Recession and Divorce: Living With Your Ex to Make Ends Meet

BlogHer Original Post

My ex and I stayed in the same house while we were divorcing far longer than we should have. It was torture, a scene waiting for a crime of passion, but I heard yesterday that more couples are choosing to either postpone divorce or to divorce but still live together.

Divorced spouses are dividing living space in the same house, creating charts for time alone and time with children, and even keeping mum as they watch their exes get dressed and leave on a date all because they can't sell the family home and live separately. So, no more love will keep us together, but debt will make away.

My former husband and I were fortunate because we sold our home about a year before the bottom began falling out of the housing market. The woman in the video below, Sallie Frederick, and her estranged husband were not so lucky, and so, they may complete their divorce but live together for months afterward.

She talks about lack of privacy and not being able to work on her computer, which she keeps in the kitchen, because she doesn't want anyone looking over her shoulder. Her husband of 15 years lives in the guest room.

I wonder why she doesn't move her computer to her bedroom. (My ex wanted to live in the guest bedroom next to the master bedroom, but I asked that he live in the finished basement instead. Next to me was too close for comfort.)

Here's some text from the video if you don't have time to watch it.

Celebrity divorce attorney Raoul Feder says the Frederick made the right choice. "As far as the house is concerned, it is very sticky. People have to decide how much they hate each other, because if they can still live with each other and the house or the apartment is big enough, they ought to stay together and wait for a rising market.

Add divorce to the list of casualties of the recession. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 37 percent of attorneys polled reported fewer divorces in a bad economy. [Reporter] ... (partial transcipt)

Frederick and her husband, who did not want to be on camera, have stopped paying separate attorneys and started using a mediator to keep their divorce costs down. That's smart if they still trust each other enough to believe one will not try to shaft the other financially.

ABC's Diane Sawyer covered the divorce during recession topic in a February 19 report called "Divorced But Living Together" (video here), which I discovered through an amusing post, Forget the Kids ... , at Open Salon. ABC follows the Joyces, a couple with children who've been divorced for a year and a half but still live in the same house. The couple says it's confusing for the children.

Later in the story Sawyer talks to author Terry Real who's written a book, The New Rules of Marriage. He gives tips about how to get along with your ex while under the same roof to avoid traumatizing your children. As you may expect, they're the same rules you should follow if staying married with one exception, "leave as soon as possible."

BTW, the ABC story mentions blogs about people who live together but are divorced, quotes the blogs, but doesn't name or link to any of them. That oddity made me consider not linking to ABC's story, but that wouldn't be fair to you the reader, right?

I've looked for these blogs that Sawyer quoted, but I haven't found them, except Lee's Divorce & Family Law Blog. If you search "divorced but living together," that's what you'll come up with, lots of law blogs. However, in comments on posts here and there some people say they've lived with an ex. If you know of personal blogs about exes under one roof, then I invite you to add links in the comment section.

Is It Ever a Good Idea to Live With Your Ex?

The women in the following video from AfterEllen, speaking about both male and female lovers, say "No," and share a few tales about sharing space with a former lover, wife, or husband for the sake of saving money.

In the video, they cover the complications of having over a new romantic interest while still living with an ex. Can you say awkward?

Wisdom you may gather from watching the AfterEllen video is relationships aren't that different regardless of sexual orientation. Most people don't want an ex lover/spouse hovering when they start a new life, but I'm sure some people exist who could work it out wonderfully.

Still, after snooping, I can't find anybody, gay or straight, who thinks living with your ex would be delightful. Elisa at MotherTalkers, for instance, thinks having to live with your ex would be a nightmare. The only people who seem to encourage considering such living arrangements are therapists. In fact, the UK TimesOnline reports marriage counselors are seeing more couples who can't afford to divorce, and so want to make their marriages work.

This phenomenon of living with the ex for financial reasons makes me wonder: If people can get along well enough to live in the same house or choose to postpone divorce for the sake of money, what went wrong in the marriage that they feel they must divorce? Is it about loss of passion?

Passion is fleeting, something you have to work at once the first six months of infatuation chemicals wear off. If you had it once, usually you can build it again unless you have a deep issue like the inability to recover from a partner's infidelity or one of you is abusive or is an unrepentant crackhead.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil at the MoneyWiseWomanBlog, who believes in sticking it out, thinks couples who've put divorce on hold for financial reasons may be overlooking a relationship advantage:

If nothing else, the financial situations of many couples are forcing them to think harder about the “ease” of divorce – and I'm a firm believer that most marriages can be saved. Of course it's miserable to share your home with someone who – if things had gone differently – would've been out the door months ago. Take this opportunity to re-evaluate more closely the reasons for breaking up or divorcing, it may end up being just what your relationship needed. ("Sleeping With the Enemy")

Cracked-up economy or not, living with your ex for supposedly practical reasons isn't new, and in some ways is only a spin on the marriage of convenience. I found a 2006 forum on a dating site, Plenty of Fish, in which both men and women tackle this issue. But some people, such as BiggerGuy, think staying for convenience is never the right move.

If you are still together under the same roof .... the only thing broken up is your feelings. Get out .... get another place ... take the kids if you are the main caregiver and move on with life. In your present situation you will only learn to hate each other and the kids will hate to be around both of you. If she realy is your ex and you realy are broken up you do not belong under the same roof. That is cruelty to everyone involved, and completely stupid. (when living with your ex becomes @#$)

I've got to agree, but as the cases mentioned in this post show, in this economy considerations for feelings go out the window.

More Links:

Now, to all you unhappily married humans, please don't despair. If misery loves company, you've got companions. Low funds is a double-edged sword for love all around, even for single people, as BlogHer's own Susan Mermit discusses.

Were it not for the housing crisis, divorces would more than likely go up during this recession. Usually, money troubles give love a black eye.

This post is an expansion of an earlier post at WSATA.

Nordette is a BlogHer CE whose personal blogs are WSATA and UMBOP. Also on Twitter.

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