Due to finances or unresolved child custody issues, sometimes people find themselves in a situation where they have informed their partner that they want a divorce but they are unable to move out of the matrimonial home. It is pretty common early in the divorce process to be separated but still living with your ex.
A hostile ex will usually not vacate the matrimonial home unless forced to do so. Without a plan, you will end up living with your ex much longer than you ever imagined.
Use this time strategically
If you really plan to separate, this status will not last forever. This is the optimal time to collect information that you may not have access to once there is a physical separation. For example, this would be an ideal time to get a snapshot of the household finances and information about your ex’s finances.
This is also a great time to start culling belongings. Make a list of things that you absolutely want to have from the home and go through closets to remove what is no longer needed or wanted.
When to prioritize physical separation
If your ex has been violent in the past, there is a safety issue. You need to plan for this and be ready to go if things escalate and you think that you or your kids are unsafe. prepare a “getaway bag” with a week’s worth of clothing and necessities for you and your kids. Stash it at your closest friend’s place. Have your passport and personal ID with you so it is readily accessible. Start lining up sources of cash to fund you in case you need to suddenly leave.
Any acts of violence to you and your children is your opportunity to call the police to have this person removed from the home. That means you must have your phone with you at all times and be ready to use it.
Many people are worried that a call to authorities will just escalate the acrimony. When I received death threats, I did not want the police to intervene, but they convinced me that it would just continue to escalate. It was the best call I ever made. Make a non-negotiable commitment to yourself to call the police if you feel endangered.
Ideas to maintain peaceful cohabitation
Separated people can cohabitate peacefully when there are firm boundaries. There is no need to communicate with your ex verbally. I like the communication to be written and a monologue instead of a dialogue. Brief information about the logistics of the children is all that is required. The rest is unnecessary commentary and you need not engage.
Having a separate room with a lock on the door will keep you and your belongings safe. You are entitled to that necessity.
Lastly, there is no longer a need to feel so triggered by your ex. This is an excellent opportunity to practice my tools to stop living at the effect of your ex’s behaviour.
The kid’s perspective
Newsflash: your kids know. And they don’t like it. Living in a toxic marriage sucks for the kids. If you think you are doing them a favour by still living with your ex, you may want to rethink things.
I get it. You need to run interference between the kids and your ex. Once you physically separate you will no longer have that luxury.
If you are going to live separated under the same roof, please do everything in your power to not engage and keep the peace. Little ears hear the acrimony even when you think you are whispering.
Children are smart. If you are going to continue to cohabitate while separated, it is best to clearly define the new rules of engagement. Who is sleeping where. How meals will be handled. Which parent is responsible for which task or time of day. Predictability reigns supreme.