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When I was 23, I had been out of college for a year and was shacked up with my boyfriend, my friend from high school, and a guy named Mick we found on the internet. It was a cozy, chaotic shit show with only one bathroom. But it was home.
In Sydney’s brutal housing market, it’s not unusual to get into bidding wars with other renters. Student? Unpaid intern? Three koalas in a trench coat? You’d better be able to pay your first six months up front. Had my city been kinder to its young people, I would have been able to have my own harbor view loft and avoid the trap of moving in with a partner before I was ready. I might even have been able to avoid the agony of wanting to leave a relationship but having your bank balance tell you you can’t.
After several false starts, I realized that I was doing everything about my breakup in the wrong order. I couldn’t wait for a fight, ask for my freedom, and then figure out where the hell I was supposed to go. Instead, I got my shit together.
First, I got a better job. Okay well I was let go and then I got a better job. I saved up for three months. The day I passed my trial period and was offered a permanent contract, I found an ad on Craigslist for a room in a Victorian row home walking distance from my office. The room was, technically, a closet with a view of a pub but it was all I needed to start my independent life. I’d share the house with a textile designer, a Japanese videographer, two professional kite surfers from the Netherlands, and a Parisian grad student who owned the finest wool coat I had ever seen.
During this time of preparation, I made myself sick with the stress of it. I felt cruel and traitorous and cold. Could life without him possibly be better than life with him? But still, I secretly started packing. When I told him, at 5am one September morning, I had to write it down on a notepad. My voice crapped out on me like I had some kind of telenovela laryngitis. It was sad. There was lots of hugging. But it was done. By 9am I was out and on a bus to downtown to see my new friends the textile designer, videographer, Parisian, and kite surfers. I threw my head back and breathed, noting that for the first time in months I did not feel like throwing up.
My only regret was that I took so long. Ten years later, I’m still judging myself harshly. Had I had more money, more support, we both would have been spared pain.
I don’t want people to have to be in a relationship a minute longer than they want to be. I don’t want women to have to construct Rube-Goldburg machines of jobs, credit cards, and rent just so they can live the life they’ve chosen.
Breakups are an economic justice issue. Divorcist, the company I founded with my friend Beth, is here to help. We can’t fix capitalism but we can help you with your first month’s rent or a really nice set of bath towels. I’ll say what I wish someone had said to me: you’re a good person. Loving someone is hard, loving yourself can be harder. Be gentle. We got you.
Eliza Cussen is the co-founder and CEO of Divorcist. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin with her husband (yikes!), toddler, and cat. She did not keep up skateboarding.