#1081: Breaking up with a roommate

Dear Captain,

I am in a tough place with a long time close friend. My partner and I are currently roommates with this friend. We have been all living together for a little over a year in a shared apartment (everyone’s name is on the lease).

Friend is a wonderful, kind, smart person, but he’s been in a bad spot for the past 4 years and seems to constantly be in a very slow decline. We are all in our early to mid 30’s college educated professionals, but roommate has not worked consistently in years and nearly at all in 3. He’s been fired from multiple positions in a row. He has not ever had a relationship though he claims to want one. He is not in school, volunteering, or otherwise doing anything to move forward in his life. He’s clearly struggling, but while he’s openly discussed that he’s had issues with anxiety and depression, and is on medication/sees someone about this, he otherwise attempts to act like everything is completely fine. He spends large amounts of money he doesn’t have on his hobbies, hangs around the house constantly in his pjs, sleeps very late/stays up all night, and really only goes out if its to do something “fun” or if it’s related to his hobby, and is often not conscientious to the household as a whole.

Other notes on our and roommates situation

– He does pay his portion of rent. See next point for more on that

– He is not in a position to not work. He is being given cash by family members to float expenses but there is also large amounts of debt on multiple credit cards. His family is not able to do this indefinitely and it’s clear that his finances are a house of cards that is going to collapse.

– Partner and I do not want to live with roommate after our lease is up. We have a few more months on the lease, and for us all to find housing we need to inform him now. We do not plan to kick him out. Current plan is to offer to either turn the apartment over to him and move out, or take over the lease if he’d like to move. However I doubt he will get it together enough to make a plan to move (see above stagnation), and there is a high likelihood landlord would not allow him to remain in the apartment without us (see lack of income), so us moving “kicks him out” by default

– His alternative free housing option would be with a family member. This is roommate’s last choice option and he would hate it. It is not unsafe or abusive, but it would not be what he wants

– He does not have a drug or alcohol problem ( I am 99.9% sure of this)

– We knew he was having issues when we got a place together. At the time we thought it was more situational and less due to his actions/ lack of action, and that living with people who cared about him and were also productive adults would be helpful to roommate. My partner and I both agree now moving in together was a bad call on our parts

– We live in an area where finding employment in things like retail/ serving jobs/ temping etc is not difficult. He seems to think this type of hourly work is beneath him.

– It’s clear he views himself as a part of me and my partner’s family unit and seems to think he will remain as part of our household indefinitely.

At this point myself, my partner and all our mutual friends are extremely concerned about him. It’s become clear that his situation is a slow moving disaster but that eventually he’s going to hit some type of wall and not be able to continue on pretending everything is fine. Conversations to try to help him or make him see reality have been unsuccessful. Having a frank conversation with him is like nailing jello to the wall.

My question is, how do I explain to him that we are not going to be living with him on the next lease cycle without destroying our friendship or setting in motion an emotional collapse from him, while also making it clear he needs to take this seriously and make plans on how he’s going to house himself going forward. I’m worried about having to spend the next several months with an angry and seriously depressed roommate or alternatively him in a panic come the end of the lease when he’s done nothing to prepare. I do feel like I have some responsibility to preserve his mental health and our friendship in all this.


Failure To Launch’s Roommate

Dear Failure To Launch’s Roommate:

The “As a friend I’m concerned about you for x reasons” and the “When the lease is up, we’re going to go our own way” conversation need to be two separate conversations. The less you cross these streams, the better for everyone involved.

I think that the best plan is for you and your partner to make a plan to move to a new “just the two of us!” place and to communicate it that way. “Hey [roommate], when the lease is up on [date], Partner & I have decided to move to a new place that’s just for the two of us.” That’s the cleanest break possible and takes “what happens to this apartment” or “Hey, we’re going to stay here, minus you!” off the table.

Sometimes we have to deliver news to people that they are not happy about. Undoubtedly, your roommate will have feelings about that. Rejection. Abandonment. Worry about finances and where he will live. Those are not your feelings or worries to manage right this second, if ever. Your job is to give him the information he needs to make a good decision about what to do next, without commentary on how he lives his life. It will work best if you are sure and you communicate it as a decision that you’ve already made. It will work best if you keep it simple and direct and focused on what you need (vs. digging into his issues or feelings). Trying to soft-pedal it and leave the door open to the idea that you might reconsider will not help him (unless your intention is to help him avoid things even longer).

