Should I move out or stay?
July 10, 2017 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I have a complicated situation. I have had a roommate for over two years now. We re-signed the lease for a third year in May but now I want to move out for various personal reasons, though she doesn't want me to and when we talk about it she guilts me for wanting to leave and leaving her in the lurch. I feel this is a bad situation though and don't know if I can handle staying here for another ten months now.

My roommate and I were good friends and this is why we moved in together. We also were closer in other ways. Despite our intimacy we were very clear that we would only be good friends regardless, but a problem arose because I developed feelings for her. I was very open about this and we were both very adult about the situation, and we both decided we'd like to still live together as we got on really well as roommates and close friends, and perhaps my feelings would eventually ebb.

We dated other people, and we were still close friends. Eventually my feelings for her as anything more than a good friend actually did ebb some, but unfortunately other problems arose recently. After being close friends for years and often going out together, she began to become more reclusive and want to socialise with me less and less. We still got on good as roommates, but the atmosphere in our apartment changed. Instead of feeling like friends living together, it felt like living with a recluse stranger. She would not want to talk if we were in common areas at the same time, or only mutter a short and quick reply to any question I asked, and though she used to often keep her bedroom door open and generally be available around the apartment, she'd now retreat behind closed doors all the time. It almost goes without saying that she stopped ever wanting to go out and do anything with me. If she did this with everyone it would be one thing, but she was still sociable, happy and talkative with other friends she or we had over or when she went out, so this change very clearly felt like something towards me in particular.

Sometime during this she began to date someone in particular and began to have them over at our apartment very often in long spurts, despite this technically being against the rules of the complex (it's in our lease that a visitor can only stay so many days). They live some hours away and have flexible work and can have long stretches of time off so last time they were here for more than three weeks day in and out, and they're planning on coming back again and again like this.

In addition, I have a cat. My roommate is somewhat allergic to cats and she didn't like the idea of moving in with one when we originally moved in together, but she acquiesced as my cat is going to live with me wherever I go so she knew we were a package deal if she wanted me as a roommate. She has handled the situation well and I've kept up my end of the bargain by keeping the cat very clean, the litterbox very clean and keeping cat hair cleaned off everything. However, despite my cat being very sweet and docile, it's obvious that my roommate hates him. She is very sensitive to the cat even making any sounds and though the cat is on the quiet side, he does meow occasionally as cats are wont to do. When he does and she's around, she has in the past made jokes about offing the cat, or rolling her eyes and acting very annoyed at even a single meow in her presence. When we moved in I thought she might come around to such a sweet cat or at least I didn't think she'd be so anti-cat to the point that even a very good cat would annoy her at the slightest provocation, but as she learned to live with the cat I learned to live with her disliking the cat. Once the other tension escalated this feeling of her hating the cat really added to my overall stress.

As the last few months have gone by, I've felt the tension in the apartment and my stress level climb continuously upwards, and my mental health taking a hit. I work from a home office set up in our sunroom, so I am at home most of the day. This situation is taking a toll not only on my happiness, but also on my work and income. Unfortunately, things weren't quite so bad in May and so I re-signed the lease thinking this might just be a momentary blip, but over the last couple of months it instead has just got quickly and steadily worse and worse.

Even with all this I wasn't especially planning to move out anytime soon because of the lease, but then a really good opportunity arose. Another good friend's roommate is moving out later in September and though her apartment is a few towns away, it would be a perfect fit and she wants me to move in knowing the bad situation I'm in, and she loves my cat. She also travels for work and is rarely home. It is quite a bit more expensive though and I'll only barely be able to afford it, but I think it would be worth it.

I thought it wise to discuss everything with my current roommate right away to give her plenty of time to prepare, and because I'm still very undecided on what to do. I thought after how things have been recently and how she seems to not like me anymore that she may be happy to have me leave, but on the contrary she was upset. She said she didn't realise I had felt so strongly about how things have been and that she didn't realise she'd been acting different, though if she had it's because she was put off by feelings I may still have for her. I said that that was fine and that perhaps it was for the best I left but she said that's not fair to her because I signed the lease until next May and that's what she was counting on. I also told her I thought it was rude she had the person she's dating over for extended periods of time and without even asking me or letting me know beforehand, and on this she stood firm and said that it's her life and her bedroom to do with as she pleases and that she wouldn't do anything that she didn't mind me doing.

