I learned that it's not uncommon in NYC to live with an ex for a while after you've broken up. Leases are expensive to break, rent is high, and real estate is tough to find. But those were not the reasons that I lived with my ex for a year and a half after we broke up.
Keith, my ex whom I dated for five years, and I lived and worked with each other for nearly our entire relationship. We are the co-hosts of the Keith and The Girl (KATG) show. It's a comedy talk show that started in the spare bedroom of our home (soon after our roommate moved out). The show grew in popularity and landed us a book deal about relationships. After we handed in our first draft, we broke up — but were not allowed to tell anyone.
Part of the contract that we signed for the book deal stated that we would need to be together for at least one year after the book came out. At the time of signing, we giggled at that clause, signed it, and hosted a fake wedding reception as a funny response to what we thought was a silly notion. We told our audience and friends that since we were signing a legal contract to say that we are together, we will be treating it as a marriage agreement, and we might as well party about it. We had no reservations about it because, just like anyone who is getting married, we didn't think for a second that we would breakup.
The party was a success of fun, food, drinks and hilarity. We even turned it into a KATGtv episode. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling like a jinx on our relationship. Shortly after we handed in our first draft, we started growing agitated with each other. As time passed, we continued to be more frustrated with each other and, without realizing it, we were drifting apart and growing to dislike being attached to each other.
We broke up. We were so far gone by then that our breakup was a five-second conversation:
“Are we broken up?”
That was it. It was somewhat relieving to just say it out loud and call it what it was; over.
An hour later, we recorded another KATG episode. No one knew or sensed what just happened because we didn't share it on air. We couldn't.
Meanwhile, we continued the show and the writing process. It was exhausting but creative and we were excited to be called “author.” We thought that living with each other would be an inconvenience that we could handle because our book was close to being published and our eye was on the prize. No such luck. The book process became a nightmare. The editor we were initially working with left the company for a better position. The new editor gave us the run-around for months, delaying the book release by over a year. We were snapping at each other.
We tried hard not to be cruel to one another because we had to be “adults” about our situation. But it was written on our faces. Like a bad sitcom, we would pretend to be patient through gritted teeth. Trying to be civil but showing our cards more often than we realized. Still, putting out new funny episodes. Still, not telling people that we were no longer together. Not our friends, not family, not the audience. No one. And to add another element to what was already a tricky situation, we started dating other people.
We were not jealous of the other person dating again, but I, personally, did not appreciate being asked where I was going on my way out the door. I knew that he was only making conversation, but I just wanted to say “none of your business.” It was annoying that he knew when I was and wasn't home. It was distracting to find space to have private conversations. And it was infuriating to not be able to tell, Lauren, my new beau, that I was not, in fact, dating Keith. I was just pretending.
For the first few months of my dating Lauren, she thought I was with Keith. We kept things as light as possible to not make our time together more complicated but eventually, and (sigh) after talking it over with Keith, it was agreed that she could know. That helped mine and Lauren's intimacy level as a whole but, in public, it was a nightmare. Lauren had to deal with other people still thinking that Keith and I were together and thinking that Lauren was just a “side piece” that Keith was comfortable with.
She had to deal with incredibly awkward social situations. People asking me about Keith and expressing how glad they were that we're so happy together. People asking her why she's okay with sleeping with someone who was “taken.” Walking into venues separately when I had to make KATG appearances with Keith. She spent Thanksgiving alone so that she's not intruding on the charade that we were putting on at our house when we hosted dinner with friends. She even stayed in NY while Keith and I went to my brother's wedding together in LA.
It was terrible. I felt like I was going crazy. I had so many hard moments of balancing and pushing down my own pain so that I could keep an outer image of normality. Lauren and Keith did the same. It was exhausting.
I am very lucky that Lauren felt that it was worth the pain and frustration to be with me. She held on through the announcement of our breakup on the show when people called her Yoko Ono because they were looking for a scapegoat and sending her death wishes for interrupting what they hold dear. (Though, to be clear, we started dating AFTER Keith and I broke up.)
A lot of people ask Keith and me if working with each other was a big part of why we broke up. We both agree that that was not the case. In fact, working with each other made us stay together longer. Our mutual goal for the show and business was a love that we had in common. That, coupled with the fact that our job was to create funny conversation for our audience, forced us to genuinely enjoy each other's company for at least one hour every day. We enjoyed talking to each other on air so much that it blurred the fact that we were no longer compatible.
Now, as we come upon eight years of KATG, our audience, friends, and family can see that the breakup was necessary and are happy for us in our respective relationships. Keith is engaged to Cat, who he met as a fan of the show, and I am celebrating four years of Lauren's love.