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The end of a relationship is always a bummer — but it can be even more difficult to break up with someone you live with. Nowadays, cohabitation before marriage is common. However, if we’re supposed to have several relationships before we find “the one,” it’s a risk you and your partner decided to take.
Even under the worst circumstances, navigating a split is difficult — you obviously had strong feelings for them if you chose to live together. Whether you’ve struggled to overcome obstacles together or feel unfulfilled in your partnership, it may reach a point where it’s only fair to go separate ways.
If you’re unsure how to approach a breakup with compassion and respect — especially if you share a place — this guide can help.
6 Steps for Breaking Up With Your Partner
Breaking up with someone you live with is different than when you don’t live together. There’s the planning stage, actual conversation and navigating the aftermath. Here are six steps to follow when breaking up with your partner.
1. Plan What You Will Say
You may have been thinking about your impending breakup for a while — that doesn’t mean you’ve figured out what to say. Unfortunately, you can’t follow a standard script, as every couple’s situation differs.
However, being honest with them and offering only a few reasons is the best approach. You won’t want to deliver a drawn-out list of problems. Also, avoid placing all the blame on them or yourself.
2. Seek Emotional Support
Breakups are personal, but enlisting emotional support is still a good idea. Share your news with a few trusted friends or family members. You’ll likely grieve the end of your relationship, but they’ll show up for you before and after.
Men may not always be apt to seek emotional or mental help — women are 1.6 times more likely to ask for help than men. Yet, according to one study, about 82.2% and 48.9% of men talk to friends or a therapist, respectively, after a breakup. Another 25.5% talk to their family.
3. Prepare for Them to React
It’s hard to say what reaction you’ll encounter after ending your relationship. Your soon-to-be ex may cry, yell, want to be alone or have questions. They may even go away for a few days to digest the news.
While there’s no way to know what they’ll ask you, preparing hypothetical answers beforehand is best. Likewise, you’ll have to think about boundaries and living arrangements afterward.
If you plan to leave, pack a duffle bag and set a time to collect the rest of your belongings.
If your place is in your name, be prepared to give your partner time to find somewhere else to live — this may mean that one of you sleeps in another room for the time being.
4. Give Them Warning
Although your partner may know that a breakup is imminent, it isn’t fair to spring it on them. The courteous thing to do is to give them a head’s up it’s coming.
You can tell them you want to discuss your relationship with them over dinner — or you can say you have something important you want to talk about and ask if they have time later.
Even if you’re ready to put your relationship behind you, respect whatever is happening in their life. They may be working on a stressful work project or have an exam coming up. If you share children, schedule time to talk when they go to bed or aren’t home.
5. Use a Gentle Tone
You want to be clear about your reasons for breaking up. However, approach the conversation with a calm and gentle tone. It’s OK to say that you care about them deeply but that the relationship has taken a turn — then say you’d like to go your separate ways.
If you aren’t transparent about your intentions, they may think the relationship is on hold or that you want to try working through your problems.
Likewise, keep your emotions in check. Expect a range of emotions or potential outbursts. If need be, leave the room for a few minutes or go for a walk to give them and yourself some space. It may be better to revisit the conversation later.
6. Allow Them to Respond
Once you’ve said your piece, you must let them respond. It’s OK if they ask for some time to gather their thoughts — tell them you can reconvene later.
Remember, as difficult as it was delivering the bad news, it’s just as hard for them to receive it — as such, they’ll likely have much to say to you.
Avoid starting fights and end the discussion if they beg you to stay. You are not obligated to reconsider once you’ve decided.
The Aftermath of Breaking Up With Someone You Live With
Breaking up with someone you live with is trickier than with non-cohabitating couples. The emotional aspect is the same, but dealing with the aftermath is more complicated.
Do You Stay or Do You Go?
The big question after a breakup is who stays and who packs their bags? Can you put up living with each other for much longer?
About one-third of broken-up couples continue living together afterward. On average, homeowners that split continue cohabitating for 1.3 years. This happens for various reasons — one or both of you may be in financial straits, or the housing market is too expensive.
Regardless, discuss your situation moving forward. You may have been saving up to relocate to your own place. It’s essential to give them a timeline of your move so they can find a new roommate if necessary. If you expect them to move out, the kind thing to do would be to allow some time to digest the breakup and find new accommodations.
Who Gets to Keep What?
You might also have your eye on certain items, warranting a conversion about splitting up possessions. For instance, who gets the flatscreen TV, valuables, gifts given to you as a couple or, most importantly, the dog?
This conversation can be prickly and you may need to compromise. If you intend to cohabitate still, you might continue sharing these items until someone is ready to move out.
What Are the Ground Rules?
Living together after a breakup will require new ground rules, such as who will take the guest room or living room sofa.
Other rules may comprise having friends over, using common areas, if you still pool resources together for groceries and whether you can bring dates home. It won’t be easy, but establishing these rules and boundaries from the get-go will help temper fights later on.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together or how far you’ve grown apart. Nobody looks forward to breaking up with their partner. When you’re living together, breaking up may feel incredibly daunting. However, if you do so respectfully and compassionately, you might view it more as a fresh start.