Living with My Ex

Around this time three years ago, I had an idea. A crazy idea. It was one that was identified as crazy in no uncertain terms by my closest friends and confidants. It was a nonstarter. Well, I went against just about everyone’s advice, warnings, admonitions, and concerns, and decided, yep, I should rent a two-bedroom apartment and become roommates with a woman I just recently broke up with.


The Relationship

In the telling of this story, let’s get some context about the relationship that transpired, because everyone and every relationship is different. In brief: we met at the restaurant where we worked, we started to date that summer, we saw each other nearly every day, and some six months later it all crumbled. It was my mostly my doing, directly and indirectly, struggling with conflicting emotions and an inability to be responsible to and for another person. It ended in less than pretty fashion, yet still we worked together, went out with similar people, and had to engage.

It wasn’t the easiest of circumstances as the many in similar situations can attest, but eventually it got to the point where we could be friendly-ish. It was never that we hated each other; there were reasons we started dating. It just didn’t work long term we both had to come to terms with that one way or another.

It was only about three months after we broke up that this crazy idea popped into my head.

The Decision

A variety of factors lead to me thinking this was a good idea, and it definitely took some time to convince myself. Part of it was certainly timing and mutual benefit. That is, we were both looking for places to live at the same time, by coincidence, we were both looking at the same small area, and yes, the crazy high prices for a one bedroom or bachelor room in Toronto played a role. I refuse to live in a basement, and to live in a nice apartment, a roommate is required.

Still, surely there had to be someone, anyone out there? Well, I wasn’t about to move in with a stranger, and I wasn’t going to move into a room again in a house occupied by others. I wanted a place to share with someone else equally, a place that I sort of founded. What’s more, I wanted someone that I thought I could actually share space with, someone who was vegetarian as well, and someone who had a similar social life, schedule, and attitude.

I found a place I loved; it was a two bedroom, and so the wheels were in motion to make this happen. I disregarded the advice from my closest of friends and other acquaintances who offered every reason and concern to try and dissuade; as it happened, my old roommate, who had seen the beginning and the ending of this relationship, as well as my mother, thought it fine if it were being done under the right circumstances and for the right reasons. I thought so. I thought that whatever the issues we, we could talk them out and be honest.

So I moved into this place, and a month later she did too.

The First Year

We had established rules, we had talked about every possibility, everything that would and could happen in the house. I’m not talking about cooking and cleaning; we already knew that would work out. We knew that regardless of the preparations and expectations, until we met other people, until we brought them home, until any and all of that socializing happened, we could only wonder.

It was definitely rocky at times, and that was mostly on me. I was, admittedly, over my head. What actually ended up happening was that she had indeed completely mentally and emotionally moved on, that she was ready to forge a new relationship as it were and work on that. I was still in limbo; not with my emotions necessarily, but on how to act. So I hid things, I misled, and I created a lot of confusion where there didn’t need to be any. We were walking on unprecedented paths and without really knowing what to do or how to act. We were roommates and friends, but our past relationship seemed to allow us to treat each other differently, for better and for worse.

It definitely almost came to an end a few times. But it didn’t. This is the relationship apparently I (we) believed in. So we carried on.

The Second Year

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint when everything fell into place, when we figured out how the other one works and how we fit into each other’s lives. But it happened. I think it was a confluence of things. I think it was knowing each other in many different ways, seeing each other meet new people, get new jobs, and simply grow and change. Whatever little jealousy, confusion, or misunderstandings existed disappeared over time; when living together, everything is out in the open, your best and worst.

I would like to think all the rough times made us get where we are. And that is art a point where we are roommates, but much more so. We are both engaged in a place we’ve lived at for nearly three years. We are the closest of friends and confidants. We have boundaries, yes, but there is nothing that can’t be discussed. The fears of those who advised against this are non-existent; we both date, and the people we do meet are informed of our relationship: if they feel uncomfortable, well, they aren’t people we want to be with anyways. And so, we move forward living together.

The Lesson

Why tell this story? Well, other than the chance to smirk and mutter ‘I was right’, I think it serves if nothing else an interesting example of the changing nature of relationships. I can’t say I knew exactly what was going to transpire over the last three years, but what I had hoped for way back been has been exceeded.

My goal is that people start to view their various relationships not necessarily as something that is simply catalogued or utterly static. Love and connections come in a variety of forms, and it’s up to us to determine the best possible fit with the people in our lives. People change; their expectations and desires and needs change, and as relationships evolves, we all need to be remain active participants to find out how to best take care of ourselves in order to better take care of those around us. Also, be honest. It’s hard to keep up lies and also incredibly unhealthy. You may not always know what exactly want you want, but being open and receptive, being willing to let yourself be vulnerable will get you through any situation.

Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.

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