When Living in Sin Goes to Hell

You moved in together for all the right reasons. You understood that living together before marriage was no more threatening to your relationship than living apart. In fact, you totally disregarded those pesky statistics about cohabitation leading to an eventual divorce because you knew that people who are less likely to believe in cohabitation are also less likely to believe in divorce.

But that doesn't mean that your relationship is guaranteed to work out. Just because you take a car on a test drive doesn't mean you have to buy it. So now what? Your relationship is on the skids and the two of you are living together. Where do you begin to unravel your lives? Here are five ways to undo a cohabitation-gone-wrong:

1. Look at your lease: Are both of you on it? How easy will it be to get out of it? Are you allowed to sublet the place temporarily? If you cannot easily vacate the property, decide who keeps it based on who can most easily afford to cover both sides of the rent. If the answer is "neither of us," then one of you might have to bring in a roommate, even if you have to "create" a spare bedroom out of bookshelves and shoji screens until your lease is up.
Side note: When you go into a cohabitation, try to get both of your names on the lease so that in the event the relationship doesn't work out, neither of you is left with sole responsibility over paying for the apartment. Similarly, if you are not on the lease and your relationship gets nasty, you could be accused by the leaseholder of trespassing in your own home.

2. Cash out: Besides your lease, in what other areas are your finances comingled? Make sure that all bills are transferred to the person who will take over responsibility for them. If you leave the apartment but leave the electric bill in your name -- and then your former honey "forgets" to pay it -- you will ultimately pay the price.
Side note: When you move in, split the bills 50/50, so that no one person has greater responsibility than the other.

3. Check your emotions: The hardest thing about breaking up is the heartbreak from whence "breaking up" gets its name. So, while you are fighting over who brought the copy of Rilke poetry to the union, try to practice Zen breathing and nerve-calming.
Side note: Breaking up is always difficult. Moving apart during a breakup is neither more nor less difficult, one just requires a bit more practicality and a few movers.

4. Share the cost of the breakup: If one of you is staying in the apartment and the other is moving out, offer to share some of the financial burden that comes with down payments and movers -- especially if you are financially able. It might be too emotionally painful to physically help them with packing and moving, but offering a little financial support at a time when you both kind of want to yank each other's hair out is kind and generous, and could help you both toward healing.
Side note: If both of you are feeling the financial blow of this breakup, keep track of your expenses and suggest the other person do the same. That way if one of you starts to feel like the other person is getting away with something, you have a visual comparison for how much each of you has spent.

5. Give each other space: No matter how devastated you are by whatever circumstances have led to the end of your relationship, it will do both of you good to keep the drama to a minimum. Try to give each other room to grieve by leaving the apartment while one of you packs, or spending some nights with friends or family. As much as it hurts, it will only prolong the pain if you continue to indulge in heated arguments.
Side note: Do not use the transitional period between breaking up and moving out to date or continue an affair. At some point you loved and respected each other. Each of you knows how difficult it would be if the tables were turned. So keep prospective suitors at bay until all the boxes have been removed from your apartment.

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