I have at least two friends who are divorced or going through a divorce and have chosen to continue living, at least for the immediate future, in the same home as their exes.
For couple A, this means moving back in together after a year of living somewhat apart. They had rented an apartment — where each had separate bedrooms — and would switch off each week, one living in their home with children, acting as the primary parent, and the other staying at the apartment. Moving back in together has meant juggling a few rooms around to ensure they have separate bedrooms, though still on the same floor. They continue to take turns acting as the primary caregiver to their children, buying groceries and making meals, etc.
In my mind, this all seems just a little too close for comfort, requiring a level of emotional maturity and commitment to civility that I’m not sure I possess. Or, even if I’d like to think I’m capable of such an arrangement — after all, for how many years did I fantasize about building a studio apartment over the garage for mine?! — I can guarantee my ex is not. But it seems to be working for another friend, as well:
Girlfriend B and her future ex have agreed to continue living in the same home, with him taking up residence in the basement and she upstairs with the children, sharing the common spaces on the first floor. They complicate their lives by housing various extended family members — her aging mother, his adult children from previous relationships (i.e. one-night stands) — in their suburban mcmansion. Meanwhile, he has a girlfriend and she is in a serious relationship with an old boyfriend (who is also going through a divorce). These extra-curricular activities are kept out of the children’s sights, although there are times Dad’s been caught with another woman’s photo on his mobile phone or has stayed out all night.
While I often claim to be falling-off-the-left socially liberal, and while I freely acknowledge that children can thrive in all kinds of alternative family structures — provided they have love and boundaries — I am baffled by all of this. When pressed, my girlfriends insist that this is the best arrangement for their children and has saved them the undue stress of their parents living apart. For now…
…because arrangements like this are unlikely to last forever, especially given that girlfriend B has plans to spend the rest of her life with her current beau. And I would assume she’s eager to begin a newer, presumably happier phase of her life as soon as possible.
As for me, as much as I sometimes still buckle under the weight of being a single parent, breadwinner and homeowner, I am glad for the relatively clean break. Sure, it took six months for my ex to move out (even after years of stressful togetherness), but now the children eagerly look forward to their daddy time and make plans for what types of toys to keep at his place and what to keep at ours. I’m pretty certain they’re more well-adjusted this way than had we continued to live under one another’s noses.
We managed to find the arrangement that was, if not ideal, then as close to right for us as could be managed under the circumstances. And I look on in wonderment at those who make the above “alternative” relationships work.
What do you think — could you or do you live with your ex? What did you find was right for you?