Where Do You Live When You’re Leaving Your Marriage?

Here’s how I found my first place to live while separating from my husband. If you’re going through a midlife separation or breakup, you’ll find my tips helpful.

When I wrote a She Blossoms blog post about leaving a relationship when you have nowhere to go, I had no idea I’d be facing the exact same problems as my readers. It’s humbling and shocking to be looking for an apartment—a new home—when you thought you’d be married for the rest of your life.

I’m sorry your marriage isn’t going the way you hoped, planned or dreamed. It’s devastating to reach the point of separation and considering divorce—even when you agree you’re unhappy together. 

Be gentle with yourself. It’s difficult and painful to live alone after years of marriage. A midlife separation or breakup process is complicated even when you and your husband agree that your marriage isn’t working. You may also be coping with the responses of your kids, family members, social networks, financial commitments, business arrangements, community ties and religious affiliations. 

Below are ten ways I’m coping with separating from my husband after 16 years of marriage. I’ve been in my new rental apartment for a week, and am finding what works for me. I hope some of my ideas work for you, too.

Where Do You Live When You're Leaving Your Marriage?

I felt out of control, helpless and insecure when I was looking for a new place to live. I didn’t have much time to grieve and cope with my feelings about leaving my husband – or learn how to let go of someone you love – but I knew I had to take care of myself. I needed to find peace, hope and healing even before I found a new home.

Finding a place to live will help you heal during the separation or breakup, but it won’t solve your core need for peace, love and joy. Those are essential qualities for a healthy life, and they can’t be found in a building, marriage, or even a new life. Peace, love and joy must come from inside you, from that deep inner sense of well-being and presence. Some call God, others the Universe. 

Whatever your Higher Power is, it is the most powerful source of healing and peace. You may not be able to spend much time in that space now, but it is always there, always waiting, always ready for you to come home.

Until then, may my tips on how to find somewhere to live help you through this stage of the separation process.

Prepare for unexpected emotions when you’re viewing homes

The first apartment I saw was the downstairs suite of a house, which was owned by a lonely elderly widow. Her husband died the year prior; her home was still filled with his stuff. It was incredibly painful to see evidence of a long, happy marriage! I was surprised by how sad I felt when I left her home. I didn’t want to rent that apartment.

I also didn’t expect my feelings of guilt and grief to keep resurfacing. I initiated the separation because my husband and I haven’t been happy for years, and I don’t regret separating. I found a place to live and am happy living alone. But still, the waves of guilt, grief and fear always catch me off guard!

Part of me knows this is a natural part of separating—it’s painful to leave a relationship and live alone after years of marriage. It’s also scary and uncomfortable to have to find somewhere to live when you’re going through a midlife separation. 

Your emotions may suddenly flood you when you’re looking for a new place to live after a separation or breakup. Maybe you’re furious, hurt, confused, shocked or devastated that your marriage isn’t working. Maybe you’re coping with heartbroken children or angry family members. It’s important to remember that those waves of grief and fear won’t always be this intense. They will eventually fade away, especially if you allow yourself to feel and really grieve them.

Picture where you want to live

Imagining your new apartment, house or home may not seem like a practical tip on how to find somewhere to live when you’re separated, but it can be powerful. If you picture everything you want in a new home, you fill your head and heart with hope! It’s not about “manifesting” a new place to live, it’s about imagining a happy, fulfilling, peaceful future.

I knew I wanted to rent an apartment in a central location. I imagined walking to the local library, fitness center, grocery store, community center and thrift stores. I knew I didn’t want to drive anywhere. I also knew that finding a comfortable home would make it easier to separate and live alone as a 50+ woman. 

A midlife breakup isn’t what you thought you’d be dealing with, is it? Me neither.

Tell people you need somewhere to live

This is hard. It’s embarrassing and even shameful to say “I need to find a place to live because I’m leaving my husband.” I almost choked on the words—I couldn’t say them to people I knew wouldn’t understand. The last thing I wanted was to have to defend myself, argue that I was doing the right thing, or hurt my husband. 

The rental apartment I found (which I share in the video below) was the result of putting the word out. I told a close friend I need somewhere to live; it was easy to tell her because she already knew I’d initiated the separation process. She connected me with one of her friends who lives in the city I wanted to move to. He sent out my little “Apartment Needed” blurb to his network of friends, and voila! Someone contacted me, I saw the place and loved it, and moved in a week later. 