Legally, I talked to the leasing agent about the possibility of moving before my lease was up. I didn't mention the problems but they were understanding and easy-going about it all, and said that I have two options should I leave: keep my name on the lease and trust my roommate to pay the rent herself or find a roommate to split the cost, or break the lease and pay a (hefty) fee to get out of the contract.

I told this to my roommate and said that I would pay the fee to break the lease myself, or she could stay in the apartment and find a new roommate and I would have to trust her to make the rent payments since my name would still be on the lease. She said I would have to help her find a new roommate; I said I would help but that I'm not sure I think I 'have to' do that since I could break the contract, pay the fee and have my name legally off the lease. She could even then re-sign a new lease for the same apartment either by herself or with a new roommate, but she argues that she may not be able to find a new roommate to re-sign with and can't afford the apartment by herself, and that besides she doesn't want to commit to another full year once I move out instead of just until next May as our lease currently stands.

So now I don't know what to do. I wasn't expecting my roommate to want me (and my cat) to stay so badly, honestly. I do understand her position though; we signed a contract and she had planned for living here at least until the contract was up and with someone she knew and trusted (me) occupying the other room and splitting the rent. That said, I don't think she's an innocent here because of our complicated history and because of her recent dramatic behavioural changes and having the person she's dating stay over for longer than allowed by the terms of our lease and without even okaying it with me. Also, I'm a bit worried she could be trying to emotionally manipulate me even if she doesn't realise it; she could be being disingenuous saying she still considers us friends and only wants me to stay because it's easier on her all things considered despite the bad situation she knows I'm in. She thinks I should try to work on feeling better while still living with her.

Regardless, she is right that I did choose to re-sign the lease only a few months ago and originally agreed to stay until next May, and I'm not even positive I want to leave now. When we talked she did pull on my heartstrings a bit as I do care for her and hate the thought of leaving her in the lurch and her possibly hating me for leaving before the lease was up. There is also the issue of her circle of acquaintances that I'm part of; if I left I very well would lose the friendship of all the circle. As well, moving would mean an increase in rent for me that I don't particularly want, and my current roommate said during our talk that she would work on being a better roommate if she had changed at all (she still insists she hasn't noticed much of a change). I'm also, despite my current roommate's behaviour and my increasing isolation here, not sure I'd especially like being completely alone so often in the new apartment since my prospective roommate would be travelling for work most of the time.

On the other hand, if I stay my mental health may decline even more and stress and tension may continue to escalate and I'm not sure I want to chance that as it's already quite bad; if I haven't been clear enough yet let me say that the situation on my end is probably worse than you may imagine and there are things I haven't mentioned. If I leave I can move in with a kind friend with a positive attitude, and that particular opportunity won't be available come next May, and I feel like giving my current roommate over two month's notice and offering to pay the fee to break the lease or help her find a new roommate is the best due diligence I can put forward should I leave.

Unfortunately, there is no possibility of me moving and paying both rents until the lease is up. I would barely be able to afford the new rent alone.

Am I in the wrong for wanting to move mid-lease, even considering our history and current state?

Have I handled things properly so far?

Most importantly, what should I do?

