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GET OFF THE COUCH
February 15, 2007 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Does my roommate need help, or do I?

I'm living in a 4 bedroom apartment, two boys and two girls all around 23 years old.

My roommate B quit his job a couple of months ago. At first he looked around for new jobs, but didn't find anything that met his standards. After barely coming through with the rent and expenses, he finally admitted defeat and called his parents for money. They aren't rich, but have been sending him money to help him out while he looks for work.

The trouble is, now that he's getting money from them, he's not looking for work at all. I know none of that is my business, as long as the bills are paid, but as friends and roommates we have grown concerned as the months have started to roll by.

The biggest problem is that he literally hasn't left the house in two weeks. He spends every day in front of the TV waiting for the rest of us to get home, and in the evening he gets wasted with whoever happens to be around. He doesn't seem depressed or too concerned about what comes next-- he's cheerful and mostly the same as ever-- but in the meantime he is ALWAYS underfoot. In a four-roommate-household I had grown to treasure the occasions when I had the house to myself, getting small amounts of privacy that I've begun to count on for my own sanity. Now that's impossible, because B is around 24/7 and always eager to hang out together. I don't know how to let him know that this is inappropriate conduct in a crowded house, because I am not sure whether I'm being reasonable. Either way, I work a lot and without time alone to relax, I'm starting to feel a build-up of anxiety and resentment.

So far we've held off on saying anything judgmental, waiting for this phase to pass. Now, with no end in sight and my patience fraying, I'm afraid that if anything IS said about it, my frustration will show through and he will feel attacked. We showed him lots of sympathy at first, helping him buy stuff and scouting for jobs and helping him fill the empty time with fun stuff so he wouldn't get depressed about being unemployed. All that has worn off and now I feel like there's no way out of this without a lot of hurt feelings.

My other roommates are also aggravated, but even less willing to rock the boat than I've been. What can we do to fix this?
posted by BE ADEQUITE to Human Relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
If all of you are in agreement that this isn't a good situation, all of you need to sit down with B and have a talk. If you can get him to, B should layout a plan of action and the rest of you should help him stick to it. Also, you and your roommates should not be getting wasted with him at night. Stop making it okay that he's around all the time.

If you're the only one who's actually irritated by this, then you need to find some other way to get alone time, even if that means hanging out at the library or a coffeeshop or going for walks more often. Do you share a room? If not, go in there and shut the door.

I sympathize. I'm in a similar situation with one roommate out of work and always around, and I need my time, too. I haven't found a perfect solution yet.
posted by bibbit at 8:03 AM on February 15, 2007


Are you sure he isn't depressed?
posted by ludwig_van at 8:07 AM on February 15, 2007


You can't go to your room and close the door? That's a good way to get some privacy normally. You shouldn't feel obligated to entertain him. I'm also not sure you should feel obligated to get him employed. Being unemployed gets boring fast when you're broke ass and all your friends are working and doing shit. He might actually be depressed. He may also be lazy.
posted by chunking express at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2007


I don't think it's your responsibility nor business to make your roommate stop living off his parents. That is really a family matter. Your only concern is if he pays his bills or not.

It's also a little iffy to complain that you never get the house to yourself anymore. You moved in with three other people; you couldn't have been expecting much privacy. However, if he is genuinely monopolising certain areas of the house, then I think it's fair to tell him he needs to share the kitchen/living room/deck fairly.
posted by loiseau at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2007


Stop making it okay that he's around all the time.

This is basically what I'm looking for help with.

I don't party with them at night anymore. My other roommates do, probably because getting wasted is their own way of avoiding problems.

I don't know whether he's actually depressed. Even if I thought he was, what's to be done about it? Suggesting one's roommates get help with psychological problems, even if executed gently, is pretty thin ice to travel on.

