with positive ones.
It works best for people who feel particularly guilty or those individuals who are often confronted with another person’s anger and resentment.
You might be unlikely to succeed in practicing mindful compassion at first, but keep on trying to get good results.
This practice is not for everyone, but if you feel like trying it, take a deep breath, imagine your ex-partner, and send them good vibes in the form of white light, and wish them well.
It's crucial to be sincere during this practice, which is challenging. But if you get into a state of ultimate love, you'll feel enormous relief.
Find self-compassion exercises by Dr. Kristin Neff here:
Agreeing to live together during or after divorce isn't easy but, hopefully, these tips will have you star as the hero of your own success story.
So do whatever you need to feel better in this controversial situation. Spend more time with your close friends, invite a coworker to eat out, go to the gym, take a calligraphy class, or go to the concert.
After all, you deserve a chance to recharge your batteries and build your future the way you want, no matter how hard it may seem at first.
And don't hesitate to change your living arrangements as soon as possible, because spending time in one family home prevents both of you from emotional separation.
There is life after divorce – so make it even better than it was before!