How can I most peacefully exit an abusive housing situation?
March 19, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I called for a house meeting to address a housemates abusive behavior towards me but have determined that the best option for me is to simply remove myself from the situation and move out. Do I call off the meeting or do I still have it and then tell the house later that I want to move out or something else?

As simply as i can put it, one of my housemates (let's call him DaveyJohn) is very poor at managing his anger and will yell at me very hard for things that he has absolutely no reason to yell at me for (as a principle, though, I believe that nobody deserves to be yelled at/ aggressed against in any circumstance). I've been living here for 3 months and there have been 2 major incidents of yelling so far.

The 1st incident happened about a month ago. I was cutting my hair in the bathroom and part of the way through, DaveyJohn knocks to use the bathroom. I politely tell him i'll be out in a minute and sweep up the hair and let him in. He walks in and immediately walks out yelling at me to clean my fucking hair up. Shocked and confused, I go back into the bathroom only to find him angrily pointing at no more than 10 strands of short (less than an inch long) hair on the toilet seat. I clean it up, but tell him, non-aggressively, that i don't want him speaking to me that way and that we need to talk as soon as possible. he gets even more angry and slams the door. many many hours later, he apologizes to me quite sincerely and recognizes the injustice of his actions. Though I accepted his apology, I still addressed it with the house as a whole (which, at the time, meant two other housemates) and he said that he will be working on managing his anger better and that another outburst wont happen in the future. after that, all was relatively peaceful until the 2nd incident happened this past Wednesday.

In the 2nd incident, I walked out of the house to smoke a cigarette and DaveyJohn walked out shortly after to walk his dog. I finished my smoke and walked back inside only to find the door to our apartment wide open so I closed it and locked it without much thought. A few minutes later, i hear a violent knock on the door and open it to find DaveyJohn on the other end. He yells at me "DONT LOCK THE DOOR! I'M WALKING THE DOG AND I CAN'T GET IN!" to which I non-aggressively reply, "well, DaveyJohn, how was I was supposed to know that you didn't have your keys?" to which he replies with even more rounds of "DONT LOCK THE DOOR!" without even answering my question. We discuss the matter the next day and this time he isn't apologetic at all and is very defensive. it isn't until almost an hour into the conversation that he acknowledges that his reasoning for yelling at me was irrational and unjustifiable but he is still reluctant to apologize.

After that discussion, I called for a house meeting to be held today (3/19) at 7:30pm to address this issue with the house again. After giving it a lot of thought over the weekend, however, I've determined that DaveyJohn is most likely not going to change anytime soon (his former housemate of several years says these incidents were happening then too). I've decided that I'm going to simply move out since i literally cannot be in the house without having a rational fear that he will yell at me again at any time for any reason. If all of us were on the lease then I would ask for the house to take a vote to determine if he should leave or not but, unfortunately, he is the only one on the lease. When I moved in, we drafted a contract saying that the only conditions for leaving are that I give a one month advance notice. I plan to move out as quickly as possible and just pay rent for the place until said month is over while living somewhere else. Realistically, however, it's going to take me about a week to move out. I would like to simply call off the meeting except that i'm afraid that that would anger DaveyJohn (because he might take it as a form of passive aggression). Also our new housemate, let's call her SusiePeg, is the only person who has no idea that DaveyJohn has been yelling at me and when I asked her to meet i told her (thru text): "Hey SusiePeg. I want to have a house meeting to address a serious issue happening within the house and wanted to see when you would be next available to meet". I don't want to go to the meeting and say "oh hey guys, i'm moving out and i don't want to say why because i'm afraid that somebody is going to be mad if I expose his abusive behavior in public". One option i'm looking at is simply telling SusiePeg before the meeting that i'm moving out and tell her exactly why and saying that i don't want to bring it up because I'm afraid of how DaveyJohn is going to react. Anyway, thanks for reading y'all and thanks in advance for all your help.
posted by defmute to Human Relations (23 answers total)
 
unfortunately, he is the only one on the lease

No, FORTUNATELY, he is the only one on the lease. You are free to get out as soon as you can, and you should. Why would you hold this meeting? What is the point? Just move. You don't need to live with this.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:17 PM on March 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


Thanks for the response, Lutslawski. Can't I be held legally responsible for breaking our contract, though?
posted by defmute at 1:21 PM on March 19, 2013


Oh, I just realized that the contract is just for me to get my security deposit back.
posted by defmute at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2013


Do you really think he would sue you over a month's rent? How much are we talking?
posted by Justinian at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2013


he's a crazy a-hole. the chances of your being held legally responsible are about zero. if you want to be super-cool about it, text or talk to susiepeg and tell her what's up. there's nothing wrong with your getting out quickly.
posted by facetious at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2013


Cross-posted. Oh, yeah, you'd be eating the security deposit. Whether it's worth it or not is up to you.
posted by Justinian at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2013


Very little. $315 a month.
posted by defmute at 1:25 PM on March 19, 2013


You said you're going to pay the rent, so how are you breaking it?

