How do I talk to my roommate about houseguests?
June 19, 2014 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm a mid 30's female living with another mid 30's female. I'm not a big fan of having out of town house guests. But I'm not sure how to broach the subject when my boyfriend occasionally stays at our place. Do I have the right be bring up my irritation?

This weekend we're about to have our third guest since I moved in in November. I've never been asked if this was OK and I just found out about the person coming on Sunday a few minutes ago. I should also mention she just had a couple staying at our place for four days and one of them stayed an additional four days a mere two weeks ago.

While I know it's probably out of the question to ask that she not have anyone stay, I feel a little too old to be living in a place that acts as a hostel for out of towners.

However, I'm worried I don't have much of a case since my boyfriend stays over a night or two every other week or so. I want to stress that I'm really conscientious of how often he stays and for how long and I always let her know he'll be there.

What do I do? I'm at my wits end but am not sure how to bring this up and what I can ask that is fair to both of us.

posted by patientpatient to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you having to share a bathroom with the guests? Do they keep you up at night? Those are the issues that I would bring up. You having your boyfriend stay over is a completely different issue than her having house guests. The issue is where are the boundaries? Are they being crossed? If they are then that is what you discuss. You may want to include your boyfriend in the conversation by asking her if his staying over is crossing any of her boundaries. You are both old enough to have an open, honest conversation about what will work best for the both of you. And you are both old enough to bend a little to accommodate each other's needs.
posted by myselfasme at 3:16 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Three guests/groups of guests since November doesn't sound like a crazy amount to me. Is it mostly the lack of a hey-is-this-ok heads-up that bothers you, or is it having out of town guests at all? Asking her to let you know/ask if you are okay with guests in advance is totally reasonable. Asking that she never have out of town guests is a little too demanding, I think.

But you guys should just talk about all this. It will help if you can identify what concessions would make you happier - more notice? fewer guests? they don't stay past a certain number of days? Just talk to her and try to approach the conversation in good faith - she may not have any idea this is bothering you. And when you talk to her bring up your boyfriend's staying over and see how she is feeling about that, and be prepared to offer some concessions of your own if she is indeed bothered by his staying over.

You sound extra upset about this, maybe b/c you just found out about this weekend's guests, but from the outside it doesn't seem all that egregious and seems like a situation easily solved through a bit of honesty and compromise.
posted by aka burlap at 3:19 PM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Three guests in a 7 month period is not unreasonable, in my opinion, especially if your boyfriend is a regular guest. Occasionally hosting guests is the kind of thing that I would assume is an ordinary part of living and taken for granted as allowed, within reason, unless otherwise specified. No-guests rules should be worked out at move-in time, just as you would other major lifestyle rules like no TV or no smoking. So I don't think it is fair to ask for no guests now.

However, it is perfectly reasonable to have a rule that any overnight visits will be discussed ahead of time and will be limited to a few days at a time. I think this is basic common courtesy that your roommate has dropped the ball on. She should be informing you about who's coming into your home, and you should agree on a reasonable frequency of guests and length of stay, so that you don't feel like you are constantly having people coming and going. Again though understand that you and she will have different understandings of what's reasonable, so be prepared to give a little here (more than 'zero') if you want to have a productive conversation. If you actually have a firm line of zero, and you really can't tolerate guests, it might mean one of you has to move out. Think about what your real dealbreaker might be and what you can live with.

You can also ask that guests stay in her bedroom instead of the common areas. I don't know if this has been the case or not.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:20 PM on June 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

By my math her guest/night count is dwarfed by yours. Why would being from out of town make any difference?
posted by moxiedoll at 3:21 PM on June 19, 2014 [45 favorites]

This weekend we're about to have our third guest since I moved in in November. I've never been asked if this was OK...However, I'm worried I don't have much of a case since my boyfriend stays over a night or two every other week or so. I want to stress that I'm really conscientious of how often he stays and for how long and I always let her know he'll be there. emphasis mine

Quick clarifying question: do you tell her your boyfriend will be staying over, or ask? It sounds like the former, but I want to be sure.

