Two friends enter, one friend leaves. Roommate or boyfriend?
May 5, 2011 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I need a roommate for my awesome apartment. I have a friend who’d make a good roommate, but she really dislikes my boyfriend—and doesn’t know I’m dating him. And my boyfriend likes her, potentially more than he likes me. How to resolve?

I’ve been in this apartment for awhile, and I love it. My current roommate found a place of her own and is moving out, while my lease locks me in here for almost a year. If I can’t find a friend to fill the empty spot, the owners will install the highest bidder from Craigslist, which is not good. Craigslist is a total crapshoot and finding a sane roommate, let alone a good one, is very difficult.

I’m always extremely leery of living with friends, but I’ve known Jen for about two years, and she and I have similar living styles; I honestly think we could make it work, and be really good roommates. I don’t have any other acquaintances who are interested in moving in (whose leases are up at the same time, who want to be in this neighborhood, who have the same budget, etc.). I’m spreading the word to broader circles, but no nibbles yet.

I’ve been seeing Aaron for about 8 or 9 months. Although we get along well and enjoy spending time together, we’re both on the same page that this isn’t a passion for the ages and it won’t lead to marriage or anything equally serious.

Before I met Aaron, he met Jen and expressed interest in her (one time). She felt uncomfortable and said that he was being creepy. He said he was joking and has apologized. She didn’t accept the apology, still thinks he’s icky, and doesn’t want to know him. After this happened, I met him, thought he was fine, and then found out about their issue (which I didn’t think was major). He and I spent months as friends before becoming involved. Although Jen knows that he and I are friendly, she doesn’t know the extent of our involvement. There hasn’t been some elaborate concealment; it just hasn’t really come up.

Aaron and I continue to joke about his attraction to Jen. I didn’t think it was a big deal and I didn’t worry about it since I thought they’d never see each other again. But Jen is more attractive than me, and I think their personalities are also a better fit. (For example: Aaron and I both have strong opinions that sometimes clash; Jen likes being directed and doesn’t take things too seriously. Aaron has money and enjoys paying for fancy dinners, which sometimes makes me feel guilty or uncomfortable, but Jen is used to having things bought for her and generally expects it.) If Jen and I were living together and Aaron visited, although Aaron would definitely behave appropriately, Jen and I would both be very uncomfortable.

As I see it, these are my options.

1) Accept Jen as a roommate and stop seeing Aaron. Good roommates are very difficult to find, and I think Jen and I would be great roommates. Although Aaron and I have been seeing each other for awhile, and we do like each other, we both agree that there’s no serious future. This isn’t like breaking off an engagement.

2) Accept Jen as a roommate and try to keep it a secret that I’m seeing Aaron. This has potential—as a sitcom plot. In real life, I don’t think it would work. (Visiting Aaron’s apartment isn’t an option: he has several cats and I’m very allergic. I don’t have insurance to cover allergy shots.)

3) Accept Jen as a roommate, reveal that I’m dating Aaron, and tell her to deal with it. This is not an option. She would be so upset that it wouldn’t be good to live together, and I wouldn’t want to bring her and Aaron into the same space because everyone would be uncomfortable.

4) Continue seeing Aaron, and put up with the apartment owners’ choice of a roommate. This has the potential to be very bad. The owners are okay with choosing someone I’m not okay with (e.g., a skeezy 50-year-old man or a fighting couple).

Other ideas? Try to break the lease? (But I love this apartment!) Anything else? I’m really torn. I don’t want to stop seeing Aaron, but I think Jen and I have more future potential as roommates than Aaron and I do in a relationship.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total)
Option 5: Post the apartment on craigslist. Interview and screen potential roommates yourself and listen to your gut, and you will find someone you can live with. Build a nice big wall between the relationship/friend drama and your living situation.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2011 [47 favorites]

Yeah, you want to check the legality in your jurisdiction of the way the owners are handling the leases.

Generally, this is why some jurisdictions require "joint and several" leases; I'm not quite sure how your roommate got out of the lease when you did not? Were you subletting to her?

Or are you out of the lease but thinking of renewing without her?

I think the owners can enforce the lease they have with you (that is, require you to pay the rent), or decline to enter into a new lease with you, but I don't think they can require you to room with another person or, as you suggest, a couple.
posted by orthogonality at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Option 5.

And adding the corollary that if Aaron joking about Jen is starting to get on your nerves, tell him to cut that shit out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Why not take to Jen about it directly? Let her know you're dating Aaron, see how she feels about that and ask her what steps she would want you to take to make a livable environment for her in the apartment. If what she asks is reasonable, great! You have found a good roommate and can still see the guy you've been dating. If not, maybe there is room for compromise or you decide to go with one of the above options. I don't think you need to start with option 1, 2, or 3.
posted by goggie at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Definitely Option 5. You don't want your life to be an episode of Jerry Springer, do you?
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have to hide your relationship from your friend, it's either not a good relationship or not a good friend.

