If you’re wondering how to break up with someone you live with, I get it!
Sometimes, you don’t realize a relationship isn’t for you until you live with someone. Living with someone lets you get to know them on a whole, different level.
You learn how they like to live their lives day in and day out. You discover quirks you may not have noticed before. And you learn more about how compatible your values, personalities, and lifestyles are.
Because of this, sometimes it takes moving in with someone to learn they aren’t the one for you.
That said, it doesn’t make things easy. Breakups in general are tough enough! And when you live together, there are additional challenges.
You may share a lease, or one or both of you may own a home. You have your routines. You share a lot of the same things.
And a breakup means not only ending the relationship, but also redefining the place you call home.
So how do you learn how to break up with someone you live with? How do you break the news, minimize the drama, and peacefully part ways?
Make Sure You’re Sure
Breaking up with someone you live with is a big deal. It requires a lot of effort and emotional energy to disentangle your life from someone. And it’s not a decision that can easily be reversed.
So be sure you have a clear head when you decide you want to break up. Ensure you don’t decide to break up simply because you got in a fight, or want to test how much someone cares about your relationship.
If you’ve been going through tough times in your relationship, or there are things you’d like your partner to improve upon, consider talking to them about it.
All relationships go through challenges, and breaking up when things get tough isn’t always the answer.
For example, does your partner like to frequently have friends over and host parties, whereas you like more alone time? Are you frustrated when they leave their dishes in the sink and never take out the trash?
Issues like these are worth discussing with your partner. Often times, compromises can be made. For example, maybe your partner agrees it’d make sense to host less parties, or go out with friends instead. Or you agree on how to split up chores.
That said, if past communications have been unsuccessful and you have irreconcilable differences, a breakup may be the way to go.
Some signs that a breakup is on the horizon are:
- You often feel stressed or annoyed around your partner
- You feel your partner brings out the worst in you
- You don’t like coming home to your partner
- Your and your partner’s lifestyles aren’t harmonious or compatible
- Your partner doesn’t respect your boundaries
- You avoid your partner so you don’t have to spend much time with them
- There’s abuse (in this case, a breakup is definitely the right choice)
Before breaking up, ask yourself, “Why do I want to break up?”
Knowing why will not only help you follow through if you decide to break up, but it’ll also help you express yourself to your partner, who will undoubtedly ask, “Why do you want to break up?”
If you decide you want to break up, the next step is picking the right time.
Pick the Right Time
Have the breakup conversation when both you and your partner have no distractions. Ideally, you also want to ensure neither of you have something important to do for at least a few hours.
For example, you don’t want to break the news right before your partner has to go meet with friends or attend an event.
Similarly, you don’t want to break the news when your partner has a big obligation they need to accomplish. For example, don’t break the news before your partner has a big exam or work obligation the next day.
A breakup can rock your world, and that may be the case for your partner. Try to time your discussion so it isn’t harder on them than it needs to be.
Ideally, it’s also good to bring up the conversation when you’re both feeling calm and not in a bad mood. The breakup conversation will likely take a toll on you both, so it’s best to start off in an emotionally stable place.
If you’d like, you can let your partner know beforehand that you’d like to talk. You can say something like, “Are you free some time tomorrow to talk about our relationship?”
Alternatively, if you know you’ll both be staying in for an evening for example, I think it’s okay to initiate the conversation right then and there (while also being mindful of the considerations above).
Be Clear, but Kind
When you start the breakup conversation, it’s okay to ease into things a bit, but get to the crux of it rather quickly. Building things up for too long can cause stress and tension to build, especially when the other person may not know what’s going on.
You could consider saying something like (if true), “(Name), I just want to start out by saying I appreciate you so much as a person, and I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve shared together. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I feel moving forward the best thing for us would be to break up.”
Be sure your wording isn’t ambiguous. Saying something like ““maybe we should break up” or “i’m not sure if we should stay together or not” could cause confusion and invite the other person to fight for the relationship. And if you’ve made your decision, keep things clear.
Keep a gentle, understanding tone. And be sure it doesn’t lead to you sharing every frustration you’ve ever had with the relationship.