If you're asking her permission for your boyfriend to stay over, I think you 100% have the right to ask her to do the same, and ask your permission before her friends stay over. If not, I feel very strongly that you need to put up with her behavior. Personally, I'd be much more annoyed by a roommate having their SO sleep over "occasionally" than a roommate having visiting friends sleep over every once in a while.

Also, wholeheartedly agree with PercussivePaul that three guests in a seven month period does not seem unreasonable. It's natural for there to be fewer guests in the winter and more in the summer, I think, as people tend to travel more in the summer. But everyone has their own thresholds for these things, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:23 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that three guests in seven months is not unreasonable and that I'm probably more upset about the lack of notice/not asking in addition to it being a couple of weeks after someone was here for eight days.

aka burlap: Definitely coming off of just finding out about this Sunday's guest.

moxiedoll: Out of towners are in common areas, keeping later hours, coming and going and often interfering with when I need to get into the bathroom for work.

We have one bathroom and no guest room. The couches are right outside of my bedroom.

Also, if it changes anyone's opinion a bit, I'm three months pregnant. Which again, is not my roommate's problem and this is not at all what she signed up for when I moved in. But it is what it is and perhaps I'm more sensitive to the amount of sleep and peace and quiet I need. And perhaps unreasonably wish this was being taken into consideration.

I don't want to be selfish and demanding and am wondering if I really need to just let this go.
posted by patientpatient at 3:31 PM on June 19, 2014

I think it would be ok for you to ask for a house rule that people who are about to go to work get bathroom access first, and that guests need to be quiet after 10 or 11 on weeknights.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:35 PM on June 19, 2014 [24 favorites]

I don't think you're outside your rights to state the times you need to be in the bathroom/out of the house for work and you should definitely feel comfortable asking any and all guests to shut the heck up when you need to go to sleep. That's not selfish - that's taking care of yourself!

Just a thought - I think among those of us who are very quiet-inclined, the need to ask anyone to do anything within our own space feels like a confrontation, and so it's so much easier to retreat into being mad that we have to share our space in the first place. That's true for me, anyway. In my last roommate situation, I felt mildly traumatized by the quite normal amount of coming and going: roommate having friends over, roommate's boyfriend in the bathroom when I was really sick and just wanted to vomit in peace. But it's one of the unsigned rights of living with someone else that they have the right to live their own lives, within the bounds of whatever agreements you've both agreed to live by. In my case, I now live with my boyfriend because it's important to me that I have control over who comes into my living space. But if this living situation is otherwise what you want, you should talk with your roommate and her guests to find concrete things that you need too make the space sharing easier (bathroom time, quiet hours, certain rules for announcing of visitors which you will also follow for when your boyfriend comes over) and then you need to, as that Ice Queen Lady said, let it go. Three guests since November really isn't much.
posted by theweasel at 3:54 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it's a cultural flaw that roommate situations in the U.S. are so often rule-oriented. I don't think the roommate has overstepped by having 3 or 4 guests in the last several months. I also don't think you, OP, are being unreasonable.

What's missing here is the concept of discretion. For purposes of civility, if your boyfriend stays over or a friend of hers comes to visit, it's incumbent on the visitor to be as discreet as possible. And if the visitor is too clueless to figure this out for him- or herself, it's incumbent on either you or your roommate to make sure that that's how the guest behaves during his/her visit.

So, for sure, no guest should get in the way of anyone using the bathroom or getting to work on time. Likewise, no guest should get in the way of anyone's bedtime. Shared spaces should be used minimally, and cleaned up completely after use, and nobody should get in either your or your roommate's way when cooking dinner, using the living room, and so on. Finally, if there's no place for the guest to stay but the living room (and for various reasons it's totally impractical for guests to stay in one of your rooms), they need to be quiet, clean, and keep out of the other roommate's way.

All of this is about adhering to the principle of civility; rules shouldn't be necessary. Because, really, it benefits you if your roommate's happy, and it benefits your roommate if you're happy. And apartment-dwelling happiness comes from thoughtfulness, which means as little imposition as possible from others.

