Your Guide To Breaking Up With A Partner You Live With

Relationship experts weigh in.

by Suzannah Weiss and Marianne Eloise
Originally Published: 

Breaking up and staying broken up is hard enough when you live apart. Love is not easy to let go of. But when you live together, your situation adds a whole new set of difficulties. You may have belongings to divide, a lease to get out of, pets to determine custody of, and living arrangements to figure out. But if the relationship isn't working, the tough work of ending it needs to be done. If you live with your soon-to-be ex, you’re going to have logistical considerations to figure out as well as emotional ones.

But experts say not to get caught up in your feelings. “Oftentimes, when people have ‘spontaneous breakups,’ they don't think through the potential financial consequences,” Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), tells Bustle. “They allow their emotions to dictate the timing of their breakups instead of having a practical plan.” It’s important to figure out what you’ll do about your finances, your lease, your roommates, and everything else so that the breakup doesn’t become even messier and more complicated.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when navigating the chaotic terrain of breaking up with someone you live with.


Nail Down The Logistics First

Don’t announce your intention to break up in a fit of rage. Take some time to think about it, then plan out the logistics — who will you propose moves out? What will you do with your stuff? What about rent? — before breaking it to your partner. Otherwise, you end up faced with a bunch of stressful decisions in the heat of the moment.


Have A Plan — And Write It Down

It’s one thing having a plan, but writing it down will solidify your intentions, says relationship expert Elizabeth Overstreet. “There is power in putting pen to paper, fingers to your phone notes, or recording a nice audio note to map out a plan of having an exit strategy for your relationship.”

She says that writing it down makes it less daunting and more doable as you can see or hear the actions you are going to take. “Consciously telling yourself how you plan to move forward can be very powerful. It may feel awkward at first. But I promise you, this will make the process that much easier to execute and less daunting,” adds Overstreet.


Focus On The Future

You shouldn’t just write down your exit strategy, but look at all of the positives that might come from breaking up. When you start thinking “what if?”, writing it down in a pros and cons list can be a powerful way of recognizing the good that can come from this painful conversation. “You can go deeper by doing a visualization exercise of how you envision your life moving forward, all the things you will be able to do, and the satisfaction it will bring you,” says Overstreet. “‘Future Focusing’ of your mind on all the wonderful things that are ahead of you and be an impetus to shifting you on to the next chapter.”


Move Out

Darné recommends moving out before you break up. Figure out where you’ll move to, give your landlord notice if you need to, and if you can, pack up while your partner’s out of the house and break up when they come home so there’s no turning back. If they’re the ones who moved into your place, on the other hand, you have the right to ask them to move out. To make it easier on them, you could give them some of the money they might need to get a new place.


Deal With Shared Resources

When you live together, breakups and relationships are over-complicated by the intertwining of your resources, even if you aren’t married. Things like bills, cars, belongings, and furniture might all factor into your decision. “Think ahead of what you can live without, what you can fairly split between the two of you, and what is replaceable,” says Overstreet.

If you reach an impasse, she recommends donating, giving to friends, or selling them and splitting the proceeds. If you share something more serious like a dog or cat, try and be flexible, fair, and put the pet’s interest first, says Overstreet. “Can you co-parent, or can one person get the majority of the time with the pet, and you check in from time to time?”


Don’t Second Guess Yourself

When you make this difficult decision, stick to it, says Overstreet. “Do not second guess yourself, go back and forth, or allow yourself to sacrifice your core values as far as who you are. When you look back on the breakup you want to be able to say you did the right thing in the right way,” she adds.

That means, in part, being the biggest person you can: “Hold your head high during the process, knowing that you are doing what is right for you which in the interim won't always feel good, but in the long term will help you get to where you need to be.”


Stay Away

It might be hard to stay away from your old home or the life that was so deeply entangled with your partner’s, but Darné recommends cutting off all contact with your ex. If you want to be friends, that’s more likely to work if you have a clean break first. “You are the last person who can help someone get over you,” he says.

Breaking up with someone may feel especially harsh if you live together, but don’t feel bad about it. If you’ve done what you can and remained respectful until the end, it’s nobody’s fault that things didn’t work out.


Look At The Good

Now that you’ve separated your lives, you can both move forward to doing whatever it is you want to do with your future. It might be hard to think of that positively right now, but ultimately it’s the only way you can heal. “It's often hard to see the connected dots to the healthy, rewarding relationship we want,” says Overstreet. “But, we don't often get there without going through some relationships that didn't work out, or where we learned what we want, don't want, what works, and what doesn't work for our relationship satisfaction.”


Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)

Elizabeth Overstreet, relationship expert

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