How to Cohabitate: Your Guide to Living Together During Divorce
When you’re going through the process of divorce, it’s not unlikely that you’ll still be sharing space with your spouse. Whether it’s for cost reasons, the ease with the children, or just convenience, this means that you’ll have to cohabitate. Living together during divorce can be easy for couples who have split amicably.
When it’s a mutual decision that things just “aren’t working out“, it can even feel like living with a friend or roommate (and hey, that might have been the problem in the first place).
For those with messier divorces, though, it might not be so simple.
Regardless of your situation, here are some of our suggestions for how to live together during the divorce process while also keeping the peace.
Set Firm Boundaries
Boundaries are the core of any interpersonal relationship regardless of the health of it. A relationship without good boundaries has the potential to become codependent or worse.
Setting boundaries is difficult. We’re not often taught how to set them and it contributes to many of our problems. Discussing boundaries can feel mean and restrictive.
Make sure that you define your wants and needs clearly. It can even be done in writing to make sure that there’s no confusion. Allow your spouse to do the same.
Do your best, as a team, to adhere to each others’ boundaries. It won’t always be easy, but it will be more peaceful.
Don’t Fight in Front of the Children
When you have children involved in your divorce, things get more complicated. Filing for divorce is hard enough when it’s just the two of you. Adding in tiny people who have complex feelings and busy schedules makes it worse.
Your kids are going to know that something is up. That’s normal and should be expected. You can sit down and talk to them (as a pair) about what’s happening, all the while making sure that they know that this isn’t their fault or responsibility.
When things get heated, though, make sure that the children aren’t around. Even if your fights don’t involve yelling, you need to show your children that you respect each other. This is going to be an important model for them. How should breakups be handled?
The other parent is always going to be in your life. It’s not your job to poison their reputation to your child. Your child loves both of you and needs to know that both parents offer safe and healthy spaces for them.
Treat your spouse respectfully in front of the children (also not in front of the children) and make sure that you’re setting a good example.
Designate Private Times and Spaces
There’s a trope in television and movies where a quarreling couple or set of roommates will literally divide a house in half, sometimes with a saw and sometimes just with duct tape.
We don’t suggest you go quite that far, but the idea is pretty solid.
It’s important to have safe spaces that you can use to cool off when necessary. Designate where your spaces can be in the house if you need to get away during an argument.
Many separating spouses opt not to share a bedroom, but if you are, see if there’s a quiet room elsewhere that you can sit in when you need alone time.
If you’re living in a very small place, designate times for this purpose instead. It’s possible that there’s no way to give yourself a room. Try to go for drives in the car, walks around the neighborhood, or other outings so that both of you have adequate space when you need it.
Focus on Self-Care
It’s easy to get overwhelmed during a stressful period like a divorce. You likely aren’t taking very good care of yourself. You might not be eating as well or allowing yourself the nicer things in life.
This isn’t helping you. It’s only compounding your stress.
Instead, try letting yourself partake in self-care. You should be eating well, destressing, and doing things (that you can afford) to make your life feel a little bit sweeter.
This is a great time to start taking a class of some sort, either fitness or a hobby. You’re going to feel lonely going through a divorce, and this can give you a renewed sense of community.
You may want to buy yourself things that will make you happy and calm. These can be things like extra bath treatments, spa days, or even activities that you can do alone or with your friends or children.
Whatever you decide, don’t torture yourself.
Remember, before you were going through this, you were partners (and maybe friends before that). You need to treat your spouse the way that you’d like to be treated.
While you can’t control the other person’s behavior, you can control your responses to it. Be cordial, calm, and respectful towards your temporary housemate in attempt to keep things peaceful.
There are likely going to be times where conversations get heated. This is a sensitive time. Despite that, though, you need to remember that hurting each other isn’t the goal and it will only make cohabitating more difficult for both of you.
Living Together During Divorce Is Tough
No one can prepare you for what living together during divorce is going to feel like. Some couples manage it while others find that the arrangement does not work.
Putting some protections and plans in place is the best way to give yourself an opportunity for successful cohabitation.