Reader question #44: My roommate is moving out soon. Do I tell her her boyfriend stays over too much?

Dear Captain Awkward,

Do you have a signal like Batman? If so I would like to use it please.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been living with my best friend of almost twelve years. I had just moved back to the area and I didn’t want to live with my parents, and I knew she didn’t want to continue living with her parents either. So I invited her to look with me for apartments. The original understanding was that I would be 100% responsible for rent while she provided most of the furnishings and the like.

Since then, things have changed – we moved from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom, which meant more room but more rent and higher bills; a couple months later I got laid off from my job and we had to change our financial arrangement. (We both took second jobs to make ends meet.) We bought some furniture together and have been generally pretty happy, not completely without bumps in the road but altogether I think it’s been pretty fab.

Then over Christmas her father died suddenly; her mother is too sick to live on her own. So my roommate has decided to move back in with her mother in order to help her out and take care of her. I support this decision wholeheartedly and I will miss her very much. The reason I moved back to the area to begin with was because of a parent’s health, though I don’t have the nurturing nature needed to be a caregiver to that extent. I really admire and respect that about my roommate.

She had originally intended to be out of the apartment by the end of April, but now it’s looking like she’s not getting out til mid-May. No big, I can live with the apartment in a state of disarray, mostly. (She brought a lot into the apartment, and so a lot has to be packed up.) She has a lot to do at her mother’s before she moves back in, and a lot to do at our apartment before she moves out. Girl’s got a lot on her plate and I can’t even begin to imagine.

But here’s the rub: there is a dude. I like the dude. He’s jovial and friendly and courteous and considerate. He helped move furniture in and he is probably going to help move furniture out. He’s kind to her mother. They’ve been friends for ages, and he had spent enough nights sleeping on our couch that I’d become quite accustomed to him. It’s only recently that their relationship has developed past that. He used to spend a night on the couch every couple of weeks; now he spends a night in her room every few days.

So yeah, I like the dude alright. But I do not like it when he stays over.


I do not have any particularly good reasons for this. I get up much earlier than either of them, and have never had to wait to use the restroom in the mornings or anything. They stay up much later than I do, but I grew up in a chaotic household and can sleep through most anything. When I am at home, I spend more time in my bedroom than in shared spaces anyway. His being around does not disrupt my day-to-day life much, if at all.

I simply do not like it that he spends so much time our apartment. I like being master of my own space. I like being extremely selective about who I share my space with. As much as I love my roommate, I look forward to having the apartment to myself for a bit. One time the dude was still sleeping in her room when she went to work and I went to run errands; and I did not at all like that he was left alone in the apartment. I’m sure he’d never do anything creepy or illegal in our absence, I just. Don’t. Like it.

It doesn’t bother me as much when she gives me advance warning, either, but it bothers me extra when she tells me he’s not staying over and then he winds up staying over anyway (which is the more frequent scenario). That chaotic household I grew up in was also extremely crowded, and there’s almost nothing I value more than having my own space and time and independence. It doesn’t help that my jobs are extremely social in nature, so when I come home all I want is no more people.

I had begrudgement before when my roommate’s previous boyfriend spent a lot of time at our apartment, too – he had a set of keys and everything. I didn’t say anything then because I was friends with both of them for longer than they’d been dating each other. Even then, it wasn’t that I didn’t like the guy; he was my friend too. It’s not about the people she has over as much as it is the frequency and duration of their visits that bothers me. For the record, I have never really brought this kind of thing up to her before. I know I wouldn’t like it if someone told me who I could or couldn’t have over to my own apartment, and when.

She did once forbid me from having a long-distance boyfriend over for a few days, but that was when her father had died and she was under a lot of emotional stress. Besides, that relationship was already close to over, and the way that boy had treated my roommate on a previous visit was one of the reasons it had to end. (He also triggered my personal space ish. He sat in my desk chair as though it was his own! Multiple times! My chair! Mine! etc.)

So on the one hand, my roommate intends to leave soon, and I can live with the situation for a bit with the knowledge that there’s an end in sight. On the other hand, she had intended to be out by now, and at the rate she’s going, I’m not confident that she’ll be out in the next couple of weeks, so the situation with the dude could continue for I don’t know how long. To be clear, I’m not bothered over rent or possessions. I’m confident we can work things out, like who gets which couch or how much I ought to pay her for the vacuum she’s leaving behind.

But when we sit down and work out these kinks, I wonder whether I should bring up the point about her houseguest, or if I should just drop the problem because she’s on her way out. Asking around for advice, it seems some of my friends feel like she’s been taking advantage of me, whereas other friends don’t think it’s worth it. I love my roommate but I hate bringing up issues that are even slightly controversial. The battles I’ve picked in the past are few and far between (especially since she decided to move out – she’s got a lot of other ish going on unrelated to me) though I sometimes feel like a doormat. I want to be supportive, and I wish I could help her out more, but I’m working two jobs, I often bring work home, I have a lot of family ish too, and I’m seeing someone new myself.

So I guess what I’m asking you is: am I just being a control freak who should let this slide? Or would I be justified in putting my foot down? Am I being sensible or grumpy or even jealous? I know I consider our friendship to be more important than any relationship I could have with a member of the opposite gender, but I’m not sure she feels the same way.

