It sounds like a perfect scenario, living with friends. It is easy to imagine one big endless sleepover, pizza’s and icecream and giggling galore. Parties. Partners. Sharing clothes and accessories. Venting. Inspiring and motivating each other…. and so much more. Its really no surprise that so many of us move in with friends, at various stages of life.
While there are times that definitely feature all of these things, let’s not forget that it’s not all rainbows and lollipops though. For starters, when you live with someone, habits that initially seemed funny or endearing, quickly become irritating. Or opposite character traits get in the way. What if you are very messy and she is always nagging at you to clean up? Or if you go to bed early and she stays up making noise til 3am? Do you have to inform each other where you will be, with whom, or if and when you will be coming home? Where are the privacy boundaries?
These small things are apt to become big things when amplified, not to mention the actual big issues that are bound to arise. What happens if someone can’t pay their share of the rent, or your pet cat attacks her pet bird? What if things start going missing, or her friends start conducting shady behaviours from your property that could leave you in trouble?
Not to mention the responsibilities. How will you divide the chores? What is who’s responsibility? Will she walk your dog when you are away? Will you cook dinner each night because you finish work earlier than she does? What if you own the house and she only rents a room? Do you pay half for the bills etc...? If she breaks your washing machine, who is liable for the replacement or repair? What initially seemed like a dream, can easily become a logistical nightmare that could cause your friend to move out of your house, and your life if you aren’t careful.
That’s not to say I think it can’t work, it definitely can. However, you need to have clear boundaries between your friendship and the formalities of living together. What you may expect of your friend, must come second to what you expect of your roommate. While you may hope or expect your friend to bail you out if you are short for the rent this week, or she may expect you to cook for her boyfriend each night although he doesn’t live there or contribute, you must always ask yourself what is reasonable? What is your responsibility and how can you meet it, or avoid making your problems her problems?
You need to have a formal discussion and agreement on these important issues before you move in and both agree to committing to the agreement above all else. It seems very formal, and it is, but you may find it is actually protecting you both, and your future friendship.
If your friend gets mad at you for not pulling your weight, you need to be mature enough to acknowledge the issue and fix it instead of producing a list of all the things you have done for her. Yes, maybe you did buy the milk for the last month but does that really mean she should wash all your dishes?
It really all comes down to respect. Respect your roommate. Respect her things, her space, her privacy and her wishes as much as possible, and expect the same respect in return. Respect that you are sharing a space and pick up and clean up after yourself. Be as honest as you can and maintain open communication before little issues become big ones.
If she agreed to let you move in for a month, don’t stay longer than that without a discussion beforehand. If you agreed to move in to take care of the house and pets while she is on holidays, then stick to your agreement and do so, without making it seem like it is a big inconvenience for you. If you break something, you pitch in to fix it. If your boyfriend is there all the time, you pay extra for things like food, water, electricity etc…. Pay your way, on time, every time.
Life happens. Circumstances change. I understand that, which is why you may need to renegotiate certain aspects of the arrangement from time to time, but if you do so in a way that shows consideration to your friend, and not just yourself, your friendship has a better chance at success. For example, perhaps you got unexpectedly pregnant, and decided you wanted to move in with your partner, or back home. You wont be staying for the duration of your lease, it isn’t practical. As your friend, you expect support and understanding of your new situation, however you have to understand this impacts your friend in big ways. You need to be able to discuss what this will mean for your friend and what you can and will do to assist her. Will you find a way to continue to pay even if you aren’t living there? Will you help her find an alternative roommate? Does she even want to keep living there without you? If not, will you contact the agent and pay a break contract fee?
Living with someone is a responsibility, so if you can’t take responsibility for yourself, I advise against it. That’s not to say it’s any less complicated when living with roommates that are not friends, the same rules apply, it’s just you have less to lose if the relationship sours. If you stick to the rules either way, you should find you have a new friend, or an even closer one. If you can survive living together, there isn’t much you can’t get through.
What have your experiences of living with friends been like?
Your Best Friend ForNever