Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Roommate Makes Decision Without Consulting Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: My roommate told me I can't bring any strangers home. This lecture came after my boyfriend and I broke up. While I was first offended that she thought I would cope with my breakup by flinging myself at any available man, I am now offended that she thinks she has the right to dictate what happens in the space we share -- and we both pay for. I would never tell her that her boyfriend isn’t allowed over! I understand strangers are different, but I think it’s time for us to have a conversation about boundaries.

How can I tell her the assumptions about me are offensive while maintaining that I can do whatever I want? I have a quick temper, and she is known for her attitude. -- Not My Boss, Detroit

DEAR NOT MY BOSS: You and your roommate need a serious sit-down. Since both of you can inflame quickly, attempt a calm, neutral approach. Ask your roommate why she told you that you cannot bring strangers home. Give her space to explain herself. Then let her know that you found her “rule” offensive for many reasons. Outline those reasons. Speak about your personal values and your rights as a renter. Have clear objectives for this meeting that should include coming to an agreement before it ends. Of course, you should both be mindful of who gets to come into your home, but how you determine guidelines has to be mutual. If you both share the rent, you both have a voice.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My landlord and I started our relationship off very friendly. When I go away for work, which is frequently, he brings in my mail and keeps my thermostat low.

A few months ago, he said a bill came to my home and he paid it so I wouldn't have late fees. Grateful, I paid him back the amount owed, which was pretty on par with what my expenses have been. Now, he has done this twice more, and I suspect he is scheming me. I feel trapped by the money he says I owe him. I have paid for “heat” twice in 6 weeks. This is my first time living alone, and I don't know what to do to establish a boundary between us. -- Not a Sucker, Pittsburgh

DEAR NOT A SUCKER: It is time for you to get more formal with your landlord and for you to accept more responsibility for your home. This means you can lower your own thermostat before you go away. You absolutely should not pay a bill without having a copy of it for your records.

Schedule a time to talk to your landlord. Thank him for being so supportive. Then let him know that you are going to step up and handle your affairs more directly. Ask him for copies of the bills that you have reimbursed him for. Moving forward, do not pay any bills without seeing them with your own eyes.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)