Falling in love with my roommate
September 24, 2015 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on how to cope, NOT on how to hit on him

I recently got a new roommate. I'm a girl, he's a guy and we're in our mid 20's. I posted on facebook that I was looking for a new subletter a few months ago, and someone who went to the same elementary school as me got in touch, and moved in a few weeks ago.

And now I'm shocked to find out that I'm hugely attracted to him. I say shocked, because I am introverted and independent and am attracted to very few people. To make matters worse, he is a very good roommate and extremely sweet- he feeds my cat, he cooks amazing food and shares it with me, he fixed broken items in my house. Also, we've developed an intellectual friendship, he lends me books and we talk about the future and our careers, and I've realized we have very similar political views as well. The main thing is, I feel that he understands me, I don't have to explain anything, and I feel a deep sense of comfort at knowing that I don't have to pretend to fit in anymore. I've realized that he has a lot of qualities of my ideal partner, and knowing that he exists has made me elevate my standards and want to be a better person.

The other thing is, he has a girlfriend that lives in a different city!!! Which I completely do not understand. Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend? the only thing I can think of is that he is in an open relationship?? I'm not saying he has put any moves on me, because he hasn't. Just that the friendship has become intimate and real very fast. Maybe there's nothing strange about that?

I really, really don't want to look for a new roommate, and I am signed onto a lease for the next year and I don't want to move. it's hard to find a good roomie, and I don't know many people in this city. I've lived with strangers before and I'm really getting too old for it, so ideally I'm looking for a way to him to stay and me not go insane. I'm not sure if he's being overly nice, if I'm being overly hopeful or what is going on.

How should I proceed in this situation?
My gut instinct says to begin dating other people as soon as possible.
I also feel like you guys are going to tell me to have a conversation with him. BUT WHAT DO I SAY IN THAT CONVERSATION? What pieces of information am I looking for?

How can I cope with this situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe he's just a nice person? And he likes you as a friend, which is totally normal and good?

You remind yourself that he is unavailable romantically, and wow that's awesome, because you don't have to worry about weird relationship stuff, you just get to enjoy having an awesome roommate. Would it help if you told yourself he was gay and thus unavailable?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:21 AM on September 24, 2015 [17 favorites]

Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend? the only thing I can think of is that he is in an open relationship??

What? No. Other possibilities: He lives with you in your city because that's where he's based (for now) and for whatever reason, he and his girlfriend need to live in different cities for the time being. He lives with you, a woman, because (probably) you know each other from way back and he didn't want to live with a stranger. He's nice to you because he's a nice person. He doesn't need to be in an open relationship for any of that to be true.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2015 [82 favorites]

Begin dating other people as soon as possible. Do not have a conversation with him unless you're ready either to move out or to have him move out. Consider how you would feel - you're living with someone while dating something else, and no matter how that relationship is going or what you may be thinking about your housemate, you are committed to your current relationship. How would you feel if your housemate told you that they were in love with you? Suuuuuuuuuper awkward, that's how. No matter what you felt about the housemate.

Also, dating a housemate sucks big time and just adds a lot of horrible horrible drama and complication to your living situation.

If you're fated to be together, etc, that will become clear in the course of time - lots of time, time not spent in awkwardness around the house. Telling the guy will make him feel weird, no matter how he feels about you.

Also, also - if you're not that great at intimacy or have had weird friendship/relationship experiences, someone who is just a normally friendly person can seem oddly too friendly because you're not used to it.

I beg you - don't waste your youth moping around the house pondering what he meant when he unstuck the toaster and waiting for him to notice you. This will not have any good result - you'll miss out on other people, you'll get too wound up in your crush and you will screw up your relationship with your housemate.

Telling people you have a crush on them is only a good idea in the context of asking them on actual dates, and should always be underplayed rather than made into feelings drama. You can't ask the guy out - you live with him and he has a girlfriend. Do not pass go.
posted by Frowner at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015 [46 favorites]

The other thing is, he has a girlfriend that lives in a different city!!! Which I completely do not understand. Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend? the only thing I can think of is that he is in an open relationship??