I may be able to move in June, if it comes to that. Until then I'm stuck.
posted by BE ADEQUITE at 8:20 AM on February 15, 2007


Surely sounds like depression to me:

- not leaving the house (isolation)
- lack of motivation
- daily attempts to escape reality by drinking

But then the problem becomes: how to help somebody with depression? That's no easy task.
posted by escher at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have low expectations of privacy because of our full house, which is exactly why being deprived of even the few, occasional moments of privacy feels like a pretty big deal/

Also, I can't hide out in my room all the time. Like I said, it's been a couple of months, and it's winter, which means more indoor time in general. I'd love to sit in the living room and read, or spend time in the kitchen cooking. When I leave my room, however, he sees that as an invitation to socialize, so I do in fact wind up getting out of the house altogether to avoid him.
posted by BE ADEQUITE at 8:27 AM on February 15, 2007


I'm going to agree with chunking express and loiseau here. I've lived in situations where I've had to share common areas with 8 other people. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy in this situation, unless you clearly work one out before-hand. It sucks, but that's one of the "joys" of having roommates. Now, if they're up late partying every night and disturbing you, that's a different story. If he's not paying the rent, that's another story, too. If they're hogging the shared TV, or the balcony, or the kitchen, then you'd have a case. But if you're annoyed because he hangs out in the living room all the time, looking to hang out with you, and you don't want to hang out with him, then that's your problem, not his.
posted by muddgirl at 8:29 AM on February 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't think you should say anything about how much he is annnoying you right now, not to him anyways. If he wants to stay home all day, that is his choice, please remember, he does live there too. It is his house just as much as it is yours, and he can do what he wants in the shared living areas. My roommatesget home before me quite often, and they take over the living room. If I'm not in the mood to talk to them or don'tlike what they're watching on TV, I'll just go to my own room, because when you live with roommates, the only place whereyou should ever expect privacy is in your own bedroom.

Depression? I wouldn't jump to any conclusions here. He has only been like this two weeks, and drinking that much isnot a big deal for a 23 year old, especially if it is with others. When he starts to get trashed by himself, you may have a problem. I would suggest asking him every few days, nicely, how the job hunt is going, maybe even look through the ads andoffer some suggestions. I had a roommate go through this a couple of years ago, after a few weeks of laying in his bed and watching movies all day, he finally moved out and joined the Army. He will get bored eventually being home all day, just give him some more time, and hopefully he'll figure things out for himself.
posted by trueluk at 8:35 AM on February 15, 2007


I agree with Loiseau. Btw, I hated living with roommates. It's not always fun.

However, if you're friendly enough to party with him, why can't you ask about the job hunting in a friendly way? Why can't you even perhaps help him in a friendly way? Why can't you ask him if he thinks he's been partying too much? You don't have the right to ask him to change his behavior (yes, this really is your problem), but I don't see why you can't have a dialogue with him.
posted by xammerboy at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2007


I've been in this situation--unemployed, not leaving the house--and I was deeply depressed (also lazy, but the depression was the bigger problem). Eventually (after I'd maxed my credit card and withdrawn my IRA to pay bills) my roommate told me he was becoming concerned. I was annoyed at his implication that I was depressed and needed help, not because he was wrong but because he wasn't.

In any case, I got a job in the next couple of days (one I'd been hoping not to, and one I didn't stay with forever, but at least it was income). If I were you, I'd just mention that you're concerned about him.
posted by Tuwa at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2007


BE ADEQUITE, I know camping out in your room sucks, but really, that's the only place you should expect privacy. You're sharing the common areas of your home. If you are in the kitchen, people might come and talk to you. If you don't want to tell them to piss off, then you need to deal with that. I always lived in shared accommodations when I was going through university, so I say this from experience. If you aren't in your room, people assume you want to hang out.

I also think people are too quick to assume someone is clinically depressed. Unemployed dude with funds from his mom drinking at home with his roommates during the cold winter months doesn't strike me as something to get stressed about.

I guess i'm just repeating what trueluk just said.
posted by chunking express at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2007


I kind of see two sides to this situation:

1. As long as he is meeting his commitments to the living arrangement (i.e., paying his bills), it's none of your business. You're not his parents, etc.

2. If you consider yourselves to all be friends, you might have a valid reason for confronting him, but know ahead of time it will not be well-recieved.

I would think, though, that the motivating factor in talking to him is not that you are all roommates of the same place and therefore have some say in each other's behavior, but rather that you are caring friends who are looking to bring a friend out of the doldrums.
posted by Doohickie at 8:54 AM on February 15, 2007


Other people have touched on this but I think it is very important to say that you are approaching him as a friend and not a roommate.
posted by Diskeater at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2007


When did "going through that post-college slacking phase" turn into "OMG HE IS CLINICALLY DEPRESSED OMG!!!!"?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:04 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Everyone here wants to be a psychiatrist; There's clinically depressed, and then there's just plain lazy.

Back in college, I was in a similar situation. At one point, I had five roommates, and one of them was perpetually between jobs. During the periods when he was unemployed, he'd sponge money off his family and friends to get by. And he was always there on the couch.

He didn't spend much time trying to find a job, and why would he? He didn't have to go to class (since he dropped out of school), and he always had beer, weed, cable, and people around, free of charge. Eventually, everyone got tired of paying for him, and stopped (including his family). Not long after that, he just left (and stuck us with his share of the rent, naturally).

You all live in the same space, so to a certain extent, what goes on in your apartment is the business of everyone who lives there. If you aren't cool with the situation, and your roommates aren't cool with the situation, then there's a problem. You and your roommates need to point-blank ask the guy: "When are you going to get a job?" If he says "That's none of your business", then somebody leaves (you or him), or you learn to tolerate his behavior.
posted by Gamblor at 9:08 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is it out of line to tell him, "Hey, I have the day off and would like to have the house to myself for a little while. Do you mind clearing out of here for a few hours so I can read without the TV on in the background and run around half-naked and talk real loud on the phone and try to forget that I have to work tonight?" And should such a request be accompanied by a bribe?
posted by BE ADEQUITE at 9:12 AM on February 15, 2007


An AskMe question from the perspective of Roommate B, with answers tending to fall closer to 'he's the problem' rather than 'you're the problem'.
posted by dorisfromregopark at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2007


It took me 5 or 6 months of leeching off my parents, daytime TV, getting wasted and the World of Warcraft to find a suitable job.

I can empathize with your roommate, especially if he happens to be in a rather specific field such as myself.

I'd say let the man deal with his issues in his own way. Only if the money becomes a serious problem does it become something that you have to deal with as well.
posted by smackwich at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2007


This is a universal experience for anyone who has ever lived with lots of roommates. Eventually, I predict, you'll rethink whether your finances can handle the increased rent of a studio apartment, and the problem will solve itself.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2007


B.A. - asking him to clear out for a few hours doesn't sound unreasonable to me and may even do him some good. Present it with a smile as a personal favor to indulge one of your own quirks, not to address his faults. Maybe give him a few bucks for lunch.

Everyone's saying you have no right to expect anything out of the guy except rent, but it seems to me that you didn't agree up front to move in with a 24/7 couch-jockey. He's changed his pattern in a way that has become irritating. Don't suffer in silence indefinitely. Ask him to help you get by.

Alternatively, you could get all passive-aggressive and turn being irritating into a sport -- run around half-naked talking loudly on the phone, make curry & sauerkraut, smoke cigars, clip your toenails and chew gum with your mouth open. But that might only be fun for a while...
posted by Tubes at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2007


And should such a request be accompanied by a bribe?

You can try it but it probably won't work.

This really is his problem, not yours. This guy is starving for social interaction but he's stuck under some misguided social concept that certain jobs are beneath his skillset. There's a certain benefit that comes with having a job and getting out of the house is one of them. This guy is lazy and is now stuck in a rut. He might not be depressed but he sure isn't enjoying his life right now.

It's totally acceptable to ask him if you can read quietly in the living room and, as long as the request isn't unreasonable (say you ask during the World Cup and his favorite team is on) and isn't too frequent, he should honor it. I've lived with roommates for 7 years and this method seems to work well. Roommate B does have his own room that he can enjoy during this spare time.

It sounds like Roommate B doesn't have any desire or need to go outside. Does he not have an outside organization to attend or to get involved in? Does he have any responsibilities that exist outside? If not, then he's probably starved for attention. Even if you live in a cube at work, you have to see other people and there is a certain level of enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with that. When you come home from work, Rooommate B notices you and you become his social focal point. And I'm like you - after a long day, talking to my roommates might not be on the top of my priority list.

I think you understand how privacy works with roommates but you do have the right to request the opportunity to use common areas that are being monopolized.
posted by Stynxno at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2007


If he hasn't left the house in two weeks, who is supplying him with weed and beer? Cut him off. IF you severe his supply lines he will have to take steps to perpetuate his situation. He (she?) will have to go to the grocery store, will have to hook up with the weed supplier, etc. Do not enable his laziness.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:46 AM on February 15, 2007


Sorry, but when you live with people, the only real place for privacy is your own room. When you're in a common area, you are saying that you are available for interaction, at least that's how it's been everywhere I've ever lived. There's a few things you can do to limit the interaction and hope he'll get the hint. Mostly, just don't respond with full gusto as you might otherwise. I've found that replying with a bunch of "hmmm"s, "huh"s and other non-committal responses is a good way to get people to leave you alone. Having on headphones helps too, even if you're not actually listening to music. Or hell, just be honest. Tell him that you'd love to chat later, but right now you need to concentrate on cooking/reading. I've also done what Stynxno suggests and just asking for the space, which has also worked. Personally, I think you're overreacting and should accept that his being around and eager to hang out is not "inappropriate conduct" in a group house. Sorry.
posted by ml98tu at 11:29 AM on February 15, 2007


I don't think that you can expect your roommate to clear out just because you want some space. However asking him to clear out is not a bad idea (no matter how unlikely it will be effective). I would also start doing itemized invoices of everything he's consuming (I am laissez-faire with this normally, but if they don't ever go on interviews or give space it's a pretty big issue).

I personally would probably get snippy and imply he's bored because he never goes out and doesn't have a job. YMMV with that one.
posted by shownomercy at 11:32 AM on February 15, 2007


This won't work out. I would either move out (or if your other roommates are as serious as you are and not coerced, get together to talk about it and give him a reasonable timetable to leave).

He will eventually get out his funk, either my external or internal stimulus. The problem is that this can literally take years and the resentment will build for all parties.

Some advice above assume we all live with incredibly rational people in some kind of Platonic living condition. The problem is that such things can get quite emotional and I will very much doubt that the current situation will last another 6 months if absolutely nothing is done.

The best advice I have to give is to eschew being passive-aggressive and be as direct as possible. Make sure you don't let him give any excuses and just be very simple. Unless he's incredibly dense or incredibly lazy he will not fight this like a heroin addict at an intervention.

I am sorry but the best thing I ever did (and seeing friends go through this) is to treat it in a professional manner. Don't try to be his best buddy while kicking him out, that's just cruel.
posted by geoff. at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2007


Tell him you're tired of seeing him sit on his ass all the time, drinking like a viking. If that doesn't work, call his folks and tell them to come get him.

I had a roommate like that once. He couldn't find a job doing what he wanted, so he quit looking, then quit going to class, then just sat in his room all day reading cheap sci-fi. Finally my girlfriend told me he went through her stuff while I was offshore, and told me to get rid of him.

Give him the helping boot before he wanders off forgetting to pay the bills or your stuff turns up missing.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2007


Unless you and your roommates had agreed, previously, that you each were entitled to occasionally have the house to yourself, IMO you don't have grounds to force him to do anything, and it would be inappropriate to term his use of the house "inappropriate conduct," as he is a paying tenant. Additionally, the manner in which he brings in income to pay the bills is absolutely none of your business, as a roommate. This would be a situation where compromise would be good; explain that you occasionally had the house to yourself when he was working, and you were wondering if you could make arrangements with him to have the house to yourself at such and such a time. If you are indeed friends with him, addressing whether he will get a job and the issue of him not leaving the house is a separate issue.
posted by WCityMike at 12:58 PM on February 15, 2007


It sounds like the issue is not just that the guy is around all the time, but a) that is he is monopolizing the common space (where I assume the TV is located), and b) that he views your presence in the common space as an invitation to socialize.

For a), I think it's totally fine to ask the guy to clear out of the common area for a while each day. Otherwise, he's basically treating the living room as an extension of his bedroom. If the TV is the issue, suggest he get a TV for his room.

For b), you need to cultivate the following skill: when he starts chatting with you, sits down on the couch next to you, etc., smile at him in a friendly way and say "I'm not feeling very social right now. Could we chat later?"
posted by ottereroticist at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2007


do you know his parents at all? It seems to me that if you could tell them "Hey, sending your kid free money isn't really helping him" that would force a change. Of course there could be bad repercussions but it all depends on the individuals involved.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:42 PM on February 15, 2007


I think you should say: "Hey, I have the day off and would like to have the house to myself for a little while. Do you mind clearing out of here for a few hours so I can read without the TV on in the background and run around half-naked and talk real loud on the phone and try to forget that I have to work tonight?"

Except do it ahead of time ("hey, I have the day off tomorrow) and add something ("And then on Saturday, are you still up for watching the game?") so he knows you'd like him to be absent temporarily, not forever. No bribe needed, in my opinion.

Applying for houses, I've been interviewed about my habits for the specific reason that "we all like having the house to ourselves once in a while." So, I definitely understand your perspective.

But from his point of view, he probably has no clue. He probably sees a group of friends who hang out when they're not working. He probably waits through his boredom until people come home to hang out. And so he may have no clue you would prefer quiet time -- why would you, when you can all be having fun together?

So I'd explain yourself to him as though you are explaining a certain foreign custom he's never heard of before. ("They like to walk around the entire house... but be alone there. They want to know the whole house is empty. Not just a room!")

Also, could you steer the crew out into the world, from time to time? Go shoot some pool or something? It'd differentiate your living room from party central, and some nights he & your housemates might all go out and leave you alone in the house.

I also liked xammerboy's response.
posted by salvia at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2007


Hmmm.. so he's hanging out in the living room getting wasted when you would like to just veg out there by yourself?

Sounds like you need to send this boy out to a party somewhere, then you can both be happy.
posted by yohko at 6:31 PM on February 15, 2007


"Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir."

The one thing that stands out to me: "Didn't find anything that met his standards."

Tough luck. Does he even have the qualifications to meet their standards? Does he know employers choose you and not the other way around? Tell the poor boy to grow up and stop leeching off his folks when he's plenty capable of earning his own, even if he has to stock groceries. It's not his parent's job to keep him in beer money and rent. It's HIS! This kid needs to get off his ass and start contributing or find another place to live (maybe he should go home.) Don't let his laziness bring the whole house down.

In the meantime, set his homepage to monster or career builder and have the browser to open up tabs linking to the local apartment listings.
posted by DonnieSticks at 9:28 PM on February 15, 2007


"In the meantime, set his homepage to monster or career builder and have the browser to open up tabs linking to the local apartment listings."

Subtle! Ha. I love it.
posted by Tubes at 7:30 PM on February 16, 2007


It sounds as though he is still depressed and needs direction to get out of his funk. If you don't care to look at this everyday, then maybe an "were are concerned about you" intervention might get him jump started into making a change. If that doesn't work, you all might have a hard decision to make.

Cheers.
posted by coryjojobob at 9:22 AM on March 8, 2007


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