Living with your friend can sound great, but it can also ruin your relationship. Here’s how to balance your roommate relationship with your friendship.
You’ve probably heard it a million times: “Don’t live with your friends.” Maybe you’ve even watched a relationship implode over the course of a lease. It’s not pretty, and the consequences of losing a roommate and a friend can be permanent.
The fact is, living with your friends can be a disaster.
But it doesn’t have to be. A friend can be the best roommate you’ve ever had—if you approach the situation carefully. The more accurate advice should be: “Don’t live with your friends unless you’re willing to put in some work.”
If you’re considering moving in with a friend, here’s how to make it work.
Discuss Issues Before You Move In
It’s inevitable that issues will come up when you start living with someone. One way to avoid disaster is to discuss boundaries before cohabitation.
Here are some possible questions to ask your future roommate:
- How long can dirty dishes sit in the sink?
- How should we divide chores like taking out the trash or mowing the lawn?
- Should we split the rent evenly, or should one person pay more if they have a bigger room?
- Are overnight guests welcome? If so, how long can they stay?
- If there’s only one TV, how do we decide whose turn it is to use it?
- Are you ok with loud music?
- Do you use alcohol or drugs?
- Are you ok with pets? If no one has pets, is it ok if one of us decides to get one?
Asking these questions ahead of time will start an honest dialogue, as well as give you the chance to work out possible disputes before they become huge problems. You could also find out that the two of you just aren’t suited to live together.
Buy Groceries Separately
There have been very few situations where my roommates and I have bought groceries together. I’ve found that most of the time, sharing food leads to arguments or passive aggression. Inevitably, someone always feels like they’re not getting their fair share. That’s why buying groceries separately is better for your friendship.
That doesn’t mean you need to separate every single food expense. I’ve always split coffee and sometimes milk with my roommates. This worked for my roommate Sarah and I because neither one of us could finish the milk on our own. Determine what works best for you and your friend.
Bring Up Issues Early
Like any relationship, a good friendship relies on open and honest communication. That becomes even more important when you’re living with a friend, as household issues can arise quickly and fester if not resolved.
When my best friend Sarah and I started living together, we refused to talk about our problems head on, preferring to complain to our respective boyfriends. It all came to a head one day after weeks of eye rolling and awkward interactions. While we eventually resolved everything, it would have been so much simpler to address our problems early on.
Let Technology Help
When I moved in with then-boyfriend and our mutual friend, we had a hard time dividing up the cost of rent and utilities. One person was responsible for paying rent, another was responsible for utilities and a third was in charge of Netflix and Hulu. Every time we’d do the math, we’d always wonder if we were adding up expenses correctly.
Then, we discovered an app called Splitwise, which lets you track and share expenses with other users. Each person enters what they paid and how they want to divide it amongst roommates. Splitwise then calculates how much everyone owes, and you can then pay directly from the app via PayPal or Venmo.
Whether you’re living with one person or multiple roommates, try using Splitwise or a similar app to manage your expenses. You won’t be left wondering if you paid your share of the utilities this month, and your roommate won’t have to constantly hound you about rent.
Nowadays, my husband and I live alone and don’t have to split the rent with anyone, but we have found another use for apps in our home: to manage chores. We take turns vacuuming our house each week and use the Trello app to remind ourselves whose turn it is. Without the app, we’d constantly be arguing about whose turn it is.
Don’t Neglect Your Friendship
A weird thing happened when my best friend and I became roommates. We stopped hanging out together. We’d see each other when we were getting ready for class or when we were doing homework, but we never actually chose to spend time together.
There were a few reasons for that. We were both busy with new relationships and school as well as juggling responsibilities for the student newspaper—but more importantly, we stopped making time for each other. When we did have a spare moment, we’d hang out with our boyfriends or other acquaintances.
It was only the next year that our friendship began to recover. We started listening to each other more and made “roomie dates” where we’d get dinner or just hang out at the house. To put it simply, we stopped neglecting our friendship.
If you’re going to live with someone you care about, don’t stop being their friend. Listen when they talk about their work day or how their first date went. Ask them to join you on a trip to the farmer’s market or an evening out. Living with your bestie can be great, but not if it ruins your friendship in the process.
Zina Kumok is a writer, speaker, and coach.
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