Wow, no. The most likely thing is that he needs a roommate and isn't an asshole.

Look, follow your gut. Date someone else. If you are super introverted and mostly don't like people I know it can feel really weird and momentous and crazy when you actually do, but it's supersupersuper normal for humans to get along and do nice things for others.

(I don't know if it's your crush brain that is making you sound so incredulous, or if it's just that you've pretty much only ever dealt with shitty people; if it's the latter, I'm genuinely sorry. Try to take this as an object lesson that a better kind of person exists and in fact abounds.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015 [19 favorites]

Don't have a conversation with him about it. No no no.

Do get out of the house and away from him more. Dating is a good idea. You sound a bit infatuated right now and getting into the dating scene could introduce some more realistic romantic prospects into your life and break the spell.
posted by thetortoise at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Try to find other ways to get to know people—not necessarily dating. Sometimes close proximity can bring on these feelings. It might help you to remind yourself of that, and to create other opportunities for proximity with guys who are actually available.
posted by the_blizz at 8:32 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend?
Because he is a nice person and he and his girlfriend are comfortable with the idea of him having opposite-sex friendships. This should always happen in a healthy relationship where the partners aren't overly sexist. It's a harmful belief that any male/female friendship has a risk of producing romantic/sexual attraction. (Think about it this way: I'm bi and in a relationship, so should my partner be uncomfortable with the idea of me having any roommates whatsoever?)

My gut instinct says to begin dating other people as soon as possible.
Your gut instinct is correct. I'd add to that, begin finding other social outlets as soon as possible. You mentioned that you don't know a lot of other people in your city, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was playing a role here. If you don't have a lot of close relationships it's easy to throw everything you have into this one. Get out there and make some more friends!
posted by capricorn at 8:33 AM on September 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend?

Because he needed a new place to live in the city you're in, not the city his girlfriend is in, the opportunity arose for him to move into that new place, and it just so happened to involve rooming with a woman instead of a man. That's it, really. Some people -- a lot of people! -- are just really nice and generous (even flirtatious) by nature, regardless of whether or not they're partnered.

the only thing I can think of is that he is in an open relationship??

This is some super-intense extrapolation, way out of left field. It also seems to imply that you believe certain groups of people (in this case, men and women) can never truly be "just friends," which is demonstrably false for millions of us. I get that crushing on someone can be an intoxicant/hallucinogen in its own right, but as someone who also has a brain that goes mildly out of whack when she really likes someone, I beg of you: Don't let your crush blind you to reality just because reality is inconvenient.

How can I cope with this situation?

Slow your roll. Stop daydreaming. Cool off. Try to refrain from reading romance into his standard-issue kindly roommate gestures. And if he asks why you're acting distant, tell him that you totally appreciate everything he's been doing around the house, you've just got some distracting stuff going on. Don't tell him you have a crush on him unless you want to be put in the position of needing to move or find a new roommate within the next couple of weeks. Distract yourself! Pick up a new hobby, meet some new friends, find another foxy dude to crush on, read some engrossing novels, ANYTHING but sitting around the house and dwelling on how much you like this guy, who is (more than anything else) simply not available to be loved by you.

Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 8:35 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Date other people and make other friends, yes.

But you are really jumping to him being in an open relationship or wanting to cheat based on the fact that he's being friendly to his roommate. Do NOT have a conversation about this. Assume that he is faithful.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:38 AM on September 24, 2015

Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend? the only thing I can think of is that he is in an open relationship??

Wait, what? Presumably he moved in with you because you had a room available, and he needed a room, and you had a previous connection so it seemed like a better set up than moving in with a total stranger. I would not read anything more into it than that. I am a woman, and have had plenty of male roommates over the years, all of whom I did my best to be friendly towards, and none of whom I wanted to date (whether I was in a relationship or not). I also have lots of close male friends, largely from working in a male-dominated field -- and none of this means that my marriage is somehow an "open marriage" or that I'm secretly looking for something romantic.

