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What I found out about ex boyfriends who still live together

What I found out about ex boyfriends who still live together

Two ex boyfriend - posed by models - who still live together

Could you live with your ex? I suspect some of you will answer with an emphatic, ‘No way!’

Living with a former partner is something many people have a strong opinion about. In a recent poll conducted on Gay Star News, we asked if you’d specifically avoid dating someone who lived with their ex. Approximately six out of ten said they would avoid such a situation.

But is this just another example of gay people following heteronormative ideals? You don’t hear of many straight men and women continuing to live with one another after they split. And yet, among gay men, at least, it seems a little more common.

Do we find it easier to move on to be best friends?

I have to admit to a vested interest here. I live with my ex. We were together as a couple for two and a half years and have continued to live together since we split up three years ago.

I have wondered whether this is for the best. But other than the fact we get along, if he didn’t live with me, I’d have to find another lodger to help pay the mortgage, so I find it preferable to live with someone I know and care about.

But how does it work for other people? I spoke to three other gay men who also live with their ex partners to find out.

Adam and Richard*

Adam has lived with Richard for the past 19 years. They were partners for the first 4-5 of those. Adam works on the London gay scene as a club promoter. He says this is partly the reason their relationship as a couple didn’t work.

‘Richard doesn’t like the gay scene and has no interest in going to gay bars or clubs, whereas I work on the scene so am very much a part of it, so I guess we were going in two different directions,’ Adam says of their split. There was no decision made. It just came to a natural end. We just sort of drifted apart.’

The two – like all the couples here – sleep in separate bedrooms, ‘But that was sort of happening anyway because we were working different shifts. I worked at clubs, and he’d have to be up at 5am, so we were doing that a lot anyway.’

Long-time companion

Despite splitting, they remain close. Adam says Richard is like a ‘long-time companion.’ Their type of relationship might explain why some are reticent to get involved with people who live with an ex. Adam admits some guys he has been involved with were put off by his living arrangements.

‘I’ve dated a few people, but I’m just not really interested in dating anymore. I don’t think Richard’s dated anyone, but I don’t know. We don’t tell each other that sort of stuff. I wouldn’t dream of bringing anyone back to the house and neither would he. We just don’t even mention stuff like that between us.

‘I was seeing one guy. It wasn’t that serious, but he just kept saying, “Why can’t I come back to yours?” and I was like, “Well, you know … Richard’s at home,” and they didn’t understand.

‘I suppose a lot of guys found Richard intimidating, even though they hadn’t met him, just him being there in the background. A friend of mine actually said to a partner of mine, “He’ll never commit to you because of Richard,” which I was a bit annoyed about at the time but there was probably an element of truth in that.

‘If I met someone and it was very serious, I would have to consider my relationship with Richard. But as I say, I’m very single and set in my ways. So I’m not even looking for anything like that and haven’t in years.’

Jake and Andrew

By contrast, when Jake split with his partner, Andrew, he did go on to another relationship. Jake and Andrew lived apart for a few years, before actually moving back in with one another again on a platonic basis.

The two met in 1988. ‘He was kind of the first major relationship I had,’ says Jake of Andrew.

‘I was 26, and all my friends were arty types, but he was quite normal by comparison. I remember thinking he was the first of my London friends I could introduce to my parents. That wasn’t the reason we were together, but I was subconsciously aware of the fact he had a regular job and was quite grown up.’

The pair moved in together and were an item for five years. They split when Andrew became briefly involved again with one of his exes. ‘It was a little messy for a while,’ says Jake.

Despite this, the two remained close and shared the care of the dog they had raised together. Jake moved out but would often visit and stay over with his ex – as a friend.

Jake entered a second, long-term relationship. Andrew moved to Brighton in the 90s, and then to Kent around 14 years ago. The two continued to see each other frequently, and shared the care of more dogs.

Jake found himself single again in his late 40s. Deciding London, where he had DJ’ed, run clubs and performed in bands, had lost some of its appeal, he found that his trips to Kent were becoming more and more frequent.

‘I was there almost every weekend.’

Escaping London for the country

In the end, he decided to move in with Andrew again.

‘I think he sort of liked me being there. I’m the one who does the cooking and stuff, I’m quite good at that side of things. And he suggested I could sell my flat in London and buy down in Kent. I bought a holiday cottage and offer it out for rentals, so again, he was doing the adult thing and could see a way of my life going forward from pop and discos.’

Moving in together again was very much linked to Jake’s desire for a new life, away from London. He concedes people assume they’re a couple, despite just being friends.

‘Other people still see us as a couple down there. Even though they know we’re not, they treat us like a couple, and I just can’t be bothered to explain otherwise. Other people don’t understand it. I’ve never felt the need to explain the fact I’m gay, and I don’t feel the need to have to explain this.’

