Many divorcing parents must continue to live together throughout divorce preparation and proceedings. This is usually due to financial strain, but may be more complex; your situation may be different on the surface, but everyone can relate to the emotional toll that it takes. If you’ve found yourself in this position, the following survival strategies can help you create boundaries with your ex while you’re still living together.
Decide When to Tell Your Kids About the Divorce
Some couples who plan to continue living together temporarily would rather not tell the kids what’s going on until an actual physical separation takes place when one parent moves out. Other couples prefer to be completely up front with their children, particularly if they have the ability to sleep in separate rooms. Whatever you decide, make sure that you and your ex are in agreement about how much to tell the kids so that there are no surprise announcements.
If it’s come to the point where you and your soon-to-be-ex are barely speaking, do everything you can to make the conflict less obvious to your children. For example, work out a routine where one of you handles the morning duties and the other handles the evening routines. Alternatively, if possible, rearrange your work schedules to minimize contact with one another.
Do Not Use Your Children as Go-Betweens
Whether your children know about the impending divorce or not, never use them as pawns to communicate information to your ex. Likewise, if you notice that your ex is attempting to do just that, make communicating with each other directly a condition of continuing to live together.
Develop a Plan
It’s best if the two of you can work out a basic timeline for moving forward with the divorce or separation, rather than languishing in limbo indefinitely. Work together to make a list of the goals you both want to accomplish in the next three, six, and twelve months. For example, you may need to get a new job in the next three months, so that you can afford to cover the mortgage when your ex moves out in six months.
Put Dating on Hold
It’s just courteous to one another, and to your children, to wait to begin dating until one of you has actually moved out. In fact, it would be most beneficial to wait until the divorce is actually finalized to embark on any new dating relationships.
Make Wise Financial Decisions
If finances are causing you to stay in limbo, rather than proceeding with a physical separation or divorce, then you’ll need to create a plan for saving money and/or securing gainful employment. If possible, put your agreements in writing and consult with a lawyer, or another individual you both trust, who will hold you both accountable to following through on each step.
Create Your Own Space for Grieving
While your ex is still living with you, you may not feel as free to grieve and fully experience your emotions as you would if you lived in separate households. Therefore, you’ll need to create some routines for dealing with your feelings, like journaling, taking a daily walk while listening to your favorite music, or getting together with friends you trust on a regular basis.
Verbalize Your Needs
Finally, remember that no one has the ability to read your mind. Even if it was not the typical practice in your relationship to express your needs verbally, the experience of continuing to live together for awhile will go much more smoothly if you force yourself to state your needs very specifically to your ex, and even to your friends and family members. There is nothing wrong or offensive in stating your needs and putting yourself first (or at least right behind your children, rather than behind everyone else) while you go through this difficult experience. In addition, being clear about what you need will empower you for the days ahead, when you’ll have even more opportunities to make decisions that are right for you as you build a new life for yourself and your children.