The details of your roommate's relationship -- why they are long distance, how serious they are, whether or not it's an open relationship -- are 100% his to choose to share if he ever wants to, not yours to ask about. It sounds like because you have this crush, you're reading way too much into his behavior -- sharing food you've cooked or feeding a cat or talking about politics or lending someone a book are pretty much 0% romantic in my book...these are all things I do for my non-romantic, male and female friends without any underlying subtext. Absent any evidence to the contrary -- and especially because there is a significant other in the mix! -- I would simply assume that this guy is a nice person who sees you as a friend and roommate.

Here's the thing -- while I am totally down with the cross-gender friendship thing, I also have friends who swear they just don't get it -- they could never be friends with someone of the opposite gender without there being some sexual subtext, they wouldn't be comfortable with their spouse having a close opposite-gender (straight) friend, etc. etc. While I think they are sort of crazy, this is definitely a thing that some people believe. Maybe you are one of them? If you just can't handle being friends with a guy, that is your prerogative (you don't have to be friends with anyone you don't want to be!).

In any case, I would dial back the intimacy aspect with this particular guy, try to be out of the house a lot for the next few weeks or so while the crush dies down, and definitely date other folks and just generally spend time with other friends.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also feel like you guys are going to tell me to have a conversation with him. BUT WHAT DO I SAY IN THAT CONVERSATION?

Just talk to him like you would talk to a roommate or friend to whom you are not attracted. Like he's an actual friend, which is how he's treating you. Definitely do not start a conversation with him that includes "well you're obviously into me, why are you still dating some girl long distance" or "so i see you are in an open relationship" or any of the other things you have decided are factual about him based on him being a nice friendly person who is a great roommate.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, in terms of short-term coping tricks, I've found it surprisingly helpful to play this clip in my head (or even literally, on my computer!) whenever I feel myself going down an unproductive mental road. I dunno why it works, it just does--never fails to make me laugh, at least.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:04 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, no I definitely do not thing you should have a conversation about this. It is deeply disrespectful to tell someone who is in a relationship that you have romantic feelings for them, in my opinion. Deal with it how you need to deal with it, but revealing your feelings is basically forcing this guy to take on a whole bunch of awkwardness that you have created.

Story from my life: In college, my ROOMMATE'S BOYFRIEND decided it would be awesome to tell me (also in a relationship at the time) that he was developing feelings for me. Dude! I don't care that you're developing feelings for me -- I am in love with someone else! Also I am not going to start dating my roommates boyfriend because, duh, I am not an idiot. So then everytime we saw each other it was incredibly awkward.

There is no law that says just because you feel something you have to say something about it. Often it is wisest to deal with your feelings privately and not force awkwardness onto others.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

Love involves consent, and he has not consented to participate in anything other than a friendly roommate situation. You may be preoccupied with him, but it's not love.

Spend more time doing other things, yes, but you may also want to unpack why you think men can't just be nice to you because they're good people who want to live in a peaceful agreeable roommate situation.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ironically and unfairly, guys who have girlfriends tend to be much more relaxed, friendly and intimate with women friends. Because the mojo is directed elsewhere and doesn't get in the way? Because the stakes are low? Because they think there won't be any misinterpretation? I dunno.

This guy doesn't feel the same way and you wouldn't want him to. (If he's dishonest to her he'll be dishonest to you.) I'm happy for you that you found a good friend and roommate. It's completely possible they will break up in a while and he'll ask you out sometime after that. In the meantime, make new friends and go on dates.
posted by quincunx at 10:55 AM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a bit of an odd leap to think that because his girlfriend is okay with him having a female roommate, they must have an open relationship. Living with someone does not mean you have to have sex with them!

