I’ve never been incarcerated or a prisoner-of-war, but I doubt that living with my soon-to-be ex-husband could be much worse. Once the events of our failed marriage culminated in the decision to divorce, the climate in our home became unbearable. It was as though I was on a bad reality show called “Roommate from Hell”, and I couldn’t get away from it (and him) fast enough!
Many of you now going through a divorce will find yourselves in the unenviable position of having to live with your ex until all of the details of your divorce are sorted out. It’s important to act with a cool head during these trying times so that you don’t make your situation, including child custody issues, worse; but, you’ll need all the patience you can get to make it through!
7 Tips For Surviving Living Together During Divorce:
1. Do define your own space so that you are able to have some privacy and occasional peace and quiet. Your once spouse is now the bain of your existence, and it will be awkward to be thrust into the same old marital situations such as sharing the mirror in the bathroom to get ready in the morning. Surely you won’t want to both sleep in the master bedroom any longer, so each of you will need a safe spot to hang out away from one another and to sleep. If you’re fortunate enough to have two living spaces or two bedrooms to split into, it would be best for both of you to move all of his or your belongings into your own area to minimize the need to run into each other or argue.
2. Don’t “run away”. I remember crying on my way home from work every Friday because I knew I had to spend a whole weekend with my ex in our home, but my kids needed me. As much as I would have rather slept in my car for the weekend, the kids needed to know that they still had both of their parents and to have as much of a semblance of normalcy as possible. Your absence might not only send them the wrong message but hurt your case for custody in court.
3. Do protect your property and important documents. So many divorced people I have known initially thought they would be the example of civility and have an amicable divorce. They don’t believe there is reason to mistrust their spouse and they don’t think their divorce will get “dirty”. Fast forward a few weeks, and most of these situations have deteriorated into ugliness that no one wanted. Don’t take for granted how much you can trust anyone. Divorce brings out raw emotions in those involved, which could include the desire to sabotage, seek revenge, or find ways to hurt you. Make sure that you have copies of all important documents related to the children and your marital assets and finances. Keep these someplace safe and inaccessible to your spouse, such as the locked trunk of your car, your office, or a friend’s home. Consider keeping other important things such as special jewelry, pictures, or other irreplaceable or sensitive documents that you would not want destroyed or stolen.
4. Don’t fan the flames of trouble. Sure, you may be ready to move on, angry, or trying to find ways to gain your spouse’s attention. You are asking for trouble if you engage in fight-starting behaviors such as rubbing a new relationship in his face, getting into his business, calling him names, and so on. If the two of you made the decision to divorce, then you need to find a way to not let his actions at this time bother you, and keep focused on the future rather than the past. You are both hurting and not on your best behavior. When he acts like a jerk, think to yourself “thank you for reminding me why we’re getting divorced!” If either of you is to be a drama maker during this difficult time, let it be him! Don’t act in such a way that will bring you shame or give him something to point to as an example of how you are unfit as a parent or to blame for the divorce. This would not be the time to revert to old party girl habits. While dancing the night away and having a few beers with some pals might help blow off some steam, it’s likely to make you look bad and possibly start a fight. Your kids don’t need to witness any more fights or questionable behavior than they already likely have from either parent.
5. Do keep reminding yourself that this challenging chapter of your life will pass. If you have a court date set or some other date for when one of you will be moving, or anything else to use as motivation, keep focusing on how the time is passing to your shared goal of being apart. Even if the separation and divorce are unwanted or painful to one or both of you, at least you can be assured of less conflict and brighter days ahead!
6. Don’t give in to momentary temptation. If you are certain that you and your ex are headed to divorce court, then having a final roll in the hay is likely to be something you will not only regret, but that could send confusing messages to your spouse about your true intentions. Personally, I would have rather stepped in front of a speeding bus than let my ex touch me during our divorce, but I know that other couples seek the closure of a good-bye fling. The choice is yours, just be aware of the complications and consequences of sleeping together again.
7. Do try to make good use of your time in cohabitation. You and your soon-to-be ex will save time and money in your divorce proceedings if you can come to the table with agreements made about your custody and divorce arrangements. Use your time in purgatory to draft a schedule that you find reasonable, and consider how you think holidays, expenses, and other issues should be addressed for the kids. Also, take the time to walk through the home to inventory all of your shared possessions and detail what you deem to be fair distribution of your property. Some items are obviously one person or the other’s; but, you will need to devise a plan for how to split furnishings, pictures of the children, and everything else in the home. Share your proposed plan with your spouse and incorporate their ideas. You and your spouse might as well make your own plan rather than having a visitation schedule or orders for splitting property (and debts) imposed by the court!
Hang in there! One thing for sure is that once you survive this phase you will have renewed confidence in your ability to take your next step into your life on your own terms! Cohabitation with your ex is one of the experiences that will help shape you into a divorce warrior capable of taking on amazing new challenges, and you will be amazed at what you are capable of!