Keep repeating this script. “We’re ready to live in a place where it’s just the two of us.” “It’s not about [him][whatever he’s shame-spiraling about], it’s just, we want to try living in a place where it’s just the two of us.” 

Also, please keep this in perspective: You’ve lived together for less than a year. He lived somewhere before he lived with you, and he can live somewhere else again. Lots of people have roommate situations with friends that don’t quite work out. Lots of people find that they are better friends when they don’t live together. This guy could find another roommate situation. Moving in with a relative for a while wouldn’t be his first choice, but lots of people have to live with relatives for a while while they get back on their feet. He’s lucky that he has a safe place to go and it doesn’t have to be forever. He may catastrophize about this but please don’t let guilt drive you to reconsider a decision that you know is good for you.

So, tell him the news. Keep it simple and direct. Keep it focused on you and your future goals – “We’re going to find a place that’s just for the two of us!” (versus “We can tell that you don’t have your shit together and it’s stressing us out, so we’re leaving.“) Be crystal clear about timelines, money, dividing up stuff. The more direct, clean, simple, and candid you are, the kinder it will be.

After you tell him the news, be a friend to him.

  • Invite him to do fun things with you/seek his company in enjoyable ways. Keep the happy roommate rituals, like watching favorite shows together, going.
  • He’s a friend of both you and your partner, so, maybe take turns seeking him out one-on-one and break up the HAPPY COUPLE!!!! vs. THE ALONE GUY WE ARE ABANDONING dynamic a bit.
  • If he’s upset and needs a shoulder, listen to him without trying to solve him or fix him or “nail jello to the wall.” When you do comment on stressful stuff he tells you, do it in a way that affirms his agency in the situation. “Wow, that sounds like an awful feeling. What do you think you’ll do?” 
  • Take him out of the “this is our sad friend who we help” role by asking his input or advice on things he is good at. “I need to redo my resume, will you take a look at it for me?” “I’ve never run a D&D game before, can you help me get started?” This is something the mutual friends can get in on, too.
  • Maintain boundaries. Don’t let him get away with mean or shitty roommate behavior just because he’s upset. Your communal agreement still stands as long as you live there, so “Hey, can you do your dishes by tonight, thanks!” is still a valid request even if he has sadfeels. Walking on eggshells helps nobody.
  • Maintain boundaries. It’s not your job to find him new roommates or a new place to live. It’s not your job to solve his career situation or his finances. It is okay to encourage him toward sounding boards who are not you when he’s upset about the pending move. “I know you’re upset about that, and I’m sorry, but I think this is maybe a conversation for your therapist or other friends, where you can safely vent!” 

There’s no perfect way to handle this that won’t upset him or affect your friendship. You may indeed be for a rocky couple of months. If he’s unhappy in his life, you can’t fix that by…staying his roommate forever? By…delivering the news that you’re leaving in a way that’s dripping with concern for his emotional and financial health? It’s just not possible. Sometimes living situations don’t work out. You will be happier when he’s not your roommate anymore, and it’s okay to want that and to choose that. The best thing you can do for him is to own your decision. Be as clean and direct as you can and give him plenty of notice. From there, do your best to remind yourselves of the things you like about him and disengage from the rest.



137 thoughts on “#1081: Breaking up with a roommate

  1. It sounds like you’re thinking about this far enough in advance to give him sufficient time to find a new housing situation, and the best thing you can do, now that you have made a decision, is let him know ASAP so he can use that time. If he wants to stay and find a new roommate, help him put the feelers out there, and help him get the apartment clean enough to show if needed (I only say this because my last roommate chose to move out and I only had a few weeks to find someone to take his room, but he couldn’t be bothered to clean, tidy, declutter, or anything make it look appealing to potential roommates). That said, you don’t have to recommend him to people looking for roommates if you think they’d be entering an unstable situation, where he’d have to bail halfway through the lease.

    That said, due to his finances, he’s probably better off living with a family member even if it’s not ideal. That’s what I’m doing now, the time came to change my housing situation, I realized I didn’t have much to spend on moving costs, and admitted my finances could use some work, so I’m living with my family to build my savings and pay off debts. It’s not always great, or convenient, but I know that when I move out, I’ll be doing so on solid ground. You can’t tell him to do this, but if that’s the path he does end up taking, you can assure him it’s the right one to make.

    Honestly, while he may feel anxious about having to find a new roommate or new place to live, it wouldn’t be reasonable for him to be that upset with you for choosing to live one-on-one with your partner, this is the living situation most long-term couples eventually choose when they’re ready and able to do so.

