How do I get out of this roommate situation?
December 3, 2017 8:56 AM   Subscribe

When my friend offhandedly asked me about rooming together, I expressed interest. It's a week later and he thinks we're rooming together and I think it's a bad idea. How do I bow out gracefully without ruining our friendship?

I have a close friend who I like a lot. He has a lot of sweet qualities - checks in, is funny, is inclusive of me in social events, hosts lovely dinner parties.

He asked me a few days if I was interested in rooming with him. I said I was in the moment - as I didn't know what I wanted and I didn't want to offend. Since then, I've come across new information that gives me pause. Another friend pulled me aside and said that he's widely disliked, and pointed to some examples of where he has said racist jokes. He has told me about these things, and he told me sincerely apologized but now I'm realizing it's a worse problem than I realized. Another issue is that everytime these social faux pas happen, he's drunk. Right now he's a functional alcoholic but I'm worried about being in a situation where it escalates. These two things raise concerns.

Two questions:
1 Am I cowardly for wanting to bow out based on what others think? I don't want to engage in groupthink, but I'm a little concerned about my reputation if I room with him. Yes, his jokes are inappropriate. I never condone them. But he has many amazing qualities that others don't have. I'm in graduate school and I think people can be very cruel and if there's one wrong thing said, people shun.
2. I'm leaning towards getting out of this situation. How do I do it in a kind way and explain why?
Or is this friendship over?
posted by pando11 to Human Relations (15 answers total)
Response by poster: Correction: I said yes in the moment
posted by pando11 at 8:57 AM on December 3, 2017

next time you see him (if you see him regularly) just tell him "Phil I've been thinking, it was premature of me to commit to doing the roommate thing next year. I'm not ready to make my plans. I may want to live alone. Not sure. Anyway I wanted to tell you ASAP so you can make other plans."

If you don't see him regularly, call him and say that.

Oh, and there's no reason the friendship needs to be over; and as far as it being cowardly, who cares. You do sound kind of easily influenced, so you might want to think about what YOU actually want; but a bad roommate situation is pretty horrible, and if his reputation or his alcoholism is going to make life harder for you, then don't take it on. I wouldn't want any kind of alcoholic roommate.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2017 [40 favorites]

If you live with an alcoholic who’s inappropriate when drunk, your reputation will be the least of your worries.

Tell him ASAP that you’ve changed your mind and he should make other plans. You don’t have to get into why and you can be gentle about it. You do have to be clear, though.

Do you want the friendship?
posted by kapers at 9:29 AM on December 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Functional alcoholic roommates are usually fine in my (male) experience. The problem comes when they graduate to non-functional and they are either causing drama, not paying the rent, or both. If you're in a place in your life where just up and moving on a few days notice is a problem for you, best not to go through with this.

How to broach this? Folks above have good scripts. You just want to say within the next couple of days that you got overly excited about the idea and prematurely committed when you really shouldn't have. You've got x and y going on in your life that make such a term commitment not really such a great idea in the next 6 months to a year, so the roommate thing isn't going to work out after all, sorry about that. Anyway, do you have plans next weekend? Would you like to go do z on Saturday?

They may need to sulk for a while, but showing continued interest in their life and a willingness to continue doing things should certainly soften any disappointment they feel over it, assuming it's just the roommate thing and not the entire friendship that's off the table from your end.
posted by wierdo at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2017

You do not want an alcoholic roommate. You do not want a racist roommate. This is not cowardice it's listening to your gut and making good decisions before you have to learn from bad ones. Congratulations for skipping that step. Have that conversation asap before they find a place and put a deposit down for you. People say stuff before they think it through and have to back track all the time, you are not honor bound to move in with this person. I had to deal with an alcoholic tenant last year and by the end his roommate was sleeping with a bat next to his bed and piling cans in front of his door so he couldn't be surprised in the middle of the night. You have a bad feeling, go with that.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

What BoscosMom said x1000. My father was a "functional alcoholic" and there was no way he could've functioned without the people who lived with him basically doing everything else in his life while he went through the motions of being "functional" to the outside world, up to and including hiding his keys so he couldn't drive drunk, turning off loud music at 3am so the neighbors wouldn't call the cops, bathing him, getting him dressed, and pouring cold water on his face in the morning to get him up for work. My mom bore the brunt of that labor, but all of his children dealt with that shit too. Trust me, it was no fun, and had lasting effects on all of our future relationships and how we moved through the world.

Don't borrow trouble. You're not succumbing to "groupthink"; you're exercising sound judgment and commonsense based on new information.

And a tip (as a former people-pleaser who still constantly has to fight the urge to try to make and keep everyone happy): If someone ever puts you on the spot again where you don't know what to say in the moment, if you can't bring yourself to say "No thanks" right away, just say, "Hm. Let me think about that. I'll get back to you." Then later, after you're less flustered and you've had time to think and gather information to make an informed decision, you can say yes or no. Write the person an email or text them back if you want a non-dramatic way to say "no".
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:46 AM on December 3, 2017 [9 favorites]

I have a ton of friends I could never room with. In my 20s, part of staying friends was knowing that. There’s no need to make it about anything else. Just say”I’ve thought it over and I love being your friend. I don’t want to be roommates. Hey let’s go get nachos.”
posted by warriorqueen at 1:34 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're not cowardly at all, in fact it's a relatively brave this to do to change a decision, and face that situation.

From what you've said you definitely want to avoid living with them. There's a massive difference between being friends with someone, and living with someone, so I think you definitely follow the advice above.
posted by DancingYear at 1:42 PM on December 3, 2017

Tell him you don't think you'd be a good fit as room mates. Don't go into details but maybe that will prompt him to consider making some changes. Oh, and thank the person who gave you the heads up - that's a real friend.
posted by Jubey at 2:55 PM on December 3, 2017

1. No. You have every right to want to feel 100% comfortable about who you're living with, without any reservations.

2. "I've thought about it, and I actually think I want to live alone/live with a female/move in with different friend of mine/etc."

"I've thought about it and I'm not ready to move right now/have a roommate right now/etc."

"I've thought about it and I actually think living with a friend would be a bad idea. I want to branch out and get a roommate who isn't directly in my social circle."

posted by AppleTurnover at 4:45 PM on December 3, 2017

His reputation and alcoholism may have influenced your decision, but put those aside for right now. Moving to room with someone only makes sense when all parties involve are already considering moving, which, it doesn't sound from your question like you are?

Moving sucks. It's expensive, apartment hunting is a pain, and unless you had plans to find a roommate on the backburner already, it's really not worth it unless you have the cash to spare and you really like the person you'll be moving with. fingersandtoes's script is great.

If you still enjoy his friendship, maybe offer to help unpack a bit the day of? (If feasible for you--don't skip work or anything for it) You have nothing to feel guilty for! Moving is a huge commitment, and sometimes it just doesn't work out.
posted by lesser weasel at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2017

LIE. Say someone else asked you and you have to say yes to them. Say that you got a sweet deal but it's a one person thing. No need to be honest. Changing your mind is totally apropos.
posted by karmachameleon at 10:08 PM on December 3, 2017

LIE. Say someone else asked you and you have to say yes to them. Say that you got a sweet deal but it's a one person thing. No need to be honest. Changing your mind is totally apropos.

This seems like overkill and just over-complicating the situation. Plus you'll have to create another lie to explain what happened with this sweet deal and roommate if it doesn't come to fruition. Personally here's another vote for the script from fingersandtoes.
posted by JenMarie at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2017

Direct is best. Just say for the sake of your friendship, which you treasure, you don't think living together is in your best interest.

I have a friend that I've known for over 50 years. I recently stayed with her for a few days, and while I love her to pieces, there's no way I'd ever jeopardize our life-long friendship by sharing a home with her. It's not that she's bad in any way, she's just vastly different from me in so many areas that I know it would be a stress fest from the word Go. The friendship comes first over the convenience of having a roommate.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2017

Send a text saying "Hey, I thought it over, and us being roommates isn't going to work out. Thanks anyway!" No need to explain why, and doing it over a text (or e-mail or some other time-delayed method) means you don't have to over explain.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2017

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