Breaking up when you’ve been living with a partner can be devastating, wonderful, or some combination of both, but the one thing it’s guaranteed to be is a logistical clusterfuck. Long-term best friends Lindsay Meck and Mika Leonard know this: Between the two of them, they’ve ended three romantic co-habitation situations. Now they’re turning their expertise into a business to help the rest of us. On Valentine’s Day, they launched Onward, a breakup concierge service for newly single New Yorkers. Their team will help create a plan for short- and long-term housing, recommend a moving service, and point you to a yoga studio in your new neighborhood. They’ll even help set you up with a therapist, or grab those random boxes from your ex. Services currently start at $100 for 10 days of concierge access.
I spoke with them about the lengths they will—and won’t—go to for their clients (they tested the service with several dozen singles prior to launch). Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Onward seems like an analogous service to planning all the minutiae of a wedding, but for a breakup.
Lindsay Meck: My background is in theater production and event production. When Mika and I both went through our respective breakups, hers six months before mine, we found this analogous situation to the event production world. There’s a day, there’s a finite number of things that have to get done, and so it’s like our breakups became another Broadway production that we worked on together.
Mika Leonard: Really, with anything else—if I want to hire someone to manage my finances, there’s a million financial planners out there. If I go to the gym, and I’m like, “I don’t know how to use this equipment,” I hire a trainer. We’re so used to going out to whatever that subject matter expert is. When you’ve been living with someone for some time—two, three, five, 10 years—and you’ve been sharing things, and all of the sudden you split up but you were never legally married, what are the rules there? There are so many people who find themselves in that situation.
Do you guys help with dividing stuff up—who gets the couch, who gets the TV?
Meck: We’re working on a checklist for folks, tools they can use with their partner, assuming there’s some amenability to that. I hate to use the word “registry,” but that’s what we’ve been calling it internally—”Here are all the things you’re going to need to set up your new kitchen, your bathroom.” Mika and I joke about the “breakup bed”—there’s a specific bed we’ve been recommending.
Leonard: It’s an Ikea bed. It has storage and a bookshelf built into the back. We both ended up buying it [after our breakups]. It is the most difficult piece of Ikea furniture to put together, so—
Meck: We’re rethinking that.
What are the trickiest problems clients have asked you to solve?
Meck: The other day one came up that, to be honest, we haven’t solved: how to get off of someone else’s health insurance, and what other options there might be. We’ve also found that getting off a family cellphone plan is really complicated. A lot of couples are on family cellphone plans, even if they aren’t married. Co-parenting a pet has been one. We’ve found a solution that I was pleased with: Within New York City, there are a couple dog-walking companies who will actually walk the dog between the two new residences, so the two people don’t have to talk to each other.
Leonard: There was an NPR piece that we’re trying to do some follow-up on—what do you do when your joint Netflix account lasts longer than your relationship. There was one anecdote where a couple had broken up but they used the same OpenTable account, so the ex-boyfriend could see when the ex-girlfriend was going out to different restaurants and basically stalk her dates.
Will you communicate with your client’s ex at all?
Meck: We’re trying not to act as an intermediary. We will go pick up stuff from your ex, from your old place of co-habitation, which can be a little bit tricky. We’re treading lightly with that service offering. We haven’t had any situations thus far.
Can you tell me a little more about your own breakups?
Leonard: I’ve been through two large breakups; one was a divorce. There was property, a shared pet, commingled finances, you name it. All said, things were dealt with amicably as can be. No children. That made things more simple. I had a spreadsheet of all the things I had to do. The big step after all that was changing my name in 500 different places, which is a huge pain.
Meck: We found a partner who does that.
Leonard: Usually they cater more for people who are getting married, but people need it going in the other direction, too.
When I lived with a boyfriend and we split up, the emotional turmoil was much more difficult for me. I neglected my own self-care, which is one of the main components we’re trying to push. There’s more to a breakup than just getting a new apartment. You have to figure out how to feel good about yourself, take care of yourself, eat well, exercise. I wasn’t doing any of that. I wasn’t in a good place. It took me a long time. But when I had gotten over that initial hump, six months or so later, was when she was going through her first phase. I remember telling her, “I get where you’re at, trust me, you will feel better.” Being able to help her gave me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
How did the two of you meet?
Meck: We’ve been best friends since fourth grade. We’ve been through a lot. I should also add that my mother was a divorce attorney. There’s some kind of kismet about growing up with a mother who was in that line of work, and Mika and I seeing that. This isn’t something taboo, this is something that happens.
How do you set boundaries between yourselves and your clients?
Meck: The anonymity of the concierge model provides a little bit of an arm’s length. We’re definitely not their therapists. We have a couple of therapist matchmaking services. We also have a couple mindfulness studios that we feel really great about. There’s a little bit of a stigma around the mental health piece. We tell people, you’re gonna go to the hospital if you’ve broken your leg. This is a broke-your-leg situation. It’s time to marshal every resource you might have.
What advice would you give someone who is moving in with a partner that could maybe make their lives easier down the line?
Leonard: It’s so important to have expectations set from the get go. Much like people draw up a prenup, you can do that when you’re moving in with someone. Maybe you want to say, “This couch is coming with me whether you are or not.” People need to be upfront: You need to know what your own personal non-negotiables are, and communicate that.