Post-Breakup Cohabitation: The Ex-Lovers' Purgatory

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I can’t think of many things more awkward than living with my ex-boyfriend. Apparently, for some New Yorkers, this nightmare is a reality. In a city where rents are sky-high and real estate gems are hard to come by, it can be tempting for lovebirds to co-sign a lease early on in the relationship. Too early, in fact, for many young couples who then have to face the difficulty of moving out along with moving on. In a piece published last Friday, the New York Times investigated this extended cohabitation phenomenon:

In other parts of the country, sharing a living space is a sign that young couples have taken a turn for the serious, with both pairs of hands firmly on the steering wheel. But in New York, where people platonically share windowless rooms with strangers in a trade for subway access, cohabitation and commitment do not necessarily go hand in hand. Living together is often driven as much by practicality as romance. And when the relationship unravels, one or both parties have to walk away from an apartment as well as a lover.

A recent survey at Rent.com was done with 1,000 renters to see what the fuss was all about. Results showed that 38 percent of renters have lived with someone post-breakup. Of these, 61 percent continued to live together for a month or longer, and 13 percent stayed up to a year. Reasons listed for staying include “couldn’t find an apartment they could afford, didn’t have time to look for a place and it was easier to stay,” and the all-too-catty “didn’t see why they should be the one to have to leave the apartment.” Yikes.

Let’s get this straight. By living together, I don’t just mean in the same apartment. Most lovers-turned-roommates can’t afford a two-bedroom. Limited options remain: fighting over which side of the bed is yours or camping out on the couch. But what happens when it’s time to move on?

“I came home once from hooking up with a friend of a friend,” [Cassandra Seale] said, “and I remember coming home really early because I was like I don’t want him to know.”

One woman, who had signed a lease for a studio apartment, was driven out of her home after her ex-boyfriend refused to budge. Said ex-boyfriend then failed to pay rent for months, until the landlord had to hunt down the unlucky woman in search of the $9,000 he was owed­–the ex-boyfriend received an angry call from her and paid up straight away.

Finding an apartment in New York can be slightly scary. Old adages tell us beggars can’t be choosers, and high rents and weird roommates make living together a seemingly logical option. But when fighting over who should do the dishes leads to a divvying up of belongings, a strange cohabitation twilight zone can ensue. There are precautions that can be taken­­: a savings account for a quick move-out, a friendly couch you can crash on, your name on the lease for a legal say, or even a prenuptial renting agreement. Whatever you choose, choose wisely, because sleeping back-to-back with an ex-lover for months is bound to drive you crazy.

Image: Bustle Stock Photo