So you're breaking up, but you live together

We go through all the phases of a relationship hoping for the best. You meet, you fall in love, and when you’re ready you take the next step and move in together. If you’re lucky, it works out and you live happily ever after. But what do you do when you’re living together and decide to break up?

I’d been in a long distance relationship with my partner for two years before I took the plunge and moved from Los Angeles to Nashville to be with him. It was a huge change that required me to quit my job, leave my friends and family, and start fresh in a new town, but seemed like the natural next step in what seemed to be a promising relationship.

So I hope you’re sitting down with a box of tissues nearby, because after two years of living together, life happened. We were breaking up. he was touring full-time, I was focusing on my own career ambitions, and we just couldn’t make it work. It was a mutual decision, and we were both heartbroken over it. I decided that we could no longer co-habitate, and as if breaking up wasn’t bad enough, I was now faced with the hassle of figuring out my living situation.

My mind was racing. Who gets to keep the house? How do we divide up our stuff? Do I stay in Nashville? What am I even doing? The truth is, it wasn’t easy. But things could have been a lot better if I’d known then what I know now. If you’re living with your significant other and decide to break up, fear not! Here are some tips for getting through this double-whammy.

Detach your emotions from the business stuff

While it seemed romantic at the time, it turns out that signing a lease or buying a house with someone is actually just a legal agreement. Coming face to face with breaking up and moving out might feel like adding insult to injury, so staying level-headed and objective about how you proceed will only help you in the long term. First, try having an open discussion with your ex about your options, and check your ego at the door. Remember that regardless of whether you did the dumping or are the one who got dumped, emotions are running high on both ends. If you have to terminate your lease early, or make any other type of mutual legal decision, make sure you are both okay with the terms. Work through it together, even if it means bringing in an unbiased third party to help you both see clearly.

Let go of the small things

Turns out, we were pretty OK at breaking up. Sure, there were those emotionally-driven arguments over the fate of our $10 toaster, but in general we were able to work through the tears to divide assets. Straight up? Things are hard enough. Don’t fight over salt and pepper shakers. Go into this knowing that you’re gonna be facing a little bit of negotiation and loss, and so is your ex. I found it helpful to make a list of major items we purchased together, and a rough estimate of what we’d paid for each. Things I was personally attached to, I asked to keep and offered to pay for in full. It’s important to not be greedy or manipulative in your motives. Because, guys? You can get a new toaster.

You’re going to have to spend some money

I think if I’m being really honest, I can admit that we both stayed in our relationship because it was convenient having someone to split the rent with. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I received during this weird time was being told that money shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re avoiding breaking up because you are nervous about the financial aftermath, I promise you’ll be OK. Yes, it can get expensive. I was overwhelmed with the financial loss of canceling my lease, hiring a moving company, quitting my job, and driving back to Los Angeles to be an unemployed adult living with my parents (#winning). While you might temporarily be on the downswing, you’ll rebound eventually.

You’re never stuck

Because I am logical and run from my emotions at all times, I had convinced myself that I had no way out of my situation. I tried figuring out all the ways I could keep my lifestyle intact, maybe make it work with my ex, or anything that would lessen the blow of dealing with the issue at hand. Listen up: you’re not stuck. Yes, change requires compromise and a lot of hard work, but you’re capable of handling it. Reach out to your friends for support; they can offer advice, a calmer perspective, or a couch to crash on. You have options, but you have to be open to them.

Be respectful, even when you want to scream

I say it all the time: being nice is always wise. Transitioning from lovers to exes can bring out the worst in us. As tempting as it might be to passive-aggressively blast “99 Problems” while loudly packing your things up (who would even do that? For sure not me! [It was me]), remember that you’re dealing with another human whose feelings are just as legitimate as yours. You’ll never regret being kind and forgiving, but you will regret acting petty and difficult. Definitely allow yourself to feel your feels, but play them with a bit of a poker face until the storm has passed.

I’ll be the first to say that I made a lot of mistakes during that time in my life, both during and after the relationship. I could have been a little (read: a lot) more understanding with how he felt about things (I REALLY loved that toaster, okay?). We have a choice how to act in all facets of life. Choose humility, grace, and kindness.

Related:

How to have a breakup conversation that doesn’t totally suck
I broke up with someone I love, and it was harder than I thought

[Image via FOX]

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