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Can I sleep with others while living with my ex?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 20, 2014 08:45 AM

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Q: Hi Meredith,

My question is about sex after breaking up with a live-in boyfriend.

I dated my boyfriend for about 3.5 years and broke up with him about a month ago. It started as a couple of years of friendship that turned into a hookup that turned into a relationship. There were a million red flags from the get-go that I willfully ignored because I was planning to leave for an out-of-state job opportunity that, as luck would have it, fell through about seven months into dating. I was fully prepared to leave him behind for said opportunity, but when it didn't happen and I had to remain in town and we had to have a talk about what we wanted.

For the sake of clarity, he knew all along I was supposed to be leaving him and that our hookup had a shelf-life. He was fine with it, but he loved me and I was very emotionally attached to him as well, so against my better judgment, I decided to stay in the relationship.

Fast-forward three bumpy years and we live together and are in the middle of hosting an exchange student. After nearly five months of next-to-no sex (not for my lack of trying) and some couple's counseling, I dumped him last month.

I agreed to stay in the house we share (rented, and we have had separate bedrooms since Day 1 -- my preference) until the kid goes home in June so as not to put the ex out financially or disrupt the kid's life, but it is really awful to think about three to four more months living with someone who wouldn't have sex with me for the last five.

So what do I owe him now? He really didn't want this breakup and told me when I dumped him that he loved me and hoped I would change my mind. I have been emotionally checked out for a while, and I want to discreetly find someone on the side specifically for physical intimacy, but it almost feels like having an affair. Is it okay as long as I keep it out of the house and I'm taking care of all my responsibilities at home first? Or am I expected to just grin and bear the current situation for the last three to four months?

I just need a little guidance. I'm too stuck on what I haven't been getting to think clearly!

– What now?


A: If you want to look for somebody else to date (or sleep with), that's fine. Just make sure that your ex understands the terms. He should know that you're really over, even though you're still in the house. And yes, if you meet someone, keep it out of your shared space. Be respectful.

But ... please know that three months is not a very long time. It might take you a while to find a new place and prepare for a move. You'll need to pack and tour apartments. It makes sense that you're longing for physical intimacy and something new, but you don't have to make up for lost time right this second. If dating (or sleeping with someone) while living with an ex feels complicated, there's no reason to do it. June is right around the corner. It would be so much easier to start the next chapter on your own, without an audience. Think about biding your time.

Also, if there's any way to leave the house early, do it. Perhaps you can escape in May and have one month of paying two rents. Or maybe you can stay with a friend for a while. I'm not worried about the exchange student the kid will be fine. It's all about what's best for you and the ex. If space is what you guys need, find it.

Readers? Should the LW wait for sex? What about the student? Why is this so urgent? Help.



– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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