Too broke to break up? A third of couples forced to live together after splitting

New research has revealed a third of couples who break up are forced to stay living together. (Getty Images)
New research has revealed a third of couples who break up are forced to stay living together. (Getty Images)

Couples are being forced to continue to share a home after breaking up, research has revealed.

Rising costs mean over one in three (34%) of those who purchased a house with their partner then split up have been forced to continue living together, according to new research from property site Zoopla.

And we're not just talking for a few uncomfortable months: Exes are forced to live together for an average of 1.3 years after they split up, with one in eight even having to continue to share a bedroom.

Unsurprisingly, the time spent co-habiting with their former partner was not a pleasant time for most — just 9% said they were able to remain diplomatic, while 30% said it was awkward, 27% found it upsetting and over a fifth (22%) went as far as describing it as excruciating.

Likely heightened by the cost of living crisis, finances are the key reason people are forced to live together after breaking up, with almost half (47%) citing this as the reason for their less than ideal new living situation.

Indeed 37% say that they had no savings at all when they and their partner split up, rising to 46% for women.

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Living with your ex is never going to be ideal. (Getty Images)
Living with your ex is never going to be ideal. (Getty Images)

Struggling to afford to move out wasn't the only factor for exes staying put, 13% were involved in a stand-off with their former partner, with neither party prepared to move out the property, and 17% say they stayed living together for the sake of their children.

The research found that for many, living with a former partner immediately post-break up was a miserable experience.

Four in 10 (40%) say that the atmosphere was constantly bad, and 37% say their ex acted like a different person, while a third (33%), somewhat unsurprisingly, say arguments were a common occurrence.

If the tensions of being forced to share a home with your ex were not bad enough, it seems it also severely holds back efforts to build a new life.

Some 15% of those who broke up say their ex cranked up the awkward by starting a new relationship and having their new lover stay the night, risking the awkward scenario of people bumping into their ex’s new flame the following morning.

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The rise of secret savings

However, some savvy lovers do take financial steps to make sure this doesn’t happen to them.

This often comes in the form of an ‘escape fund’; a secret savings account that someone’s partner doesn’t know about, that is specifically for the event of a break up.

Nearly one in five (18%) say that they had one in place when their relationship ended, more widely, however, four in ten (39%) say they had some form of secret savings fund their partner didn't know about.

On average, the amount of hush hush savings was £5,586, which could offer a layer of security and self-sufficiency when coming out of a relationship.

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One in eight exes are still forced to share a bedroom after splitting. (Getty Images)
One in eight exes are still forced to share a bedroom after splitting. (Getty Images)

How to co-habit cooperatively with your ex

While living together after you split up is never going to be an ideal situation there are some things you can do to ensure it is as easy as possible.

"Going through a divorce or the breakup of a long term relationship is the second most traumatic life event you can experience," explains divorce coach, Sarah Woodward. "With the current cost of living crisis many couples will be forced to remain living in the same house, even though they have decided to split, and this will only add to their stress levels in what is a highly emotive time."

Behavioural psychologist and author Jo Hemmings says that the emotional and financial stakes are incredibly high for couples that break up when they own a home together, so she advises trying to remain amicable.

“As hard as it can be, the most important thing is to stay civil," she advises. "This may require a bit of emotional detachment from the situation."

Hemmings says remaining on good terms will help with the second step, which is taking considered, but swift action.

"When you break up, physical detachment from that person is vital," she explains. "See if you can stay with a family member or friend for a couple of days to do some real planning and get some perspective."

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The next step, according to Hemmings is to have the ‘big conversation’ with your ex-partner.

"Don’t focus on things like who gets what – concentrate on the big, pressing issues. What will the living arrangements be? Will one of you move out? Will you try and sell the home? If there are children involved, when are you going to tell them? A relationship mediator is a good option for couples who find doing this a struggle.”

While living together after you split up is never going to be an ideal situation Woodward has shared some further tips to help you navigate this tricky period.

Carve out your own space. "If possible try and have a separate space or room in the house for each of you that is yours and that you can retreat to when you need to," Woodward recommends. "Respect each other’s space and privacy."

Remove yourself from the situation if arguments start. "Take some deep breaths, walk away and then return to your partner when you’re able to discuss it calmly," she says. "Avoid using ‘You’ in the argument eg ‘You did this’ as it’s attacking your partner which will in turn make them defensive. Use ‘I’ instead and say what you want or how you feel."

There are some ways to co-habit cooperatively with your ex. (Getty Images)
There are some ways to co-habit cooperatively with your ex. (Getty Images)

Share the chores. "Agreeing up front who will do what can save resentment building and prevent arguments," she advises. "Otherwise agree a time when you will both do the chores together."

Establish a routine and boundaries. Be clear with each other what your routine will be so that you can manage expectations and avoid unnecessary arguments. "Agree up front who will be supervising the kids and when and which chores you will each be responsible for," she adds. "Ensure that you both have some uninterrupted alone time."

Ask a friend or family member is it’s possible to stay with them. Even one night a week will help to provide some much needed space between the two of you.

Exercise. "This is probably the last thing that you feel like doing at the moment, but it really does make such a difference," Woodward says. "It releases all those endorphins which creates the ‘feel good factor’ and gives you space from each other." She suggests choosing an exercise that you love – even if it’s just a walk outside in nature – just get your body moving. "Enlist the support of an exercise buddy so that you’ve got someone to motivate you on those days when you really can’t be bothered – which will happen," she adds.

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Maintain your social contact. It’s important that you don’t lose contact with your friends and family during this time. "Spend time with people who light you up and make you feel good about yourself," Woodward says. "Try and get out of the house to give you both some space. Think about who the people are that you want in your support network."

Let yourself experience your emotions. Divorce is the second most traumatic event you can go through in your lifetime so you will experience a roller-coaster of emotions. "Don’t stuff down your emotions or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, but be prepared to sit with them," Woodward advises. "It’s all part of the grieving process and completely normal. You have to go through this as part of the healing process."