Keep living with your ex after the breakup? Between the fear of loneliness and financial need

Kevin Costner and the former mayor of New York both share homes with their ex-wives. More and more couples are making cohabitation the next step after divorce

Kevin Costner Christine Baumgartner
Kevin Costner and his ex-wife Christine Baumgartner are an example of a separated couple who still share a home.Cordon Press / Getty Images / Blanca López (Collage)

In the current wave of surprise celebrity divorces, one of the most striking points is how many divorced couples decide to continue living under the same roof for a while. Such is the case of Kevin Costner, who, two months into his divorce, claims that his ex-wife, Christine Baumgartner, is breaking their prenuptial agreement by refusing to leave the house they both shared. Lovers of reality television will also be aware of the media separation of one of the couples in the reality show The Vanderpump Rules, who, while airing their hatred for each other in the media, share a home for financial reasons. “I pay a hefty mortgage. We are 50/50 on that. And I’m not going to shell out more money because of someone else’s shit,” said Ariana Madix, one of the stars of the television show.

Even the world of politics is already aware of the trend: the former mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, continues to live with his ex-wife, Chirlane McCray. Why is it increasingly common for couples to continue living together during a divorce?

The psychologist Marisol Ramoneda Batlló offers three possible causes. “First, there is the desire to be with the children, since leaving home would reduce the time with them. Second, the fact that the house has a lot of weight throughout the separation or divorce process: they may have bought the house together and both want to continue residing in it, so it is better not to leave before reaching agreements or before there is a legal resolution. Third, for economic reasons. It is one thing to divide the expenses between two people and another to have to pay them alone. We also have to take into account that the cost of housing has increased,” she explains.

Rocío López de la Chica, therapist and co-author, together with Miguel Ángel Corrales, of the book Separated, differentiates between cases involving married couples with children and those without. “When you have children, it is advisable to continue living together for a time, so that they integrate the changes that they will face. Children need to feel that they do not have to choose between their parents, but that they are still a family. As long as there is no negligence or cases of violence, it is recommended that couples cohabitate for a period to make way for the next phase of change. You have to take care of the closure. We tend to be very careful at the beginnings, less so during the process and not at all the end. If we are careful about the end, we will have a simpler and shorter grieving process. Our society is not prepared for respectful endings.”

Fantasy or reality?

It may be difficult to empathize with Costner and his ex-wife. Surely they aren’t sharing a 50-square-meter apartment. Perhaps it is easier to understand by turning to fiction: Miranda and Steve in And Just Like That share a house to stay close to their son.

But is there hope off the small screen? “We see cases of couples with children in which they opt for silence, which is not usually advisable unless there is a lot of belligerence. Establishing that climate of silence ends up burying emotions and energies,” explains Miguel Ángel Corrales, co-author of Separated. “It’s become popular to keep the home a nest even after separation. We are in favor of it only when the relationship is very cordial and, above all, logistically responsible. It is sad to see families that had no major problems but end badly because of not complying with cohabitation agreements,” he adds.

The good (and the bad) of living together after love

Mourning is an essential step in a breakup. Some professionals who assure that zero contact is ideal, including blocking the ex-partner’s profile on social networks. For them, living together can have great psychological consequences. “From my point of view, you have to be very mature to be able to do it. Living with your ex-partner if emotions are still running high will make you remember past moments, go from pain to anger, and can make the process of getting over it much more difficult and slow. Feelings get mixed. In one moment you may hate them, but in the next we may have a romantic or sexual encounter and deceive ourselves,” explains Batlló.

46-year-old makeup artist Marisol recalls something similar. “When my ex-partner and I separated, we decided to continue sharing a house, taking advantage of the fact that we traveled a lot for work reasons. Now we are roommates, in a way, but I think we have managed to become friends and even on occasion, given the good relationship we have, we have considered the possibility of getting back together.” Isn’t it strange to share a house while there is the possibility of both of you dating other people? “From the beginning we were clear that we were not going to talk about whether we were dating someone or not. The important thing is to work on our cohabitation and maybe, if we pay attention to our dynamics, we will be able to resume the relationship,” she explains.

Batlló argues that living together can be an option when the breakup has been assimilated. It is vital, though, to establish rules and boundaries that take into account how much space and time each one needs, as well asthe prospect of meeting other people. “It’s about setting the rules of respect, just as you would if you share a flat with your friends,” she says.

Is there a good side? Nieves Aparicio, director and founder of Válory, a consultancy specialized in divorces for women, is emphatic in her response. “Nothing beyond savings,” she says. Miguel Ángel Corrales, however, believes that if the separated couple stays cordial, it can be a way of closing the process well and expressing gratitude for what they have experienced. “Continuing to live together for a while when we have ended the relationship gives us the opportunity to turn it into a friendship or a more family relationship,” he says. Rocío López de la Chica believes that it can bring benefits if the cohabitation has an expiration date. But if we don’t know when it will end, it can become agonizing.

Is it possible that the fear of being alone causes us to end up living with a partner, having parallel lives with hardly any interaction and becoming mere roommates? “What most unites relationships is not love, but the fear of separation.” Not exactly a happy ending. But it may not be the end.

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