It can be tempting to use this time to defend your choice to break up, especially if your frustration has been building for a while. But resist this urge. It won’t lead anywhere good, and the end-result — a breakup — is the same.
Hear Them Out
That said, if your (now ex) partner asks for feedback or more details about your decision, it’s okay to provide that! There’s a difference between sharing a laundry list of grievances and providing an honest — but kind — explanation for your decision.
They may have a lot of questions, and that’s okay. Patiently answer them, and try to keep things as positive as is feasible during this tough situation.
For example, instead of saying something like, “I just couldn’t handle how you always ___,” focus on how you saw the two of you as a couple.
You could instead say something like, “Over time I’ve just felt we’re not compatible because ___.” This takes the blame off of anyone in particular.
Nevertheless, your ex may still want to express their confusion, hurt, and even anger. They may even try to characterize you as someone who isn’t commitment oriented, or someone who’s giving up when things get tough.
So long as things don’t take a disrespectful or abusive turn, I personally would let them vent for a minute or two. Sometimes when we’re shocked and hurt, we say things we don’t mean, and while that doesn’t mean it’s okay, I think handling the situation as gracefully as you can is still the way to go.
Be open to having an open conversation. And know that after your ex has had some initial time to process, they may have more thoughts and questions they’d like to share.
Be open to a few more conversations, too. You’re both going through the initial motions, and taking this time to talk things out can help you both in the long term. You’ll be able to feel nothing big was left unsaid, and nothing big was left unresolved.
Stick to Your Guns
A breakup is a big decision. Especially after you’ve learned how to break up with someone you live with, it can feel life-altering. But don’t let that scare you.
After the initial breakup, you may wonder, “What the heck have I done?” You may feel doubts about your decision, especially after things your ex shared with you.
Or maybe you feel confident in your decision, but the idea of a clean break seems too harsh. You may still care greatly for this person, and you don’t want to hurt them.
But it’s important during this time to stick to your guns, so long as you gave your initial decision a lot of thought and have had past conversations with your ex about relationship challenges.
Waffling will only cause both you and your ex more pain and confusion. And while things may feel uncomfortable now, things will get better with time.
Plan an Exit Strategy
After the breakup conversation, your ex may need time to process what has happened. If they ask for a day or two, I think it’s okay to give them that space. You could also consider offering to sleep somewhere else, like on the couch or at a friend’s place.
That said, you’ll then have to discuss who will be moving out, and when. Will it be one or both of you? If you share a lease, when does the lease end? If it doesn’t end for a while, is there a way to “break” the lease early for a fee you split?
Ideally, you should both begin living separately as soon as possible. (And if any abuse has been involved, live separately immediately.)
But if a small grace period is needed to figure out finances or alternate living situations, there’s a chance you may have to continue living together for a bit.
This is, of course, one of the challenges of breaking up with someone you live with. If you have to continue living together for, say, a few weeks, try to be understanding and stay cordial. But try to end this period as soon as possible, to avoid falling back into old habits.
Another topic to discuss with your ex is who will pay any outstanding bills, such as rent and utility bills. Generally, a safe rule of thumb is to split those bills.
For example, let’s say you share a lease with your ex, and you have three months left on it when you break up. Let’s also say that it’s not possible to break the lease.
Even if you decide to move out during that time, I’d say “fair” is still paying your fair share for the remainder of the lease.
Whether you feel you or your partner were responsible for the breakup, the breakup was unforeseeable when you both signed your lease. And keeping emotions separate from that commitment will simplify things so that you can both move forward with your separate lives.
That said, to each her own. Not all cases are black and white. But hopefully that provides some context!
At the end of the day, have an exit strategy in place. Know when you and/or your partner will be able to move out. And ensure that move out date is sooner rather than later.
Decide Who Gets What
Just like with the exit strategy, make sure you and your ex have some time to process the breakup before having the “who gets what” talk.
If you have this talk while emotions are running high, you may fight to keep more than you otherwise would. And it’s best for everyone to remain as objective as possible during this conversation.