My current roommate wants me to give her a decision asap and I told her I would in a matter of days, but I'm extremely torn. I do have issues with anxiety and this decision, and my current roommate's reaction, has made it really bad, to the point of ruined days and sleepless nights.
posted by Evermoor to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you are within your rights to pay the fee to break your lease and do what you want. That's why it is an option. Your roommate also has the choice to break the lease and pay the fee whenever they want.
posted by MadMadam at 12:44 PM on July 10, 2017 [9 favorites]

If you feel the need to write a 1993 word question to Metafilter about why your living situation doesn't work for you, your living situation probably doesn't work for you. So, yes, you should leave your current situation, and no, you shouldn't feel bad about it. Let your roommate know immediately so she can plan her exit as well.
posted by saeculorum at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2017 [41 favorites]

OMG you can get out by giving 2 months notice and paying the fee? That is an ethical amount of notice. She will be fine. Tell your new roommate yes, pay the lease break fee, and be happy!
posted by charlielxxv at 12:57 PM on July 10, 2017 [27 favorites]

I do not think it is fair to break a contract with your roommate two months in. You should proactively address your complaints with her (which you admit you did not) and either suck it up for the remaining ten months or find a suitable roommate she approves of. You are responsible for your choices; your roommate should not be penalised financially because you changed your mind.
posted by saucysault at 12:59 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you break the lease and move (which I would do, were I in your position), I wouldn't expect your roommate to want to remain friends with you. That is a path I would be 100% willing to take to get out of the situation. In a few years, you'll remember this period of time as a difficult one but the longer you stay, the worse it will end up becoming and no one, especially you, will be satisfied in the end.
posted by cooker girl at 12:59 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

It sounds like the roommate doesn't really want to be friends NOW, let alone later, so I wouldn't base decisions on how she might react if you do this - she's already actively avoiding you. Getting out and to an environment that's better for your mental health and your kitty is a really good idea. This living situation sounds like pure misery.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

they were understanding and easy-going about it all, and said that I have two options should I leave: keep my name on the lease and trust my roommate to pay the rent herself or find a roommate to split the cost, or break the lease and pay a (hefty) fee to get out of the contract.

I would re-open this conversation with the leasing agent with two new questions, if they are not possibilities already discussed: 1) how do they feel about sub-letting? and 2) would they be willing to waive or reduce the fee if you found someone to sign onto a new lease document with your current roommate? If neither of those work for them, pay the fee. Trusting your roommate to split the cost with someone else and pay on your behalf is just not a good idea. Finding a new roommate is always fraught, and if it ends up not being a good fit, she may blame you and decide she shouldn't pay on your behalf to room with someone she doesn't like. She clearly already feels like she's the one being treated unfairly here, and whether or not that's a reasonable assessment, it's not likely to change.
posted by solotoro at 1:05 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

When I read this, I see two people who at this point are incompatibly living together.

Your 'complicated history' is largely that you developed and expressed feelings for your roommate, she didn't have them, and her being less emotionally available after this, and then issues you have with her having a romantic partner over too often and long. A lot of your writing is about current and past romantic intentions which I think are tied too closely to whatever behaviour you want her to change.

I mean - ask yourself this - if you had two friends with an unrequited romantic history and whose friendship has been strained, would you suggest they become roommates today? That's the same decision you're making by staying.

Break the lease, see if you can find a replacement and make the transition easier on her, and after some space try to mend the friendship if it means a lot to you. My sense is the space may be best for both of you.
posted by notorious medium at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2017

I was going to side with the roommate, but you're willing to give a couple months' notice and pay the whole lease break fee? That's very reasonable.

If she doesn't think she can find another roommate, then probably she should have given more thought to not making repeated "joking" threats against your pet and having an effective third roommate in. (Three weeks? Again, I thought you were going to say "he was here for four days once." A person staying in your house for three weeks should be paying rent.)

The interpersonal dynamic seems quite complex, but it sounds to me like this friendship is already dead, so I wouldn't worry too much about the future on that.
posted by praemunire at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2017 [16 favorites]

It's not a great thing you're doing wanting to move so soon after resigning but it's not a great thing she is doing by having her SO be there weeks at a time, especially as you work from home. I'd focus on that- you did not sign up to live with a couple or to share your work-from-home space and it's not working out. Living with a couple is non-negotiable for most adults. Stick to those guns and leave. Leave the personal stuff out of it.
posted by fshgrl at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm torn here. On the one hand, it really is pretty disruptive to have a roommate who has signed a lease with you suddenly back out of the agreement -- it sounds like your roommate can't afford to pay the full rent anymore than you can afford to pay two rents at once, so you are putting her in a pretty bad position. And, it sounds like you're not being super flexible here -- every time I have ever lived with roommates, the person wanting to move out before a lease was up was 100% responsible for finding a suitable subletter to take their place. They didn't simply dump this responsibility in the lap of the people staying in the apartment/house and not breaking the lease.