And I think you should frame it that way to your roommate, and if necessary, you should adjust how your boyfriend is interacting with the household when he comes to visit, too. Civility works both ways, and it has to be a primary value for you both to work. Or if that fails, then everybody needs to see that it's in their own best interest.
posted by Violet Blue at 3:57 PM on June 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'd start from scratch as if you'd just moved in. Meaning don't hold the previous guests against her. Sit down and say you were thinking that you might like to set up some mutual rules about guests. Not having guests interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep before work or get ready for work in the morning is a completely reasonable thing to ask for. So maybe a "curfew" time when guests should at least be doing quiet things, not watching Die Hard in the living room? No guests in the bathroom from 7-8? (I mean, unless they really have to pee!) More than a few days notice before guests arrive? Ask for what would be most helpful, and then be prepared to ask if there's anything you and your boyfriend can do to make him staying over easier for her. Who knows, maybe he dries his socks on the towel rack, or uses her favorite cereal bowl, of something and she was trying to think of how to tell you.
posted by MsMolly at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree that three guests in seven months is not unreasonable and that I'm probably more upset about the lack of notice/not asking

Yeah, so why not simply ask her to ask you?

But then, we're not getting her perspective on this. Are there any factors you've left out? Have you always gotten her permission to have your boyfriend stay over? Is she indifferent to the gender of the person staying over? (Obviously, not everyone would be.) Did your boyfriend start staying overnight before she started having overnight guests?

But regardless of any of the above, you don't need to make sure you're completely "in the right" before having a discussion. You can simply let her know what you'd like to see changed. And if she'd genuinely like you to change something, well, you should want to know that anyway, in order to be a respectful roommate.
posted by John Cohen at 4:24 PM on June 19, 2014

Completely reasonable to have house guests this often.

However, it sounds like possibly the last lot of guests weren't particularly good ones. When you're introduced to the next lot, maybe give them a quick 'I need the bathroom between x and y, and I go to bed at 11, I'd appreciate it if you could be quiet after that'. And hopefully they'll do their best to be better guests than the last lot.
posted by kjs4 at 4:35 PM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you're out about being pregnant, then it's easy to shift this into being about your particular needs and avoid appealing to "justice" (which will make her defensive). Tell her that as a favor to you, because of your state, you'd appreciate some guest rules. It does make a difference.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:36 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think this situation could be resolved pretty easily with a short conversation - but I think it's super important that you don't minimise your own, far more regular guest, which I kinda feel you have done here. I mean, your housemate has had three guests in the same time period you would have had your boyfriend stay over fourteen times by your own count. I do think you need to sensitive so that it doesn't come across that you just want things to be your way - what's true for her guests, should always, always be true for yours.

To that effect, I would look at: 1) moving the couches, 2) buying some decent (ie howard leight, bilsom) earplugs, 2) asking for a little more notice when guests are coming.

Regarding the volume of guests, I really feel 3 in seven months is not at all unreasonable, and you don't have a leg to stand on. Likewise, unless it's truly egregious (say after 11 on a weeknight, 12 on a weekend), you should put the noise and comings and goings in perspective - after all, you would have been disturbed, in total, like what, maybe 10 days in the last 210? That is not very much (think of it as practice for baby!).

So I think your approach should be focused around the process of having guests, not having guests, per se. It doesn't sound from your question like you've bought it up with her at all? I would just ask for some more notice, and then - once guests are staying and being noisy late, just popping a head out and asking them if they mind keeping it down as you have work in the morning etc. Don't hit housemate with all the issues at once.
Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 4:40 PM on June 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry but having your boyfriend over AND you being pregnant, that's a LOT for a roommate to deal with.

Yes, having house guests is a hassle, but having some dude banging my roommate, and then having to run into him in the hall, or on the sofa...dude.

Does she have a boyfriend who stays over too? If not, I'm not sure you've got a moral leg to stand on here.

I think it's time that perhaps you started to figure out where your next apartment will be, because this situation is NOT working out for you, and I'll bet she's not real happy about how it's working out for her either.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:57 PM on June 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

A few jumbled thoughts: One thing in this is that I'm assuming your boyfriend sleeps in your room with you so common areas are free for your flatmate. If her guests are on the couch, there's no respite.

I'm also assuming her guests are strangers to you each time and that it's the same, known, boyfriend staying over with you.

So...yeah, volume is different...but impact is also different.