Option 5 for sure.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:51 AM on May 5, 2011 [14 favorites]

You seem really, really casual about the idea of breaking up with Aaron, so if you have to go for one of your stated options, I would pick #1. But I still think it's kind of wacky: if I disliked a guy who'd hit on me on a way I found "creepy," then moved in with a friend and later found out that she had both a) been dating him for a 3/4 of a year and not told me, and b) dumped him so I would move in with her, I honestly think that would make me ... well, pretty weirded out.

You should go for PercussivePaul's Option 5. I have used Craigslist to successfully find non-insane roommates three or four times in the past. Yes, it takes a little more front-end work on your end -- I met up with potentials in a Starbuck's or McDs, chatted a bit to screen them, and listened to my gut. It was pretty obvious each time when I clicked with someone.
posted by alleycat01 at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

She would be so upset that it wouldn’t be good to live together

You should probably just find a different roommate anyway, but this is not necessarily true. Speaking from experience, guys who have uncomfortably hit on you in the past are much easier to be around once they start dating someone.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:53 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah--or what goggie says. Communication is always a good thing.

(And if the fear that Aaron is more attracted to Jen than you is going to get in the way of that ... then you should probably just break it off anyway. A guy you can't trust not to hit on your girlfriends is not worth keeping around.)
posted by alleycat01 at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2011

I think Jen and I have more future potential as roommates than Aaron and I do in a relationship.

Talk to her about it first, but I think you've answered your own question that #1 is what you'd prefer.

If you're already nonchalant about breaking it off with him, then maybe you should just do it anyway. Hanging on to a relationship merely because you just want to be in one isn't going to do you any favors - go work on finding someone you adore and who adores you.
posted by lizbunny at 11:02 AM on May 5, 2011

Accept Jen as a roommate, reveal that I’m dating Aaron, and tell her to deal with it.

Why does the ending to this have to be "and tell her to deal with it?" And why does it have to be a "reveal." It sounds like you have some guilt or shame around dating Aaron, but that's really silly. Just tell her you and Aaron are casually dating, but you don't see a future in it. And instead of going "deal with it" just ASK her if she's be comfortable being around him as a roommate. If her answer is "maybe" ask her what would make her comfortable in that situation.

Would she be uncomfortable with Aaron hanging around making googly eyes at her, maneuvering to always sit next to her, making "subtle" flirty remarks to her, or whatever it was he did that she found creepy? Then, talk to Aaron about those things. He's into Jen? You and maybe he think she would be "better" for him? So what, because Jen doesn't agree! He should not be hitting on her at all given that she finds it creepy and isn't into it. If Aaron isn't actually a creep he should understand that it's not cool for him to be coming on to someone who isn't into him, no matter how subtly he does it.

I think if you just talk to Jen, then to Aaron, and if everyone is mature this can be resolved easily.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:05 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

But Jen is more attractive than me

I think that's in the eye of the beholder. I would not have this person move in, it sounds like too much drama.

And stop selling yourself short. You have a lot to offer, obviously, because Aaron is with you.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:07 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two years is not really that long for you to be so sure that she will be so great as a roommate. I’m detecting a little bit of… disdain? disrespect? in your descriptions of her.

She didn’t accept the apology, still thinks he’s icky, and doesn’t want to know him. Do you think she overreacted? Do you think she’s stubborn?

Jen is used to having things bought for her and generally expects it. Do you think she has a sense of entitlement? Do you think she’s spoiled?

She would be so upset that it wouldn’t be good to live together. Do you think she’s histrionic? Do you think you’ll have to walk on eggshells around her, doing or not doing things so as not to make her “so upset”?

If any of this is accurate (not about her necessarily, but about your feelings toward her), think about how these things will manifest in her as a roommate. Anything about her personality that you don’t like, that you find annoying or unreasonable, or that makes it difficult to deal with her, will be magnified one-gazillion-fold once you are living together.

So, to reiterate everyone else, why can’t you pick your own roommate from Craigslist? I’m sure the landlord would rather have you choose someone. And getting into this whole situation will be just as much of a crapshoot as finding someone on Craigslist.