  2. You can’t save him. As much as you care for him and want to help him, he has to do his own work, and carry his own load as best he can. Up to this point, he’s had lots of other people to carry different parts of the load for him–well-meaning, kind, generous, caring people. At the end of the day (or lease), though, it is still his load to carry, and his problem to solve.

    Follow Captain’s script–find a place for yourselves, notify the landlord you won’t be renewing, and let roommate know that this situation ends when the lease ends. And then do the hard, hard work of not doing his emotional work, not offering to carry that baggage even a little way further.

    Me and my (now-ex) partner offered living space in our house to a friend his who was struggling and suicidal. She lived with us for a year. Then we had to ask her to move out. We offered her a lifeline, and she took it. We don’t regret the choice we made. But that year of living together strained the friendship, possibly to the breaking point. I don’t know if ex has heard from her since she moved away. I certainly haven’t. And a similar situation arose between me and ex. I couldn’t carry his load on top of mine anymore. So I moved out. And in the 2 years since the breakup (3 years since moving out), I have been slowly putting down the emotional baggage I’ve been carrying for him all this time too. He continues to struggle with depression, and the house is continuing to deteriorate due to lack of maintenance and cleaning. But I can’t save him. He has to do his own work.

    My heart goes out to you. Save yourselves. You DON’T have the responsibility to preserve your friend’s mental health or the friendship. YOU can’t make either of those things happen by yourself. He has to be willing to do the work to maintain both of those on his end. You can’t control how he reacts to the news, or what choices he makes. All you can do is continue to be compassionate without doing the work for him.

  3. Oof. This post could have been written about me several years ago – I lived with a couple during a somewhat dysfunctional period of my life and was definitely “the sad friend” who they got sick of trying to help.
    The Captain’s advice is spot on – the kindest way to roommate-breakup is to make it pragmatic and stick to your decision.
    It’s not your job to help him – and he’s already getting help in the form of a therapist & medication even if it’s not helping in a timeline that would make him a better roommate for you. Focus on the things you’d do as friends, not the things you want to do as pseudo parents/life fixers.

    1. THIS. The timeline part in particular.

      LW: the impression I get is that you care about him, you’re worried about him, but you also resent him for being “a failure” because he’s not succeeding at adulthood the way you and your fiance are. That… is probably what his depression tells him too, and he can probably tell that’s what you think of him.

      Your plan to not live with him any more is a good one.

    2. I never had a roommate situation, but I was unemployed for several years and my family and friends had to deal with that. The least helpful things they did was when they constantly badgered me about job hunting (for a while, everyone I knew greeted me with “Hi! How’s the job hunt going?” and I hated them all) or bringing it up when there was something else already going on (you have a migraine? how are you going to deal with migraines when you start working again?).

      Basically the best things my friends did was simply be my friends, and leave the job hunting to me unless I specifically asked for help. It’s kind that you care and want to help – but don’t, unless he asks.

      1. OMG, as a fellow migraine sufferer, that stinks. I’m so sorry. Jedi Hugs and sympathies. I’ve gotten the “you have a migraine AGAIN?” as if I was having them just to piss everyone off.

  4. This. And I would really stress the bit about staying away from trying to fix his problems. It may feel like it’s doing him a kindness, but it’s actually a) enabling him to drift and b) giving him a subtle message that you don’t trust him to be able to get his act together. Focus on being the friends with whom he can have fun hanging out to get his mind off things now and again, not the fixers who keep trying to put him back together.

    1. Agreed. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for a struggling friend is treating them like someone who is capable.

      I had a pair of roommates who decided to move on without me after our lease expired and they gave me a very awkward “We are so sorry do you need help finding a new place?” talk. And I was like “Or … I could just reach out to my network and find a new place myself like an adult?” And they seemed so surprised I was capable of this that it was kind of insulting, honestly.

      1. I recently had to move due to a pseudo-eviction, and a surprisingly large chunk of the crappiness was in how my mother reacted not just as though the apocalypse had arrived, but as if I were being excessively blase by not also completely panicking.

  5. Seconding the advice.
    Maybe there’s an underlying problem you don’t know about, maybe there isn’t and he’s just going to coast by as long as he can get away with it. Either way it’s -not LW’s problem-.

    Do NOT let yourself start paying his rent for him past your move out or letting him stay with you “for a little while” or anything like that. Set your deadlines and stick with it.
    It’s not an inherently bad thing for him to be not career focused, not interested in designated adult scripts like coupling up and buying a house, etc. But it is bad to do so at the expense of others, so don’t set yourself up for that. If roommate’s family members decide to cut him off, he can deal with that. If landlord won’t continue to rent to him without your presence, he can deal with that.