Can you stay with 1/2 the time with your boyfriend when she has guests? It's not unreasonable to want notice. But I think checking with the other flatmate is mandatory. What if you were wanting to have guests too at the same time?

The communication seems flawed in both directions.

And yeah, destabilised feelings about your home when you're pregnant are very real and only going to get stronger. Do you plan to stay there till the baby is born? Because that's another topic that's going to impact upon her responses. Sorry you're going through this. There's no right answer here, just shades of compassion and understanding. For both of you.
posted by taff at 5:03 PM on June 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is kind of a thing that happens, when you have roommates, or really when people live places, period.

If you can't handle the occasional houseguest, you should move.

That said, eight days is a lot. I would maybe ask your roommate for a face to face meeting to clear the air about guests, wherein you say that while it's fine to have guests sometimes, you feel that more than X days is a bit much, and that you would like more advance notice. Where X days is a reasonable number, like maybe 4, and more advance notice is something like a week or two.

It's also worth asking for guests to be a discussion, not an announcement. You should get some say over how often there are guests. That said, yeah, three times in 8 months is pretty reasonable, and this is kind of how it is if you live in a place that is popular with tourists.

You may want to ask how frequently she anticipates having guests for the rest of the summer/tourist season. Because, yeah, three times in eight months is normal, but if she's going to have someone every couple weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, that's way too much.
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on June 19, 2014

You should not have to share one bathroom with so many people. That is just crazy.
posted by myselfasme at 10:56 PM on June 19, 2014

As Idina Menzel would sing, "Let it go."

You're three months pregnant? That doesn't make you the Queen of the Apartment, and the fact that your boyfriend stays over a lot doesn't give you a leg to stand on.


You should still talk about setting ground rules for this sort of thing. Like, she needs to clear this with you in advance, houseguests should respect your morning bathroom schedule, and so on. Eight days is a lot, and she should have asked you in advance. But, three times since November is NOTHING! Seriously! You have a frequent houseguest - your boyfriend! There is no way that your roommate is never annoyed by your boyfriend's presence in the apartment. If I was your roommate, I would feel pretty fucking justified in having houseguests and annoyed by your hypocrisy. Jeeze Louise.

If it is too much for you to be living with someone while pregnant, you should move. I think that your needs are your needs and you should listen to your body and there is nothing unreasonable about needing peace and quiet, but that's a whole lot of your problem and not your roommate's problem. But if your peace and quiet is disturbed for a scattered week here and there, IMO, you should just get over it. Living with other people requires compromise.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:18 AM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't think either of you is being unreasonable, but that you have different sensitivities around shared space. Things that are not unreasonable nevertheless feel like an imposition. Nothing wrong with you either, that's just more than you're happy with.

I hate having strangers in my space unless I've asked them there. Sometimes even when I've had visiting guests staying with me, I feel awkward and irritated much of the time, even though I want them to stay there and they are my friends/family. I just value my alone space and quiet time very much. Possibly too much, but that's how I am and I don't seem to be able to change it through force of will. I am fortunate to have a job that enables me to have my own place and share it with no one. I am very grateful!

So even though your roommate isn't being unreasonable, your tolerance levels aren't working with it. The solution, unfortunately, is not to live with her anymore. Sounds like this could be a good thing anyway with a baby on the way, both for you and for her (and possibly also your boyfriend).
posted by Athanassiel at 12:46 AM on June 20, 2014

I'm similar to Athanassiel in that I haaaaate sharing my space with other people, to the extent that I live alone, and will probably never have housemates again. This may be something you want to think hard about, because the guest situation you've described really isn't that bad. I feel you, but...that's why I live alone. Everyone else has given great advice about communication, but I'd also consider getting a place alone or with the boyfriend, especially with a baby ciming.
posted by kalimac at 1:49 AM on June 20, 2014

I think multiple houseguests that stay more than 2-3 days/nights within a single month IS out of line, particularly if they're just staying on a couch and not in a separate guest room, like 8 days in a row, and then more? It's not comparable to the boyfriend, presumably he is sleeping in the OP's room (and keeping regular hours) and only there when she is, and it sounds like he's spending 3-5 nights max a month there.

