Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My boyfriend and I recently bought a split-level house. We live upstairs, and his two best friends live in the ground-floor unit.
The two living spaces are separate; we share an arctic entry but from there two separate doors lead to the two living spaces with their own laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. But since my boyfriend’s friends moved in, our households have been completely blended. Basically there are no boundaries.
When they come home from work, they head up to our area and have a beer — our beer! — and hang out. I will be making dinner and they’ll say things like “you don’t have to feed us,” but then my boyfriend gives them the leftovers. They’ve even stopped knocking. If they aren’t hanging out with my boyfriend in our space, then he is downstairs with them. I have told him this isn’t working for me and that I feel like I have three guy roommates instead of having a home with my partner. He said I’m being “mean,” “uptight,” and if I feel like they’re intruding then I need to stand up for myself.
This has been an issue for months but is even worse with COVID-19 going on because now they are literally in my house all the time.
You do need to stand up for yourself — not to the two guys in the basement, but to your own partner! He is massively taking advantage of a sweet situation where he can play house with a loving lady while also loafing in bachelor-pad-land with his bros.
Moving in with a partner and buying a home together is a choice, and an adult choice at that. It signals commitment to a shared household, shared finances, shared lifestyle choices, and a shared future. Your guy is partway there, but he’s also partway out the door — the door to his own basement!
As much as those guys will always be his friends, and it’s likely impossible to not have some household overlap, they’re also now your tenants. There are some physical adjustments you could make to start establishing boundaries, like putting a lock on your unit’s door if there isn’t one already, and using said lock, and even hanging a sign on the door that says “thanks for knocking.”
But you need your guy to back you up on this. Be clear: You aren’t saying, “don’t hang out with your friends,” but, “please don’t treat our house like your clubhouse.” Possibly you’re down for one group dinner a week, but it’s completely reasonable that their presence is not a daily occurrence. Agree that your living room is not his man cave. Reach mutual understanding on what’s reasonable in terms of the time he spends in the basement. Bottom line: Ask your man to prioritize your relationship and your home.
It’s like you’re all still in the dorms and they’re the party boys and you’re the resident assistant. And the cafeteria chef. And the building janitor. And sometimes even the campus police breaking up rowdy behavior.
Sure, you could tell them that, “School’s over, boys — time to grow up and move out.” But before shutting down campus, let’s play a round of academic triathlon. First up, math: How much is your mortgage and how much does their rent offset it? Next up, psych: How comforting is it to have people you know and trust sharing your building than complete strangers? And we’ll close with science: Is it worth breaking up great chemistry between old friends and leaving your man bummed?
The good times don’t have to end and you don’t have to boot two seemingly solid, occasionally annoying, tenants and friends. It’s just time to operate as happy neighbors living in two separate spaces, not a quartet sharing the Real World Anchorage house. You’ll get there by setting some simple and clear boundaries that your man enforces with you, as a partner, housemate, and fellow landlord. Beers and hanging out every night? Entering without knocking? Taking your leftovers, for goodness’ sake? Those days are over. Moving forward, it’s about invitations, knocking on doors, and sometimes — most times — even saying no to hanging out with the gang. It won’t be hard if you do it as a team and as a couple. Good luck getting your boyfriend there.