Sex + Dating

How to Survive the Agony of Moving in With Your Parents After a Breakup

illustration of moving in with parents
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

It's an increasingly prevalent trope in our society: if you move back in with your parents any time after college, you're not doing well. The farther into your 20s you get, the more pathetic it becomes. Thirty-plus? There go your social life and reputation. You're a loser. A living-challenged individual. Ill-equipped. Or, a serial killer.

We get it: it's not good. But what if it happens to you?

A long-term relationship I was in drew to a close last year. I was 32. When it came time to leave the apartment I'd shared with my now-ex, I discovered I couldn't find (read: afford) my own place. I exhausted every option... except one. With nowhere left to turn I packed up my things and made the three-state/200-mile trek to my parents' house and the bedroom I'd grown up in. Still here a year later, I've learned a lot about how to survive such a living arrangement. Here's how to get through it if it happens to you.

Be honest

I still haven't told anyone I work with about my living arrangement. And for a while, I hid this detail from my friends -- and the women I dated.

Did I do everything I could to avoid the topic coming up? Yes. I also kept things as vague as possible when the subject was unavoidable; even saying once that I did indeed have two roommates, then declined to describe them in any detail.

But here’s the thing: everyone I have told has been remarkably non-judgmental. The world didn’t end, no one gasped or ghosted me, and I’ve been shocked at how little anyone actually cares. If I'm pitied or gossiped about, that has been shielded well from me. As for my love life, the dates during which I was most honest have also been my most successful. Not saying it’s because I talked about living with my folks; but being 100% honest and straightforward with a person helped, even if only on a subconscious level.

Acknowledge your sense of failure

Maybe not a lot and maybe not for very long, but you most certainly will feel like garbage. No matter how the world sees or treats me, I basically feel like I've regressed out of adulthood. And that messes with me. But instead of hiding that, I'm learning to accept those waves of self-loathing and am trying instead to use that fuel as inspiration to get my shit together.

Know that fights with your parents are going to happen

My mom and dad still think of me as a kid, just like yours do. They’re not particularly overbearing in general, but once I was under their roof again (which they've reminded me of, many, many times) things got messy.

There is no worse feeling than being a grown-ass adult whose mother yells at you to clean your goddamned room, or because you stayed out too late. They’ll get on you about big things, too: pressuring you to go back to school, get a better job, find yourself a serious relationship, and get some direction in life.

Make a plan

If you’re embarrassed about living at home (I am) and it’s not working for whatever reasons (it is not), you need to think about why you’re there and what your next step is. Hell, use the shame and strife as impetus to get your ass in gear. But be smart about it.

Assuming you want to move out at least sooner rather than later (good idea!), there are things to consider. From a purely financial standpoint, you’ll (hopefully) never have this savings opportunity again: even though you still have bills, you can save virtually all the money you take in. It’s pretty stupid to leave before you have a sizable nest egg. Friend-wise, anyone who's bailed since you moved back home isn't worth reconnecting with.

This is the time to turn everything over as honestly as you can and then make an exit strategy. I recently resolved to be out of my parents' house within six months. Even if you enjoy being at home, you're going to have to move out eventually. So don't get too comfortable! Much as we love him, no one wants to be Buster Bluth.

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Ian Marks is a 33-year-old man living in the New York area. He does indeed live with his parents but will be moving out soon (promise).