Breaking Up When You Live Together Is Excruciating, Here's What It's Like

You don't need me to tell you that breakups suck, which is why I'm here to tell you that breaking up when you live together is so. much. worse. Do you continue living together like Nick and Jess did on New Girl? God, I hope not. If you go your separate ways, who gets the apartment? More importantly, who gets the dog? It's a logistical nightmare.

Plus, there's all the legal and financial issues you'll face if both of your names are on the lease. A friend of mine recently got stuck with a $2,000 early move-out penalty because she broke up with her live-in partner and they wanted out of their apartment. Unbeknownst to her, the charge went unpaid for years until she got married and tried to rent another apartment with her husband. Imagine having to track down your ex years after a messy breakup to ask them about a mysterious debt from long ago. He replied that he'd already moved on with his life and that he didn't necessarily need the charge removed from his credit history right now. Um, OK, bro. She covered it all on her own.

Emotionally, breaking up with someone you live with is just as taxing. I remember when my last relationship ended. I got the apartment, but that meant I felt overwhelmingly guilty about ~kicking my partner out~. To make matters more complicated, he disappeared for a while after our breakup, leaving me to coordinate move-out times and logistics with his mom. I tearfully packed up all of his stuff in a few hours. She arrived (with a support system in tow and three separate vehicles) at our scheduled meeting time and didn't say a word to me the entire afternoon.

I guess you could say I know a thing or two about the brutally honest phases of breaking up when you already live together. In my experience, there are three of them.

The Stand-Off

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For me, this phase went on for months. It's when you and your partner sense the breakup coming so you make awkward attempts to avoid each other in your tiny apartment and give each other the silent treatment whenever that fails. Every now and then, you'll crack a smile at the same funny line in the TV show that's on in the background. You'll wonder if this is just a phase. Maybe it'll pass with time. Maybe you just have to ride it out. But the truth is, the deafening silences in the room between the TV sitcom laugh tracks is actually the sound of your relationship flatlining. Don't ignore it for too long.

The Roommate Agreement

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OK, let's be real here. You live in a shoebox and you're getting tired of eating dinner at 4 p.m. in the linen closet so you don't run into your partner. It's time to cut your losses and divide the assets. Yes, that includes the apartment.

If your ability to afford the apartment you're living in depends on having someone to split the costs with, you should be the one to move out. Financially, it's just not feasible for you to hold on to the apartment, and finding a new roommate might take longer than you can afford to wait (or, if the apartment is a one-bedroom, it might not be possible to get a roommate you aren't romantically involved with). This wasn't my financial situation at the time, but I moved out eventually anyway. I figured a new apartment was just what I needed to start over. Oddly enough, clearing out my old apartment helped me clear some of the emotional baggage I'd been carrying around since my breakup.

The Retreat

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Hypothetically, one of you moves in with a friend who's letting you crash on their couch until you find a place. The other gets to keep the apartment but goes home to their parents' place anyway because it's way too quiet.

I get it. You need time to lick your wounds. Living with your significant other means that when you break up, you lose your partner, your roommate, and your best friend. It's a lot for anyone to stomach, regardless of how badly you may have wanted out of the relationship.

For me, the most difficult adjustment was remembering how to be alone without feeling lonely. I can say now that it takes time. Soon, you'll be just fine on your own. And eventually, you'll invite someone in again.