“Each person takes what they brought to the relationship,” one expert said
Love don’t cost a thing — but breaking up can be taxing.
Selena Gomez, fresh off a reported split from The Weeknd, was spotted in Los Angeles Tuesday sporting an aqua-blue windbreaker formerly seen on her ex-boyfriend, who’d worn it in New York Sept. 3.
Michael, a 29-year-old New Yorker, took the opposite approach after a breakup last summer — opting to not even retrieve the cashmere sweaters, t-shirts and other clothing items he’d left at his ex’s apartment. “None of that was worth having to speak to her again to get it back,” he told Moneyish. “I would just rather get new clothes.” He also disposed of a painting she’d made him that hung on his wall.
Twenty-eight-year-old Helen, who splits her time between Singapore and New York, broke up with a boyfriend in early 2014. All the cohabiting exes shared was furniture, she told Moneyish in an email, and “suddenly, being homeless made it easy to decide how to divide it all.” “I had no choice but to leave everything behind. I took one coffee table that I knew he wouldn’t miss and stashed it in my parents’ garage, then invoiced him for the rest.” As Helen’s ex-beau fought her on “every penny,” her cousin stepped in to mediate. “I think I still have a celebratory photo from the day he finally cut the check,” she said. “Embarrassingly, it was only $1,000 after all the hardballing.”
During your last breakup, how did you divvy up the people, places and things you shared? Here’s expert advice on how to muddle through:
Material possessions: “Each person takes what they brought to the relationship,” relationship and etiquette expert April Masini told Moneyish in an email. “So, if you brought a piano to the relationship, you take the piano. If your partner brought antique dishes to the relationship that you’ve been using while living together, they take the antique dishes when the relationship ends.” Co-purchased furniture should be divided up, Masini said; if possible, one ex can buy out the other. The same general principle applies whether you were dating or married, said etiquette expert Elaine Swann: “Whatever you came with is what you leave with.”
“If you borrowed something or they just left it at your place, that should go back,” said breakup coach Donna Barnes. If something was a gift, “you get to keep that.” “If you just have integrity about it,” Barnes added, “then it goes smoother.” But if an object serves as a reminder of your relationship, Swann said, “get rid of it.”
Restaurants, bars and favorite haunts: If you think you’ll run into the person there, Barnes said, “you need to avoid it.” If it’s “your” place, keep going and make new memories with other friends. If there’s a place your ex really liked, Barnes added, it’s better to avoid going. Swann, meanwhile, argues you should continue going to places you’d both frequent once you’ve healed from the split. “Don’t let a breakup stop you from going to a place that you really enjoy going to,” she said. “And by all means, do not try to prevent someone else from going there either … We shouldn’t have to modify our behavior because someone else is not able to handle it.”
“Use your own comfort level: If you’re fine going into that place, go. If you’re not, don’t,” said etiquette expert Lizzie Post. “But can’t go up to (an) ex and say, ‘This is my turf — get off’ … For the most part, public spaces are public spaces.”
Real estate: It’s best to sell and divide the proceeds evenly, Masini said. “If someone put the down payment into the property, they should get that back if the marriage ended within a year. That’s not a legal opinion — just an etiquette note,” she said. “Sometimes, one person moved into another’s home and gave up their rent-controlled property or sold their property to do so. Work out a fair compensation to offset that act.”
If you rent an apartment together and can’t agree on who moves out, Masini offers four options: asking the landlord for an early lease termination so both people can move out, exploring the option of (legally) subletting if you can’t break the lease, one person buying the other out of the remainder of the lease, or remaining as cohabitants until the lease runs out. “This scenario is ripe for drama and not a great idea, but it happens … if you find yourself in this scenario, bend over backwards to keep dates and your new single life out of the apartment until you and your ex are no longer living together.”
Friends: “You can’t really tell someone who they can and can’t be friends with,” Post said. “The person will decide for themselves who they’re willing to align themselves with, if anybody … If friendships cross over, that’s going to be something you set boundaries around.” Never put a friend in the middle by asking for intel on your ex, Barnes added: “It’s none of your business anymore, and it’s better for you if you don’t know — ignorance is bliss when it comes to a breakup.”
Engagement rings: Always return the rock if you were the one to call off the nuptials, or even if it was your fiancé, said Barnes. (If the other person cheated, she advised, you can keep it but sell it for the cash. If you cheated, you “most definitely” have to give it back.) But “it’s bad manners to ask for the engagement ring back after a marriage ends,” said Masini. If the ring was an heirloom, however, “the polite thing to do is for the person who owns the ring to keep it in the family — but to do so by putting it away for the children from the marriage to use when they’re adults.”
Pets: “Pets are a sticking point,” said Masini. “If you can’t agree on who gets which pets, then work out a custody agreement that’s as close to 50/50 as possible. Agree on future medical expenses for pets — who pays what when.”
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