Breakups are so hard. You’ve lost this person you thought you’d be with forever. You can’t get them out of your mind. Then you roll over in bed and they’re lying right next to you. 

Yes, as bad as breakups are on their own, living with your ex makes them SO much worse. But don’t worry.

There are ways to make it easier, to get out, and to get over them, or get them back. 

Just know that there’s a ton of potential drama that comes from living with an ex. Maybe you two have conflict over living together. Maybe they pick a fight about old issues and you have no escape. Maybe you have to see them dating again. It’s a difficult situation and one that you shouldn’t take lightly.

Now let’s talk about what you can do about it.

1. Do what you can to improve the situation

Obviously making things better is your goal here, duh—but I wanted to touch on this because I know something about breakups:

Breakups can make you feel weak and ineffectual.

You start to feel like you can’t do anything differently because you’re just trying to make it through the day, the hour, the moment. 

This is a valid feeling. But the truth is that you can do a lot right now, despite how you feel. You’re still the same person you were before the breakup. In fact, you have a few things going for you now that you didn’t before this happened.

You have more time now because you don’t have the demands that a relationship–and a breakup–place on you. This time can be used to ruminate over the breakup and obsess about your ex, or it can be used to make improvements to your situation that will set you up for success later.

Another thing you have going for you is that you no longer have to consider your relationship when making decisions. You’re free to put yourself first in all things which is very freeing.

So what you need to do is to take an honest inventory of your situation. Where are you? What do you wish was different? Now, think about what you actually have the power to change. So you probably can’t move out right now, but you can move from the bed to the couch so that you don’t have to sleep next to your ex all night. 

Small changes like this can add up to huge improvements, even if they feel like nothing in the moment. So don’t tell yourself that you’re just stuck and there’s nothing you can do because you know that that’s not true.

2. Keep your distance

Distance is SO important in this situation. Obviously if there’s another bedroom, that’s where you should be sleeping. If you can separate your belongings, that’s even better. If you have another bathroom, use that instead of sharing one with your ex.

But there are things you can do even if you’re in a one bedroom. First off, it’s often better to sleep on the couch or even an air mattress than it is to share a bed with your ex. It won’t be comfortable but sharing a bed with your ex can be really hard on you emotionally in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

It’s the fact that you’ll still feel like you’re together even though you know you’re not. It’s like you’re playing house, knowing that any moment it’s going to be ripped away.

So if you can be the one to rip off the bandaid here then this will be a great step to take. Essentially you’re taking the power in the situation by giving up the bed and establishing a firmer boundary. Your ex will like this and be impressed by your sacrifice.

If you only have the one place to sleep, there are other ways you can create distance between you and your ex. A good way to go about this is to just be out of the house and busy as much as possible, especially when you know your ex is going to be there. Just by adjusting your schedule slightly you can avoid a lot of contact with your ex. 

It can be a struggle if you work from home. Consider a co-working space or a coffeeshop for the time being. 

Obviously this all depends on your particular situation but I find there’s usually one or two steps you can take here to create this distance. 

3. Consider your ex’s feelings

I said earlier that you no longer have to put your relationship first when it comes to decision making but you should still consider your ex’s feelings. This is true whether or not you want them back. 

I know you may be angry at your ex right now, and that’s understandable but you’re going to regret any kind of revenge you take on them. Because not only will it just make you feel bad, it’s going to create drama around your living situation.

This is the opposite of creating space. It’s going to mean more interactions with your ex than before and this is going to make things harder.

And this includes small things like being petty. It may seem like only fair, given the situation. And I’m sure they’d deserve it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice FOR YOU.

Because negativity just breeds more negativity. If you choose to treat your ex poorly, they’re going to do the same and you’re going to feel bad. Or maybe they’ll take the high road and treat you nicely and then you’ll feel bad.

So put yourself first but also consider your ex’s feelings when you make decisions.

4. Don’t show emotion

Whether or not you want your ex back, showing them how much the breakup is affecting you is a mistake.

On one hand, it is tempting to let them know how much they hurt you but in the long run it will make you appear weak which will make you feel weak as well. This is just human nature.

So don’t bottle these things up but try to keep them to yourself until you have the privacy to cry in peace.

And do not go to your ex complaining about how bad you feel and how much you miss them. This will make you feel better temporarily while creating a more messy situation to deal with in the longer term.

Keeping your emotions in check and not leaning on your ex in this way is essentially another way of creating separation from your ex.

You’re taking back your feelings and taking ownership of them yourself. This will be difficult at times but will give you a sense of power and control when you realize that you can do it on your own. 

5. Lean on friends and family

Your social circle is so important right now… Not only will they get you out of the house and away from your ex, they’ll also show you that happiness is possible without your ex. They provide a sense of normalcy, a sounding board for your problems and can be a real source of joy during the darkness.

I know it’s hard to look at your friends and family in such a pragmatic, practical way–they’re more than that to you…they’re important. But also remember that they can help you and they want to help you.

So don’t put on a brave face and pretend that nothing is wrong…unless what you feel you need is that sense of normalcy right now. Don’t be afraid to cry, to complain and to ask for their help. 

I know many people who find solace in spending time with friends but they’re terrified to ask for something more from the people who care about them. They’re worried they’ll think less of them, talk down to them or abandon them.

The truth is that these people care about you and they can offer you more than you know if you’re willing to open up to them.

When it comes to dealing with your ex, if you just can’t go home after work and see their face today, go to a friend’s place for dinner. 

If you need someone to help you move or to be a mediator between you and your ex, call a family member. Trust me when I say that people will not think twice about coming to your aid when they know you need them.

6. Avoid drama

One of the biggest perils of living with an ex is the drama that it can create. After a breakup, you’re supposed to get as far away from your ex as possible because if you don’t, the breakup can linger on longer than it has to. It’s like the fight never really ends because there’s no break in the action.

If you find yourself in this situation, you need to take steps to resolve it. So if you’re going to your ex with issues and confronting them about problems, stop that right now. I’m sure that you have legitimate issues to bring up but it’s rarely worth the loss of peace that it brings. 

And if it’s your ex who is picking fights then you need to stop taking the bait. If they won’t take no for an answer or they resort to yelling, abuse and name calling then you need to lay down the law.

Tell them that you’re not angry (even if you are) but that living with them is difficult now that you’re broken up and that you hope that you two can just be civil for however long it lasts just to avoid more issues. Set a firm boundary and don’t tolerate any more of this kind of nonsense.

You should also pay particular attention to potential triggers for both you and your ex. Do they hate it when you bring friends over? Then avoid that to avoid a fight. Do you get angry when they floss their teeth in the living room? Instead of getting into a fight about it, simply leave the room until they’re done.

I know that none of this is ideal but you really have to decide what the lesser of two evils is in this situation. Some fights ARE worth having but if you know it’s going to spiral out of control or create a hostile environment, it’s okay to bite your tongue and white knuckle through it.

7. Get out

I know, if it was as easy as that then you wouldn’t be here…you’d be moving. But sometimes we only stay because we feel we have to. So before you call it a lost cause, really consider every possible option, even the less than ideal ones.

So maybe you have to move in with a bunch of strangers. Is that better than living with your ex? For some people it will be, for others it won’t.

Maybe you can live on a friend or family member’s couch for a bit while you look for a better place.

You should also consider moving out temporarily. If you can get space from your ex for even a few weeks, it can save your life.

There are also people who stay around because they were there first or they don’t want to give their ex the satisfaction of taking the apartment that they shared. I get it, but this is essentially just you being petty and letting your ego keep you in a bad situation to spite your ex. Ask yourself if it’s worth it and then act accordingly.

But what if there’s nothing you can do right now? You have nowhere else to go. You can’t afford to break your lease. There are no openings and you have no one to turn to. First off, I’m sorry but there is still something you can do.

I want you to make a plan to move out as soon as you’re able to. Even if you know that’s not for 6 months or a year. The truth is that just having a plan–having an end date to all this–is going to make things much easier for you.

I’m a big fan of living in the moment, but when the moment sucks and you’ve done all you can do to improve it, you have no real choice but to look forward to a better time. 

8. Decide if you want them back or you want to move on

Living with your ex can be really confusing. Since you don’t have a chance to move on, you may find yourself stuck with the idea that you want them back. Or maybe you genuinely think that you can work through it and make things work, despite the breakup.

Well this is something that you should sort out for yourself as soon as you can. Ask yourself if you TRULY want them back or if you’re just lost in nostalgia because you have nowhere else to turn to right now. 

This isn’t always an easy question to answer. I recommend talking to a trusted friend or even a therapist. 

Making this decision is important when you have to live with your ex because having a clear goal is going to make things easier. So if you know you have to move on you can make that your number one priority and let your ex rot, for all you care.

But if you want them back then maybe tact is the way to go and you should avoid making too many waves so that there’s still a relationship to fix, when the time comes. 

The good news is that most of the advice will work in either scenario. This is because the best way to win back your ex is to first give them space, avoid big conversations and essentially act like you’re moving on.

The real difference is in your mindset and in the subtle ways you deal with your ex and make your next moves. 

I do think that it’s still important to move out as soon as possible in this scenario. It’s very hard to reconnect before either of you have had the space to grieve the relationship.

Because you’re essentially creating a new relationship with the same person so you need to let the bad parts of the relationship die and that takes time and space.

What If You Have Roommates?

Now there is one more factor to consider here and that is roommates.

If you have roommates then this can complicate things. But they can also act as a buffer between you and your ex during this time.

Because instead of living with one other person who is your ex, you’re living with 3 or four other people and only one of them is your ex. The relative concentration of “ex” in your place is considerably lower. 

But you still have to be careful here because the more people around,  the more potential for issues. So first up, keeping fighting private is really important because people don’t want to hear your yelling and crying in the hallways. This will affect everyone and in turn, alienate you from these roommates. 

You also don’t want to make your roommates pick sides and you don’t want to talk shit to them. This can make things awkward and will often have people choose your ex if they aren’t starting trouble and making ultimatums, even if they know your ex is the one in the wrong in the initial breakup. 

Dave Barker

Breakup Coach

About the Author

Dave Barker is a breakup and 'ex back' coach with over a decade of experience helping clients repair and improve romantic relationships.

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