Living with an ex is kind of like ordering a large pizza for yourself. It arrives at your door, and you have total faith you will finish it. You think you can do it, but after you’ve eaten the last slice, you feel shitty and regretful. You’re emotionally vulnerable and wondering why you ever thought it would be a good idea in the first place.
This was me the first time and last time I lived with an ex after a breakup. It was the first time I had ever lived with a boyfriend, and we didn’t stuff around. We moved in together after we had been dating for five weeks, got a dog the following month and then a second dog the month after that. I’m sure people thought we were crazy, but it felt right and I was very much about living in the moment. If things didn’t go according to plan, I could always sort them out later.
Which brings me to my central point. Why did we stay living together after our relationship ended? Well there are a few reasons, the biggest revolving around the dogs. It’s not entirely easy to find a place on a whim that will house you and two pets, and I wasn’t in a situation to stay in the current house paying rent by myself (if you’ve ever lived in Sydney, you’ll understand). Second, only five months earlier we had broken a lease in order to move interstate and it was absolute hell. It was only three months until this lease was up, so surely it wouldn’t be that bad, right? The third reason was also the most naïve. It wasn’t that bad of a break up, so we thought we could totally be amicable. I was the one who ended the relationship and while my ex was sad, he knew it was probably for the best as well. Or so he told me.
He wasn’t dealing with things as well as I was. I was being very social and going out a lot. I would come home to find him having been alone all day and wondering why he wasn’t going out and being more social as well? This culminated in quite few arguments, my unintentional insensitivity at the forefront. Obviously, the thought of bringing anyone home was ludicrous, but there’s still a certain level of guilt when you’re coming home to someone you’ve broken up with, after having been out on a date with someone else.
Then the inevitable happened – I began to question my decision. It’s very hard to not fall back into old habits when you are in the same space for so long. Like any break up, it’s easy to remember the good and not the bad and when you see them so sad you wonder if you should give it another try. I had to travel interstate for a week and during this time I was convinced that we could work things out and give it another go. Sure enough, when I arrived back in Sydney, all the reasons we broke up hit me like a ton of bricks and I never considered it again.
I had a lot of anxiety about being on Tinder – what would happen if he found me? Would he blow up knowing I was on there? Will it cause even more arguments and tension? But, hang on, I thought, if he’s found me on Tinder it means he is on Tinder and doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Eventually, he came up and it was an incredibly surreal moment for me. Here was a man that I had spent every single day with for the past almost year and a half. In his profile picture he was holding our dog and the mutual Facebook friends that were displayed were countless. Yes, this was my choice and there isn’t a part of me that thinks I made a mistake, but it doesn’t mean you bypass the grieving process.
I don’t want to be cynical and say that I don’t think ex-partners can’t remain friends, but being in such constant close proximity isn’t good for anyone. It messes with you in ways you wouldn’t imagine and while I survived and have lived to tell the tale, it wasn’t a pleasant time that I would advise anyone go through. There’s always a way out. Stay with friends, put your dogs in a cute hotel for a few days while you sort things out, take out a loan if you have to. All these things might be temporary annoyances or inconveniences, but they are all well worth the time and effort when compared with the mental anguish you would otherwise be exposed to.
I have learnt many valuable lessons throughout this relationship (and break up), but my biggest advice to anyone is to always have “fuck you” money. Whether you’re in a situation similar to mine, or you want to leave a bad job, or you just need to GTFO of the country for a bit. I hate to say it, but if you have a bit of money behind you, you have an option to get out of whichever toxic environment you should be avoiding. Like Queen Bey says, “if I surround myself with positive things, I’I gain prosperity.”
*Words by Elle Taylor (not her real name).