But won’t you eventually have to tell this friend that you’re dating this guy? She might not care as much as you think. I was the Jen in this situation once. We all met this guy at a party and he was indiscriminately and douchebaggily flirting with all of my girlfriends. He even provoked me into a rare-for-me altercation, and I bitched to my friend about him. But that night he asked her out, and they dated. And I completely did not care. I still thought he was totally annoying, but it was her bag. I put all my personal feelings aside, was completely pleasant to him, and never said another peep about it to her. It’s for you to decide, though, if your friend would be graceful about it.
posted by thebazilist at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2011 [9 favorites]

I detected the same subtleties in your description of Jen that thebazilist did. Even if you aren't aware of your feelings about her, they're coming across loud and clear and they don't lend themselves to a good working roommate relationship. I'd screen some applicants and find someone who you are sufficiently detached from that you can develop vague respect and boundaries and coexist happily in your amazing apartment.
posted by jph at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2011

Break things off with the guy if its a dead end. Good roommates are hard to find and you'll probably be better off.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:26 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every guy I ever dated that my close friends didn't like later became a guy I wasn't dating. For a long time I pushed myself through the relationships anyways, and so far it's never been a good idea.

I'm with option 5.
posted by nile_red at 11:39 AM on May 5, 2011

Break up with Aaron regardless of what you do in terms of housing! The guy sounds like a waste of time.
posted by orange swan at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

You sound like you don't trust your ability to pick a good roommate from craigslist on your own!

Hey. I get it. But I think you are selling yourself short on this. Furthermore, the best roommate situations are usually pleasant, but not overly friendly. It's usually too much drama to live with friends.

I think you should post a question asking for metafilter's best roommate criteria or some such. There are qualities to seek and avoid, and you can learn how to identify the person you will click with.

Go for the option that features the least drama and the most control for you. Choose someone new.
posted by jbenben at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I take it you have not even asked Jen if she wants to be a roommate yet? Why do you dismiss option 3 out of hand? Maybe she would be OK with it, you won't know until you ask. I vote for option 5 as being the least dramatic answer though - go interview your own craigslist tenants.
posted by Joh at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2011

If Aaron isn't someone you see yourself with long term (i.e. marriage or life partners), then why bother? You are putting a lot of effort and stress into this situation, that doesn't need to be there.

If you think Jen would be the perfect roommate, dump Aaron, move her in and never speak of it. Or instead of saying it was so she could move in, tell her it was because you realized that neither of you wanted a permanent future together and you want to put energy to finding a real love.
posted by Sweetmag at 11:57 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would not live with someone who wanted to dictate what my other relationships are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:01 PM on May 5, 2011

Are you being secretive about Aaron because Jen called him creepy? Is it out of embarrassment that you like him but she doesn't? If so, this might be more your issue than her issue. I don't get why she would be so upset. It would definitely be awkward, but truly upsetting? Any weird feelings will fade in time, as well, as long as everyone acts appropriately vague.

I totally agree a good roommate is hard to find and maybe worth more than a casual relationship. I've had some killers living with me in my day while doing the "roommate shuffle." Still seems weird to stop seeing a guy because of your roommate. I mean, everyone we live with dictates our life in some way. That is just the truth. But to not date someone because of a roommate? Yeah, weird...

Probably what I would do is mention I am dating him before she moves in. Let her think about it before you firm up living plans. If she still wants to live with you, cool. If not, whatever. Try to get the landlords to let you interview in the meantime, as well.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:12 PM on May 5, 2011

Breaking up with Aaron should be your first step completely independent of the roommate decision. You are clearly apathetic about your relationship with him at best. "getting along well" is a description one might use for a coworker, but not a lover or a boyfriend.

As to the roommate question: sticking with Jen seems much wiser than relying on the pool of applicants from Craigslist. This is even more important since apparently the Craigslist candidates aren't going to be interviewed but granted space in your apartment based on how much they offer to pay for rent.
posted by Ranindaripley at 1:16 PM on May 5, 2011

If you can't have a dialogue with Jen about this, I wouldn't let her move in.

A good roommate is someone with whom you can talk about anything, but especially a bad or awkward situation that needs cool heads on all sides, so this seems like a really convenient acid test showing that she's not the best option.

It also seems weird that she would have such a negative reaction to someone you like. If you two aren't attracted to the same types of dudes, you're clearly very different people.'

And as someone who just stayed at three different Sublets I found on Craigslist I can reveal that I am indeed awesome so we do exist.
posted by rudhraigh at 2:08 PM on May 5, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi all -- trying not to babysit, but wanted to head some things off at the pass.

Roommate and I have completely separate leases. We both sublet
directly from the owners. She moved in long before I did, so her lease
became month-to-month while my lease is still binding for almost a

Option 5 is not an option. The owners are controlling the roommate
hunt. If I don't have a friend to take the room, they'll post on
craigslist; they specifically don't want me doing it. And their
priority is not to find a compatible roommate, but to find the
highest bidder. If this winds up being three ESL girls from
Thailand, well, sucks to be me. Before I got my room, it almost went
to a 50-year-old unemployed man who seriously creeped out my current
roommate. The owners were okay with that (until I bid higher).
Obviously, I didn't know any of this until after I moved in.

