Let's be friends, not roomies.
December 10, 2009 12:40 PM   Subscribe

So, I want to move out of my apartment. I'm going to try to do things right, and I'm not trying to screw over my roommate (we have about 4 months left on the lease). It's a somewhat delicate situation, unfortunately there is (a lot) more inside... (sorry!)

For anyone who has followed my posts regarding roommate drama, you'll know that I've had difficulty communicating with my roommate since we moved in. We fight once every month or once every other month. Usually it's over something incredibly minor, and it usually results in me getting a prolonged silent treatment from the dear roomie, regardless of the issue.

So... I feel like I've grown up a lot. I have tried to let every annoyance and inconvenience go that I possibly can. That's not to say that I forgot about them, but I've really tried hard to just deal with them on my own and not make them into a big deal because I just can't handle the way she talks to me when we discuss anything important. She usually raises her voice, and has been known to slam doors and then avoid me. It's all a big hassle, so I try to just let things go.

Well, that tactic has worked in that there have not been any significant arguments in a while, and on the face of things we seem to be getting along fine...

Except that there is a difference this time around. Usually I just apologize profusely for anything I could have possibly done wrong and try to get back on better terms. I'm still being nice, but this time something inside of me has shifted. I'm no longer worried about what she thinks of me, but I've become increasingly frustrated by the lack of respect she treats me and our apartment and things with.

I'm not writing this post to try to demonize her, just to explain that we're simply not getting along. I'd love to sit down and hash everything out with her, but according to her everything is always "fine". Well, fine it may be, but in the long run our relationship has become really unfair and one-sided. I do all the work, she does all the partying. I buy all the household supplies, she uses them. She leaves her stuff wherever, and I keep the apartment tidy.

I just feel... it's unfair. I feel like my efforts are wasted, that no one appreciates the work I've done, and when I've asked her for help with these things it never ends up happening and usually results in a stupid tiff that drives me batsh*t crazy with anxiety. Basically, I think I give up.

So, that being said, here's the meat of my question:

I have friends who have an open room in their house. I've known both of them for a while, and they've been living with each other for about 3 months. Since before they moved in, they asked me to live with them. I would love to. Their house is an upgrade in just about every way (about $150 cheaper a month, closer to school, they're both students so they keep hours more like mine (I go to bed at 11 and up at 8, my roommate goes to bed at 5 or 6 AM and wakes up around 4pm), there's a washer and dryer, it's prettier... the list goes on) and it seems perfect. I had been planning on waiting till our lease was up in April to move in with them, but as time has passed I've realized I don't think my situation here is going to improve much.

So, that being said, my roommate's best friend just broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their apartment. She's right now crashing with friends, looking for a place to live.

I thought, "perfect!" because the timing could work out just exactly right. I could move within the month, and her best friend could take my place.

So.... given that my roommate is prone to fits of anger and can be incredibly sensitive when it comes to interpersonal discussion, I'd like to break the news in a peaceful and kind-hearted way.

It would seem that everything would fit together so perfectly, but I'm afraid that my roommate's recent disagreements with her friend may dissuade her from this change.

So I'm thinking that I should just say "Hey, I think I've come up with a solution to your friend's current living situation. My friends have a great room available for me, and the new place would be easier to afford and more convenient for me anyhow. Since I've paid December rent, I'm going to start working towards moving out by January 1st, and find someone to take my room. It seems perfect that your friend would move in, but if that's not to your liking I will put an ad on craigslist and start interviewing people"

I'm worried that, A, she's going to be upset. I don't want to be mean, just to make my life a little more livable. I'm also worried that if she doesn't want to live with her friend it's going to become a huge, drawn-out process of looking for a roommate-- I'm afraid that every potential roomie will be shot down, and I'll end up paying the rent for months.

I really don't want to lose her as a friend, but it doesn't seem that I can really avoid it.

Ugh. Any advice? Thanks for reading!
posted by wild like kudzu to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just present it as, "My friends have a room in a place that is too good for me to pass up. I'm going to take it, and will pay rent until we find someone to take over the room. Would you want me to ask your friend if she's interested?"

I think framing it as "we don't get along anyways" would just cause more drama.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2009 [9 favorites]

So what if she is upset? You're moving out and no longer have to deal with her. Just tell her that you're leaving by Jan 1st and will find a replacement. As long as you make a good faith effort to do that, she'll have to deal. If she doesn't like anyone you come up with, she can either pay the rent in full herself, or settle for someone she doesn't like. If she's as bad as you describe, she's bought it on herself.

This friendship doesn't really sound like such a precious thing to lose. Friends don't raise their voice to one another, slam doors and then avoid one another. That is what six year olds do.

Nice doesn't have to equal doormat.
posted by Solomon at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2009

I'd also just like to put it out there that I don't deny that I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to talking to my roommate. She's really a good person, but I'm frankly a bit intimidated by her. It's a situation I could probably make work for a short period of time, but it's distracting me from school and such. Also, she doesn't have anger control issues, I really don't want to portray her inaccurately. It's simply that she and I can't really talk about things, and that drives me crazy.
posted by wild like kudzu at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2009

I think your approach is the most straightforward and makes the most sense. If Roomie isn't up for having Friend live there, offer to do what Roomie wants you to do as far as finding a replacement for yourself. She may want to do the legwork, she may want you to do it.

That said, I wouldn't bail without the ability to cover rent on 2 places for 4 months.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:48 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hmm. Are you jointly and severally liable for the rent? (I think that's the right expression--meaning, if one of you doesn't pay, the other roommate is obligated to pay the whole rent because the landlord doesn't care where the money comes from)? Are you even on the lease? Is your roommate the type to be willing to wreck your credit because she doesn't care about wrecking yours?

Not knowing the people involved, I would ask her best friend what she thinks. If she agrees and wants to move in, present it to your roommate as a fait accompli and then get your shit ready to go.

At that point, you will have found a new, decent, victim/roommate to take your room and pay the rent, therefore you fulfilled your obligation (from my ethical standpoint, at least).

The financial implications are more complicated, and someone else here is probably more qualified to talk about that.

There is no way that you can control whether or not she feels upset, so try to let that one go and deal with the practicalities of the situation.
posted by kathrineg at 12:55 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go with what CharlesV42 says above.

You can present it to your roommate as helpfully as possible. Take measurements of your room, take several pictures with your stuff away and your things organized, and arrange time to be around to help show the place (or make yourself scarce, should she prefer that). The less work she has to do in setting up a CL listing or email notice, the easier it will be for her to just send it out.

DON'T do what our former roommate did, which was: tell us via email on a Monday, midday (when the other roommate and I were at work without internet connections) that he wanted to leave by that weekend, and that he had two strangers from CL coming to see the place at 6pm the same day.
posted by stachemaster at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, I would give her 30 days notice, that way, if it works out earlier, fine, but if not, it is a reasonable amount of time.
posted by Vaike at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2009

If she doesn't like anyone you come up with, she can either pay the rent in full herself, or settle for someone she doesn't like.

The problem with this is that if she gets pissed and decides not to pay, and the OP is on the lease, the OP will be liable for the rent, too. The implications of this can vary based on where they live, the lease, etc.
posted by kathrineg at 12:58 PM on December 10, 2009

Your approach sounds good. I'm just encouraging you to jump on this opportunity and don't let Roomie intimidate you or make you jump through a lot of hoops. You getting out of a bad situation and into a good one is the most important thing here, NOT her sensitivity and whims and fits of anger.
posted by amethysts at 12:58 PM on December 10, 2009

Your approach sounds good - its positive, it provides a solution, possibly helps out your roomie's friend, very considerate, etc.

However, you also don't have to be this nice about it. Its perfectly appropriate for you to tell her that you are moving out, that you will put in a good faith effort to find a good replacement, but if your (current) roommate wants to be part of that process she can. Regardless, you are gone January 1 because you have a better situation. End of story.

Just don't let her negotiate, guilt you, or "yeah but" you in to staying on another four months. You will not regret taking a positive step toward improving your situation - this is a great skill to have in life.
posted by RajahKing at 12:59 PM on December 10, 2009

Thanks everyone for your feedback. I'm trying to make wise choices. It's true that she's not really a particularly good friend to me. In response to issues of the lease and such, I am on the lease and the utilities are all in my name. I've already put a call in to the landlord to see about what steps I need to take, but I haven't heard back so I don't really know the details.

Another, sadder, side of the story is that she bought a kitten back when we moved in. It's her first time living on her own, so I tried to convince her to give it a while, but instead she got one right away. Well, the cat is a terror train. He's getting better, but he bites everyone and attacks all the time. Everyone, that is, except for me. I don't want a cat, but I'm sad because I think she's probably going to take him to the pound because she just can't handle it (I know this from a conversation we had last week). It just makes me so sad, because now I love the darn thing, and he's so sweet to me but no one else, and I just can't really take him with me.

Just a little aside.... :(
posted by wild like kudzu at 1:01 PM on December 10, 2009

& also, I'm going out of town for a week tomorrow. My mom thinks I should just say all of this in an email once I'm gone. Is that really super lame?
posted by wild like kudzu at 1:12 PM on December 10, 2009

Yeah... I'd sack up and talk to her. It sounds like she'd take the time to write a passive agressive response that would end up not resolving anything.

This all being said, make sure you [i]check your lease[/i], and you are allowed to sublet. Some leases have a clause that even if you find a lessor, you forfeit your security, and have to pay a month's rent or something silly. It may be helpful to call your landlord and explain the situation and see if they have any objections before proceeding with the roommate.
posted by CharlesV42 at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2009

Given your experiences with this girl, it doesn't seem lame at all. It gives her a week to get any rage-y or bitchy response out of her system, and gives you the chance to say what you need to say without being shouted down or intimidated it.

I'm sad about the kitty. But it just seems like one more reason on a really long list of reasons why this situation sounds terrible for you.
posted by amethysts at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2009

Frame it as:

"what do you think about [friend] moving in"

From there on you can get into the "our lease is coming to an end and some classmates have asked if I might move in...I wouldn't leave you and break our lease early and this seems like it's a win-win for all."

So instead of the shock of the announcement you're showing her how this can benefit her.

I'm not sure about breaking the lease early since it's in your name and since you're trying to jump ship early you're roommate has no incentive to have the lease transferred to her name. You may have to sit this one out for now but worse case is that you have to wait the 4 months but with a silver lining they should go by pretty quickly. Maybe you're new roommates will let you move your stuff in early and possibly live there until your old lease is up and you can start paying there when you officially move in. good luck!
posted by doorsfan at 1:20 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can always find a home for the cat yourself, so that your roommate doesn't take it to the pound.

I'm very sorry that you've found yourself in this situation.
posted by kathrineg at 1:32 PM on December 10, 2009

My mom thinks I should just say all of this in an email once I'm gone. Is that really super lame?

Super lame. Super passive aggressive. Super not what an adult should do.

Have the conversation about moving out in person, and then maybe send an e-mail (or type out a letter/document) outlining whatever the two of you agree upon, just to keep a record. Leave the emotional "you never clean!" stuff out, keep it to "I'll pay rent for two months or until we find a replacement roommate, whichever comes first," etc.

If, at some point after you move out, you want to confront her about how her behavior made you feel, please have the courage (and respect for her!) to do it in person and constructively. Do it if you think it will be a way to address ongoing communication problems in your friendship, not just because you're annoyed about having done so much housework. I think there were some ways in which a former roommate/still friend of mine behaved thoughtlessly when we shared an apartment, but it doesn't impact our current friendship so I haven't ever felt the need to address it: when I moved out, the problem went away and we remained good friends. Consider what you'll gain from a confrontation before you launch into a discussion of her bad-roommate-behavior. Moreover, I think another former roommate of mine could say exactly the same thing (that I behaved thoughtlessly toward her when we lived together), but she just let it go once we no longer lived together. Some friends just aren't good roommates, and some shared living situations bring out the worst (or most clashing parts) in different personalities.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:42 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

"My friends have a room in a place that is too good for me to pass up. I'm going to take it, and will pay rent until we find someone to take over the room. for 1 month. Perhaps your friend Jane would be a candidate. We'll need to get the landlord to rewrite the lease."

Your roomie has violated her part of the deal, which is to do her share of the work, and buy her own stuff, so you have no moral requirement toward her. This is a fine opportunity to learn to manage potential confrontation. I guarantee you that you will have many potential confrontations in your life, so you might as well start dealing.

Seriously, talk to the landlord, because otherwise you're going to get screwed. Get the lease rewritten with the new names.
posted by theora55 at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

My mom thinks I should just say all of this in an email once I'm gone. Is that really super lame?

Yes. That's pretty much called "dicking her over." You can definitely say good-bye to your friendship if you do that.

From reading through these posts (because, as you say, she actually "doesn't have anger control issues"), you really really need to work on your fear of confrontation. The way to talk to her about it is not to apologize and not to act like it's negotiable. Tell her that you have an opportunity to move into a cheaper place, and that her friend has a chance to move in. If she slams the door on you, so what?

But please, please don't apologize if she gets angry with you--you realize that every time you apologize for her anger--or even ignore it without sticking up for yourself--you're only reinforcing to her that acting brashly/callously is the way to get you to crawl back to her and act contrite, right?

I'm worried that, A, she's going to be upset. I don't want to be mean,

Her getting upset does not mean that you're being mean.

I feel like I've grown up a lot. I have tried to let every annoyance and inconvenience go that I possibly can.

I also don't know that letting things go to the point where you want to move out of a living situation with a friend without talking to them is really "growing up" either. I hope that when you move into your new living situation, you can find some way to communicate your needs with your new roommates, or else (I fear) the same thing will just happen again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:08 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

[As someone who had a crummy roommate situation, just to let you know that on the other end of this (10 years later), I only think about that roommate a few times a year and she is now a short story told at cocktail parties. Point being, it sucks now, but it is a short-term sucking.]

But aside from that, I hate to say it, but after following these threads, it seems like YES, she is a weirdo roommate, but that part of the problem is you and your concern for her feelings.

If it were me, I'd stop being so concerned for her feelings and stop trying to be a fortune teller playing in my own head all the different (usually worst-case) scenarios that could occur after talking to her. The fact is, you have no idea how she is going to react. There is a 2% chance she'll be really upset, a 2% chance that she'll be super happy and 96% chance that it'll be somewhere in the middle.

You need to tell yourself that no matter what happens that THIS TOO SHALL PASS and you are going to survive telling her and the moving out process. You need to put yourself first and her second.

As far as what to do, logistically, as others have said, FIND HER in the house NOW - not after XMas break (email is a terrible idea) - and say, "Hey, my friends A and B have a room in a place that is too good to pass up (don't give her details to quibble with - make the fact that you're moving a solid FACT). I want to make sure that you aren't screwed over financially, so I can for sure pay my rent through February and I will do all that I can to find a suitable replacement to sublet from me."

(And remember with the subletting that you would LIKE for her to be with someone nice, but that the TOP PRIORITY is for you to have someone who is going to pay on time and not eff anything up for you because your name is still on the lease.)

Then, based on her reaction, suggest that you can take out a Craigslist ad, put something on the student bulletin board or whatever ASAP and then ask her if she knows of anyone that might be interested. LET HER SUGGEST RECENTLY DUMPED FRIEND - stay out of it! After she (hopefully) suggests recently dumped friend, act surprised and say "That'd be awesome! Can you call her and find out what the deal is?" If she doesn't suggest recently dumped friend, you could suggest it, but don't push it.

Stop worrying about the cat too. It sucks that she got a cat and will now take it to the pound. This is NOT YOUR PROBLEM.

And, FWIW, I find that living with people that are not my friends makes life much easier.
posted by k8t at 2:36 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

And I'd just throw out a "Gosh, I wish I could take schnookums-the-kitty with me" somewhere along the line and leave it at that. She'd probably call you up to ask you if you wanted it if it turned out she was going to take it to the pound. If she's not insane, that is.
posted by rhizome at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2009

Whatever you do, don't present it as you asking her for permission. You don't need her approval to improve your living situation. Just be matter-of-fact and as unemotional as possible when you tell her you've found a better living arrangement and will be gone in a month.

You don't say, "Hey, so I want to move into this place, what do you think?"

You do say, "I'm moving in with some friends 30 days from now. Let's figure out how we can find a new roommate for you and get his/her name on the lease." Proactive and doesn't give her the option of telling you no.

And definitely get your name off the lease. Don't give her even the tiniest bit of power over you, as she doesn't sound like a very nice person.
posted by balls at 5:03 PM on December 10, 2009

"Hey, I think I've come up with a solution to your friend's current living situation."

No. That's you tiptoeing around the bad-tempered princess. You need to tell her what you really mean, which is, "This living situation isn't working for me. I have an opportunity to move somewhere better, and I'm going to do that. I'll help you find a replacement as best I can - how about your friend? Would you like me to ask her?"

She probably will have a hissy fit. Too damn bad for her. Your moving out is because of her behavior, so let the feedback mechanism work. If she doesn't learn anything about interpersonal relationships from it, well at least it isn't your fault for hiding the consequences trying to be "nice."

Besides, you've lived through her tantrums before, why not one more for old times' sake, eh?
posted by ctmf at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

No. That's you tiptoeing around the bad-tempered princess.

That is, just from the kind of apprehensive or fake-perky way you say "Hey," - before you even make it to the second word - she will be signaled that this is about to be a conversation where she is the princess and you are afraid to make her mad at you. Making up a lamely transparent optimistic spin for the bad news will only reinforce those roles. You're setting yourself and her up for a failed communication right from the get-go, because she will play the role you've assigned her.

You pretty much have to play it straight and say what you mean, like I said above. Or, you could assign yourself the role of the heartless backstabber, and her the victim, and just tell her you're moving out without offering anything until she whines and cries about it. Then you can grudgingly agree to pay up through the new year and maybe even help find a new roommate (if it's not too much trouble for you). I mean, if you're going to have to live through a passive-agressive siege for weeks anyway, you may as well have fun with it.

I still recommend the straightforward "I'm doing this. So we need to do this. I'll do this part." Just the facts.
posted by ctmf at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Dear Professor Flake...   |   What printed this Certification? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.