Thank you kindly,

Katherine Stableford*

*not my real name

Thank you, Katherine Stableford* (*Not your real name)!

1. I do not have a signal, but I’ve been thinking about things like logos and t-shirts and mugs, etc. and maybe moving away from the plain red title that came with the WordPress template. (Manboobz has me jealous with his swanky swag!) If that inspires any talented graphics people to throw something together, I can’t promise you money, but I can promise you…glory? Exposure? Undying thanks? Perhaps I will put together some kind of contest.

2. Your anxiety about your living situation is understandable, but on this issue you are a control freak who should just let this go. If you’ve got something particularly stressful going on, of course you’re within rights to say “Hey, I’ve got a lot going on this week, can you stay at ___’s place instead of him coming here for a few nights?” And when you come home from work, you have the right to say “Hey, it’s been a long day, but (roommate) told me you wouldn’t be here tonight, and I really just want to watch TV by myself.” And if your roommate were staying on for the forseeable future, “Hey, I notice that your boyfriend is always here, and I don’t want you to think he’s unwelcome or that I don’t like him, but could you take it to his place a few nights a week instead, because I really need my alone time.” There’s a thing that new couples do where they become completely oblivious to everyone around them, and suddenly the fact that your roommate has a guest there means there are two of them and one of you so you feel bad being the bad guy. I dig it.

Still, if this is truly your best friend of 12 years, think about the loss of privacy that’s coming her way with moving back in with her mom and cut her romantic life a little slack while she’s still got her own place. Your living situation is chaotic right now for a lot of reasons, but it seems like the boyfriend is the least of them but he’s the safest of the sticky wickets because it doesn’t involve asking your friend “Okay, why are you still here? Are you going? When are you going?” If you need a definite move-out date, ask for one. “I’m going to miss you so much, but I need to sit down with you and work out how this is all going to go down with money, time, moving, etc. Also, what can I do to help?”  Right now you’re 4/5 of the way through Return of the King and thinking “It’s over, right? He’s king, ring went in the lake of fire, hobbits reunited….it’s totally over…no, wait, there’s still more movie.  Why?  WHY?  Oh god…my bladder…goddamn fucking hobbits.”  It’s uncomfortable to be in limbo.  You’re in limbo.

3. No humorous image today. Do not do a Google image search for “roommate’s boyfriend” unless you’ve set the “safe search” at “strict.” Especially not from work. Apparently it is a common porn trope? I did not know.

You should live alone. You should only live alone. You should have your own space where only what you say goes. (Seriously – do not live with roommates anymore. I don’t think you’re cut out for it). Soon you will. Suck it up for now. I realize that here in Chicago it’s like the 76th of March, but everywhere else it will be mid-May in 1 week. You can make it for a week or so.

7 comments
  1. Caito said:

    What about this picture?

    • Kathleen said:

      I love it!

    • JenniferP said:

      You’re really focused on that whole chair thing! Is it a magic chair?

      • Caito said:

        It kind of is. I rescued it from the curb and fixed the shit out if it. It is now beautiful and covered in neon duct tape. (It’s a computer desk chair, not a living chair.)

        Thanks for answering my question, btw. Your answer was the one I suspected was right but I think I needed to hear it from someone who doesn’t know me or my roommate. The other commenters have made me feel better about my territoriality, too, and I think if I can swing the rent on my own, I will try to live on my own instead of looking for a roommate.

        (I used the not-my-name because I’ve recommended your site TO my roommate and I didn’t know how she’d feel if she’d read and recognized herself in a question.)

  2. Spike said:

    I’ve been in this situation with my best friend. When her and this guy started dating, they would have loud, vocal sex almost every day in her room in the middle of the day when they knew I was home. With no music on. It didn’t “bother” me per se, but I did find it weird and inappropriate. When we moved into our next apartment, he pretty much moved in, in the sense that he would almost never go back to his own apartment because it was just easier for him to come back to our place from his work than go further to his own apartment. It could have been worse I guess, but it just sucks when you suddenly realize that you now are living with 2 people instead of 1 (one of whom is not paying any bills/rent) and were never consulted.

    I agree with Captain Awkward that you (K.S.) should try to get your own place. After a particularly annoying roommate experience, I put my foot down to my boyfriend that we needed to get our own place. We did, and I couldn’t be happier knowing that I don’t have to think about anyone else (except him, but he doesn’t count. heh).

  3. wonapalei said:

    I totally second the “you should live alone.” I have similar…territorial impulses, shall we say? And as a result, I’ve made damn sure I don’t live with a roommate since I left college. There is simply nothing so relaxing as having my own space where no one else is allowed without my permission, where no one moves my stuff or touches my furniture or breathes my air and I could wander around naked if I felt like it and no one would ever know because no one can walk in on me, so there, haha!

    So, uh, in short: completely agree with the live alone advice.

  4. Penny said:

    I’m similar in my…preferences…about living space. I’m okay with sharing a house, but definitely not a room. I don’t want to coordinate sexytimes around a roommate’s schedule. Especially the prudish Catholic girl I lived with once….*shudder*

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