    What would you do if you and your partner decided to move to a new place together and your 3rd roommate was the picture of shit-having-togetherness? Do the same thing you would then. Clear communication about timelines, handling all legal obligations re leases and deposits and whatnot in a timely way, that sort of thing.

    Good luck with your move and enjoy your new space, LW!

  6. In addition to the great advice on clarity and boundaries, I wanted to touch briefly on something that may just be the wording or my own interpretation of your post, so apologies if I’m getting this wrong.

    I think that you need to put some of this emotional labor – in communicating your plans and establishing boundaries – onto your partner. Instead of “how do I communicate this”, make sure it’s “how do WE communicate this”. Instead of feeling that “I have some responsibility to preserve the friendship”, make sure it’s “WE have some responsibility to preserve the friendship”.

    Again, I realize I’m reading a lot into your language, and I could be completely misinterpreting it. But what I see here is a mutual friend, but not a lot of mutual language.

  7. OP – as part of your goal is to ultimately remain friends with roommate who’s having issues and needs to leave – I have to echo the Captains words that you and your partner will need to move out. For all of the Sheriff Logic reasons there may be to argue why it shouldn’t be different if you and your partner remain in the apartment while roomie leaves – the distinction of leaving and staying does not bode well for the emotional well-being of the relationship. While one party has to get boxes, find a new space to live, coordinate moving, juggle the financial realities of what moving means – it feels like the other party gets to sit there and day dream about how to redecorate the space.

    Moving together means that you’re both searching, both packing, both balancing logistics. There may still be hurt, but there won’t be a more lopsided labor dynamic to make things feel unfair on top of the hurt. I have parted from a number of roommates for a number of reasons – and the one time where things ended with a lot of grief from my side was a situation where roomie was staying and I was going. I have a whole list of reasons of why that situation warranted my grief – but at the end of the day when I left I could have left items of furniture that I knew he could use (he was going to turn my living space into an Airbnb rental), but full of spite I dragged all of my furniture items out to the dumpster for whomever else in the neighborhood would want to claim them or for the garbage.

    Your roomie may definitely feel spite, anger, and hurt feelings – but there is something in both parties moving that feels more cooperative and focuses on the more business/financial aspect of living together rather than friends breaking up.

    1. Thank you! I couldn’t quite articulate why it was important for the LW to be the one to move, this does it so well.

      1. I will also say that if y’all stay there then it definitely becomes you “kicking him out” versus you wanting your own space as a couple. That’s infinitely more hurtful. I lived with roommates who danced around the fact that they wanted me to move out, talked about finding their own space, and then a month before when I brought it up that they were planning on leaving told me that actually I needed to move out and they were moving someone else in. It was not a good way for them to handle it. (They also hadn’t brought up issues with me as a roommate so I have no idea if it was that they had issues with me cleanliness wise, didn’t like that I stage managed and was never around, or just didn’t like me. It was not well-handled conflict on their part.)

        So yes, if you want to stop living with him but also remain friends, you really need to be the ones to move out.

        I am sorry that this is happening. You seem like very caring friends. Ultimately, people can only save themselves and as Captain Awkward said, you can’t solve your friend’s problems by living with him forever.

        1. This feels slightly tangential, but…I kinda feel like people need to get over the fact that couples want to have their own space, and never take that personally?

          Maybe I just have a weird friend circle. I don’t know. But “we want to be able to have sex in the living room” kinds of “need our own space” is NOT something Roommate Bro should be taking personally. Jeez.

          1. It’s not something to take personally. But it’s also not something that one necessarily assumes will happen, either; especially with a couple who has previously seemed comfortable and contented living with other people. I’ve lived with friends almost all my life, including most of the 13 years I’ve spent married. It’s not unreasonable or abnormal to want your own space as a couple; and it’s not unreasonable or abnormal never to find yourself wanting that, either.

            Since people tend to judge what’s coming by what has been, if there has been a situation in which a particular couple has been living alone, most people won’t assume they want a roommate unless they reach out and say so. If a particular couple has been living with others, most people won’t assume that they mind this state of affairs unless they reach out and say so.

      2. Yes…..if a ranty diatribe on why I was the world’s most injured party in the whole wide world when I had to leave and he got to stay would have been helpful, unfortunately I still have enough of a bruise from that for inspiration…..