I like Jen a lot, I don't have any contempt for her, and I think I
phrased those facts as neutrally as possible. I know that a good
friend is definitely not always a good roommate, but I think Jen would
be. We have similar apartment goals and lifestyles (cleanliness,
respecting alone time, lack of parties, etc.), and she's really good
about communicating and being upfront (so crucial!).

I trust Aaron not to behave inappropriately at all towards Jen. His
presence alone would make it uncomfortable.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:23 PM on May 5, 2011

Roommate and I have completely separate leases. We both sublet directly from the owners. She moved in long before I did, so her lease became month-to-month while my lease is still binding for almost a year.

IANAL, just someone who's been a renter all my adult life, but if I were in this situation my first step would be to check out the legality of this. Speaking only of what I know about California (specifically SF Bay Area, more specifically Oakland) rental law, renters have rights. In many cases, it doesn't matter whether they're leasing or subleasing — or even if they're living there for free! There have been cases where somebody lets a friend going through a breakup stay "for a week or two" and then discovers a month later that in the eyes of the law the friend is now a legitimate resident entitled to legal protections, including the requirement to go through the full legal eviction process if the original resident decides they don't want them mooching around anymore.

If you were the original person on the lease, it would be completely and totally unacceptable and illegal for your landlord to try to force a roommate on you. You may not automatically lose that protection just because you're subleasing.

Things may be different in your jurisdiction, wherever that is. Things may be different because you're subleasing. But given a choice between contacting the local tenants' rights group to ask them about it vs. just accepting that you're going to have to share your living space with a total stranger whether you like them or not, I'd be on the phone in a heartbeat.
posted by Lexica at 2:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The owners are controlling the roommate
hunt. If I don't have a friend to take the room, they'll post on
craigslist; they specifically don't want me doing it. And their
priority is not to find a compatible roommate, but to find the
highest bidder. ... Before I got my room, it almost went
to a 50-year-old unemployed man who seriously creeped out my current
roommate. The owners were okay with that (until I bid higher).

Yeah, what Lexica said.

Contact your local tenants union. This doesn't sound right to me. Being forced to live with someone you find creepy isn't okay. Forget about breaking up with Aaron or Jen, if this is true, you need to find a way to break up with your landlord.
posted by marsha56 at 3:12 PM on May 5, 2011

Im not sure i understand everything.
Jen sounds like a pain judging by her description.

Also, How would the landlords know if you made a craigslist post?
Make one and meet up with the person for coffee or have them come over and look at the place. If things click, say you found a friend to move in.

Highest bidder? I've never seen/heard of this... is that common where you live?
posted by KogeLiz at 3:16 PM on May 5, 2011

Option 6: Find a new apartment. Your landlords sound like wackos.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

And break the lease.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:29 PM on May 5, 2011

I stand by option 5. You can post it without specifying all the details so that management can't identify it. Once you find your new roommate they become your new friend. If you like, you can ask them if they will be your friend first, so that you don't have to lie to your landlord.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:34 PM on May 5, 2011

I agree with PercussivePaul both times. A new friend (however you make one) is still a friend and it is better to do this yourself than let crazy landlords decide for you.
Honestly though the whole situation sounds like dramarama from the relationship to the friend to the landlords and makes me wonder what is up with you that you like/attract/tolerate all of that bs.
If it were me, I'd flush everything and start fresh with a new apt, a new bf who I could see a future with and wanted to tell my friends about, and a new friend who I wasn't weirdly jealous of.
posted by rmless at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ditto: I would not live with someone who wanted to dictate what my other relationships are.

I agree with all the others saying dramarama. I would not want a bf I didn't want to introduce to friends; I would not want friends who couldn't support my choices and be polite to my bf; and this highest-bidder idea sounds like BS making me feel completely justified in using the "new friend" workaround.

Life is long, it takes a long time to find really amazing people and make deep relationships with them, and those deep relationships are worth their weight in gold. Those people are the ones who carry you through when something terrible inevitably happens (e.g., a parent dies). These sound like shallow, expendable relationships or like ones that you fear might be. I'd test their resiliency by being open and honest about what you're doing, and if things fall apart, great, you discovered that now, while your life is pretty good, and you have more time and space to find better relationships. And if things hold together, great, your relationships just became more honest in a way that makes your life easier.

Tl;dr -- Life is too short, too long, and too hard to bother with fake friendships / relationships.
posted by salvia at 3:08 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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