Should I kick my ex-husband out of the house?

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Hello Meredith,

I have been divorced for 20 years, but my ex-husband has been living with me this whole time. For the past 18 years, I compromised for our daughter. I didn't want her to grow up in a single-parent household.

Now she is away at college. The more that I think about the situation, the more I don't feel it is right. My ex-husband does not want to remarry me. We don't have the same lifestyle or goals. He still has emotional control over me. Some days he is happy and I can feel the happiness. Other days he is not happy and I become like a garbage can, and he dumps all of his sad emotions onto me.

The other side of this is that I enjoy the intelligent conversations I can have with him, and he is very smart at solving problems. I worry that if I kick him out, he is not going to help me when I ask for his support. (He also paid for the house and gave it to me, and he is paying alimony, as well.)

He says he will take care of me not matter what, but this has a condition: he has to control me, I have to cook for him, do as he says, and let him stay in the house. I am 60 now; I want to have my own life, not live the life he provides for me. I don't know what to do.

– Compromised

Is your ex-husband the only adult in your life who offers support? If so, that’s where you begin. Separation becomes easier when there are others to call. Make a list of anyone who's ever been good company. Family, friends, parents of your kids friends. Revisit those relationships.

Also, check out options for therapy, even in a group setting. It's time to talk through 18 years of sharing a home with an ex. Being with him – and putting up with his rules – became part of your ritual. You need to learn to undo that. You can talk to your doctor about options.

If you are at all concerned or frightened about what your ex might do if you told him to leave, call a domestic abuse organization for help. This is a Massachusetts resource for finding assistance. Here's a national one. Know that abuse looks different with different people. You use the word "control" twice, which is something to flag. These groups can help you figure out what's happening. They also know your rights.

You know you want to run your own life, which means it's time to plan. Find out what you own (Is the house in your name? Is the alimony explained in a contract? What don't you know?). Don't stew too much about asking him to leave the property; he gave it to you, and you raised a child there – together.

Not to keep adding options for professional help, but it also might be nice to find a divorce support group. It might remind you that there are other people who share your many questions.

You can do life without him. It won't be easy, but it's what you want – to figure it all out by yourself. He does not know everything. Over time, you can create network of people who can add to your life in new ways. You won't even have to cook for them.

– Meredith

Readers? What are the first steps here?