Sometimes living alone and sometimes not.
September 30, 2012 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Advice for living sometimes alone and sometimes with someone I don’t particularly get on with.

My mother and I bought a house together a few years ago. Before that I’d been living on my own. I’m in my thirties now. Since we’ve been living together we don’t see a huge amount of each other as she’s more social than I am so is out a lot, but we eat together two or three times a week and share chores.

About a year ago she met a man (my parents were divorced years ago) and recently they've started living together, sort of. I’m going to call him Rodney. He lives a long way away so they have started an arrangement where they’re both either at his place or here. The idea was that they spent a week there then a week here, but so far it’s been skewed for various reasons so it’s been more like a fortnight there then a week here. It may settle down to being more equal in the future.

I find both periods difficult: the times when they are both here and the times when I’m living alone. I’m looking for advice to help me manage both times.

When living alone, I find it difficult to have routines or to motivate myself to do chores. I feel lonely. I have anxiety and depression and am in therapy and discussing these issues there, but haven’t found solutions so far.

When my mother and Rodney are here, I feel intruded on and displaced. I’m introverted and often tired and don’t want to have to talk to people I don’t know well when I get in from work. Rodney is an extrovert and we don’t have much in common. He has the television on all the time even if he’s not watching it, and I don’t like this so take myself off to my room. He also buys new stuff for the house which makes me feel it’s not my place any more. I don’t dislike him and if my mother’s happy with him that’s fine, but I don’t want to have to interact with him much. Mealtimes are particularly hard so I’ve been avoiding these. I also miss the opportunity to catch up with my mother sometimes on her own. She's worried about leaving him alone so doesn't find it easy to prioritise spending time with other people.

How do I find ways of managing in these two different situations, and of switching between the two?
posted by sock of ages to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I also miss the opportunity to catch up with my mother sometimes on her own.

It's a big change in your life. I hope you were consulted before it happened, but suspect this wasn't the case.
I have lived alone and understand how it affects motivation. I don't really have advice. I had forced myself to pick up running at the time. Exercise rapidly gets "addictive" so at least that made me feel like I was doing something.

I think it's important you learn to ask for what you need. It sounds like the inability to assert yourself is part of the issue throughout, be it asking him to turn down the television or telling your mom how this is affecting you. I know how hard it is to ask others to take us into consideration. I pulled out the quote above because this one seems fairly easy to resolve: have you told your mom this? Could you tell your mom you miss her and ask her to spend time just the two of you? If he's home, you could go out to dinner or some such thing.
posted by Milau at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2012

Hm, this is a tough one. In your shoes, I'd look for ways to take more psychological possession of the house. It's your home, sometimes ONLY your home, but when there are two of them there, you're outnumbered.

Step 1 is definitely talking to your Mom about this. Go out with just her, catch up, and ask more questions about the future of the living arrangements, how long they expect to be splitting time.

Step 2, tell her how you feel uncomfortable when they are there, but unable to enjoy the time alone, since you know they will be back soon. Large/unpredictable changes in your living environment are stressful, especially when it's not under your control.

Step 3, brainstorm alone, with your mom, and both of you with her boyfriend, new guidelines for the house. Isn't there a chance that Rodney would be happy to leave the TV off when you're around if he knew the noise bothered you?

Find new ways to frame the situation so that it feels like they are visiting YOUR house, instead of you house sitting for them while the lovebirds are away.

Pick an area of the common rooms to be the Sock Of Ages corner that you can decorate your way, and be comfortable reading/spending time in/whatever, no matter who is or isn't home.

If you can shift your thinking so living alone is the "status quo", and get them on board with respecting it as your house (since you are the full-time resident), it may be easier to create consistent patterns.
posted by itesser at 12:31 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Move out.
posted by zadcat at 2:07 PM on September 30, 2012

Zadcat- she OWNS the home.

I don't have any advice except to talk to your mom about everything you've said here. Hopefully she'll be able to carve out some time just for the two of you, and perhaps she can ask Rodney to be more aware that he is treading on your space.
posted by murfed13 at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2012

You need to sit down with your mother -- just the two of you -- and work things out.

