While it may be counterintuitive, legal and logistics often lead spouses to live together after they have decided on getting a divorce. Obviously, this situation can be complicated and lead to uncomfortable feelings. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips for get through living together during divorce:
1. Create boundaries
To manage in a healthy way, you and your spouse need to agree to physical and emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries include things like having separate spaces and taking care of your own daily living needs. Having your own bedroom, doing your own laundry, and being responsible for your own meals will decrease resentment about having to share space.
Emotional boundaries means shifting your interactions. As you have already decided to get a divorce, you no longer have to rehash the problems of your marriage. Instead, you need to learn a new way to interact with each other; this is especially true if you have children as you will need to work together for their sake. One useful strategy is to model your new interactions on healthy workplace behavior: direct and brief communication, friendly attitude, and stay focused on the “business at hand”. You would never berate a coworker’s character if they made a mistake; you would instead focus on solving the problem.
2. Create a schedule
This is particularly important if you have children. Develop a schedule so each parent understands their responsibility for the needs of the kids (e.g. homework, meals, and activities). You can determine if you want to continue to have meals or attend events together, or if that needs to be done separately. If you decide you are healthier parents when you are separated, then make sure that you are out of the house or in a different part of the house when it is your spouse’s evening to care for the children. This might be awkward at first, but it will help you down the line when you establish your formal parenting plan because you will begin to learn what works and what needs tweaking.
3. Utilize professionals to help create your plan for moving forward
Living together after divorce is not sustainable. It can be productive to use this time to meet with any professionals who will be involved in your divorce (lawyers, financial planners, and mental health professionals). Use this time to start tracking your budget and work with a financial planner to establish what’s realistic moving forward in terms of two households. Talk with your lawyer about a realistic plan for moving through the divorce process.
This is a painful process, and yet you have to make many decisions that will affect your life after divorce. Consider using a divorce coach or child specialist to help you through this process. Mental health professionals trained in this specialty can help you establish boundaries, determine your needs moving forward, help you communicate those needs and manage the strong emotions that accompany divorce. These professionals can also help you with every step of helping your children cope with this process, from telling them about the divorce to creating a parenting plan that meets their unique needs.
Divorce is a difficult transition in the life of your family, and how you handle it will set the stage for the divorce process. Consider getting help and support up front from professionals to create a strong foundation for the process. Divorce is painful, but it doesn’t have to be devastating.