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Buying a Home After a Breakup

5 guiding principles to make the transition a little bit easier.

Breaking up is never easy, but divorce can be brutal. Even more so when it comes to dealing with emotions, dividing up stuff, and feeling forced to give up things that not only defined our prebreakup lives, but also that we loved.

The biggest of which was our home.

I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but something wasn’t right. Five years after divorcing, I was stuck in a depression that had manifested itself in a crummy two-bedroom apartment that I refused to decorate. I didn’t hang pictures. I didn’t paint any walls. And I certainly didn’t do much entertaining. Anyone who knew me in my coupled-up life would not have recognized me, or this space where I existed.

After some soul-searching, I realized I was dealing with postdivorce grief — not just over the loss of the relationship, but also over the loss of my dream home. Having to move out and put it up for sale after my breakup? Well, it broke my heart.

I recognized that to recover, I had to: acknowledge my role in the loss and forgive myself; accept that it was OK to be sad; not look at selling our home as a failure that defined me or my relationship with my ex.

Once I completed the emotional work, I decided to see what would happen if I began cleaning up my credit, which had suffered in the aftermath of the divorce. I started putting away money, daring myself to search for a new dream home.

The moment I took one tiny step, it seemed that things began to happen in leaps and bounds.

It became my real estate agent’s job to remind me to be realistic in my search so I wouldn’t get in over my head with an oversize mortgage payment. As I searched homes online within my one-income budget, the last thing I wanted to do was mess up the credit I had worked so hard for months to repair.

Downsizing is often a reality when you’re flying solo during the homebuying process. Watch out for bitterness if you get bogged down trying to duplicate the home you once shared with your mate.

Here are five tips to ease the transition:

1. Trust the process

The best way to connect with your real estate agent is to be honest and comfortable sharing your true emotions. Let him or her become a real partner in your success.

2. Create your own story

Everyone’s experience is different. Just because it took two years for a friend to find a home after a divorce doesn’t mean it will be that way for you.

3. Relax and stay calm!

Your home is out there! It may not be perfect at first, but it will be when you add your personal touch.

4. Don’t put too much emphasis on size

If you have less square footage than you were used to, it’s a chance to live better with less. Leave the physical and emotional clutter behind.

5. Remember the journey

Everything you’ve been through has brought you to this new place and space that belongs to you!

Throughout the process, I discovered that leaving a house you love doesn’t mean you have to leave all your good memories behind. We all have special mementos we bring that say, “This is home.”

For me, it’s a beautiful solid-wood antique buffet that belonged to my mom. After the movers were gone, putting that piece of furniture in its place made my new space feel just right. Now that I’ve settled in, I know buying this house was the best move I could have made.

And guess what? Instead of dwelling on the past, I’ve moved forward — building new memories, new hopes, and new dreams. My house still isn’t party central, but I am opening it up to guests more and more. I even hosted Thanksgiving for several friends for the first time since the divorce.

Now that’s what I call home.