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Love Letters

Sex while living with an ex

Q. I dated my boyfriend for about three 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.

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 (rented) 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.

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So what do I owe him now? He really didn’t want this breakup and told me when I dumped him that he hoped I would change my mind. But I want to discreetly find someone on the side specifically for physical intimacy. Is it OK 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?

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 new, keep it out of your shared space. Be respectful.

But please know that three months is not a very long time. It makes sense that you’re longing for physical intimacy, but you don’t have to make up for lost time right this second. If dating while living with an ex feels complicated, there’s no reason to rush 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 handle 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 RESPOND:

Of course you can date other people, just don’t bring them home. Too messy.

I had a date with a guy who did this, revealing that he was still living with her to “help her out.” My response: “maybe you shouldn’t be dating right now.”

I’ve heard of couples who stay together for the kids, but never, “We’re staying together for the exchange student.” That’s just weird.

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com.
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