Not-So-Separate Lives One couple ends a marriage, but spends the next 13 years living and parenting under the same roof

By Koly McBride

I remember clearly the final conversation at the end of our marriage. We were packing up the Christmas stuff early January 2004, when we both realized that we just couldn’t be married anymore. After a year of uncomfortable bickering, issues, and zero resolution, we both knew it was over.

But what could we do? At the time, our house was worth only slightly more than we paid for it and to sell it would only put a few dollars in our pockets respectively. There would not be enough for either of us to purchase anything in Monterey County, and there was no way only one of us could afford to stay in the house with the kids. With our oldest son settled into a kindergarten where he was thriving, me having just started my local business and my ex-husband employed with a local restaurant for 13 years at the time, moving out of the area for either of us was not really an option.

Neither of us really relished the idea of giving up our 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, only to be forced into separate tiny apartments (the only real affordable option in the county for us) simply because we didn’t want to be married anymore.

I mean, I didn’t hate this man. We had no desire to drag ourselves through some horrible war. He was a good father, a great provider for his family. And also, I knew it would destroy my sons to not see their father every morning as soon as they woke up and before they went to sleep. They would have been devastated  if either of us left. None of our choice to split up was their fault.

So, could we get along and be roommates? We would try.

It was an affordable, necessary decision. We laid some ground rules such as the house would be neutral family turf and any dating or sleepovers with other people would not happen there. We would split everything — finances, housework, parental decisions and we would try it for six months. Since we had been sleeping in separate rooms for about a year, the living arrangements themselves were never an issue.

Yes, it was absolutely weird at the time and save for our children’s teachers, and our immediate family and friends, it’s not something we advertised to the world. People are judgemental and opinionated, especially about things which don’t concern them and about things they don’t understand. It didn’t matter though. We knew it was right and our decision was reinforced repeatedly through the success of our boys at every stage.

Fast forward 13 years. My oldest son just graduated high school and our youngest is a junior. They are incredible, capable, smart individuals who have never known any other living situation. I believe they can identify with being children of split parents but without all of the baggage and separation.

We never intended to be roommates forever and the new goal is to continue until our youngest graduates high school, in about two years.

Was it easy? Not necessarily. But I know that we both worked hard to be teachable and flexible. We had to be respectful roommates and awesome co-parents. We consistently backed each other up so we didn’t get played by our kids. We presented a united front always, even when we disagreed. I had to back off of my control issues and he had to work on his communication. But our common goal was always the same: to raise our children without disrupting their lives and have both of us present, happy and no longer be trapped in a marriage which was not working for either of us. Instead of resentment, I have a roommate and good friend.

Sharing the living space and expenses has afforded us all a more comfortable life in a beautiful little town. Looking to the future, I don’t know what it holds for us. I do know we will probably sell the house eventually and all go our separate ways. But that’s not unlike other empty nesters who downsize after the children go to college and start their own lives. Even though our journey was unique, I believe the ultimate destination is the same.

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About Koly McBride

Koly McBride is the co-founder and co-producing partner at The Paper Wing Theatre Company in Monterey.