Consider moving to a new city, province or state

Living in a new area is impossible for many families who are separating, but it’s a good way to make a fresh start. I didn’t just move to a new city, I moved across the country! It was easier for me, though. We don’t have kids, my work is online, and I had a camper van. 

If your kids are grown, you might consider a fresh start in a new place. Separating might be easier if you create a whole new life. It depends on your personality, lifestyle, health, pets and job…but if you’re uprooting your whole life and need somewhere to live when you’re separating in midlife, it might be a good time to really start fresh.

Follow up on the long shots

I viewed three other apartments before finding the place I wanted to rent. None of them were places I wanted to live—especially the one that was miles away from the city center! I knew they were long shots, but I thought it’d be good to see what the rental market was like. 

While I was looking for a new place to live, I went for walks in different neighborhoods. I didn’t have much time to find a home but I didn’t want to rush it. It was really important that I feel safe, happy, and secure during the separation or breakup. Leaving my husband as a 52 year old woman is lonely and scary; finding the right place to live is crucial.

Consider housemates, co-housing or shared space

If your financial situation is uncertain (which is normal even the most amicable separation), look for a housemate or shared space. 

I knew I didn’t want to live with anyone while I’m separating from my husband, but I didn’t want to live alone. I found a huge converted character home that’s divided into four apartments. It’s perfect for me: I can hear others in the house, but they’re not overwhelming loud. I don’t feel alone here. Since loneliness is one of the hardest things about finding a place to live and growing older alone in midlife, I’m grateful to be here. This rental is more expensive than I planned on, but it’s worth it to me.

How I Invested Money After Separating From My Husband

Speaking of money, here’s how I invested in my retirement from the financial settlement of our separation agreement.

Consider a short-term lease or 6-month rental

It was hard to find an apartment to rent on a month-to-month basis. Most of the apartments in management-run buildings required at least a one-year lease. That’s part of what makes it hard to find somewhere to live when you’re leaving your husband after years of marriage. It feels scary and overwhelming, especially when most of the rentals are on long-term leases.

Since I initiated a trial separation from my husband, I don’t know if or when I’ll be returning to our marriage home. I definitely didn’t want to sign a one-year lease—or have to furnish an empty apartment. Going back to my second tip for starting over in a new home when you’re separating: picture the place you want to live. I pictured a six-month rental, and got a month-to-month lease. Unfortunately the rent is about $300 more a month than I wanted to spend, but I love the place. It’s worth it.

Get involved in the community – even before you move in

I’ve been to several yoga classes, a book club, two study group meetings (we’re reading Dante’s Inferno), two band practices (I play the flute), a Mature People’s Dinner, and three churches (I’m looking for spiritual nourishment but can never seem to find the right church).

When you’re leaving your husband and moving into a new home, it’s important to get involved. Try new activities—you may find yourself drawn to things you didn’t even know about! For instance, I took a Centergy class and love it. It’s a fitness class, a cross between Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi. I also went to my first Death Cafe meeting, and plan on going to the next one. 

Try to go slow

This is huge. Even if you initiated a trial separation because you truly believe you and your husband would be happier apart, it’s a major shock and heartbreak to even consider ending marriage. It took me a year to admit to myself how unhappy my husband and I were. I could barely say the words, “I think we should separate.” It was awful. 

Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to grieve. Take time to feel and work through the emotions. You’ll go through episodes of anger, disbelief, self-doubt, fear, uncertainty, hopelessness, despair…it’s all normal. When you add the problem of finding a new place to live, it can feel overwhelming. 

You will get through this. It won’t be easy and you’ll need to dig deep to find strength and courage, but you will survive. And you’ll be happier, healthier and more whole than you’ve ever been.

Buy a condo?

I don’t know where you’re at financially, but buying or renting your own place may be the solution for figuring out where to go when you’re leaving your marriage.

My most recent video is Buying Your First Condo After Your Marriage Ends: 7 Mistakes Women Make.

Buying Your First Condo After Your Marriage Ends: 7 Mistakes Women Make.

I shared tips for avoiding the most common condo-buying mistakes women make after a separation or divorce. This video includes a tour of the condo I bought in Lethbridge, Alberta when my marriage ended.

I had to learn how to let go.

Letting go is about moving on, but not forgetting the past. It’s about loosening unhealthy attachments and living with a fresh, open perspective. Letting go means you approach your new life with curiosity and joy, peace and acceptance. You’re getting stronger, healing your heart, and moving forward.

When you let go of the past, you find peace and freedom.

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