Hold the house meeting, say 'I've decided to move out', cope with looking foolish and high maintenance to Susie because you'll never see her again, who cares what she thinks of you?
posted by jacalata at 1:25 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just go. There is too much drama here.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks Jacalata. I feel what you're saying but I'm not worried about what SusiePeg will think. I'm just worried about what DaveyJohn will think/do.
posted by defmute at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2013


Give notice, pay through the month and move.

Go ahead and cancel the meeting. Jesus protect me from living in a place that has house meetings. I'm sure the rest of the roommates will be thrilled.

You don't have to give a reason simply say, "This isn't working out for me."

Done and done. Move out at your leisure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


Thanks Jacalata. I feel what you're saying but I'm not worried about what SusiePeg will think. I'm just worried about what DaveyJohn will think/do.

Yell at you, probably. Which is why you're moving out.
posted by xingcat at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2013


No house meeting. Just tell each roommate individually "Hey, I'm moving out. This isn't working for me / I found a new place that is better for me."

I understand the concern about what DaveyJohn will do. Don't worry about what he thinks, though - his previous actions indicate that his thought process is messy and is not super-attached to reality.

I think if you do this with the least amount of drama possible, he won't do anything. Don't engage him; don't tell anyone that you are moving out because of him and the way he treats you. You know why you're leaving, and that's enough in this particular situation.

Best of luck to you. Moving isn't fun.

And, good work recognizing that this is not a tenable situation and leaving.
posted by sockermom at 1:33 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks sockermom. Yeah, you're right. Ain't no need to tell anybody why or why not.
posted by defmute at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2013


I think you might be overdoing it a bit by calling a house meeting every time something happens that you're not happy with. Communication between housemates is good, but you don't need a quorum present to talk with the other roommates about what has been going on.

Since you've already asked people to be present tonight, however, it may not hurt to tell them all at once that you're moving out and address everyone's questions all at the same time. It also gives you a buffer for dealing with DaveyJohn's anger to have a few other people around. Just tell everyone that this living situation isn't working out and that you'll be moving out some time in the next two weeks. You'll pay the rent for your notice period even though you'll be leaving before it's up. And that's that. It doesn't have to be a big deal.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 1:36 PM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


You have every right to decide you don't want to live there anymore. Nobody here can give you legal advice about what your obligations are, but as a person, you have every right to decide you don't want to live there anymore, and you don't have to prove to anyone that your reasons are good enough, provided you're legally covered. (Which plenty of qualified places can tell you.)

As other people are telling you, this is a situation where it's just not working out for you, so you need to figure out what your obligations are, meet them, and leave. He may like it; he may not. What's clear here is that you need an environment that's different from the environment you're likely to encounter there, so you're moving, which makes total sense. I wouldn't get into trying to classify or characterize his behavior in talking to him or your other roommate ("abuse" and so forth), because you don't need to, and those definitions are tricky, and it might just serve to escalate the entire thing. You're within your rights to just say, "Not the right living situation for me." Don't litigate your departure with your roommates. I repeat: figure out your obligations, meet them, and go.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:38 PM on March 19, 2013


[Heya, defmute, it's better if you don't respond directly to answerers every two or three comments; just let the thread unspool, and if there's a specific point you need to clarify or elaborate on based on followup questions from other folks it's fine to drop in the occasional extra comment but you should keep it to that.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on March 19, 2013


I like everything up to and including "...it's going to take me about a week to move out." Everything after that sounds a bit twee.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2013


If you don't pay the last month's rent, you can say to them, "Just use my security deposit for that." It's slightly on the shady side, but if you think there's any risk of them being petty and withholding the deposit, it's your right to not give them any more money. I once lived in a place where I was a subletter, and the woman said at the end that she was sorry, but she'd spent my security deposit because she was in financial trouble. I wasn't on the lease, there was no breach of contract, I was just shit out of luck. If you think anything similar might happen, don't pay the last month's rent. If you paid first, last, and security, then you might still be out of luck though.
posted by htid at 1:42 PM on March 19, 2013


Move out and forward your mail to a P.O. Box if you have concerns about the roommate.
posted by SillyShepherd at 2:11 PM on March 19, 2013


Okay, I agree you should move out. I don't think you should waste everyone's time with that formal meeting unless you are going to give them specifics: "I have decided to move out and March 29th will be my last day".

I have to say, though, that you sound really high-maintenance to live with!

I absolutely agree that no one deserves to be yelled at. I disagree that DaveyJohn has "no reason" to be upset with you specifically, though. Both times, he was responding directly to something you'd done.

I also note that in the 3 months you've lived there, DaveyJohn has yelled out you just two times. I personally would not count that as "abusive" behavior!