He says he’s not that bothered about finding a new romantic relationship.

‘To be honest, I’ve got company. Obviously I still like sex and stuff, but I’m 54. It’s not as important to me as it was, so it doesn’t feel like an issue.’

Philip and Martin

Lastly, there is Philip.

Philip and Martin met 13 years ago, moved in with one another, and were a couple for six years. At first they shared Martin’s one-bedroom flat in South London, and then decided to buy a two-bedroom flat together.

‘We moved in in the January of the year and had split up by Easter!’, Philip recalls with a chuckle.

He says they were able to continue living together as there was no animosity behind the split: ‘It was great while it lasted but it had just run its course.

‘We’d stopped having sex and we’d become friends. We took a very grown-up decision. We still loved each other – and still do love each other: More than friends, less than lovers.

‘It was a very mutual thing.’

‘Because we had two bedrooms and because we hadn’t fallen out, we said, “let’s see how it goes.” That was over six years ago now. And most of the time it’s fine.’

Moving his new boyfriend in

Both men are now seeing other people. Philip’s new boyfriend, Bill, moved in with them around three years ago. Martin has recently started dating someone who lives in Manchester, and who comes to stay over for the occasional weekend.

‘Bill moved in by default. He had to get out of the flat he was living in, and he said “Can I come and stay for a few weeks while I find somewhere to live?”, and he’s been there ever since, but it works. They get on.’

He says the three men living together has not been awkward, and he has previously encouraged Martin to meet other guys.

‘When you split up, you want the best for that person. I was happy and I wanted Martin to be happy. So rather than awkward, it was the opposite. I was willfully encouraging him to meet and bring people home!’

Life together after splitting

Adam, Jake and Philip’s stories are different and unique. But they have some things in common – all of which I can relate to in my own living arrangements.

1. They don’t have sex

There’s a presumption among some people that former lovers who live together still have the occasional sexual encounter. None of the men I speak with have any physical relations with their exes, and all of them used exactly the same term when asked: ‘That would just feel weird!’ as Adam expressed it.

2. Other people tend to view their relationships as odd

‘Everyone thinks it’s weird,’ says Philip. ‘They think when you split up with anyone there has to be a drama. But when Bill got to know mine and Martin’s friendship, he could see that’s what it is, so there’s no kind of jealousy.

‘Obviously I still have feelings for Martin. I love him but am not in love with him anymore. We’re still very close and care a lot, but that’s the same with any of my friends – I care a lot about them.’

3. You only make a handful of truly close friends in your life – and exes might be included among them

‘I think it comes down to the fact you can count the number of good friends you have on one hand,’ says Jake. ‘I really don’t think you meet that many people that you can let it all go with and trust totally.’

‘Family to me, you form a relationship that’s beyond friendship – you have a closeness to people,’ is how Philip describes it. ‘Yes, you care about all of your friends, but there are certain people in your life you get so close to, you’re totally comfortable and completely honest with them.

‘I’m very lucky. I’ve got a few friends that fit into that category, and Martin is one of those people.’

4. They all believe this is more common among gay people

‘I think if I was much younger I maybe wouldn’t be in this scenario,’ says Philip, who is now 52, ‘but when you’re in your 40s, you are thinking more about life partners, whether lovers or friends.

‘Many gay people don’t have children, whereas if you’re straight, you’re more likely to have children in your old age. Then your children are there to look after you, but for a gay man without children, who’s going to look after me? You want to keep your loved ones close.’

‘I think it’s definitely a gay thing,’ says Adam. ‘And it’s more common as people get older.

‘Not everyone finds Mr Right, so if you find someone you get on with, and you want to share your life with them, well you can. I know quite a few gay couples who – they’re not together – but they basically live as a couple. For me, it’s not weird at all, but some of my friends find it weird.’

5. It works for them

All three men I spoke with said they could see their living arrangements continuing for the time being but accepted that they could change if circumstances were different in the future.

Philip says if things progress between Martin and his new man, their house is ‘definitely too small for four of us to live here.’ Adam says there is a chance that Richard may one day want to move back to Scotland, where he has ageing parents.

But for now, all these men have an arrangement that works for them. One from which they derive love, support and friendship.

I couldn’t help but conclude, at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing?

‘I look around at other people and other couples, and there have been times when I’ve maybe thought I was missing out,’ says Jake. ‘But then I’ve thought, “No, this works.”

‘Nobody really knows how to live,’ he continues. ‘This is fine and I’m happy and I live in a nice part of the world and don’t really have any stresses. I don’t try to analyze anything too much anymore. Why over-analyze it? This is working.’

* Some names have been changed