It’s 7 a.m. on a Monday, and after snoozing the alarm several times, you finally stumble out of bed and mentally prepare for the week ahead. As you reach the bathroom door to shower, however, you notice it’s locked — your roommate’s boyfriend got there first. Between “borrowing” your toiletries and hogging your apartment’s best feature — the in-unit washer/dryer, of course — he has gradually transitioned from an overnight guest to a live-in partner. We’ve all been there: Your roommate’s significant other is over so often that you’ve gained a new roommate — who conveniently lives there rent-free, that is. So, how do you cope when you’re fighting for the right to your own space? First, you decide, you’ll use an app like Roomi next time to make it crystal clear to any future roommates that a live-in house guest is not OK. For now, however, you can heed advice from roommates who have successfully navigated the complicated terrain.
Don’t Bottle Up Your Frustrations
Though you can certainly sulk in your room and secretly pray they’ll break up (you swear you’re not a bad person, but you need your space back!), confronting the problem head-on is always the best solution, as with any roommate problem. Just ask veterinary student Sheena Neidrauer, who learned this lesson the hard way when she had a falling out with a close roommate three years ago. While Neidrauer initially befriended her then-best friend’s boyfriend, she admits his presence at their apartment soon became a major burden.
“It actually got to be a problem really quickly,” Neidrauer says. “I’d make lunch plans with her and, surprise, he came too. Or we’d all be watching a movie together in the living room, and they’d literally start making out on the floor. Soon I never saw her without him.”
Worse still, Neidrauer says her roommate’s boyfriend began to overstay his welcome, sometimes hanging out at their apartment alone in between classes. Not only did he sleep and study there, but he also encroached on their common area without offering to contribute towards rent or utilities.
“We were already in a tight spot having three girls living in an apartment with one shower,” Neidrauer says. “But we quickly figured out everyone’s schedules, so it was fine. That is until I started waking up to take my shower, and he was in there.
“It’s a minor inconvenience when it’s a roommate, but when you’ve just woken up and the person in your shower doesn’t even live there, you get really cranky about it really quick. They also cooked all their meals at our place and left the dishes everywhere. “
Talk About Live-in Partners Before Moving In
Unfortunately, neither Neidrauer nor her roommate spoke about the matter, which ultimately led to the demise of their friendship. But, according to spiritual empath and counselor Tracee Dunblazier, it doesn’t have to end badly. Her advice: Everyone (including friends!) should always discuss and have an understanding about the issue before living together. If you’re not sure how to broach the somewhat awkward topic, blame it on the landlord.
“In fact, most apartment leases contain a clause that stipulates any guests staying more than a two-week period of time offers an opportunity for the landlord to raise the rent a percentage,” Dunblazier says.
“However, if the negotiation [with your landlord] hasn’t happened, I would take the opportunity [to confront your roommate] when you witness the first sleepover. That way there won’t be any contention, only excitement of the new liaison.”
Dunblazier emphasizes the importance of showing appreciation for your roommate’s relationship but suggests setting boundaries as well. Whether that’s discussing how many days a significant other can stay over, or expressing your discomfort with your roommate’s partner being there without them, Dunblazier says roommates should set ground rules early on.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
While she agrees ground rules are a must, gestalt life coach Nina Rubin also emphasizes that the use of “blaming statements” should never enter the conversation when you speak with your roommate about your proposed guidelines.
“It’s best when confronting a roommate to speak directly and assertively,” Rubin suggests. “Rather than viewing this as a ‘confrontation,’ think of it as an exchange of dialogue.
“It’s important to express what you mean without bringing in other topics. If you’re annoyed that your roommate’s boyfriend is staying over all the time, stick to the topic of overnight guests without blaming them for forgetting to take out the trash or leaving stuff in the living room.”
In other words, don’t use the situation at hand to emotionally dump on your roommate things that are completely irrelevant to the conflict. It doesn’t matter how many dishes are piled up in the sink — now’s not the time.
Leave the Bae Out of It As Long as Possible
Additionally, both Rubin and Dunblazier advise that while you should have a conversation with your roommate right when things begin to go awry, you should never confront their significant other unless it’s absolutely necessary. This could “create a rift and triangulation between the roommates,” Rubin says. But if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation with their partner, Dunblazier encourages making your feelings known about their prolonged stay in your space.
“I had an experience one time with a roommate whose lover would stay in the house after she left for work,” Dunblazier says. “I brought it up to her three times, and then finally upon waking to find him there again, I told him he needed to leave and that he couldn’t be in our home without her. He was angry but left. In that situation, I didn’t feel safe with him, and as it turns out he ended up assaulting her a few days later.”
Don’t Accept Defeat
If you absolutely have to step in and talk to the partner, it should be done politely and carefully. Though having an unofficial extra roommate is less than ideal, solving the problem doesn’t have to be messy. Rubin suggests trying to ease any tension by learning more about your roommate’s partner and even going out as a group to enjoy each other’s company. The better you know them, the less awkward it will be to have them around or to tell them to take a hike.
However, if your roommate chooses to ignore your requests to help rectify the situation maturely or even makes your living situation more difficult, you still have some options.
“If the roommate is hostile or difficult, check the lease and learn if and how long guests are allowed to stay,” Rubin says.
“Talking to the roommate about this could be an alternative to getting the landlord involved. How long is left on the lease? Consider discussing move-out scenarios so everyone can be happy.”
Though it can be uncomfortable whipping out the paperwork, your roommate may get the point better if they realize how serious you are. If there’s still no solution, it’s time to get the landlord involved.