Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My best friend and I have lived together since college. On Jan. 1 we had to sign our lease again. At this point, she had been dating “Bob” for a year. As the date got closer, I asked her if there was any chance they would want to move in together and if I should look for something new. She said no way.
Well, last week she told me not only does she want him to move in, but we basically don’t have a choice because he’s getting evicted at the end of June. I feel trapped by this announcement — like I’ll be a bad friend if I don’t let him move in here with open arms. But the truth is, our place is small, and I don’t really feel like having a guy here. And I’m afraid I’d feel like a third wheel.
It gets worse: She said that at least for now, Bob can’t afford to pay any rent, so she and I will continue to split things 50-50 until he can. Now I know this doesn’t seem right. If anything, I think she should pay more and pick up his share until he can afford it. I mean, even if they are sharing a room, we will all be sharing the kitchen, the TV, the single solitary bathroom. ... My friend has always had the bigger, louder personality and I’ve never been good at standing up to her. I feel like I should say something but I’m also worried about ruining our friendship. Advice?
My advice: Diplomatically stand up for yourself, and explain that you’re happy to accommodate Bob if you can split living expenses three ways. It is absolutely the fair thing to request.
Bob’s eviction is not your problem, though arguably, your friend’s happiness sort of is. By allowing Bob to move in, you’re respecting the fact that her partner is facing a hurdle and you’re demonstrating support; by requesting your rent be decreased to reflect the encroachment on your already small, shared space, you’re demonstrating that Bob’s finances are not your problem, and you definitely deserve a break in bills to honor your cohabitation sacrifice.
That’s one option, anyway. You could also just tell your friend that you think it’s best she focus on Bob, and you find a new place to live. Or, you could dig in and refuse Bob’s arrival, pushing for him to find an alternative couch to crash on.
But those options probably won’t work as well. Bob is a dude in distress and your gal pal is in damsel-to-the-rescue mode. Not to mention, if she’s used to calling the shots in your friendship, she likely hasn’t anticipated any honest opposition. Part of cohabitating with friends is accepting that disagreements and misalignments may occur, and we’ll sacrifice and compromise to get through those to preserve the friendship. In this scenario, you both have an opportunity to do just that.
Ever hear the saying that warns not to mix friends and money? Or that three’s a crowd? Or the one about too many cooks in a tiny, shared apartment kitchen? I won’t even get into popular sayings about deadbeat boyfriends and pushy besties … Right now, you’re living these maxims and you’ve got the remainder of your one-year lease full of awkward moments ahead if you don’t straighten things out ASAP.
Your roommate/friend broke the formal housing agreement as well as the more important friendship pact with you by introducing this wildcard to the mix. And frankly, this now gives you the right to do whatever the heck you want moving forward: get your own apartment and let the lovebirds figure things out; stay in your space and dig your heels in about a fair, three-way split of expenses; stay in your space and really dig your heels in about keeping the boyfriend out of your place on any kind of permanent basis; or stay in your space and don’t dig your heels in at all.
I know: You’ve got a good heart and you definitely don’t want to rock the boat with your friend. But this is not fair and this was not part of the deal when you two moved in together. Trust your gut and stand up for yourself. It will at least clear the air with your friend and hopefully lead to a solution that makes you both happy and comfortable. And it will definitely be good exercise for a lifetime full of moments when you have to decide between speaking up for what’s best of you or avoiding the conflict and internally deal with being walked all over.