Unhappy Couples Are Too Broke to Break Up — They’re Trapped!

When your relationship gets serious enough that you decide to move in together, the general assumption is that you’re both in it for the long haul. However, the best-laid plans often go awry, as they say, and sometimes relationships fail. In a perfect world, you’d be able to cut ties and find separate living arrangements so you can start to move on. However, the rising costs of rent and mortgages — and, well, pretty much everything else — are keeping unhappy couples trapped together way past their sell-by date. Ugh.

  1. Inflation is no joke. While poverty has always been rife, even those who were comfortably middle class just a few years ago are feeling the heat when it comes to trying to make ends meet. Inflation is at a high, making everything from food and gas to rent and utilities unaffordable for a huge portion of the population.
  2. It’s a “very big problem” for the majority of Americans. According to a new Pew Center survey, a majority of Americans surveyed said that inflation is a “very big problem,” with 7 in 10 surveyed in a USA Today/Suffolk Poll revealing that the economy and inflation are one of the top concerns in the country in 2023. In other words, pretty much everyone is struggling.
  3. High costs are affecting our relationships too. Financial stress is a major killer of relationships, but if your connection is already dead, having money problems on top is bound to make things even worse. As a result, many couples who want to break up simply aren’t able to do so because they can’t afford not to live together.
  4. Mortgages are almost impossible to afford. In November 2022, mortgage rates climbed to a two-decade high of 7.08%, and that rate isn’t expected to reduce even slightly until the end of 2023. That means the chances of not only getting a new mortgage but affording it solo if you were to split from a partner is pretty much a pipe dream for many.
  5. Renting isn’t any easier. With demand far outweighing supply when it comes to housing, private rentals cost more than ever. And that’s not just in the big cities. Oxford, Mississippi, for instance, saw a 37% rent increase between May 2022 and May 2023. Similar rates were seen in Orinda, California, Saint Pete Beach, Florida, and Auburn Hills, Michigan. And those are just a few examples. In other words, shacking up is simply the only way to go for many people.
  6. Of course, this isn’t a completely new phenomenon. For many years, couples have stayed together because breaking up was simply too expensive. In decades past, this was often because women lacked financial freedom and men were the “breadwinners,” which often left women trapped and unable to leave. However, these days, pretty much no one can shoulder the costs associated with ending a relationship.

So, what should you do if you can’t afford to leave a bad relationship? 

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Money (or lack of it) should never keep you shackled in a toxic situation. If you need to get out of a bad relationship but can’t afford to branch out 100% on your own, there are a few things you can do.

  1. It’s time to call on your support network. Talk to your family and friends and see if they might know someone looking for a roommate, or if they might be able to offer you a place to stay (in exchange for some payment, of course). This could be enough just to get you away from your partner and into a better situation. From there, you can reassess.
  2. Do some research to see what help is available. Depending on your situation, there may be organizations or other resources out there that can help get you out of the home you share with your current partner. This is particularly true if you have children and/or if you’re the victim of domestic violence. A quick Google can provide you with some leads to chase up in your local area.
  3. Try to separate your lives as much as possible. This can be difficult when you’re living under one roof, especially if the home you share is small. However, if you both know the relationship is coming to an end or it already has, it’s important to live separately as much as possible. If you haven’t already, begin sleeping in separate spaces, even if it means one of you having to take the couch for now. Keep your interactions pleasant and cordial but not overly friendly. You have to make it clear that the romantic relationship is finished.
  4. Talk to a therapist if you’re struggling. It can be a lot to juggle a situation like this. Living with a former partner who you no longer want to be around but can’t physically leave is taxing, and it’s natural for it to have an effect on you. If you find it harming your mental health, reach out to a professional to talk. They’ll be willing to listen to you and provide helpful feedback when warranted.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill