How to Cope When You’re Separated but Still Living Together

By Relationships Australia

Being separated while still living in the same home with your partner is one of the biggest challenges a couple can face. We share our advice on how to survive – and possibly even thrive – with this arrangement.

For anyone considering separation, the thought of continuing to live with your ex might be horrifying. However, there are a few redeeming features – primarily family stability, legal and financial – why cohabitation with an ex is not the worst thing while you sort out the long-term details. If you’re considering or are already in this situation, this article is for you.

Why do people end up separated but living together? 

There are plenty of reasons to end a relationship and living together after that separation for various reasons is not a new thing. Technically, you’re separated when you stop living together as a couple. One person may move out of the home, or you can be still living at home together but have separate lives – this is called ‘separated but living together.’ 

A former couple might choose to live separately but under the same roof where there is no family or domestic violence, and whilst they are deciding on the care of the children and making decisions about their finances. Allowing time to put these arrangements in place is vital for the health and wellbeing of all involved.

What does it involve? 

Often where two people live separately under the same roof, they will no longer do things they used to do together. They may no longer eat their meals together. They do not go out and socialise together, and they will no longer do recreational activities together. Family interests, if children are involved, may or may not be done together.  

Often living separately under the same roof is a temporary arrangement until both people have separated and finalised their shared finances so that each can go their separate way. 

You’ll just need to ensure you’re aware of any documentation or paperwork you need to file for any subsequent divorce application you may wish to make if you’re separated but living under one roof.

The benefits of living together while separated

Besides doing it for the kids, there are a few beneficial reasons why former couples may choose to delay a physical separation. 

  • There may be a financial saving as two households often mean two lots of expenses
  • The person who moves out of the house do not have to start paying rent for another house elsewhere  
  • The person moving out of the house is not pressured to find other accommodation immediately, just because they have separated. 
  • There is a transition period, rather than multiple moves and the disruption, time, stress and expense that comes from moving, packing and unpacking furniture and personal belongings 
  • Separation is done thoughtfully and respectfully for the whole family 

Boundaries and rules when living together while separated 

It’s wise to have some boundaries and rules set in place to protect the feelings of individuals and the expectations that may arise, if you’re living with your ex-partner in this arrangement.  

Plan your living space 

It is important to organise where each of you will be in the house and when each of you comes and goes. Each of you needs separate areas, especially separate bedrooms or sleeping arrangements. Give each other as much private space as possible.  

Budget 

Finances are near the top of the list when it comes to causes of stress when couples separate. Keep a record of your expenses. Split things like utility expenses down the middle. Separate your accounts but be open about your finances with each other. In any case, this will be necessary when you undertake any financial and/or property settlement. 

Tell the children together 

If you have children, it’s vital this is done together. Tell them that you are working together to make arrangements to live in separate houses and for them to spend time with both of you. Most importantly, tell them that your separation is something between you as parents and that they are in no way responsible for your separation. Reassure them that you both love them and only want the best, and that they don’t feel like they have to choose or take a side. 

Create a co-parenting schedule 

Don’t put the children in the middle of your conflict. Organise how each of you will spend time with them and especially for younger children, make a chart and put it on the fridge or in some common place where it’s easy for all to see. You may still do some things together such as having meals if the atmosphere is not tense. Whatever you do, don’t create a situation where the children must choose – keep parenting decisions with the parents and remember this is just temporary. 

Date discreetly 

Depending on the length of time the cohabitation exists, dating other people may arise. And that’s OK! However, remember to be respectful of the household, and honest with the person you’re dating. Consider if this is the right time to put yourself in the dating pool once more. 

Above all, make sure you take care of yourself and seek professional support when you need it. There is no shame in separation, and if handled gracefully both you and your loved ones will greatly benefit. 

When parents separate, it can significantly impact their children. Kids in Focus is a practical, online course developed by Relationships Australia NSW for separating families to navigate and support their children through these challenges. Find out more and sign up online today.

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