Divorcing couples are often times forced to live together during divorce negotiations. This is especially true when there is only one significant income supporting the household and where the cost of living is high. In many cases as well, the marital home represents the biggest asset and until the house is sold and equity split new residences for each spouse cannot be established. Living together until a new arrangement is negotiated or until the house is sold can be quite toxic for the entire household creating lasting harm for each member of the household for years or decades to come.
Here are 5 ways to cohabitate peacefully during your divorce and deescalate the level of conflict:
#1: Avoid Litigation with Mediation or Collaborative Divorce
Negotiate your settlement terms in the mediation or collaborative divorce processes which allow for a more civilized and dignified way to negotiate the terms of your divorce. You must work together and not against each other in these models versus the traditional adversarial model where you work against each other. Working together in your negotiations will maximize your chances of cohabitating peacefully under one roof and the opportunity to immediately address ways to make living together more tolerable during negotiations.
If you have children you are their role models whether you like it or not. If you are able to negotiate your settlement terms with mutual respect and civility and create an agreement that reflects what’s important to each of you your children will only benefit. In negotiating an agreement that balances each of your highest interests, your children will learn that working through conflict through understanding is a most efficient way of achieving the best possible outcome. Seeing both of you working together to protect their best interests will give your children the comfort and support needed to help them through your divorce in the best manner possible. Even though you may be ending your marriage children want you to remain united as co-parents and not divided. Reaching a resolution in either the mediation or collaborative process will maximize your chances of minimizing any adverse affects your divorce may have on your children.
#2: Create Separate Bedroom Spaces in your Home
Create separate bedroom spaces within in your home for each spouse. Sometimes this is as easy as a taking over a spare bedroom or guest room; other times more creativity is needed to transform a previous common living area into a personal living space.
Try to incorporate into this living space things such as a TV, comfortable bed, linens, personal items such as family pictures or kids’ artwork and a book shelf with favorite books to make that space as comforting as possible. Do not complain about your private space in front of the children.
Delineate common living spaces and if the level of conflict is high create a time sharing schedule with these common living spaces such as the kitchen. Designate which bathrooms you each can use or if sharing a bathroom create a schedule especially if you are both working outside the home and each need to get ready for work. This time sharing schedule for common areas is important especially if you have children. The worst thing for your children to witness before they go to school is their parents in conflict. A time sharing schedule may avoid any unnecessary confrontations.
This is a highly emotional time for each of you. Why add to the level of conflict if you can avoid it. Make the best of a living arrangement that will be temporary. Your children do not want the image of their parents fighting to remain with them years after your divorce. You should make the best of the situation and be grateful that you are able to remain in your home together, especially if you have children.
#3: Negotiate a Time Sharing Schedule with your Children
Negotiate a time sharing schedule if you have children during this period. The stress of having to spend time with your children together during negotiations is eliminated creating a healthier environment for each of you, your kids and the entire family. This allows for each spouse to practice how parenting will be living apart, which is helpful while negotiating a more permanent access and time sharing schedule.
You can also, if you are comfortable doing so, schedule family time together as well. Even though you are divorcing you will still be sharing special events together such as birthdays, weddings and births of grandchildren together. You might as well begin practicing how you are going to be relating to each other as co parents and while living together in the marital residence.
Remember, you are role models for your children. As you transition from spouses to co parents to your children your role as their parents will always remain the same. Why not share some time with your children together as you will forever be bound by them.
#4: Respect Each Other’s Privacy
Be respective of each other’s privacy including each of your personal living spaces and personal property in the common living spaces. Do not open and read mail not addressed to you, or read your spouse’s emails or delve into information located on their personal computer or phone. Privacy violations usually cause more stress at home and will most certainly compromise the integrity of your divorce negotiations.
Again you are role models to your children. What are you teaching your children if your children see you opening up your spouse’s mail or looking in their bedroom while he or she is out of the home. This will also serve to put your child in the middle as your spouse will inevitably ask your child if you opened your mail or were looking in their room if they suspect something and you deny doing so. What message is this sending to your children?
Violating your spouse’s privacy is disrespectful. During your divorce negotiations the more dignity you can show each other at home the better your chances of reaching a settlement that honors your highest interests and concerns. This is a challenging time in your lives and you each need your personal space to process your divorce.
Information relative to your divorce should and will be shared in your negotiations. Trust that this will happen and if you still feel that information is being withheld you should address with your mediator in the mediation process or with your collaborative counsel in the collaborative process and access the information in that manner instead.
#5: Take Care of Yourself
During this time it is imperative that you take care of yourself by eating well and exercising your mind and body. Take this time to honor your being and engage in activities such as meditation, yoga, walks, or any other activities to calm your mind and manage your stress. Keeping yourself centered and focused on supporting your mind and body during this challenging time will allow you to better relate to your spouse and clear your mind from emotions that might otherwise sabotage negotiations and negatively impact your quality of life.
This may be an excellent opportunity for each of you to pursue restorative activities outside of the home and with your spouse living in the home you have a built in babysitter for the children. If you are working during the day take advantage of the myriad of group fitness or yoga classes locally. Or use this time to reconnect with friends and family, begin a new hobby or explore a new passion.
Nourishing your mind, body and spirit will result in a better divorce. Your feelings of anger, fear, hurt and loss can be rechanneled and processed in a more positive manner and this will create a better environment for you and your spouse and your children while living together at home. Clarity of mind and body is essential so you to stay focused and centered on envisioning and creating a new beginning for you and your family post divorce.