Deciding to get a divorce? Hard. Deciding to get a divorce and then continuing to live under the same roof as your soon-to-be ex? That's just crazy complicated—and the waters get even murkier when children are involved. Still, many people do it, usually because financial issues prevent them from making any sudden moves.
Even if your situation is different on the surface, everyone can relate to the emotional toll that cohabitating with an ex can take. If you’ve found yourself in this position, the following survival strategies can help you live in harmony with your ex as well as provide you with pointers for successful co-parenting.
Living in close proximity to your ex will present you both with unique challenges that you've likely never encountered before. Your first step should be to set up ground rules to prevent you from back-sliding into the dysfunctional relationship. “When your relationship is over, it doesn't necessarily mean that your emotional connection with that person is over,” says Teresa Thomas, M.A., A.P. “Sometimes our heart has to catch up to our mind.” These boundaries will allow you govern your interactions on both a physical and emotional level.
According to a survey conducted by Research Now, 27 percent of the participants admitted to sleeping with their exes after their divorce or separation. Resist the urge by reminding yourself why, exactly, your ex is your ex. Write a list and commit it to memory.
Decide When to Tell Your Kids About the Divorce
Some couples who plan to continue living together temporarily would rather not talk to the kids about the divorce until an actual physical separation occurs upon one parent moving out. Other couples prefer to be completely up front with their children, depending on the kids' age and emotional maturity. Whatever you decide, make sure that you and your ex are in agreement about how much to reveal to the children so that there are no surprise announcements.
If your relationship with your ex is starting to become contentious, 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, you could rearrange your work schedules to minimize contact with one another.
Do all that you can to sustain a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex. Remember that your kids are watching your interactions and learning how to deal with everyday conflicts by what they see. As much as you can, work toward demonstrating civility and self-control at all times.
Don't 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
Rather than languishing in limbo indefinitely, agree on a basic timeline for moving forward with the divorce or separation. Work together to make a list of the near-future goals you both need to accomplish in order to set the wheels in motion. 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.
If you know that the two of you will need to continue living together for an extended period of time, make an appointment for a joint therapy session. This will help equip you with the tools needed resolve conflicts and to proceed in a way that minimizes any negative effects on your children.
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 before pursuing a new romantic relationship.
Make Wise Financial Decisions
If finances are preventing you from 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 who'll hold you both accountable for each step.
Give Yourself Room to Grieve
While your ex is still living with you, you may not feel as free to grieve the marriage as you would if you lived in separate households. You’ll need to provide yourself with an outlet through which you can fully experience your emotions, whether that's journaling, going for a run, or getting together with friends you trust on a regular basis.