Even so, this has made you so uncomfortable that you feel you need to call quorums, hold long discussions AND pack up and leave, forfeiting at least part of your security deposit. Can you afford to do that?

I feel like you are very, seriously concerned about others knowing exactly how you feel, without considering their feelings in return.

Looked at from DaveyJohn's POV, he had to use the bathroom (maybe urgently, maybe not), and you made him wait before you'd let him in, and then the toilet seat had your hair on it. I don't care if there are ten hairs or fifty, if it's not my hair (and even then!), I wouldn't wnt it on the toilet seat. Also, seeing the hair, he may well have thought you made no effort to clean at all, and kept him waiting when he had to go, just so you could get your hair perfect. Can you at least acknowledge how that might make him frustrated?

Yelling at you was over the top, and you were right to tell him so. I don't understand why, after he apologized sincerely, you felt the need to drag all this out and air it to the other roommates, though. Why in the world did you have to make a big deal about it all over again? That seems petty and mean-spirited to me.

In the second case, you unthinkingly locked him out of the house. Again, he was wrong to yell. It's obvious, though, from what was said, that he was panicking, thinking he would not be able to get back in to the house, before you let him in. Was that rational? No, because you were there. When you spoke to him, he admitted as much. It's strange to me that you feel he should also apologize for yelling, but you don't feel the need to apologize to him for accidentally locking him out. Just because, in retrospect, he shouldn't have panicked, doesn't cancel out the fact that he actually did. He felt bad because of something you did, however unintentionally. In your hour-long talk, did you take responsibility for your own actions and apologize for his inconvenience?

I feel like the real issue here is that, after he yelled at you the first time, you held a grudge, and you can't just let it go.

I mean, Really, you were going to make all your roommates come together for a meeting over this "serious issue", even after DaveyJohn discussed it with you for an hour and admitted he was irrational since you were there to let him in? Why can't you just let it go already?!

So, yes, I think you should move out, but I don't think all the blame is on DaveyJohn here. You need to work on your own empathy, and not holding grudges over petty disagreements. Because if you anticipate never having any disputes when you are sharing a house with others, or feel like you can't let thing go until you have forced the other person to take all the blame and apologize to you, I can't see you having much luck finding a new living situation.
posted by misha at 3:15 PM on March 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Thanks for the replies, everybody. I've called off the meeting and have let my housemates know that I'm going to be moving out. Your answers have helped me gained the insight I needed to make a decision I can be confident in making.
posted by defmute at 3:52 PM on March 19, 2013


It's pretty much already been stated by a number of people, but i felt i'd drop in just to make the empowering personwall even stronger.

I've been in angry/ridiculous roommate situations. I've also had basically every kind of crappy roommate you can imagine.

Pretty much every time i stayed, it was because i was on the lease and i was stuck. In some situations other people had just up and walked, but i was afraid of the drama and potential fallout of something happening to the place since i was on the lease, or them coming after me for the rent, etc. I rationalized it that i was "just being an adult", and stayed in situations like this(or even worse) just because i convinced myself i had to "tough it out" since i had signed on, and because the rent was a great deal for the location.

You are in the best possible position here. Past me is envious of you.

Do what everyone is telling you, tell the roommates you're moving out, pay that last month, and leave.

If you stay, i guarantee it'll be something you regret every single time you think about it.

I also think that the people prattling on about the bathroom thing, or the general setup and layout of your conflicts don't really understand what this type of thing is like to live with, or how ridiculous it seems to someone who isn't kind of a prick to throw a teetee like a toddler about not being immediately let in to use the bathroom and their being a hair on the seat. I mean fuck, i bet if i went in to the extremely clean bathroom at my office right now there might be a hair on there. In a share house, that kind of stuff is basically a given.

Your reaction sounds like one of a person who isn't used to living with angry, abusive assholes who can't control their temper. The people rationalizing his behavior probably grew up with people like that. Hell, i did, but i don't go around normalizing it and making excuses for it, and you shouldn't be either. There wasn't some understandable side to his angry outburst, or even his general anger over the whole situation. It's fine to be annoyed about stuff like that, but actual adults keep it to themselves.

this part especially stuck out to me:
his former housemate of several years says these incidents were happening then too

Part of living in a share house is letting little things like that go. I don't agree with the calling a meeting part, just leave, but i do not think you were being ridiculous by getting upset(or staying upset) at this since to me, it sounds like you saw a tree and realized it was part of a forrest. A forrest of someone who doesn't understand how to keep his temper in check. Everyone who splits it down to this one incident is focusing in a tree, not a pattern of behavior.

I've never known(or lived with!) a person who would get seriously upset about this type of thing who didn't have a tantrum like this every week or two, involving all the yelling and swearing and occasionally even kicking things over like a little kid.
posted by emptythought at 4:24 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


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