Tips to survive living together while separated

04 February 2020

5 Tips on living together during separation

If you are living together while separated, you are not alone. Many ex-spouses often continue to live together until the couple can sort out the details of their separation. This situation can be challenging, and it may not be their preferred choice. Perhaps they don’t have the funds to support two houses, or they want to take the time to sort out the financial and/or children’s plan before a move happens.

Listing The Family HomeAnd if the couple decides to sell the family home, it gets even more complicated. That’s because they likely need the funds of a sale to be able to move to new residences. If one person is going to purchase the other person’s interest in the house, the lender will require a separation agreement to fund the payment.

Living under the same roof (while separated) can pose unique living challenges. With a little planning, you can improve the day-to-day interactions. It might be helpful to think of your soon-to-be ex-spouse as a roommate. Here are five survival tips to consider for ‘living as roommates.’

Survival Tip #1: Give each other space, physically and emotionally

separated couple living togetherFor most people, it’s usually one spouse that initiates the decision to separate. Which means, one person may have been thinking about it for a longer period of time. The other spouse may still be in shock at the news. Accept the fact that you are both in a different place emotionally. Separation ranks the 2nd most stressful event in a person’s life. The early days will have a lot of mixed emotions.

If you find yourself living together under the same roof, giving each other space to work through these emotions can be really important. 

open space wearing slippers

For example, that might mean one person takes over the guest room, or the children’s playroom gets converted back to a bedroom. Allow each other the time and space to work through whatever they need to. Once this ‘new accommodation’ has been set up, this also means new boundaries, whether real or imaginary. That means respecting each other’s private living and sleeping space.


Survival Tip #2: Separate your monthly living expenses

Separated Women Reviewing Living ExpensesWhether you have separate or joint banking, getting on the same page about the house bills is imperative. This is particularly important for peace of mind and avoiding nasty arguments. Scrutinizing the bank account might have been common practice while living together, but now that you’ve made the decision to part ways, it’s a situation you want to avoid needing to do.

If you have separate banking, sit down and create a joint budget for key household bills. If one person earns substantially more, you may want to apply a percentage of house bills as opposed to a 50-50 approach. Or, if you still share banking, you may want to decide how much each of you will take as a personal spending amount and then leave the remaining funds in the joint account to cover bills. How much you can each take will, of course, depend on cash flow.

women doing banking on laptopThe idea with the personal spending approach is that you each can spend your discretionary amount on what you want (entertainment, personal care, golf, dinner with a friend). Spouses who have separated but are still living together, simply don’t want to pay for one another’s personal expenses.

Separating your banking is also a better way to ensure all your financial obligations are being met. Whichever approach you choose, it is necessary to view this transition with the same respect as if you were roommates. Make sure to have a clear understanding of what bills to share and what expenses are personal.


Survival Tip #3: Explore options for children’s schedules

Scheduling Time With KidsOne of the benefits of still living under the same roof while separated is that you can start to look at options for the children’s future schedules. Many times, our clients will practice a schedule while still in the same house to evaluate how that might work once they are living apart.

You might need to make some tweaks to the schedule. But since you are doing this while everyone is still in the home, it makes the transition easier. Some couples go so far as to take turns spending weekends with the children in the house while the other parent spends the weekend at family/friends. This approach is very effective in allowing young children to adjust to alone time with each parent. Once the move happens, the children are already prepared for their new schedule.


Survival Tip #4: Agree on a ‘no fight’ zone

Women On No Fight Zone SofaThis is probably one of the most important pieces of advice we provide to our clients. While attempting your trial separation in the same house, don’t discuss upcoming financial decisions or future negotiations with each other.  Most times, there’s just too much emotion for calm discussions to happen.

As mediators, our role is to assist with those awkward, difficult or unpleasant discussions and to help separating spouses arrive at a mutually agreed upon go-forward plan. While many people start out intending to have a civil conversation, many times, the discussion can quickly escalate into a shouting match. One person may be very comfortable with finances, and the other may feel overwhelmed by numbers. What started out as a calm discussion about the cottage, might quickly turn into a barrage of hurtful words.

Everyone has their own definition of what is ‘fair’ and sometimes that difference can make the pre-divorce conversations a challenge. So agree on what’s safe to discuss and what hot topics should be avoided.


Survival Tip #5: Decide together when is the right time for new partners

Ex Spouse With New PartnerYep, it’s likely going to happen! If you are in a ‘trial separation’ while still living together, you will need to discuss this future event. Especially if living with each other continues for any length of time.

For some people, this introduction of new partners might happen fairly quickly. Beware: any previous heated situations have the potential to get hotter once a new party is introduced on the scene. 


boy is jealous new replacementIf you have kids, they will not likely be ready to meet new ‘replacements’ either. Your children need to grieve the changes in the family in their own way. Even if both of you are ready to move on, your kids might need more time. You might consider keeping new relationships quiet until you have had time to sort out the details of the separation.

Lastly, no matter how angry you are, avoid the labels of ‘the new boy/girlfriend’ when referring to the new partner. Eventually, with time, patience, grace and space, everyone will adjust to a new normal.

Breaking old habits while being separated yet still living together is hard

Women Without Wedding RingThere’s nothing easy about separating, period. So accept that it’s rarely going to be easy to live as roommates when you were previously a couple. There are a whole bunch of habits and living patterns that need to get undone or redone. If you’ve made the decision to split up as a couple, and are postponing the action to split up the household, consider these tips on living together while separated.  

Colette Fortin is the owner of Fairway Divorce Solutions in the Waterloo-Wellington office.