There are a few things:

1. You miss your mother. You like Rodney, you're happy she's happy, but you miss spending time with just her.
2. It's your house too. What kinds of things does Rodney bring over? If he's bringing over groceries it's different from him bringing over a new sofa. And it also depends on how you used to buy things like that -- whatever that is -- for the house. Did you or your mother bring things home only after discussion? This one needs more details.
3. You need to common spaces -- the tv room, for instance -- to be common. That means that the tv is off when it's not actively being watched, and you want to work out timing about noise in general.
4. Mealtimes -- again, it's not clear. Do you just eat before or after they do, or do you skip meals? You can work out an agreement -- you'll eat with Rodney once or twice a week, for instance.

But you really need to talk to your mother about these things. She knows you have anxiety, she knows you suffer from depression, and she knows you own the house too: you need a solution that will make both of you happy, and that's going to involve both of you finding the solution, not you trying to brainstorm it by yourself.
posted by jeather at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A woman does not have to consult her 30 year old daughter when she is taking on a new relationship. Fine if you were 18, or less but not fine when you are 18+. It is your mom's house also. That said. hopefully you did have some discussion WHEN you bought the house to deal with situations like this. What if you start dating someone? What then?

Frankly you should consider this more of a roommate/housemate situation rather than a daughter mom situation, which is what it is. There are two grown women living together and they need to respect their housemate's privacy and at the same time have a life of their own.

Your emotional/introversion issues are your problem, not your housemates. You need to deal with them. At the same time your housemate needs to keep her bf in check so that he is not getting in your space.

Have a conversation with her and lay out the rules if you havent already, better late than never.
posted by pakora1 at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A woman does not have to consult her 30 year old daughter when she is taking on a new relationship.

A woman does not have to consult her 30 year old daughter when she is taking on a new relationship. I'd argue, however, that two people sharing a home need to discuss living arrangements if a third person is going to start living in the space.
posted by Milau at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Hmm. You're lonely when she's not there, and when she is, you also don't get the loving attention from her that would really help. And the frequent changes put you in constant adjustment. A tough situation.

Here is a crazy idea: could you get a dog? The dog would keep you company when nobody is home, perhaps help with anxiety and depression, and cause you to take up more space in the house when they are home. It'd give you your own "partner."
posted by salvia at 2:47 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only one point of suggestion here - when Rodney has the TV on but isn't watching it, ask, "Hey Rodney, is it alright if I turn off the TV?"
posted by Lady Li at 5:39 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another thing you can do with the "always having the TV on and not watching it" part - I have had roommates who do this and what I did was save up all the TV I wanted to watch (obviously you need a DVR or Roku or On Demand or something for this to work) and then when the roommate was not watching I would say, "Hey, Roommate, do you mind if I put on [my show]?" That way the roommate got to have the TV on in the background, but I didn't feel like "ugh background TV driving me crazy make it stop!!!"

And I sympathize on the being messy/untidy when you're alone thing! Right now I have a roommate who is away just about every weekend. I am very good at keeping the house clean while she's around but on the weekends it gets as messy as a house can get in three days with one person living there. I know you said you're not very social but is there any chance you could invite a friend (or friends) over for dinner or a movie or whatever once or twice during the time your mom is away? That way you are motivated to clean up for the friend, and things won't get so out of control before your mom gets back.
posted by mskyle at 6:42 AM on October 1, 2012

Thanks for answers. They've shown me that the biggest problem is not being able to discuss these things, but for various reasons I don't think it's possible to change this. I guess the best thing to do is try to get into the mindset of living alone, as itsser says.
posted by sock of ages at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2012

Following up. Thanks again for your responses. One of the things that has helped to improve the situation has been time, and some improvements in things in my life generally. I think itesser's advice to find "ways to take more psychological possession of the house" was helpful and I am slowly doing this (reorganising the kitchen around my needs etc). I also had a conversation with my mother recently about her being more organised and keeping me in the loop about when she will be here etc.
posted by sock of ages at 2:40 AM on January 13, 2013

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