And just saying "Well, I could pay the fee and get out of it" isn't really fair -- that means your roommate likely needs to move, and she may or may not actually be able to afford that on short notice -- she was counting on you for a place to live in a way that your land lord is not, and I think there's some social obligation there since you agreed to sign a lease together.

On the other hand, it sounds like you guys do not make for good roommates at all, and your roommate is also acting unfairly in having a houseguest for extended periods without making specific arrangements with you. Again, I feel like the general polite thing to do in this situation--regardless of what the lease says--is to discuss extended visitors with your roommate and come to an agreement about the person at least pitching in for utilities/groceries, if not some portion of the rent, and she has not done that.

Personally, what I would do in this situation is let your roommate know that the extended visitor situation is just not working for you -- you signed up to live with one roommate, not two, and certainly not with a couple. What she would be okay with you doing isn't really relevant because you are not her (and your request is really nothing out of the ordinary of what most people would be okay with) -- especially since you work from home. That said, I would offer to do the legwork of finding a suitable subletter, and be willing to pay the gap rent for a month or two while things get settled -- not for the entire term of the lease, but for up to 1-2 months while the subletter is getting arranged.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

I do not think it would be healthy to continue living with a quasi-ex and her new significant other. I would make a clean break of it, and pay the fee to break the lease. You are giving her more than enough notice.

Please take care of yourself -- you are your best and strongest advocate!
posted by Stephanie Duy at 1:43 PM on July 10, 2017

Maybe I'm reading waaaay too much into this but I'm getting the feeling that she liked the romantic attention from you, and after your feelings started to ebb she decided to "punish" you by withdrawing. Maybe this wasn't even intentional? But it feels manipulative.

Secondly, you mention possibly feeling lonely in your new apartment because your new roommate would be traveling a lot for work. I get that some people like having the company of roomates but it kinda feels like you are looking to future/potential roomates to fulfill some companionship need, which might not be what that roomate is actually signing up for. Again, I might be waaaaaay off base but I get the slightest whiff of codependency here. Especially since you basically wrote a novel about this situation. If this is true (you want a roommate to provide companiship and not just, you know, help out with the rent) you might want to explore that with yourself.

I don't think you should try to get your current roommate in trouble or anything but since she *is* breaking the terms of your lease by letting her boyfriend stay for long periods of time, maybe you can bring that up with the leasing office as a way to help you break your own lease? I mean, you brought this up with her and she obviously doesn't care that it's against the rules.
posted by Brittanie at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2017 [9 favorites]

Move out. Your home life doesn't need to be this fraught, especially when it's effectively your work life too.

Get your name off the lease. If you don't you'll be on judge Judy within 6 months. Ethically you should put a decent effort into finding a replacement room mate so your current room mate has an option to stay, but you need to be firm about that since she could just refuse all the people you find then blame you for leaving her in the lurch. Personally I would tell her, "I'm definitely moving, I'll pay the lease break fee, do you want me to advertise the room or do you want to? Or do you want to move out? I'll be gone by October first."

Bottom line though is that you should get out of there and definitely break the legal tie. Not sure your friendship will survive but in it's current state not sure it's actually a friendship either.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 2:17 PM on July 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

Read based on the words you wrote: Do you have anyone else in your friendship circle to talk to as a mediator about this? Also, do you have a therapist? It sounds like talking about feelings out loud is something that you value. If you're this anxious and upset about the entire situation then your anxiety is not going to immediately ebb when you make the change one way or the other. The change in the relationship between the two of you AND her really-shitty-to-a-roommate-much-less-a-friend move of letting a partner stay for three weeks at a time in your shared space (was there discussion about this first?) are things that you NEED to talk about if your friendship was to continue existing, whether this new apartment opportunity had come up or not. If you choose to stay, then you both have to agree to have continuous open conversation. I'm honestly not sure if that amount of effort is worth it for either of you, but it makes the options you're presenting her less: "1.I do what you want or 2. I leave you in the lurch" and more "1. We both spend a lot of time and effort openly communicating about our feelings, draw up exact plans, make clear expectations about your partner's time staying here" or 2."I leave you, responsibly as possible."