OP I'm assuming you are trying to make a plan to move in the next year, but that may need to be sped up for your well-being. Stress management is key. Can you stay at your boyfriend's when there are guests? Can you afford a good sound machine (key for when baby arrives anyway)? I know it's hard to problem-solve when you're possibly foggy and tired but try to think of what little changes might make this easier on you. Can you wake up a bit earlier just to make sure you're not stressed out by the one bathroom situation on your workdays? Treat yourself to breakfast out of the house once in a while so that you aren't at home feeling resentful?
posted by lafemma at 6:02 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are being unreasonable about her houseguest frequency, BUT it would not be unreasonable to ask her to get an air mattress and keep them in her room. It is totally more disruptive to have people sleeping/living in the common area than in a bedroom, which presumably is the case when your boyfriend stays over. Setting rules about being quiet after a certain time, giving advance notice about guests, length of stay etc. is also totally reasonable.

But no houseguests? Nah, not when your boyfriend is over all the time. That's a pretty draconian rule and would've had to be discussed when you guys moved in.

Your pregnancy is a reason why living with a roommate is a little more complicated than living with a partner. Presumably a partner would've had a hand in (and a choice about) your pregnancy; your roommate didn't, so while you can ask her to be mindful of it, it isn't really her concern.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:08 AM on June 20, 2014

I think there's this thing where you feel really comfortable with your boyfriend and that he's a known quantity and of course it's no big deal. But that may not be the case for her. For her, it may be exactly the same as a stranger. She doesn't know him, and even if she's seen him coming in and out, that doesn't mean he's someone she trusts.

I think another piece of this is when you say "I feel a little too old to be living in a place that acts as a hostel for out of towners." I wonder if you're having some feelings about the pregnancy - that maybe you're not in the place in your life you would have liked to have been in when a baby came - that is making you kind of reactionary against the life that you were living before that happened. It is not unusual for people in their mid thirties to have houseguests, certainly not at that frequency. But the houseguests that you don't know and don't like might function as a reminder that this isn't your space, that you don't have a home of your own, that you're trying to bring a baby into an unstable situation.
posted by corb at 7:21 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Part of having a roommate is accepting that you are living with someone else and dealing with their way of living. My friends complain about things like this all the time, and it makes no sense to me. If you don't want to deal with someone else's guests, then don't have a roommate. Obviously, it is cheaper to have a roommate, but not always easier. Things like this come with the territory.

Now, on the other hand, if your roommate's guests are disrespectful/messy/etc., this is something you should discuss and try to resolve with her.
posted by peach23 at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

myselfasme: You having your boyfriend stay over is a completely different issue than her having house guests.

Ridiculous. Same goddamned thing, assuming these house guests are someone she knows (as opposed to one-night-stands). The other roommate has to deal with someone they don't know well having 24-hour access to their home.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:55 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

So the pregnancy thing is its own wrench. Are you planning to continue living with a roommate while having the baby's father drop in a few times a week after the baby is born? I'm assuming not, you'll be either moving out or the roommate will be moving out, so this current living situation is due to completely change in a few months, right?

Is this really a situation you can't imagine living in for a few more short months? If it isn't, why not make the change over happen sooner?

I'm a little confused by the "I can't stand sharing a bathroom for a few days with no notice, but will be dealing with a newborn shortly and the complete life-bomb that entails". (If you dislike roommate's friends dropping by, you realize your kid is going to be a teenager with a cohort of peers raiding the fridge and leaving shoes everywhere.) I'm kind of assuming you're dealing with a lot of New right now and having people suddenly show up without warning is just tipping you over the edge. I can empathize with that, but it's really not your roommate's issue or problem, it's not like they had any say about bringing a pregnancy into the works.

It sounds like you have it framed in your mind that your roommate is living in your house and you should agree on what happens in your house, when in reality it is also her house. You don't get to make ultimatums about the rules for guests.

You say that by mid-thirties you feel you shouldn't be living in a hostel, I'm a little surprised that by mid-thirties you wouldn't have known to hash these topics out with a roommate before living together. This is one of those lifestyle choices, like pets and smoking indoors, that you don't get to change your mind about suddenly and have the people you live with just accept your way goes.
posted by Dynex at 10:14 AM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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