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Advice: How do you break up with someone you live with?

March 14, 2013|Anna Pulley, @annapulley | RedEye's sex columnist

My girlfriend and I were together a little less than a year before we decided to take the plunge and live together. We both felt that it was a good idea because we eventually saw this leading to marriage. However, it has really backfired on both of us. We argue on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Some of them have been pretty intense, but we have always made up. Although, I believe the reason for this is only because we know that we live together. Before living together, I would say that we had a pretty healthy and active sex life. Now it is virtually nonexistent, even to the point that we don't even see each other naked; no, not even when we get dressed, which is done in other rooms. On top of all of this, it has become abundantly clear to me that we have different plans for the future. So I have decided to break up with her. If you thought it was a delicate matter to break up with someone before, imagine trying to do it when the couple occupies the same space. Any advice on how to handle this fragile situation?-- Backed in a Corner

I'm so sorry, Backed. Breaking up is horrible, but breaking up with someone you also live with is so much worse, like a nightmare dinosaur monster with laser eyes that screams "YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON" each time you pour yourself some Lucky Charms. On the bright side, aren't you glad you figured out you're not actually as compatible as you thought before you got married? However, I'm sure that celebrating the divorce attorney fees you won't have to pay is of little consolation to you right now, so let's focus on the task at hand.

Don't prolong the breakup
The longer you wait, the harder it will be. Let her down as kindly as you can while still telling the truth. Since you are the dumper, it would be courteous of you to offer to let her stay in the apartment while you both look for new places. Which brings me to ...

Have an exit strategy
Before you drop the ax, make sure you have somewhere to go. Ask friends/family members if you can crash on their couch for a little while as you're going through this. That way, not only will you have a roof over your head, you'll also have a built-in support system for the rough times ahead. The most important thing is to not be forced to stay in the same place after you've broken up. Having to see the person every day and share intimate space prolongs the suffering of both parties and makes it that much harder to move on. So, get out, even if it's just temporary. A friend of mine even suggests leaving town for a little while if you can, to give yourself and your ex emotional as well as physical space.

Logistics
I know it's awful to talk about logistics in the midst of a breakup, but it's a necessary conversation, so start thinking about it now. Are you going to be breaking your lease? Will one of you try to stay there and find a roommate? Most landlords will let you break a lease as long as you find another tenant to rent the space, but be sure to give him/her notice so you don't get screwed financially. Also, if there are possessions you LOVE, pack them up and take them with you before things get ugly. This is for a worst-case scenario. Your soon-to-be ex might be a delightful person who will not fight with you over the garlic press, but breakups make people crazy and sometimes spiteful, so if something is near and dear to your heart, it's better to take it with you. I've only ever cohabitated with women, so this was never an issue for me (we had two copies of every Indigo Girls CD), but many friends attest to some bitter custody battles over pot holders and such, so better safe than sorry.

Keep your eyes on the prize
Things are going to be awful for a while, but not forever. Remember that you're doing the right thing for both of you, and that it's all going to be okay eventually.

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