What it's like to co-own a house in the Hamptons with your ex
- Weekend schedules are negotiated in advance and beach passes fought over
- The wine has to be replaced and the house left exactly as it was on arrival
- But all this takes a toll: She is ready to be bought out of the house by her ex
The Hamptons are a place of aspiration and longing, where tidy lawns and shingled mansions inspire envy, and the crowds look like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. New Yorkers buy houses here to signify that they've arrived and enjoy their weekends as much as their schedules will allow. But what happens when the relationship sours and you don't want to sell or buy the other out?
Brick talked to a NYC lawyer who went through an acrimonious breakup that ended a nearly three-decade relationship. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she walked us through the challenges of sharing a vacation house with her ex-husband, which include intrusive repairman scheduling, games of keep-away with the beach parking pass, and calendaring out the summer. What follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
[Editor's note: A previous version of this article was published in June 2018. We are sharing it again in case you missed it.
What it's like sharing a house with her ex
It’s stressful. It’s difficult to navigate with somebody who is accustomed to getting their way. That was partially my fault because when we broke up, I spent much less time at the house, because we used to spend every weekend there, and I didn't want to anymore. I was happy going out a couple of weekends a month.
And as I started to see other people, it was clear they did not like being in a house that they know you own with someone else, plus we would have to do things like replace the wine and leave it exactly as we found it.
That's what my ex and I did for each other. We are really good at making sure everything stays the same. But it makes relationships with other people difficult. My ex would schedule repairmen to come when I was there, so I’d end up stuck, cursing him and not able to go to the beach. Not good for a new relationship.
What she would have done differently when breaking up
I should have spent more time at the house. I wasn't there often because I didn't want to spend winter weekends by myself. I was always afraid I’d get stuck in the driveway if there was a lot of snow, which happens quite a bit.
I wish I had spent more time there because he now assumes it’s his house and doesn't tell me if he’s not going to be there, or make it easy for me to use it without me negotiating a schedule. I have to contact him about when I’m going out.
What she would have done differently when buying
I’m sure it would have been lovely to get it all in writing from the start, but it was a 27-year relationship. We bought the house in 2002. I think realistically when people are together that long they’re not really expecting to break up.
I did get an agreement with help from a divorce attorney after we broke up. It says that he can’t sell or do anything with the house unless I agree. I get his apartment when he dies. I get the house when he dies. We can’t transfer our interest to another person.
So the end result is the same. We keep it or we sell it. Or one buys the other out.
My name is on the title, so even if he had bought me out in 2011, the house would have been worth a lot less because of the financial crisis. The house is now worth so much more, so keeping it has been a plus.
How they schedule time at the house
In the spring and fall I send an email about the weekends I want for the summer and winter. But he always comes up with reasons that certain dates are a problem, or why he should get holidays. And then we text back and forth to sort it out.
My favorite months are September and October. I’ll go out usually once in October with the kids and they do pumpkin crap and stuff.
In the winter I don’t really go out there much. If I had a dog, I could see going out to the beach, but otherwise there’s nothing to do besides go to the movies and go out to eat. If I'm not in a relationship with someone who wants to drive four hours to spend a weekend at the beach—and you’d be surprised by the number of people who aren't excited by that idea—I don’t do it.
On splitting up the rooms
We have our own rooms. He didn't want to move out of the primary bedroom for like a year and a half, and I finally just told him that I was bringing somebody with me to sleep in the bedroom and I needed his stuff out. Meanwhile, he’s the one seeing a woman half his age.
I went to Ethan Allen and took pictures of furniture for him to buy to put in the other bedroom, which he did.
On sharing beach parking permits
There’s a limited number of beach permits because the town doesn't want to encourage summer shares. You can only get two per house. One was on the Hamptons car and one was on his city car, and when I got a car, it became an issue.
I just assumed he would have the same Hamptons car and we would share that beach pass. He was a douche because he knew I got a car and could go out when I wanted, so he decided to change cars and not have a beach car there for like half the summer.
Without a pass, you can't park at the beach. A couple times I drove the kids to the beach, dropped them off with the stuff, and then drove home and called a taxi to go to the beach.
I’m considering being bought out. It's just so hard. He has made it more and more difficult for me to use the house and beach car. There are always reasons why it isn't a good weekend for me to come. It's a control issue. Eventually you just feel like you've had enough.
It was surprising that someone who apparently got what they wanted could be so vindictive and petty. I never thought of him as a particularly petty person. Or he never was with me.
I wasn't always warm and fuzzy. There were a couple of screaming matches. But once we broke up, we mostly communicate by text or email.
I think that you can love someone for a really long time but not necessarily know what they’re like as an enemy. Or how they will react when they feel you're trying to cheat them out of something.
I was the one who wanted a house in the Hamptons. He didn't. I was the one who started looking at properties and I was the one who saw the bones of this house—it was still under construction—and decided that was the house. It was all me.
So for someone to say it’s theirs and try to cheat you out of your share is incredibly annoying. Especially in New York City. You work for years and you have a small apartment in the city. The house is what you have to show for what you've accomplished. To have someone think they can just take that away from you is really disturbing.
As much as I love the house, it would be good to be away from the whole situation because I just want to be done with it. I want to not have to ever talk to him again and just be left alone. Because it is really hard to move on if you’re always arguing over all of this crap.
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