More and more couples are having to live together AFTER they split up. The only question is how?
It's a very current phenomenon, according to reports. More and more Britons are living with partners they're no longer 'with'.
They're not gluttons for punishment. Instead, these unfortunate couples are trapped into continuing to live together, despite having split up, by rising property costs and the skyrocketing cost of living. They're living together solely because the economic climate makes it impossible for them to live apart.
"Living with an ex after the end of a relationship requires a high degree of maturity and communication, qualities that can be hard to find in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown," says psychologist and novelist Voula Grand, author of Honor's Shadow (Karnac Books). "But in the current economic climate it is increasingly common."
So how do you stay in the same house or flat as an ex, and at the same time stay sane? We asked experts for some tips.
Give each other space
The first rule of living with an ex is to actually spend as little time as possible in the house or flat together, at least while the pain of breaking up is still fresh. You can't expect to be friends with an ex straightaway, so spending the occasional night on a mate's sofa after an evening out will give you both some much needed space. Visit your parents for a weekend to give both you and your ex a break from the tension. Hopefully, she'll do the same.
When you are in the property together, you need to make a few rules. You're no longer a couple, so neither of you can have free rein to wander the rooms at will. Respect each other's private space, and if your flat only has one bedroom one of you will have to get used to the sofa.
"Give each other as much private space as possible, have your own bedrooms, obviously, and agree times for the use of kitchen and bathroom to avoid arguments," says Grand.
"Also, agree if, whether and when, new partners or dates can visit and/or stay over."
The last part is crucial. If you're both going to be dating again, it might be worth instigating a no staying over rule. The last thing either of you want to be confronted with at 3am on the landing is a very obvious - and possibly semi-naked - reminder of just how quickly the other has moved on.
So most of all you have to talk to your ex. Even if the split was a bit messy, and tension crackles in the air whenever you're in the same room, you have to draw up some mutually acceptable rules if you want to carry on living together in as stress-free a way as possible.
Most importantly, you have to draw boundaries, says psychotherapist Dr. Kimberly Moffit. Can you still walk into the bathroom when your ex is taking a shower? Can you walk into your old bedroom at all?
Work out what is and isn't acceptable as far as nudity and physical contact are concerned, because if you're yearning for sex the last thing you want to see is your once intimate ex strolling around in her underwear.
Work out the mundane practicalities
If you're going to live amicably together - or at least not in a constant state of cold war - you don't just need to work out rules regarding nudity, you also need to work out rules regarding cornflakes.
We're serious. You're now more like roommates than lovers, and you have to get used to it. "Agree what expenses you will continue to share and which you won't, to avoid arguments about money," says Voula Grand.
Be prepared to split the bills, be careful about the amount of hot water you use and stick to your own shelf in the fridge. It might not have to be like that - the split may have been fairly amicable and in financial and domestic matters you might just carry on as before - but whatever rules you make have to be adhered to.
Work out a housework rota too and make sure you do your bit. The last thing you need is for tensions to be ramped up even further over trivial things like dirty dishes.
Accept that it's over
The biggest hurdle one or other of you might face is accepting that the relationship is really over. That can be tricky when you're living apart: when you're living together there's always the chance that nostalgia will lead you both into confusing areas.
Or to put it more simply, if it is well and truly over, ending up in bed together for old times' sake is probably not a good idea. If one of you is still holding out hopes of a reconciliation, hopping back into bed can be a backward and ultimately painful step.
"This arrangement is a lot easier if you have both agreed that the relationship is truly over," says Grand. "If one of you still has hopes, then the other must never in any way incite those hopes. This can be the hardest part - if you let nostalgia prevail."
Can exes live together?
Follow those rules and it is possible for exes to live comfortably together, at least for a while. It's not ideal, of course - getting over someone is so much harder if they're always around - but in the present climate it might be necessary. It does take a change of attitude though - put aside your past as lovers and embrace a future as temporary roommates.