'A year after splitting, I'm still living with my ex-husband. Here's why.'

For a year now Sara* and her husband have been separated. It came following an emotionally fraught decision to break up after 13 years together.

Up until the pandemic, things had been good in their relationship. But like with plenty of other couples, the high-stress nature of COVID-times shone a spotlight on the cracks in their foundation.

"Even though we were in a marriage, I guess I was feeling quite alone. For so long I carried the load emotionally and physically in the household. And I managed everything to do with the kids as well. I just didn't feel any support," Sara tells Mamamia

"I probably grappled with those feelings for a few years, but it came to a head. I'd had enough. We weren't the same."

A year ago, Sara and her husband subsequently split. It "felt like a death" says Sara, and telling their three teen boys was "incredibly painful".

With this in mind, Sara and her ex figured a way to make the separation easier for their kids to handle was to take things slow. Now a year on, they all still remain under the same roof

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Interestingly, this sort of situation is becoming more common according to research.

Social enterprise The Separation Guide released a landmark report recently noting there is an increase in couples deciding to separate but still living together due to the rising cost of living.


The data highlights a profound and obvious problem: some couples who want to separate simply can't afford to do so and are forced to stay together.

The concern is those in particularly fraught, toxic or abusive relationships could be trapped. This is often because the absence of physical boundaries and personal space can further exacerbate tensions.

Danielle Black is a high-conflict divorce coach, and has extensive experience working with parents who are divorcing. 

She tells Mamamia that while these sorts of arrangements can provide short-term stability for kids, but living under one roof post-separation for an extended period can do more harm than good.

"This can negatively impact everyone involved, especially children who are exposed to the conflict," she explains.

Although Sara's circumstances are not violent or abusive, living with an ex is understandably a really stressful situation to navigate.

"It's been a rollercoaster of emotions," she explains. "Initially, it was really awful and volatile because I think everyone's emotions were heightened. There are stages to the whole experience as well. We've gone through it all - sadness, disbelief, anger, you name it."

The irony now, Sara notes, is that she and her ex are managing their household far better now than when they were a married unit. Both of them equally manage the kids, the cleaning, the cooking. Although it's a relief, there are feelings of grief with Sara feeling sad that it took a separation for them to figure out how to share responsibilities.


Now after getting their ducks in a row, the pair have been able to sell their house and are looking towards moving on.

As for why they waited a year to make this step, it's complex, like with any family breakdown.

"For us we were so worried about the impact this would have on the boys. We live in a really nice suburb, we're in a good area for schooling. If we were to pack up and move, it would impact that. We both love our home too. But it's just not the same anymore," she explains. 

"I also didn't feel ready to deal with the whole burden of selling a place and trying to look for new separate homes, especially how the market is right now. The mental load, it just felt like too much while grieving the end of the marriage."


Divorce coach Danielle has seen many cases like Sara's before. She has also seen far more challenging examples, where domestic violence is a factor.

For recently separated parents whose circumstances have resulted in them remaining under the same roof, she says there's a few things they can do to help protect their sanity.

  • Seek legal advice: Knowing where you stand legally is important no matter how amicable your situation might seem to be.
  • Avoid discussing adult issues within earshot of the kids: Protecting your kids from potential conflict is one the most important things you can do whether you are living together or apart.
  • If possible, manage the division of parenting responsibilities by creating a short-term co-parenting schedule, and let your children know that things at home might look a little bit different while you are sorting out living arrangements.  
  • Create a plan for how your finances and budget will be managed, along with a division of household responsibilities such as shopping, cooking and cleaning tasks.
  • Discuss boundaries around things like living spaces and private time. 
  • Come to an agreement about the path forward, including the desired timeline.  
  • Spend time with trusted friends and family, and seek professional support if struggling.

As Sara and her ex prepare to leave their family home and start their lives apart, it's a "bittersweet" moment.

"For so long I've been putting one foot in front of the other. I've found it difficult to navigate this period or even envisage the future. But now that the path forward is more clear, I'm feeling a bit of optimism - and that's quite comforting," Sara tells Mamamia.

If there are any mums who read this story and can relate - perhaps they've been stuck in a similar circumstance - Sara wants you to know this.

"Divorce when you have kids is really tough. And it can be hard to know what's right, what's wrong. But I've realised through this experience that each of us have our own situations and parameters that work best for us. We came into this decision with the right intentions - I just hope we end it amicably through to the other side."

*Sara's identity is known to Mamamia. Her name has been changed for privacy reasons. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Getty.

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