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Living with your ex to make ends meet

You've split up but you can't afford to walk away from a long-term lease. Here's how to cope.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 21, 2011 9:00AM

This post by Wise Bread's Ashley Jacobs comes from partner site U.S. News & World Report.


Welcome to your worst nightmare: You and your significant other, the person you thought you were going to be with forever, have broken up. You had been planning a future together and had taken the first step toward having that future -- moving in together.


Not only are you devastated, but now you are stuck living with your ex because you signed a long-term lease.


Breakups are hard enough, but being stuck in a living situation with your ex makes it a hundred times harder. It's more difficult to move forward with your life because you have to see the person day in and day out. Sometimes you just feel flat-out trapped.

While dealing with this situation is never easy, it is doable. Here are 11 tips to help you survive cohabitating with your ex:


Read your rental agreement. Read it so you can see when your lease is up and if there is any way you can get out of your lease. Knowing when the lease will end provides you with a light at the end of the tunnel. Better yet, if there is a way to get out of the lease written into your contract, talk to your landlord and figure out the next steps to take so you can move out sooner. (See also: "20 tips for getting your security deposit back.")


Remember the feelings you had. Chances are you had very strong feelings for your ex before moving in with him or her. As tempting as it may be to get mad and lash out, remember how you felt when you first moved in together. By remembering these feelings, you can try to maintain the integrity of how the relationship was and continue to work through the next steps you both will need to take as the relationship ends.

Remain amicable. There is nothing worse than having a hostile environment at home. If you are stuck in your lease, do your best to be civil with your ex. Yes, it will be hard, as emotions will be running high, but by doing your best to remain amicable you can reduce the chances of you both ending up more hurt than you already are.


But don't backslide. Whatever you do, do not backslide. Remember the reasons for the breakup so you don't fall into old patterns. The saying is true: Old habits die hard. It can be especially hard to break habits when you are still in the environment that bred them, so if you start to feel yourself falling back into your old routines, stop and remember why you broke up.


Step up. You both are going to be hurt and upset that the relationship is over. There is no way around it -- breakups can be devastatingly difficult. Your ex might not be immediately receptive to figuring out the next steps or redefining the roles and responsibilities around the house, so it is important for you to step up and take the initiative in figuring out what is next. This could involve setting boundaries, determining who is responsible for what tasks around the house, searching for living arrangements, or figuring out how to divide up what you have accumulated together.

Stay positive. Yes, it would be really easy to get depressed and negative about the situation, but that won't do anyone any good. Try to remain positive by writing down the lessons you learned from your relationship and staying optimistic for what the future holds for you.


Set boundaries. It is important to set new boundaries once a breakup occurs. Start keeping doors closed, determine new sleeping arrangements, separate any joint bank accounts you share with your ex, discuss what it is (and isn't) OK to talk about, and come to an agreement about how financial responsibilities will be dealt with. Setting new boundaries can prevent backsliding and help you and your ex survive the time remaining on your lease without things getting too awkward.


Get support. Living with an ex is emotionally draining. Make sure your family and friends know your situation so you can get the support you need while you are living out the final weeks (or months) of your lease. It is much easier to go through a breakup, especially when you are living with your ex, when you have a good support system in place.


Spend less time at home. If things are really strained when you are around your ex, spend more time out of the apartment. If there is a night where you can't handle being around him or her, see if you can crash at a friend's house or find a cheap hotel for the night. If you know when your ex will be home and you need some space, make plans so you can get out of the house for a bit.


Keep new relationships out of your home. It is painful to see someone you cared deeply for with someone new, so respect your ex and the relationship you had enough to keep new relationships out of your home.

Be prepared to move once the lease is up. Find out when your lease is up and start making arrangements to move out. Look at new apartments, figure out what you are going to do with furniture or other items you bought together, and decide who will be responsible for any pets you have. Make sure you have everything prepared so moving out will be a little less painful.


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