Most divorces in Canada are preceded by a one-year separation. In the face of a separation, you could be wondering: can I live my life separated but in the same house as my husband? More and more couples continue living together while separated due to circumstances that are hard to control or change quickly. Some of the circumstances that could make you continue living together with your spouse while separated include financial pressure, inability to find alternative accommodation, or avoiding disrupting the children’s lives. So, can you live together but be separated? The answer from our family lawyer Vancouver is yes.
What are the tips for living together while separated? How should you best manage this transition period? It is crucial to ensure that you understand what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.
How to Live in the Same House While Separated
Are you living together while separated? You are not alone. There are many ex-spouses who continue to live together until they sort out all their separation details. This situation may not be your preferred choice and is often challenging. However, perhaps you don’t have enough income to support two households or need more time to sort out your finances and children’s issues.
The situation could even get more complicated if you decide to sell the family home because you may have to wait for the proceeds of the sale to enable you to move to a new residence. There is no doubt that living in the same house while separated poses some unique challenges. However, with some planning, you can overcome most of these challenges. Here are some tips for living together while separated:
Allow Each Other Physical and Emotional Space
In most marriages, it’s normally one partner that brings about the decision to separate. The spouse who initiated the separation probably thought about the divorce longer than the other spouse. It is common for the other spouse to still be in distress and denial after receiving the news of the separation. Studies indicate that separation ranks among the most stressful events in a person’s life. During the initial days of separation, spouses experience a wide range of mixed reactions.
If you find yourself living in the same house with your partner following a separation, it’s best to allow each other room to deal with your emotions. For example, one spouse can shift to the guest bedroom or the children’s room. This will give each one of you ample space and time to work through any issues you need to address. Setting up this new accommodation will translate to new boundaries; you will respect each other’s private life.
Plan Your Monthly Living Expenses
When living together while separated, it’s crucial to ensure that you are in agreement regarding your living expenses. By doing this, you will avoid nasty arguments and have peace of mind. If you have separate bank accounts, you could sit down and draw a budget for the household expenses. Consider how much each party will contribute towards the budget. For example, if one spouse earns more than the other, you don’t have to adopt a 50-50 viewpoint.
If you hold a joint account, you should discuss how much each one of you can withdraw for personal spending and leave the rest of the money in the account. The personal spending viewpoint allows you to determine how much each of you can spend on personal care, entertainment, and dinner with friends, among others. Whatever approach you adopt, ensure there is a clear distinction between personal expenses and shared bills.
When living in the same house with your spouse after separation, avoid discussing financial issues or future negotiations because these could lead to fights. These discussions involve too many emotions, and it is almost impossible to have a calm discussion. In most cases, you will start the dialogue with the intention of having a civil discussion. However, the discussion could quickly get out of hand, escalating into a shouting match. What started as a peaceful discussion regarding finances and your primary residence could be characterized by hurtful words. Pre-divorce conversations are often challenging because every couple has their own viewpoint on what they consider fair. There should be a clear line between what you can discuss and what you can’t.
Consider Making Changes to the Children’s Schedules
The beauty of living together while separated is that you can look into the future schedules of your children together. You can create a schedule and start following it to determine if the schedule will work when you finally start living separately. You will have an opportunity to tweak the schedule while everyone is still living at home. Some spouses go to the extent of having one spouse stay with the children on a weekend while the other spouse visits friends or family. By doing this, you will have an easier transition into life after divorce. The children, especially the young ones, will also be able to adjust to alone time with one parent.
Discuss When You Can Have New Partners
Even if you are still living together, a time will come when one or both of you will start dating other people. For some couples, introducing new partners happens so fast. However, you should beware. If you previously had a heated transition, the introduction of a new partner can only make the situation worse. If children are in the picture, they might not yet be well-prepared to meet your new partner. Even if you and your spouse are all set to move on, your kids might require more time. It is often wise to conceal the details of your relationship until you sort out the separation. Last but not least, even if your spouse has a new partner and you are not happy about it, you should avoid using the label “your new boyfriend/girlfriend” whenever you are in an argument.
Allocate Responsibilities and Live Amicably
If you and your partner decide to dissolve your marriage but are still living together, you should share household responsibilities. Allocate the house chores fairly and set some time to do them. You should also be considerate of each other’s personal space. You should think of your ex as a roommate. For example, you should wash the dishes that you wash and purchase your own personal items. Share the home’s family areas and be considerate of the time you spend in areas like the bathroom.
What to Avoid When Living Together While Separated
If you and your spouse are on the verge of divorce but still under the same roof, you are probably wondering how to separate from your spouse when living together. Now that you understand the tips to follow when living with a soon-to-be ex-spouse, what are some of the things you should avoid?
Don’t Become Friends with Benefits
When living together while separated, it can be easy to fall into your old habits. However, you should avoid sleeping together. Intimacy can be confusing, whereby one or both of you might feel like you want to reconcile. These feelings will just make the eventual permanent separation harder. Do not sleep in the same bedroom. You could even demarcate the living space so that each of you can have personal space. You should also avoid wearing wedding rings or other symbolic ornaments to avoid confusion. Removing these ornaments will serve as an emphasis that you are no longer married. It will help you to establish healthy boundaries.
Avoid Having Meals or Going Out Together
If you don’t intend to get back together as a couple, you should avoid having meals together or going out together as a couple. Avoid attending parties or family gatherings as a couple. However, on special occasions like Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Easter, it can be challenging not to be together, especially if children are involved. However, even on these special occasions, you should only come together if you feel comfortable.
Don’t Spend Time Lamenting About Your Situation
Instead of indulging in self-pity and lamenting about the relationship, you should focus on planning your life and forging a positive future. Ultimately, even your children will benefit from having a happy parent who is not fixed on the past.
Don’t Disrespect Your Partner
Even if you are not on the best terms with your partner, you should avoid disrespecting him or her. Remember that your children are watching you. One of the best values you can instil in your children is remaining calm and respectful even during challenging times.
Don’t Neglect Your Physical and Mental Health
Despite the stress that comes with separation, you should not neglect your health. Go out to places you love, eat healthy meals, dress up and meet with friends and family. By doing this, you will be able to cope with the challenges that surround separation and divorce.
A Family Lawyer Can Help
There is nothing easy about separation and divorce. Therefore, it is not going to be easy to live under the same roof as your spouse while separated. However, with proper planning and a lot of patience, you and your ex can continue to live together until your circumstances allow you to move to the next phase.
For more guidance on how to share a residence while separated, contact our experienced lawyers at Gertsoyg & Company.