In this article we are going to talk about how to break up with someone you live with.
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Breakups are brutal. There’s no way around it. Someone is going to get their feelings hurt, and not everyone can handle rejection with kindness, respect, and maturity.
If you’re here, you already know that you need to break up with the person you’re living with — or you know someone in this situation.
Living with your partner makes this decision far more complicated. Even if you don’t have a legal arrangement to untangle, you know the coming days, weeks, and months might be challenging for both of you.
9 Steps to Break Up With Someone You Live With
Please keep in mind that the following tips are not meant for people in abusive situations. In those cases, please seek out professional help to safely and securely end your relationship.
Therapists and domestic violence shelters can give you the necessary tools to manage a transition when you might be in real danger.
For everyone else, the following tips can help you transition from living with someone to breaking free of the relationship and regaining your independence.
1. Be Sure About What You Want
Before you break up with the person you’re living with, be absolutely sure a breakup is what you want. Don’t threaten it if you don’t mean it or are just trying to get a reaction from them.
In fact, don’t threaten a breakup at all. If you’re ready to make the break, just do it.
First, be sure about what you want. What will your life look like after they’re gone. Do you want to move out, or do you want them to go? What’s the most fair and logical arrangement?
Be absolutely certain that you don’t want to work on the relationship before you make this decision.
If you know it’s not right for you no matter what you both try, then it’s time to move forward with certainty that breaking up is the right thing to do.
2. Sit Down with Your Partner to Give Them a Heads Up
This is where it can be awkward and painful, but do not spring this on them without warning. Choose a time to sit down and talk. Don’t preface it with the ever-stressful message of “we need to talk”.
However, make time to discuss what’s happening in a private place where there are unlikely to be interruptions.
Avoid holidays and birthdays when possible and choose a time that is calm and when your schedule is clear enough for a long talk.
Let them know that you want to end the relationship as well as the living situation. Keep it simple.
You’re not just giving them notice to vacate or telling them you plan to leave; you’re breaking up during this conversation. This is when you inform them the relationship is over, and the living situation has to change.
3. Be Clear About Your Intentions
When you break up with someone you live with, it’s important to be very clear about your intentions. The relationship is over. The living situation has to change.
This is non-negotiable and not open to discussion aimed at changing your mind.
At this point, don’t give them false hope that you’re willing to work on the relationship. Be very clear about what you want and how you need to move forward.
You can listen to how they feel and what they have to say, but don’t waver from what you want.
Recommended read: The Power of the No-Contact Rule and How to Use It
4. Be Honest But Kind
At this point in the relationship, kindness may have flown out the window along with love and respect.
I don’t know what’s brought you to this point, but I do know that it can be heartbreaking even if infidelity or another deal breaker issue is involved.
You might be tempted to lead with anger. It often feels easier. But try to be honest but kind.
Instead of listing their faults, keep the conversation directed on what you do and don’t want. If it’s not working for you, you don’t really have to give an explanation beyond that.
You’re reached an impasse — a point of incompatibility. The relationship isn’t working, but you don’t have to be mean about it.
Most people screw this one up. It’s easy to point a finger and let the other person take the blame. It’s easy to get defensive about our choices and feelings.
It’s much harder but much more compassionate to keep the conversation kind even when it hurts.
5. Set Boundaries for the Interim
You’ll also need to set boundaries for the interim. There’s going to be a time between when you’re living together and when you aren’t. Talk about how that will work.
Who sleeps on the couch or in a guest room? What are the boundaries you want for the remaining time together?
For instance, you may not want to start dating just yet when you’re still sharing space, and you may not want them to do that either.
Involving a revolving door of potential partners will just complicate matters. Instead, talk about what you want the transition period to look like and what boundaries are most important.
Recommended read: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy and Strong Relationship Boundaries
6. Set Realistic Deadlines for Moving Out
Don’t breakup with someone and expect them to move out in the same day. That’s unkind. Set realistic deadlines if you want them to leave — or even if you’re the one who wants to go.
