My husband and I have been married five years and we’ve decided to divorce. Nothing terrible happened, we’ve just grown into best friends and roommates—same old story, we love each other but we’re no longer in love. In sitting down to discuss who will move out of our amazing two-bedroom Noe Valley apartment, we’ve realized that whoever leaves is going to lose out big-time in today’s rental market. So for now we’re staying under one roof. He’s already moved into the second bedroom and so far, so good, but I wonder what’s going to happen once one of us begins dating. My friends think I’m nuts to take this approach, but I really don’t want to move out and pay through the nose for a much smaller place, and I actually like having him around. Am I being naïve to think this could work?
She Said: You’re probably being naïve to think this money-saving approach won’t have its own emotional costs down the line. But who knows, you and your husband could be one of the few couples who can work through it. (Google “divorced couple living together” and you’ll see this problem isn’t new). My guess is that living together might be feasible for the first several months, when you are transitioning from marriage into a kind of casual separation and getting used to the idea of breaking up. But once you start dating it’s going to be weird not only for both of you but for your date(s). One idea: Perhaps you can both agree to refrain from dating for a certain number of months, which would make for a healthy post-marriage hiatus anyway. When dating does begin, you can agree to conduct it away from home. At some point, you’ll probably need to move out, but who’s to say? Certainly not me or your friends. It’s up to the both of you. I’m a huge fan of baby steps. Take it one step at a time and meanwhile, keep your eye on the rental market.
He Said: In SF, the challenging real estate market and unusual dating arrangements combine to make creativity in living situations a necessity. You are doing the right thing here, as a stable, cool, apartment is paramount to staying in the city and to forming new relationships that are more rewarding. If you are both truly invested in each other as friends, and in fact want the best for each other, you'll quickly learn to support each other's return to the "market" even though it might be somewhat emotionally rocky at first. Start to think about your ex-husband's romantic and sexual success as a sign of your love for him rather than as somehow a loss of the control you once had over his life. On a more practical level, in my own roommate situation, which is admittedly much less emotionally fraught, we trade nights out when the other is hosting a date or hookup. That will help make first-hand evidence of your new affections much more palatable, and also help you both plan to get out more into the world on those nights when the other is hosting.