First, anything you bought before the relationship is yours. Anything you bought during the relationship for yourself is yours. Any gifts you bought your ex during the relationship are up for debate, but I feel a gift given should not be taken back.
Next, make a list of everything you jointly own or share. Then go through that list with your ex and decide who will get what.
Try to give your ex “small wins” if they really want to keep something that you don’t care much about. Hopefully, this will inspire your ex to do the same for you.
If you both want to keep something equally, first try to look at things objectively.
For example, if you share a dog that you both equally want, ask yourselves, “Who has more time to care for the dog? Who has historically taken care of the dog more? Is it possible to ‘share’ ownership of the dog, such as switching off weeks?”
Again, be as objective as possible in answering these questions — even if the answers aren’t in your favor.
If you both disagree on who should keep something, flip a coin or do something similar. So long as you both agree beforehand that a certain approach is fair as a way to decide, that works.
Don’t Rock the Boat
As mentioned above, there will likely be a (short!) period of time where you’re broken up but still living together.
Ensure that during this time, you don’t fall back into old habits. Cuddling on the couch, sleeping together, having intimate chats, and all the rest will only confuse things.
Chances are, at least one — if not, both — of you still have feelings. And that’s normal. It can feel gut-wrenching to be acting like a couple one night and then acting like, well, exes the next. But it’s best to draw a clear line at this stage.
This doesn’t mean you have to deny you had great times in your relationship, or pretend you don’t still care for one another as humans. In fact, it can be therapeutic to acknowledge the good times you’ve shared.
But making the distinction between “what was” and “what is” will help you begin the healing process.
Also ensure that you treat each other with respect during the remainder of your living situation. For example, if you both previously agreed to not throw frequent “ragers,” now’s not the time to have back to back house parties.
Similarly, if the two of you have certain responsibilities around the house like doing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc., keep that consistent to avoid any arguments.
In other words, try as best you can to end things on good terms. Breakups are hard enough! And naturally, negative energy can be involved.
But by trying to do right by yourself and by your ex during this time, you can increase the odds of moving forward with peace.
Granted, not every relationship ends peacefully, such as if one ex becomes disrespectful or abusive, but if you have the chance to keep things cordial, take that chance.
Take Advantage of the Greatest Healer
With these kinds of things, the greatest healer is time.
Chances are, you shared many great moments. You may have lived together for years. You may even still love each other.
And when you live with someone, you always have someone to spend time with and talk to (with minimal effort!).
Going from this to singe life and a new living situation takes time to adjust to. You may feel ok — even great! — one day, only to feel the opposite the next.
It’s normal to feel low at times as you process this big change. Recovering from a breakup isn’t always a linear process.
Take some time to mourn the fact that the relationship didn’t work out, if needed. But remember you set this plan in motion for a reason! You have so much to look forward to. Be patient with yourself, and don’t rush the process.
As you heal, try not to hyperfocus on your past relationship. Keep yourself busy with friends, family, hobbies, and events. Remember all of the good you have in your life. And know that your past relationship will ultimately bring wisdom to you as you move forward.
Be sure to also practice self-care. Try to get some sleep, take naps if needed, eat healthy, go for walks to decompress, and do anything else that makes you feel calm and happy.
Generally, it’s also best to unfollow your ex on social media, resist the temptation to speak to your ex’s friends about them, and do other things that could especially trigger unwanted feelings.
Of course, all kinds of things may trigger you out of the blue — restaurants you ate at, songs you listened to, etc. — but do what you can to not add to the list.
Finally, know that it’s possible to be friends with an ex. I’ve done it! But I recommend waiting a long time before potentially going down that road.
And I’d only go down it if I knew for sure that both I and my ex would never be interested in a relationship. That’s a tough bar for many exes to meet, understandably.
Learning How to Break Up with Someone You Live With Will Set You Free
Breakups are tough, especially when you live with someone.
But by timing the breakup talk well, expressing your thoughts calmly, taking care of the logistics with your ex, and ending things on good terms, you’ll be free to move forward in peace.
You’ll be able to rediscover yourself, focus on your needs for a while, and take all of the wisdom from your past relationship with you.
And if/when you’re ready for love again, know you can find it.