Breakups are rarely easy, but breaking up with someone you live with is even harder. On top of the emotional part of ending any relationship, you have the issues surrounding your living situation. As such, knowing how to break up with someone you live with can feel utterly impossible.
But that feeling is just that: a feeling. The truth is, sometimes ending a relationship is necessary. It’s easy to stay too long in a relationship that’s actively bad for you—or simply isn’t right for you—just because you feel daunted by the task of ending things. It’s time to face the process head-on. Here’s how to break up with someone you live with.
Preparing to break up with someone you live with
When you don’t live with a partner, breaking up can be incredibly simple. You can end things with a single text, phone call or in-person conversation. Sometimes you may have to exchange borrowed possessions. Even so, it’s rarely as difficult as breaking up with someone you live with. Because of all the extra tricky factors involved, it can be worth breaking down the process into preparing, executing and then dealing with the fallout.
How to break up with someone you live with
While breakups can be spur-of-the-moment decisions, they can also be planned. That might sound cruel–it means, after all, that one person is actively planning to leave the other without telling them—but in situations where both people live together, it’s usually a good idea.
While some couples can coexist amicably after ending the relationship, many won’t. Having a plan to live elsewhere for the foreseeable future in advance, for instance, can make the whole process significantly less painful for everyone involved. Being prepared ahead of time is a key part of knowing how to end a relationship when you live together.
Tell your trusted friends and family
There’s no need to blab to the whole world about your impending breakup—especially because you don’t want your partner to find out through someone else. But talking about it to a select few people in your life can be helpful, according to Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist in Boulder, Colorado.
“It’s important to have a support network around you supporting you in the decision,” said Fisher. “This will help you with follow-through.”
Figure out a living arrangement
Because you’re the one who has had time to prepare, it’s only fair that your partner should get to stay put while you crash elsewhere for a bit. But long-term, you need to know if either of you is going to stay.
“Decide who’s staying and who’s going,” said Sam Whittaker, a dating and relationship expert and editor at Mantelligence. “It may not be right away, but part of your breakup talk needs to cover who’s moving out. You may need to seek legal advice if you struggle to find a fair and collaborative solution.”
Fisher, meanwhile, noted that you may need to find someone to replace your name on the lease. If you own the home, things might be even trickier and you should definitely consult a lawyer.
Keep finances in mind
Moving on from a serious relationship can have a major financial impact on you. That’s why it’s better to have some money saved before you go through with your breakup.
“Don’t let this be a reason to delay if things don’t feel safe at home,” Whittaker said.
If you’re concerned for your physical or emotional wellbeing, all other concerns are secondary. But otherwise, there’s no harm in taking a little time to get your affairs in order.
Breaking up with someone you live with
Knowing how to leave a relationship when you live together may never be easy. But once you’ve prepared, put your plan into action.
It might be tempting to try to soften the blow by disguising your intent. But that’s only going to further complicate matters, according to Rori Sassoon, the co-owner of matchmaking agency Platinum Poire and author of “The Art of the Date.”
“If you break up with your partner-turned-roommate, you need to be direct and honest,” Sassoon said. “Why slowly peel off the bandage if it’s only going to hurt more? When you delay the process, you are wasting both you and your partner’s valuable time.”
Be clear about boundaries
If you continue living together temporarily until one of you finds an alternative place to live or stay, you should set clear expectations. This includes things like how you will share the living space, handle finances and the sleeping arrangements.
This may be something you discuss during a follow-up conversation. But if you want to limit contact, explain that during the initial breakup.
Consider using a mediator
Breakups are private affairs. But if you can’t agree on who gets what, you might want to call a professional.
“If you need to incorporate a therapist or mediator of sorts, by all means use them,” said Sassoon. “Breaking up a long-term relationship with shared living arrangements can be quite complicated.”
What to do after breaking up with someone you live with
The impact of the breakup isn’t over the instant you’re done breaking the news to your partner—or even once one or both of you have moved out. Here are some things to keep in mind the days and weeks after the end of the relationship.
Take care of yourself emotionally
After the dust has settled, it’s important to be kind to yourself. You’ve just gone through a difficult time, and there’s a good chance you’ll feel several different emotions.
“Whether it was an easy or challenging breakup, during that aftermath, it is a must to process your emotions, allow time to heal and give yourself a reset,” said Kasey Scharnett King, a marriage therapist and the owner of Lavender Healing Center. “Remember not to be hard on yourself as well.”
Divide up your shared things
Once you’re broken up, finish what you started by separating your shared possessions.
“This won’t be easy, but you need to have a detailed conversation about who gets what and how finances will be handled,” said Whittaker. “There will likely be unpaid bills, shared bank accounts, rent or mortgage, furniture, etc. Both parties must get what they feel is a fair share of everything you got and built together.”
Consider budgeting for a bit
In the aftermath of your breakup, it may be tempting to treat yourself in celebration. But it’s important to remember that this could be an expensive time for you to begin with.
“Regardless if you move out or stay, especially at the beginning, stick to a tight budget,” Whittaker said. “You’ll be on your own without that extra income coming in.”
How to leave a toxic relationship when you live together
Leaving a toxic, potentially dangerous relationship when you live together can be terrifying. If you’re scared your partner might react violently or cruelly to a breakup attempt, the stakes of an already high-stakes situation rise significantly. However, if your partner might attempt to hurt you or manipulate you if you try to leave, that’s all the more reason to separate. It just means you have to consider some extra variables.
Don’t do it alone
If you have any reason to believe your partner might attempt to harm you for breaking up with them, don’t go through any part of the breakup alone with them in private.
“If you believe that your partner will become violent, have someone there with you when you break the news,” Scharnett King said, “and also when they are packing and leaving.”
Abusers often say they aren’t able to control their tempers. But they are far less likely to hurt a partner in front of others. Having trusted friends or family on hand can be a much-needed deterrent to violence.
If you can’t find someone to be there for you in that way, you could also have the conversation in a public place.
“They will be less likely to react as violently with others around,” Sassoon said.
Unfortunately, the danger doesn’t go away the moment the relationship ends. Abusers may attempt to seek retribution or deny the relationship is actually over or that you have the right to end it. Think tactically about ways to limit their access to you in the period after the breakup.
If you’re staying and your partner is moving out, this could include things like changing the locks and passwords if you have an alarm system. If you’re the one leaving, it could mean making sure your partner can’t find out your new address. Tell people who your ex may contact not to divulge your information.
Seek outside support
Extricating yourself from a toxic relationship where you fear for your safety can be overwhelming. While it’s important to get help and support from those closest to you, your support doesn’t have to begin and end with friends and family.
Whittaker suggested seeking support from organizations like domestic violence hotlines, a religious community or even the police. Sassoon, meanwhile, noted that hiring movers to help deal with your belongings could help turn a difficult situation into a less stressful one.
Regardless, Sassoon said, “Be strong, brave and fearless knowing that you can free yourself from this dangerous situation.”