If it’s your partner’s solely owned property that you’re sharing, you might want to have a plan of where you’ll go in the event that they refuse to let you stay.
In this case, it’s a good idea to have your bags packed and some backup accommodations ready in case you can’t stay. While you’d hope they’d give you the notice you’d give them, you can’t expect that either.
Make a plan for how long the living situation should continue. Have open conversations about it.
If you want them to move out, it’s okay to check and see how they’re hunt for a place to live is going, but don’t hound them about it either. Instead, set a reasonable deadline and stick to it.
7. Involve a Professional
When you break up with someone you live with, the separation is likely to be painful and complicated. It might be time to involve a counselor or mediator to help you navigate this transition.
In fact, seeing a couples’ counselor can be a good idea even for breakups.
It can give you a chance to say what you want to say in a neutral environment. It could give you both an opportunity to find closure for the relationship.
Make sure that if you suggest counseling, your partner knows it’s not to work on the relationship but to work on the separation.
Make sure they know your intentions before they invest in the therapy process. State your intentions to navigate this separation fairly with the help of an outsider and professional.
8. Decide How You’ll Divide Possessions Equitably
You likely have shared possessions if you’ve been living together. How will you divide them in a way that seems fair to you both? Talk this out.
Make a list in advance of what you want to keep and share this with them. Let them weigh in on what they think is fair, too.
You can even have a neutral friend or family member look at your list to see if you’re being fair to the other person if you’re unsure.
Talk about what assets you’ve purchased together and which qualify as individual property.
If you own a home or vehicles together, one of you will likely need to refinance to take legal, sole possession, or you’ll need to discuss selling and equitable distribution of any profit.
Recommended read: How to Use the Power of Silence After a Break Up
9. Don’t Muddy the Waters
Stop sleeping together immediately. After the breakup conversation, you’ll need to begin to transition to your single status. Don’t muddy the waters by continuing intimacy or doing other “couple” behaviors.
From the moment you stand up and walk away from the breakup conversation, you are single. You’ll need to begin to act like it.
Don’t think you can break up with someone and then lean on them when you feel like it. It’s time to stand on your own and to set some solid boundaries between you and your former partner.
It’s not fair to take advantage of their feelings if you know the relationship is over.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Breakups are painful even if you don’t live together. Very few manage to be amicable and mutual. Maybe you’ll be the exception. Maybe you won’t.
You can’t control how your soon-to-be former partner will handle the news. You can’t predict how they’ll behave during the transition.
All you can do is make sure that you act in accordance with your own personal integrity. You know this is the right thing to do. You just have to do it.
Expect them to apply guilt, logic, and anything else they can to convince you to change your mind.
Expect them to be hurt, angry, defensive, and even irrational.
Try to extend the compassion you’d want in the same situation even if they go on the attack and call names or make accusations.
You can’t stay simply because they don’t want the relationship or living situation to end. You have an obligation to live your life and do what’s right for you. But expect to grieve, too.
Even if this is what you want, you’re likely going to have a grieving process to manage, too. It will be your responsibility, not theirs, to deal with these feelings.
How to Break Up With Someone You Live With: Final Thoughts
If you’ve read this far, you already know that the breakup is inevitable. You’re ready for the next stage of your life to begin. Dragging it out isn’t kind.
You can’t avoid the conversation forever. However, it’s a good rule of thumb to decide how you would like things to proceed and to make some preparations for the future.
You’re going to need to plan out your single life finances. You’ll need to know what you can and can’t afford on your own.
You’ll need to envision the future and be prepared for a rocky transition even with the best of intentions.
Just breathe. This isn’t going to be easy, but with a little preparation, you can begin this change with the kindness and respect you would want if the roles were reversed.
Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author and the author of the Heart of Madison contemporary romance series.
When she’s not writing or working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, gardening, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children.
You can find more of her work on her personal website: crystaljacksonwriter.com.