Dear Dr. Michelle:
My husband and I are getting a divorce, but we are amicable. We have been having problems for quite some time and after a lot of couple’s therapy, he came out that he is gay. As hard as this is, we both know that he needs to be true to who he is. We have two younger children ages 8 and 6 and we want to keep things as normal as possible for them so we have decided to keep the children in the house and he and I will rotate staying at the house every other week. We are going to share an apartment and rotate living there as well. Is this type of arrangement good for children?
I am sorry to hear that your marriage did not work out as planned, but I want to congratulate you both for getting to the core of the relationship issues and for having the courage to take the steps necessary to start a new life - allowing each of you to be who you are.
Pros & Cons of Nesting
The arrangement you are describing is often referred to as “nesting,” and success depends on the parents’ ability to work together and get along.
When couples divorce, it is best for children to have as few transitions and as little change as possible. Nesting can be an option. However, if relations are abusive, the adults talk badly about each other, interactions lead to yelling and fighting or the slightest contact results in arguments and emotional distress, then it is best for the two adults to create as much separation and as little contact as possible. Children would be better adapting to living in two different households, than witnessing such negative interactions.
If you and your partner’s relationship is amicable as you identified, then attempting to keep your parenting lives integrated, while separating as partners has a much higher chance for success. To evaluate if you are ready for nesting, you can both begin by answering the question of whether you will be able to start living different lives while being very much connected. Nesting is not an arrangement that will allow for a lot of privacy and new opportunities. In addition, evaluate your ability to allow the other person to move on. The purpose for nesting should be about meeting your children’s needs and not an arrangement to keep you and your soon-to-be ex-husband connected.
One thing to remember is that nesting does not need to be a permanent living arrangement. As your children get older, they will not need the structure and stability that nesting provides. If you can see this as a temporary, developmental transition, it will help you navigate the challenges.
Successful Nesting Tips
Here are some considerations and rules to think through to make nesting a success:
- Consider a two-bedroom living space as your second home. This will afford each of you more privacy and support both of you in establishing a separate identity. You will have a space of your own to maintain as you wish without affecting the other person.
- Establish rules for both homes; who will clean, how often, what spaces? Who will be in-charge of such things like yard work, laundry, grocery shopping? Are you going to grocery shop for each other or just the children?
- Will you have private spaces at both homes? How will that happen and what are the rules for entering or using those private spaces?
- Which spaces are you and your partner’s friends or future partners allowed?
- Are either of you allowed to stop by either home when it is your week away? With or without calling ahead of time?
- What “no contact” zones or times do you need to establish to support starting a new adult life away from each other?
- Will the children be allowed to go from home to home as they wish?
- Who is paying which bills related to both living spaces?
- Are you allowed to eat each other’s food at both homes and use each other’s belongings?
The success of nesting depends on the health of the parent’s relationship. You can predict the potential problems by evaluating the arguments you have had about physical space while you were living together. The same conflicts you had when living in one home may now be related to two homes instead. Identifying the rules related to those problems early on will prevent them from being a challenge in a nesting arrangement.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.