Break Up Bootcamp,  Live

Splitting Up: A Guide to a Common Law Break Up

When my girlfriend and I first talked about this series, it was meant to be fun, playful ,and helpful for all the other girls out there going through the struggle. We have all seen the movies of a middle-aged woman starting over, How Stella Got Her Grove Back, Eat,Pray,Love, Under the Tuscan Sun, but what does starting over look like for someone who spent their twenties supporting and building a life with someone only to find out that they have to start all over again in their thirties. How does this movie end? What does it entail? 

I know I keep promising a post about dating, but after talking to my girlfriend, the real obstacle to overcome is dealing with the unknown. My ex and I refer to our break up as “the divorce” because even though there is no ring involved, we were life partners who built a life together and it has now come to an end. Dealing with this has been harder than I ever imagined. Weird things triggered me, like when my ex told me he cancelled our joint credit card, it felt like the ultimate betrayal. I actually cried when he told me, but it had to happen, and it was what I needed to hear to push me to move on. 

So dating is going to have to wait, because I truly believe this post should come first. Also, I am terrible at dating, I am still learning and adjusting and experimenting! My girlfriends and I joke that I need to start a single girls diaries, cause I could not make this stuff up. It will be an entertaining post I promise.

So you live together, things have ended, you are now going from dual income no kids to a single income paying for everything on your own, its a super daunting task. Here are the things that I had to overcome and get organized post break up.

Joint Assets

My ex and I are one of the few people that I know that have a pre-nupt, which I think is very important especially if you have assets to protect. There are a few things that I would have adjusted, but I know this now for the future. It does get tricky when there are vehicles, furniture and credit cards involved. Who gets the credit card points, who buys who out of what items. Even things like dishes and cutlery, who gets to keep what. Break ups are always messy, as much as you want to be amicable, when it comes to separating assets things are always going to be tricky. I would suggest the following:

  • Get each party put together a list of the items that they want. Then together decide on a dollar value for the items (take into account depreciation). Once you know the total value of all the items, see how close the numbers are, whosoever number is higher, they pay the difference in the amount.
  • Plan a scheduled time for a move out. Only allow for one move out window so you don’t draw out the process.  
  • Hire a mediator, if you can’t mutually decide on the items that you need to separate. Try to negotiate everything in one go, it can be exhausting working through each item that needs to be separated.
  • Cancel any joint accounts, transfer insurance over, change your Netflix password, and change your passwords. Even though it may be cheaper to have that couples phone plan, don’t hold onto anything that is in both of your names. 

This process was so exhausting, my ex and I broke up in April and it wasn’t until late August that we have fully separated everything. At this point, if I find anything of his in my house, its officially mine. 

Where to Live

This is the hardest question and it is not the same for everyone. For me, being a single women in my thirties who know has to live with a roommate? It is definitely not where 25 year old me thought I would be. Also going from living with a partner who I loved and cared for, is very different to living with a random that I found off of Craigslist. I really struggled to take the leap, but at the end of the day, it is the most economical choice and it made my break up feel real. 

Living with a Roommate

Depending on your current arrangement, living with a roommate may be the best solution, especially if you have a two-bedroom apartment. If you do have the option to move out and start fresh, it may be a good idea. It is hard to live in a place that you may have so many memories of your ex. There are lots of great resources to find roommates or a new place, depending on where you live there are Facebook groups, Rooster, or Craigslist.

Screening Roommates

I was not in the right frame of mind to deal with screening roommates, especially the first round of roommate screenings I did. I was lucky to have a friend move in temporarily, which helped me ease into living with someone new. I got over the hump and just dove in, the internet was my best friend, here are the resources I found useful to help me navigate securing a new roomie:

Subsidizing your Housing 

This is also not the best option for everyone but it is a good way to supplement your income, especially if you are trying to pay your rent/mortgage on your own. Community Ventures places people who need assisted living in your home, and you are compensated with a monthly payment. They usually interview you to see if you are the right fit and you can let them know what kind of care you can offer the individual. I opted out of this option because I don’t have a tonne of space and I didn’t want to add any additional stress to my life.

Take a Break

My friends deterred me from this option but I think sometimes when you go through one change in your life, it can be liberating to just switch up everything. I considered going to another country to teach english, or applying for a visa to work abroad. I think if this is something that you have always wanted to do, take the leap and just go it. I love nesting, so I think going abroad post break up would of sent me spiralling, planning a trip that I could look forward to was really all I needed. 

Spousal Support

Canada has very interesting laws when it comes to common law. If you have lived with your partner for two years you automatically have the same rights as a married couple. If you are in a situation, where you have been contributing to the household and your partner has been supporting you, it may be a good idea to explore spousal support. There are lots of great resources on the government site to let you know what you are eligible for and there is a spousal support calculator to see what your monthly payments would look like. 


The first thing I did when my ex and I broke up was put together a budget. I actually realized that since we had been splitting food and groceries, even though my monthly expenses were going up, I was spending drastically less on eating out and grocery shopping. I was able to decrease my food budget by almost 75%. 

Going to having a single income means some sacrifices, but there it is a gratifying feeling doing everything on your own. I no longer have the use of a vehicle, but I have made it work with ride shares and public transit. I have added in a vehicle fund to my budget, so eventually when I feel settled I will see if it is worthwhile to buy a car again. It is going to be uncomfortable and unknown, but you will get through it. Think of it this way, now is your time to be selfish, you can literally do whatever you want and whatever makes you happy. 

Cutting the Cord

I really thought that once I started dating then I would officially feel free from my past relationship. There were all these milestones I had built up in my mind, like the moment I kiss someone, then my old relationship is officially over. It wasn’t until I started to deal with all my sh*t that I realized that all that stuff is superficial.

Know that you are not alone, your friends and family will be there for you. I was used to relying on my partner and it wasn’t until I started mentioning things I needed to do to my friends, that I realized my network was more than happy to help me. It is all about learning to adjust to your new surroundings. 

It is going to be a stressful yet transformative time. The best advice I can offer you is to not drag it out. Procrastination just leaves you stuck. The more steps I took to control my life, the better I felt about my decisions. Hopefully this post has been helpful. Let me know in the comments below if I missed anything, or if you have any helpful advice to offer other ladies that are going through a break up. 

Vancouver based lifestyle blogger. Visit my blog and discover travel guides, fashion tips and recipes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *