unsafe living situation forces me to vacate, more problems ensue
December 24, 2017 10:26 PM   Subscribe

I turned to my best friend who lives just up the road for help in a situation that was completely unpredictable, and things just keep spiraling. Her new bf is creating emotional chaos for everyone as well. Help...

So I had my own place for two years and rented out the spare bedroom. The roommates previous to the last one had all been decent. One of them left me in a pinch because she moved out quickly, and for the first time I didn't properly vet the replacement. The new woman turned out to have a whole host of substance abuse/mental issues, was apparently married yet living away from him due to domestic violence, daughters on hard drugs, one daughter on the run from a man she involved herself with who was out of prison, etc. Just really disordered lives, all around. I had no fucking idea... she told me she worked two full time jobs and seemed quiet, passed a mandatory background screening through the complex, and I was only thinking of getting the rent covered. Anyway, she had been living there for just a month and I always felt uneasy about her. It came out that she was a "recovering" alcoholic in some kind of court ordered diversion program, and one night she had a meltdown.

At 5am, she was screaming into her phone at her "husband" about how she could send him to jail but she won't because she loves him so much and blah blah blah, and it just kept going and going. It then became apparent that she was severely intoxicated. I have a very bad case of PTSD and found this frenzied yelling incredibly triggering. My whole body started to shake, almost convulse. I got up and knocked on her door to tell her that yelling at the top of her lungs at 5am was not appropriate, and to leave the premises to do so. She proceeded to get belligerent and emotionally abusive towards me and would not listen to any boundary setting, and was escalating. I had no idea if this moron of a husband was going to pay us a visit and I was completely terrified - she was talking about me on the phone with him. I am a small female with no means of self defense. I had an instant realization that I would have to leave my place. After consulting with police dispatch and the management, this was confirmed. She has rights, they said, and couldn't be instantly removed. Fine. I started to pack up my things, in survival mode. On a gut level, all of my internal alarm bells were screaming at me to GTFO, fast, and not stick around for any escalation.

I reached out to my best friend whom I have lived with before, whose children I have nannied for a year and who I have shared a pretty strong friendship with, for help. It is my only local contact. She knows my mode of living and that I'm a good, caring, reliable person. However, after moving into her place, with the understanding this was temporary, things start to change. My friend is acting irritable toward me, a side I had never experienced. It later comes out that her new bf is issuing ultimatums of moving out becauase of me being there, telling her I'm using her and taking from her, etc. This dude has been in her life for two months, has had very limited interaction with me and knows nothing about me, and pretty much has created a whole narrative about who I am. When I see him, I'm very cordial, I say hello and I joke around. I am a very introverted, laid back and drama-free person. When I'm home I drink tea and read books. I help my friend with the kids and cleaning.

Tonight this asshole has been yelling at my friend for hours, and once again, one of the things he was yelling about was me! Reiterating all of the nasty things he thinks about me and putting me down. When my friend tried to stand up for me, he said something like... "She is atrocious on the most basic level." This guy has a record, drinks every day after work, says the most obnoxious things in conversation, and has decided that I am the problem. We are all in our 30s.

I guess my question is two-fold: I am starting to feel absolutely undermined and questioning if moving was the right thing, even though I was reassured by police that trusting my gut in that situation was absolutely the right thing to do. Can I get some confirmation from the community of "real life" people, that it was, indeed, the right thing to do? The second question is, why is my friend's boyfriend attacking me and how can I navigate that situation? I have never asked my friend for help with anything like this before, and I'm being made out to be some kind of user by a person of seriously questionable character.
posted by a knot unknown to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your questions are important. Let's put them aside for a hot minute. Focus.

What will it take to get you back into the home that you own?

Your only focus is to get your own home back. The rest of this can wait. Do you need a lawyer? Call around to do phone consults and get a lawyer on Tuesday. Get crazy tenant out of your house.

Once you are home, you can revisit this awful experience with your best friend on your own, without confronting her. She's clearly in an abusive situation, but that's not your problem to solve. Your problem to solve is regaining your own home. Focus on evicting your tenant. Full stop.

Get your home back. Her problems are hers.
posted by jbenben at 10:49 PM on December 24, 2017 [19 favorites]

jbenben, crazy tenant is out of the apartment, but so am I. The only way to expediently and legally do get rid of her, and ensure the safety of my belongings, was for meto give up residency. In my complex, when the head of household (me) vacates, any remaining roommates must leave as well. If I had stayed, there were no grounds for eviction the landlord said, because a physical assault hadn't actually occurred and "just fear" (their words) wasn't enough. I have read The Gift of Fear by de Becker, and in addition to my lived experience, this wasn't a situation I was willing to live in for another day. I have survived multiple attempts on my life and I am constantly hypervigilant about that. I was awake for a full 24 hours after that incident and would not have been able to sleep/keep going to work if that woman was in my place. The apartment is gone now. I am homeless. This is why I am living with my friend, while I search for a new place to live.
posted by a knot unknown at 10:55 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

The second question is, why is my friend's boyfriend attacking me and how can I navigate that situation?

Neither I nor any internet stranger knows why he's attacking you, but I reckon that the best way to navigate the situation is to spend as little time as possible in the house and put all your efforts into finding yourself a new place ASAP. Your being there is just exacerbating any tensions that are already there between the three of you. You can sort out the effects on all of your relationships once you are not reliant on her for housing and once you can get away from each other for a time.
posted by forza at 11:12 PM on December 24, 2017 [9 favorites]

Can you get an Air BnB for a month while you house hunt? Your friend is not in a good relationship but that is her problem, largely, and you leaving will only help both of you. So I think that should be your priority. Can you get back into your old complex in a smaller unit or with another roomate?
posted by fshgrl at 11:54 PM on December 24, 2017 [10 favorites]

You were right to get out of the situation with the 5AM yeller.

But you apparently don't acknowledge that the home you moved into instead does not only belong to your friend, it belongs to her boyfriend. He lived there before you did, and how many months they've been together is irrelevant and quite frankly not your business to judge. This was his home as well, and I'm guessing he wasn't consulted about your moving in.

I've been in a similar situation, where my ex had his ex stay with us for what turned out to be a couple of *months*. I was livid. That was MY home too, and it doesn't matter what good reasons he thought he had, just moving her in without my being on board was disruptive and disrespectful. I imagine your friend's boyfriend feels similarly.

You say you're such a great person but you've portrayed absolutely everyone else you've written about as being awful. Really think about that. Try to look at things from their perspective. You view your subletter's alcoholism with derision (putting recovering in quotes) and without sympathy. But your own PTSD is just another mental disorder, no worse and no better. I'm not saying tolerate untolerable behaviour that threatens you, but think about why you see yourself as sympathetic, your own problems as understandable, but everybody else as inexplicably bothersome and wrong.

If you can financially swing it, it's time for a hotel or air bnb while you legally get your place back from the yeller.
posted by nirblegee at 12:14 AM on December 25, 2017 [31 favorites]

Well, I think the OP is allowed a little venting. It's not worse than what her roommate was doing with her husband or her friend's boyfriend with her friend. It's just to us, instead of on the phone or overheard in the apartment.

Take courage, OP, that what you did was not wrong. It's never a bad idea to leave a dangerous situation, even if the result is having to stay in merely a sad one. There are many people who don't have friends to take them in, so you are lucky in that sense. It is a wonderful thing that your friend cares about you - it's not that she doesn't, just because she's keeping this emotionally abusive boyfriend around. (Yelling for hours is emotional abuse). But to feel spiritually and emotionally alone is painful in a different way than not having a place to stay.

The new year is coming. It's a good time to start over - it is not judging these people, either your old neighbor or your friend and her boyfriend, to say that they are not healthy people to share your life with at the moment. I know it, that sucks today. But you can get through this. Wishing you a good and safe new home and a better next year.
posted by karmachameleon at 2:05 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

Moving wasn't wrong. That said, I think your second question should just be "what now." And I think my answer would be:
- if you can afford it all all, find an airbnb or other short-term rental for now. If you can't afford it, make a list of all the people you know who might let you stay with them for 1-3 days, call them and ask if it would be possible, see how many days that adds up to.
- (simultaneously) find a new place as soon as possible where you can move in as soon as possible.
- assuming a short-term rental isn't possible, talk with your friend: I really appreciate you taking me in, but I can see that this is putting you in a very difficult situation*. It's going to take _____ more days until I can move. Is that still something you're able to offer? (If yes) What can I do to make the duration easier? How can I chip in? (If no) I understand, and thanks for taking me in when I needed it.

* her bf may be the one bringing things to the edge, but your friend is still hosting a houseguest on zero notice in a household that sounds complicated to begin with, and early on in a relationship too (which is usually a complicated time in itself and one where people might like to have some relative privacy). Even if her bf is lousy and her relationship dysfunctional, it's still a very big favor and the timing is bad. And while you might see yourself as an easy and helpful guest, it still would probably be easier on her to not be dealing with an extra person in the house right now. So, because you're her friend and presumably care about her, do your best to make this as easy for her as possible. Move out asap, don't treat her hosting you as something she should obviously do, pay for food and utilities if you haven't been, acknowledge to her that this is putting her in a tough spot, and don't be less than understanding about it.

Btw, you don't say how long you've been staying with them and how big their place is?
posted by trig at 2:39 AM on December 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have hosted friends in bad situations, unilaterally even because an emergency is an emergency, and it put stress on my household, and if my partner had yelled about my friend at all or said they were a bad person "on a basic level", that would have shaken my relationship - not the friendship - to the core.

LW, I do think that getting out of your friend's place ASAP is important. Can you get back into the complex, or are things shot there? Can you come up with a move-out timeline to give your friend? Can you stay away from their place as much as possible, in terms of going to the library or a coffee shop more? Can you sublet a room somewhere else for a month or two while you work something out?

The situation you are in is very tough. I think a lot of responders here are not recognizing that. When you fall through the housing net, there isn't much to catch you - it's hard to get very short-term housing, especially if you don't have a lot of money, and people often do end up in tense shared housing situations. This is common, I see it in my extended social circle frequently. You aren't doing anything more wrong than many people in a tough spot. And frankly, while hosting an extra person is stressful, keeping someone from being homeless is morally important. That's not to say that you get to stay there forever or behave terribly (if you were) but it's not unreasonable to ask for help.

When you get back on your feet, would you be able to seek counseling? If you have only one friend in the area after some years and you are struggling with PTSD and have had multiple attempts on your life, you could probably use someone to talk to.

I also notice that people with certain kinds of trauma in their pasts can sometimes...I dunno, almost give off a kind of vulnerability which attracts yellers and abusers? (A mature, healthy person is not going to be yelling at and abusing another adult, no matter what. This would not happen in my household because, for all our flaws, we simply would not do it.) I think that therapy might help you project more of a "you won't get away with yelling at me and I don't deserve it anyway" vibe - it sounds like you have practical survival strategies down, which is good, but assholes maybe feel like they can yell at you?

What is the housing situation like in your area? Are you in the suburbs?

All my friends who went through this type of situation got out of it and were housed in the end. Stay strong and make a timeline to get somewhere else to live. There is somewhere else - there's a room to rent or another apartment, even if it takes a while.

I'm sorry that this is happening.
posted by Frowner at 5:23 AM on December 25, 2017 [28 favorites]

You say you're such a great person but you've portrayed absolutely everyone else you've written about as being awful.

I came here to say this. I realize you’re stressed out, but your tone here is so... high and mighty. Your tenant and your friend’s bf are the scum of the earth, and you’re a model friend/cohabitant.

Obviously we can’t say with certainty why your tenant was belligerent with you, or why your friend’s bf is so frustrated with you. But your holier-than-thou attitude is likely to turn a lot of folks off, and make slightly-unpleasant people be very adversarial towards you.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:46 AM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

I am starting to feel absolutely undermined and questioning if moving was the right thing, even though I was reassured by police that trusting my gut in that situation was absolutely the right thing to do. Can I get some confirmation from the community of "real life" people, that it was, indeed, the right thing to do?
I think it was the right thing to do personally. We hear horror stories in the news every day about abusers showing up to go after their targets when they leave them. I don't think it's at all a stretch to think that you were in danger and getting out was the right thing to do. I know it's made your life difficult in the short term but at least you still have your life, and you can move on from this.

The second question is, why is my friend's boyfriend attacking me and how can I navigate that situation? I have never asked my friend for help with anything like this before, and I'm being made out to be some kind of user by a person of seriously questionable character.
This BF sounds to me like someone who was never taught how to express when he's unhappy with a situation so he's throwing an extended temper tantrum. There's a person in his space and he doesn't want that so he's screaming like a toddler instead of using his words like a grown up.

Unfortunately this is another situation that you have to get yourself out of. Thank your friend and get to a motel as soon as you can in return for your friend's hospitality. Maybe go on a site like sofi and get a small loan so you can get some housing.
posted by bleep at 9:45 AM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

One of the things PTSD does to our brains is put us into survival mode. And survival mode is incredibly black and white: ally or enemy, friend or foe.

I am not there, and I think getting yourself out of an unsafe situation was a good idea. However, I think there were alternatives to setting boundaries at 5 am or even the next morning, and, again, just from knowing that adrenaline high, I’m not sure (genuinely unsure) if your roommate arguing with her ex on the phone warrented fleeing your home without a better housing plan. That’s ok - you were there and I was not, and it’s done. It’s ok.

Then you landed at your friend’s house over the holiday season in, literally, the flight mode of fight or flight. For you, you’ve escaped what you perceive as a super dangerous situation. My guess is you’re jumpy, you’re startling at sounds and probably bringing a sense of emergency into your friend’s home. That’s ok; it’s where you are. But for people outside that experience, it can grate. This is not your fault. It is a reality. This boyfriend doesn’t sound like anyone who is going to be sensitive to that. In fact it’s setting him off. He’s setting you off. This is not a good loop.

I agree that no one should be yelling at you. But. You are still focusing on the threat meter, which is focused (I’m sure for good reason from your past) on the men in the picture - the ex, the boyfriend. That’s your back brain making sure you don’t get hit. But your back brain doesn’t know about emergency housing, rooms for rent, etc.

Try to get your back brain to settle enough to focus on getting to your own place. If you can’t, spend lots of time elsewhere doing calm things. Breathe deeply. Right now, you can trust your brain to be alert to tigers in the woods. You cannot trust it to see the people around you clearly. That’s ok, all you need to see is yourself clearly. You need to live where there are no yelling men/people. One step at a time here.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:36 AM on December 25, 2017 [20 favorites]

I am starting to feel absolutely undermined and questioning if moving was the right thing, even though I was reassured by police that trusting my gut in that situation was absolutely the right thing to do. Can I get some confirmation from the community of "real life" people, that it was, indeed, the right thing to do?

It's hard to say because we're not psychic. It is possible you could have left for 4-6-12 hours and come back after her episode was over and negotiated something other than abandoning your home. There were probably other avenues of recourse. There's a lot of possible Plans B between "staying there in the moment when you are afraid" and "making yourself homeless", but it's impossible to say which ones would have been good and which ones bad, and it's all done now anyway. What you're doing is second-guessing now. (Trusting police to have your best interests at heart is a separate issue. You should probably not put as much weight on that as you are, or look to them in the future to give you the best guidance.)

The second question is, why is my friend's boyfriend attacking me and how can I navigate that situation? I have never asked my friend for help with anything like this before, and I'm being made out to be some kind of user by a person of seriously questionable character.

Who the hell knows? People behave the way they do because they have pasts and experiences and damage and motivations and all kinds of stuff that has nothing to do with you. "Why" isn't relevant, because this isn't in your realm of control. People who shout at their partners are to be avoided, you don't need to know why they do it.

Your focus needs to be entirely on getting yourself housed securely again. You sound like you struggle with boundaries (which are not an action you do at someone when they are in the middle of some kind of active substance abuse/domestic violence situation) and locus of control and you need to be mindful of that in whatever arrangement you make next.

IF at all possible you should probably live alone and undependent on anyone other than some kind of vetted landlord/property management entity, but you may not be able to do that right away. If so, you need to think about power differentials in advance. Moving in with friends is complicated, moving in with someone who employs you is fraught, you're better off with a roommate situation in which you have some amount of legal recourse to get away from them/get them away from you, someone with whom you can forge a neutral emotional relationship from the start with big old fully-negotiated well-maintained boundaries.

You should understand that if your friend (and her boyfriend or whatever) really wanted or needed a roommate they'd have had one already. You are in a situation in which you were taken in during an emergency but isn't what either of them actually wanted. It doesn't really matter how wonderful a roommate you are when three's a crowd no matter what (and it's presumably not just three if she's got children). Whatever that guy's deal is - whether he's just an asshole or is suffering from unmanaged anxiety or other issues that aren't your business - your presence is not improving the situation (or improving your general safety) and you need to prioritize getting out of there. This isn't a problem to solve by acting a certain way or knowing something about another person's inner narrative, this is solved by a set of actions that remove you from the situation.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:30 AM on December 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

um, guys, i'm a little confused about why i came across as high and mighty. to address one poster, putting "recovering alcoholic" in quotes was due to the woman having turned out to not be recovering but actively drinking. i didn't include a lot of details so i could keep this brief, but the woman had also done things like bring people in overnight without telling me, leaving my door unlocked at am hours, etc. i'm hurting and having a really hard time, so reading that i'm coming across as anything other than that was a little confusing. that's ok.

also, i guess i should add. the boyfriend was originally a roommate. my friend had no intentions of ever turning it into anything. she is going through a divorce and was adamant about not dating, especially since she has kids, and especially not ever anyone who is living there. they ended up dating. my friend has consluted with me a few times, prior to me having moved in, in tears, about ways he's hurt her. that situation was in no way caused by me. also, everyone, he was apprised of me moving in. i was originally going to camp out in her yard and have access to the house, and he helped set all of that up. but then she started sleeping in roommate/boyfriend's room, and told me i could have her room for the time being, since it wasn't being used.

thank you to all the answers so far.
posted by a knot unknown at 12:56 PM on December 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

i never said anyone was scum of the earth. i said in the case of the roommate i had to get away from, that she and her family members had disordered lives. i included some of my traits as a person and roommate because people would be wondering what i had done to cause so much trouble in my friend's household. it wasn't at all a matter of they are "bad" and i am a "model roommate". not at all.
i have been there for two weeks and most of that time i'm gone at work, and almost never see them, since we have opposite schedules.
posted by a knot unknown at 1:12 PM on December 25, 2017

Just came to here to say that I don't really agree with the folks who think you left too fast, are in the wrong or coming across as high and mighty. This boyfriend sounds way out of the line, and your former roommate was problematic. I've had all sorts of weird roommate situations - some that have ended with threats and vandalism, and I'm on team "Get the F out". You did the right thing with the first move - but now, you jumped out of the pot into the fire. Time to get on that second move asap.

I liked the AirBnB idea - can you get one starting...tomorrow? I like the getting back into your old building idea - can you call them tomorrow for January 1st move in? What does Craigslist look like in your area? Is anyone renting a bedroom for a month? Sublet? Anything? It's unfortunately that you need to make another move - but you do - so go.
posted by Toddles at 2:19 PM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also wanted to add something to consider - maybe roommates are not for you. Consider a studio.
posted by Toddles at 2:21 PM on December 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

The second question is, why is my friend's boyfriend attacking me and how can I navigate that situation?

Honestly, you have to get out. And your friend with the crying about her new boyfriend/roommate to you and then moving in to his bedroom and all of a sudden being between a rock and a hard place? That's just toxic. For you, for her, for her kids. It's a bad situation. I'd take her and the kids out to dinner somewhere, McDonald's or something where the kids will be happy and entertained, and level with her: "My presence here seems to be causing a five-alarm meltdown with your boyfriend and I had no idea you were under so much pressure. While I would love to stay and help with the kids while I get back on my feet, I can see that this has turned into a totally unworkable situation. Here's all the things I'm doing to find new accommodations (write them down on a piece of paper so she can have them as evidence for her boyfriend or as a reminder to herself) and I'd be happy to move back into the backyard if that would make things easier." Then you just have to do your hardest to find another place as quickly as possible even if it's temporary like a sub-let or airb'n'b.

Your friend isn't the problem and your old roommate wasn't the problem – it's the men in their lives. And those men are real problems. I wouldn't want to tangle with them.
posted by amanda at 4:18 PM on December 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Agree with amanda, you bailed on a situation where you felt physically threatened in a situation that seemed to be spiraling into some form of serious drama. Your bailout spot was not planned out, kind of an emergency roost and there's a toxic form of hassling going on.
You don't owe your friend anything here except thanks and you should protect your mental health as best you can while arranging to get OUT as quickly as possible. If you have another friend who has your back, have them come by and lend some mental umbrella to your getting gone.
The social dynamics of triangles are against you. Your 'friend' is not protecting you in this case though they offered you an way out of the initial scene. For your own well being you need to make this another quick exit as gracefully as possible.
posted by diode at 5:10 PM on December 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Two weeks as a houseguest is a very long time. Have you been looking for new places?
posted by lazuli at 9:22 AM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Of course I've been looking for new places. Working and looking for new places is about all I've been doing. I am in a rental market with a 1% vacancy rate, a declared rental crisis and a homeless problem that almost doubled in the last two years.
posted by a knot unknown at 11:53 AM on December 26, 2017

I've had a lot of luck finding places through Facebook rental groups, and especially community specific groups, do you have any special interests or identify with any groups that you could join a local chapter of? Another great option is to look up rentals listed on the property management sites. Just my general knowledge for what it's worth.

I think you did the right thing but it's not important anymore, like others have said. You did the right thing to trust yourself, and now keep trusting yourself and push forward.

I also don't think people are meaning to blame or attack you, just maybe help you deescalate the perception. Even if you're not entirely welcome, you are there now, and the only thing you can control is what happens next. So the boyfriend is pissed, that's not comfortable but it's not unlivable, especially if it's temporary. There is an end and you'll get there.

I grew up in a lot of turmoil and couch surfing and I know how awful it is to be somewhere you're not welcome, but you DO have a job and you WILL find a new place and you ARE working on that.
posted by complaina at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2017

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