So given the facts: he obviously likes you, but there is no reason to believe he likes you as more than a friend, and even if he did, nothing can happen unless his relationship ends. (Unless you want to get mixed up in an almighty mess). So sit back, enjoy the friendship, try to quell those romantic feelings, date other people and maybe one day he'll break up with his girlfriend and you can see what happens. But there's no point bringing it up now. He is spoken for and off the menu. Give it a bit longer and see if your crush settles down or gets worse. If it gets worse, probably time to find somewhere new to live...
posted by intensitymultiply at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's something you should know, and you may not know it yet. I learned it in my early 30s iirc. Part of negotiating a friendship with anyone of the sex we're attracted to is to kind of subconsciously test out whether they would be a good mate. So that means that even if the answer is no, I don't want to be involved with this person, and even if that's obvious, don't be surprised if this happens a LOT and is ultimately totally transient.

Sit with it. Feel your feelings. Find out what they feel like. And find out what it feels like to have intense feelings and not act on them. This is a habit that will serve you very well in the future in many many ways.
posted by janey47 at 11:06 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hi, I've been in your shoes. I had a roommate for a year who was hot with a capital "Yowza". So firstly, don't beat yourself up for feeling this way, because...it happens.

Now: you ask why he moved in with you if he has another girlfriend. And...probably it's as simple as, he needed a place to live and he at least knew you had some kind of thing in common so you wouldn't be a total stranger. Him choosing to try to move in with you has NOTHING to do with whether he has a girlfriend, whether he likes you, etc.

I stressed that first to underscore the fact that as far as you're concerned, you have to keep in mind that he is 100% off limits. Not only because he has a girlfriend, but also because you're roommates, and that would feel hella weird if anything happened. And you don't want to live in a situation that feels hella weird, right? Right. So - he is off limits. Off. Limits. That is your new motto - Learn it, live it, swear by it, die by it. And yeah, I know it'll be hard (seriously, my old roommate was hot), but...he's also off limits. I coped by trying to date a lot, and I think that once when I got a glimpse of him walking out of the bathroom wearing just a towel, I immediately got in the bathroom and took a cold shower or something. But at no time did I try to press him into anything romantic, because that's not what he signed on for. I don't think I even let myself have any "what if" fantasies in case that just made things worse (in fact, I think I imagined exactly the opposite, and I pretended he was like a Ken Doll and had no penis at all).

But the good news is, if you can get past that, him being a good roommate will work out for you. Because hey, he's a good roommate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Humans are kind of hardwired for sexual attraction. He is nice, sweet and there. Some of your attraction is pheromones and hormones doing their evolutionary thing. That's one reason people often segregate genders. Maybe keeping that in mind will help.
posted by theora55 at 11:48 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

My gut instinct says to begin dating other people as soon as possible.
I also feel like you guys are going to tell me to have a conversation with him. BUT WHAT DO I SAY IN THAT CONVERSATION? What pieces of information am I looking for?

"You are SO NICE! Do you have any nice friends with whom you could set me up?"

Seriously, I find it really hard to develop that kind of connection, but it seems way easier to connect to people who are connections of people to whom I am already connected. Stop thinking of Roommate as Boyfriend Material, and start thinking of Roommate as a Boyfriend Material Portal, or your Linked In colleague for romance, or something.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:30 PM on September 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

• Be aware of his imperfections.
• Don't spend so much time with him.
• Put more of your time and energy into relationships and activities that are enjoyable for you.
• Use "urge surfing" until it passes.
posted by dancing leaves at 5:13 AM on September 25, 2015

Why would he move in with another girl and be so nice when he already has a girlfriend?

Because he answered an ad for a roommate, not a girlfriend.

From experience of being in your position:

1) Think of him as a species of conversational statue. He has a girlfriend, so no matter what your feelings he is off limits.

2) Be aware of his flaws and remind yourself as needed.

3) Go thee forth and date other people.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:23 PM on September 27, 2015

I have an "unavailable" category in my head, and for me the MOST unavailable = gay. So if there's an attractive guy that would be a terrible idea to get a crush on, I stick him in the "gay" category, even when he's not gay. I'm offering this concept up on the off chance that your brain's categories are as segregated as mine are.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:26 PM on September 27, 2015

« Older Vintage MBTA rides?   |   Picnic Date- Help me keep the food warm. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.