Reads based on my own personal experience: "I'm a bit worried she could be trying to emotionally manipulate me even if she doesn't realise it; she could be being disingenuous saying she still considers us friends and only wants me to stay because it's easier on her all things considered despite the bad situation she knows I'm in." - Yeah, that's what's happening. Get out of there.

In any case, if you DO decide to leave, talk with the broker, pay the lease breaking fee and then, if your roomie wants to keep on living there with her quasi-live in partner, have her re-sign a brand new lease and find another roommate. Clean break and no worry that something (or someone) out of my control might make you financially liable for something down the line.
posted by theweasel at 2:56 PM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

2 months and a fee is more than reasonable. She says she isn't comfortable with your feelings for her, but then wants you to keep living with her, while making jokes about killing your pet? Hell no. Whatever went on between you wrt your crush, she is, for whatever reason, more invested in remaining in a toxic living situation than in doing the minimal work to find a new one. Pay the fee, break the lease, and get away from this person.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Look, this woman talks about murdering your cat and parades her new romantic relationship in your face in an effort to make you jealous. There IS no friendship to salvage. She's horrible. Paying a fee to get her out of your life is a bargain. Retain the friendship? Why the heck would you want to. Look, you're no angel in this situation but that doesn't mean you're obliged to continue it. Run, run like the wind.
posted by Jubey at 3:31 PM on July 10, 2017 [10 favorites]

It does suck for her and I'd convey my awareness of that, unless she becomes completely antagonistic. At the same time, what would she do next May if you stayed with her now but moved out then? Presumably the same thing she'd be doing now with you moving out. And depending on where you live, September can be a better time of year to find new roommates than May (because of the academic school year). I think it would be ethical for you to do your best to find her a replacement roommate, including being slightly flexible on your move-out date if possible. Possibly you might also offer to pay whatever the fee would be for her to break her own lease and move elsewhere, which really would put her in the exact situation she'd be in if you moved next May. But I don't think it's unethical for you to move out, as much as it might put her in a bad spot.

By the way, it's not an either-or thing here. If the financial aspect of moving to your new friend's place is an issue, you've got a third option, which is just looking for another place altogether. It might not come with an automatic friend, but that's life. (It might potentially come with a bad roommate, but as you've seen that's also a risk when you live with friends.)

Finally, while the mental-health effects of living in a tense situation are completely normal and relatable, it might be worth trying to work on your anxiety specifically without respect to what you end up deciding to do, to try to make it easier for yourself to feel good even when living in not the best situations.
posted by trig at 3:51 PM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow. Get out. I'm not sure what her game is, but it's not worth continuing to play it. Maybe her practically-already-living-there friend will be interested in officially moving in?

Playing fair means paying the fee and officially breaking the lease. If she's snarky about it, tip off the leasing agent about the long-term "guest"... because that's breaking the lease, too - and could get you both kicked out, anyway.
posted by stormyteal at 11:33 PM on July 10, 2017

You should move. Living with your current roommate isn't working for you, and it's super hard to be happy and healthy if your home base isn't comfortable and Feels Right.
posted by spindrifter at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2017

She threatened to kill your cat. Even in "jest" (my guess is that it was half-joking at best), that's fucking scary. Not only would I break my lease, I'd ask the new roommate if they would be willing to house the cat in the interim, because once you tell your roommate that you're leaving, in situations like these, that is when shit gets really ugly. Do not even fuck around with that.
posted by tzikeh at 12:43 PM on July 14, 2017

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