Living with Exes: When the relationship ends, but the co-habitation doesn’t

For Ellen, things were particularly complicated because a child was involved, but in the end, it all worked out for the best:
We fell in love during a skiing holiday in Poland. After three weeks, she told me she was pregnant. Of course I was overwhelmed, this was not planned at all. We raised the girl together during three years. Then we split up, because I didn’t love her anymore. I was afraid to lose the kid.

We arranged that I could have the child every other weekend, and I thank my former lover for that. I had no rights at all, then. But after about a year our relationship had normalized, and we could see each other without her having too much pain. And I wanted to be with the child more. I missed her, I’ve always loved her.

Me returning to my ex’s house actually happened accidentally. I was trying to move to another place, but that place appeared not to be available in time. So, my ex offered me a room in her house and I took the risk, because of the child. It turned out well. In that time she was dating a guy, and even that went well. I had a new lover too, and it was a risk, but it curiously succeeded because of our mutual feelings about the well being of the child.

I think I lived for about half a year in her house, quite peacefully. Then I moved out to a house on the same street, close enough to her house, so that our girl could come visit me when she wanted to. The relationship with my ex changed gradually into a friendship with one goal: raising our child and keeping her happy. I think we succeeded, because from the beginning we’ve always wanted the child to have two parents. We ended up in a kind of a ‘joint venture’. The child is now 24 and we are still friends.

Emily shares her recent and painful experience with ex-cohabitation:
I lived with my ex for six months after our breakup. I’m admittedly guilty of U-Hauling, and that tendency added to my wanting to change my living situation at the time led to us moving in after just six months together. A year-long lease was signed with a little apprehension lingering underneath the best of hopes. Fast-forward to six months later when my ex and I both found ourselves bending over backwards in attempts to appease the other, making ourselves miserable in the process. After some long, ugly-cry conversations, we agreed that we should call it quits. It was sad and disappointing, but without a doubt the right move for both of us.
Neither of us could really afford the place on our own, and I had already broken a lease a couple years before, so I was stuck. I wanted to maintain the friendship, but I truly believe that for that to work, after a breakup, you need time and space away from each other—like six months, minimum. On top of that, I’m very much a person that needs “me time,” time to detach, process, etc. But this time, the breakup was always in my face. I didn’t have anywhere to go to just be away from everything. I ended up moving into our hallway closet, big enough for a twin-size bed, just to have some space to myself where I could close the door and hide away.
In taking care of me, among other things,  I actually started dating again. It started as just something to occupy time, glancing through various dating apps as a distraction, a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. I went out with a couple people, made some friends even, but at the end of the night I still had to go home to the apartment I shared with my ex. The dating thing took a turn when I happened to find someone I really liked. I really wasn’t planning on a relationship, but when I found her I knew I’d found something good. I was very upfront about my living situation, but I still had two months to go before moving day. She was okay with it, not thrilled, but ok. Over those two months the tension would build. My ex resented my new girlfriend because she felt that if I was capable of moving on so quickly, I must have never cared for her. My new girlfriend resented that I would deferred to my ex’s feelings because I was trying so desperately to avoid confrontation and just get to moving day.

By the time I’d moved out, my ex was barely speaking to me, my new girlfriend was doing her best to be patient but was near her tipping point, and I was close to imploding from stress. But, it was over. We’d survived. My snarky friends still like to tease about the mess of my own making, which I quite deserve. These days, things with my ex are cordial, not quite at friendly. Only time will tell where that will land. Things with my girlfriend are still going strong though we’ll both definitely be proceeding cautiously with any future moving plans. Maybe we’ll wait until seven months.
 Have you had experience living with your ex?

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