Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

How Do I Convince My Roommate To Let My Boyfriend Live With Us?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have been dating my boyfriend for two years. During this time we have both been temping or unemployed. There will be months were we have a job and those have been more than the months without, but it is still stressful. In November, when it looked like my boyfriend was going to be hired full time, we asked my roommate if we could discuss him moving in. She instantly got mad and stormed off saying she’d think about it.

For background I know he irritates her, but it’s just because he’s a giant goofball and she doesn’t find him funny. He does the dishes or laundry when he’s here, he buys groceries, he watches the dog when we’re out of town. One time, when my friend who had left an abusive relationship was staying with us, I asked him to stay while my roommate and I were gone for two weeks because my friend is suicidal and I didn’t want them to be alone. (My friend was fine with this, they didn’t want to be alone either and they and my boyfriend get along great).

I am also a very anxious person and the thought of asking for something like this makes me want to puke. So this whole situation sets me on edge. When my roommate eventually got back to me, they said they wanted to wait until after the holiday’s. Over Christmas my boyfriend didn’t get the job he was temping at even though they said he would be hired when we got back from visiting my family for Xmas. He has savings of over $5,000 and it looks like I am going to be hired full time.

My roommate said no to him moving in and that wasn’t what I wanted. To be clear, I wanted a conversation where i could make my case or we could make a deal or something. She was very angry that I didn’t just take the no. I thought if I made my situation clear, then she would understand and give my boyfriend a chance, I suggested a trial month, where he has his computer so he isn’t in the public space as often, if at all. I said we could create a system where he says if he’s coming out of the bedroom to use the bathroom because she is concerned about privacy, but I think that is absurd because she has the bigger room and a private bathroom. I am willing to make any compromise she wants for just a trial month.

But she says that me continuing to ask, even though she never brings it up and I always have to initiate, is pushing her boundaries. But I’m really struggling here. Not only do I want him here because he makes my life easier and he makes me laugh, but him moving in would provide great financial relief. I would be able to stop asking my parents for money, I feel like I would be able to breathe. I’m 28 years old, I have a boyfriend of two years. Should I have to ask if my boyfriend can move in? Should I have to listen if she says no? She already limits the amount of time he’s here to weekends, when I bring him over she gets irritated.

My roommate is one of my best friends, I would, and have, done anything for her. But now I feel like that isn’t being reciprocated, like she isn’t respecting my emotional and financial needs. All I am asking for is a trial month. Am I asking for too much?


Confused and Upset

DEAR CONFUSED AND UPSET: So there’s a couple answers to this: the legal answer and the “being a decent roommate and good person” answer. In the former: if your roommate’s name is on the lease, then yes: she gets a vote on whether your boyfriend moves in or not. If you’re one who’s technically on the hook for the apartment, then you could force the issue… but it’d be a deeply s

tty thing to do.

Leaving the legal issue aside though — or the risk of a COVID-19 infection from adding someone new to the mix: Yes, you need to ask before moving your boyfriend in. At the very least, it’s only polite, especially as it will directly affect your roommate as much as it will you. Yes, they can say “no” and make it stick. And yes, your bringing it up over and over again is pushing against her boundaries. 

Here’s the thing: you and your roommate are having two very different conversations, CaU. You are trying to have a negotiation about what it would take for your roommate to be ok with your boyfriend moving in with you. You’re thinking that the problem is one of convenience, privacy or other issues that could be surmounted with enough planning and compromises.

Your roommate, on the other hand, is trying to tell you that she’s already made up her mind and the answer is no.

Here’s the problem with this disconnect: you’re ignoring the cause and focusing on the symptoms. You’re looking at this as a case of “well if we could just discuss your reasons, we could work around them and get to a ‘yes’.” But that requires there being any circumstances under which you might get to a “yes”… and that doesn’t seem to exist. She isn’t giving you reasons why because the reasons don’t matter. It’s very much like when someone gives reasons why they “can’t” date somebody, and the other person treats that as the start of a negotiation, not a soft-refusal. The rejected person can’t logic or negotiate their way past the central problem: that the other person just doesn’t want to date them. The same thing applies to your friend: she just doesn’t want to live with you and your boyfriend. If she just dislikes him, his presence is like sandpaper on her nerves and nails on a chalkboard to her soul and the argument of “you’d only have to pay a third of the rent instead of half” isn’t enough… well, there really isn’t any bathroom usage rota that’s going to solve that problem.

She’s given you her answer in no uncertain terms. The problem is that you don’t want to hear it. By asking her over and over again, you’re trying to force her to change her mind, very much in the same way that constantly pushing up against somebody’s “no” in dating or sex is extremely not cool. And the roommate equivalent of “just the tip” isn’t going to make it any better.

It’s great that she’s your best friend and that you’d bend over backwards for her. But that doesn’t obligate her to live with a guy she can’t stand, even if he’s your boyfriend. And frankly: it’s pretty clear that you won’t do anything for her because you’re NOT doing the thing she has asked you to do: respect her “no”.

So you have a choice here. You can continue living with your bestie, or you can live with your boyfriend. You don’t get both. If you and your boyfriend want to live together and split the rent, then you’re either going to have to find a different apartment or a new roommate.

And under the current circumstances, that might be hard to do.

There’s no in-between here. She said no. It’s time for you to respect it and move on.

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