Apartment Hunting for the Newly Single

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If a long term relationship is going to fail, it’s twice as likely to do so during the first three months of a year than at any other point on the calendar. Divorce lawyers structure their schedules around this annual uptick. The reasons behind the surge in collapsing relationships are too muddy and plentiful to get into here. We are of course focusing on the housing-related fallout from these breakups.

Newly single folks frequently need to find new housing, but our brains release chemicals in response to the endings of relationships which can cloud our judgment and make us value things that we would normally ignore. Fortunately there are some common factors discovered in scientific studies of the recently dumped. This means that workarounds exist which may make the process easier and more reliable.

For the purposes of this article I’m defining “newly single” people as those who have experienced the involuntary end of a long-term romantic relationship involving cohabitation within the past two weeks. If you kicked your partner to the curb against their will this is not the article for you, unless you did so because you caught them cheating.

Stall your search for a month or two.

Brain imaging studies have found that newly single people have similar neurological responses to pictures of their exes as they do to actual physical pain. Newly single people will act like a cross between a wounded animal and a recovering addict for a period of time after a relationship ends. Even if you’re the resilient sort who bounces back from breakups, chances are these responses still occur within you at a less pronounced rate. The studies found that this altered mental state tends to persist for about 10 weeks after the relationship ends, although it can be over sooner if you can be proactive about rewiring your brain to find comparable rewards in sources other than your former partner.

If at all possible, stall your search until you get out of that 10 week recovery period. Stay with friends or family who understand what you’re going through and can hold you accountable until you’re through that phase where rebound flings and substance abuse are likely to become problems.

Don’t overdo it on the safety concerns.

Although we’ve evolved over the millennia, we still carry with us an instinctive need to be part of a family cluster for protection. The sudden absence of a long term partner can leave us feeling vulnerable at a very primal level. This feeling can cause you to focus too heavily on safety concerns in any new apartment. While the safety of any housing is certainly the most important thing to focus on, there is a difference between a place within normally acceptable safety parameters and a high security military-grade bunker. Expecting a landlord to provide a top floor apartment with 12 separate bump-proof locks, bars on the windows, a home security system, cameras and a doorman is excessive, even if it’s what your breakup-addled brain may want.

Remember, if you’re concerned about crime the best thing you can do is to make your apartment less attractive than your neighbor’s apartment. In many cases all it takes is to achieve this is an upper level apartment with functional mini blinds and a deadbolt that cannot be opened by reaching through a broken window.

Switch neighborhoods.

If you’re going to rewire your brain’s neural pathways to find rewards in sources that aren’t your former partner, you need to remove yourself from places where you’re constantly reminded of that relationship. Choosing a new neighborhood where you can go about your life without revisiting old haunts is really important. You want to make sure you’re not going back to the same grocery store, health club and restaurants where you used to hang out with your ex. If you two still have to work together at the same company then you clearly won’t be able to completely remove yourself from reminders of the past. Even so, if you surround your home environment with new experiences you’ll be giving yourself as many opportunities as possible to retrain yourself into new habits and mental connections.

Seek out communities.

Larger buildings with community-sourced events and opportunities to meet neighbors are a great option for the newly single. At the very least they can offer an alternative to sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself. In the best case they’ll present you with several options for local accountability partners who will keep you engaged with real life and remind you that there’s things in this world other than your former relationship.

Focus on storage space.

If you’re newly single you may find yourself obsessing over things which would normally not affect you at all. Studies of the freshly dumped have found that they exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders which eventually fade over time. If you can’t keep your new home clean it’s going to bother you a lot more than it normally would. You’ll also want to stow away any personal items that remind you of your former partner, although you may not want to get rid of them entirely.

So, you want to look for housing with lots of closet space and kitchen storage. A cluttered apartment is often not the sign that the tenant is a slob, but rather that the apartment itself has insufficient storage space. Again, as is the case with safety concerns, don’t go overboard. There’s not many apartments out there that are made entirely of closet. However, when presented with a few alternatives for housing, choose the one that has the most storage.

Find a place near your neutral friends.

It’s a well-known fact that recovering addicts have a better chance of staying sober if they have accountability partners in their lives. Newly single people need that same kind of accountability. It’s a good idea to find a place near a friend or relative who can check in on you during the first couple of months and make sure you’re behaving in a sane and rational manner. Try to pick someone on the nosy side who’s already in a solid long term relationship and who isn’t a mutual friend of you and your ex. Be up front with them that you may need their help getting back to normal life.


The end of a relationship is often one of the toughest times to be looking for new housing. The process is tough enough on its own without it doubling as a constant reminder of what you’re leaving behind. The fact that newly single people are often forced to find new housing in a hurry makes it extra rough. By understanding what your brain is doing in response to the end of your relationship, you can take steps to make sure that the home you choose is not going to make your recovery process even worse than it would normally be.

Check out more articles in our "Unprotected Minorities" series, featuring apartment hunting tips for:

... Exotic Pet Owners
... Overweight Renters
... Night Owls
... Introverts
... Homeowners
... Frail renters
... Newly Single renters

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.