Separate and Apart: The Difficulties of Separating in the Same Home

Posted on Feb 26, 2013 by Katie Carter

Living separate in the same home usually creates a lot of drama. In many ways, it’s much better if you can actually live separately—but, financially, that may not be an option for every couple.

In order to live separate and apart, you have to prove to the judge that there has been no cohabitation. Cohabitation doesn’t just mean sex, though that’s part of it; it means that you and your husband truly stop living together as husband and wife. It means that you live separately the same way you would if you had two separate physical spaces. It also means that you represent yourselves in the community as a separated couple. For many people, this is no easy task.

In our book, “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” we provide a list of things that you should consider if you’re living separate in the same home. To get a free copy of our book, click here. Just for now, though, here’s an abbreviated list:

  • Do not engage in romantic or sexual intimacy
  • Do not shop or cook for each other.
  • Do not do his laundry. You should be responsible for yours, and he should be responsible for his.
  • Use a separate computer, telephone, and cell phone.
  • Share responsibilities only as it pertains to your children and as much as it is necessary for their well being. For example, you may go to a parent-teacher conference together, but it is less appropriate to ride together and sit together at the child’s school play or soccer game.
  • Do not play the “happy couple” in front of neighbors and acquaintances. Don’t behave as husband and wife in your community.
  • Be prepared to explain your reasons for choosing to live separate and apart in the same home.

It may be hard to handle your husband during this time. It’s easy to fall into familiar patterns. That can mean different things for different people. If he’s emotionally abusive, be prepared for the fact that this probably won’t change. You can avoid him, but if you’re living in the same home, the physical barriers between the two of you are not ideal. It may also be difficult, when you’re feeling lonely, to avoid physical intimacy. You may laugh and say that's absolutely not going to be a problem, but you may be surprised how many "separated" couples fall back into their old patterns. For more information, see my blog Divorce Sex: Is Everyone Doing It?

Living separately in the same home is incredibly difficult for many people. It takes a strong commitment to making it work. It’s also a good idea to be aware, at the outset, of the changes you’ll have to make in order to prove to a judge, at the end of your year, that you have lived separately.