        But! I’ve also lived with other friends where we were hardly perfect roommates – and yet that grief or frustration of moving passes with time. At the end of the day moving is labor – physical, emotional, legal/contract and financial – and even under the best and most exciting of circumstances is rarely fun. And when that labor is split unevenly, it’s so easy for lots of other toxic thoughts to take root.

      3. Also, you can’t control his actions, but you can control your own. Short of calling the cops, you can’t *make* him leave – but you can move out regardless of what he decides to do.

        1. The legit one worry about this….is that if they’re *all* on the lease, they may *all* face monetary consequences of either not leaving in full or leaving the place in bad shape/untidy/etc. That being said, the burden of physical eviction would ultimately fall to the landlord and losing a security deposit or part of one – while it always sucks – hopefully won’t be a similar burden to trying to physically evict a friend.

          1. Smithy’s I’m not sure this is an issue – it sounded like the moving would occur at the end of the current lease, so there’s no more liability issues at that point for anyone. The lease would have to be renewed for Roommate to stay. And that’s between Roommate and the landlord.

          2. If the LW and partner have terminated the lease and the roommate chooses not to leave at that point he would, legally, become a month-to-month tenant. At that point the landlord could serve a notice to vacate or could take them on as a month-to-month tenant or could say “sign a new lease or I’ll serve notice to vacate”. The LW’s part in it is done on the day their current lease ends if they’re not in the apartment.

          3. Residential tenancy laws can vary wildly from place to place, so the OP should confirm what law applies in their jurisdiction if they’re at all concerned about ongoing liability.

      4. There’s also this–if the LW and partner move out, there is a definite end date that they control for themselves. If they renew the lease without roommate, they might get sucked into giving him more time to find a new place or letting him store some stuff / move the stuff out in stages that can drag on and on. Moving out puts a hard stop on the awkward “soon-to-be-former roomies” stage.

    2. And in this scenario, it would take someone with rock-solid emotional footing to not hear the message “We like everything about our living situation except for your presence.” Most people will get over it because the majority of couples move to a just-them situation eventually without it being personal, but it’s darn hard not to internalize.

      1. Yes, if they find a new apartment then it’s all about ‘we found the perfect apartment to start the next phase of our relationship’ ‘we can afford our own apartment now’ etc and less anything to do with him.

      2. Yes! I was the 3-roomie in a situation where everyone was generally fine but the couple honestly did want to switch to a life of living just the two of them and they asked me to move out. They had lived there before me and it did all make sense and still I was really sad about it and felt a sense of rejection. I didn’t put that on the roommates though because I knew it was on me. They 100% made the right call. We’re all fine.

    3. Can I ask what “Sheriff Logic” is? I goggled and didn’t get anything that seemed plausible…

      1. Yeah – it’s not a thing that I’m aware of…..just some in the moment utterly nonlogical choice….

        Just to say there are likely very logical reasons for the OP and partner to remain in the apartment that have nothing to do with the roommate’s issues as a poor roommate. And it could be argued that roomie has no more reason to be upset with everyone moving than just roomie moving. So my point was more just to say that regardless of what those points are – if remaining friends with roomie is a real desire, not going in that direction greatly increases that possibility.

        1. I like sheriff logic! It sounds like a person who waves a logic badge and expects it to be automatically feared and respected.

      2. I’m pretty sure Sheriff Logic was me, when I logicked my way into being part of a triad, when it turns out that probably I am happiest as part of a couple. But we had TALKED about it, and THOUGHT about it and made PLANS, so why was I unhappy? My unhappiness wasn’t LOGICAL. Please note, this logic was participated in by other people, but was not imposed upon me. I did it to myself.

        Luckily for me, we eventually sorted this out, and I am now part of a couple and it turns out that logic has nothing to do with my current happiness.

    4. The occasions on which I decided to keep an apartment but get different roommates, it was basically an act of war. In one case, the roommates in question were terrible and I didn’t feel bad about it; in another, I had been friends with the difficult roommate and was sad that her issues had led to this point, but in both cases, I haven’t been in contact with them since they moved out and I never will.

      In both cases, even fighting to keep the apartment instead of just leaving myself was only possible because they were problematic enough tenants that they were making life hard for the landlord in addition to making it hard for me.

      But the point is: Moving yourself is normal because life goes on and stuff happens; driving someone else out of their living space is pretty much a hostile act, even when it’s not coming from a place of malice.

      1. well, not always – Mr. Jules moved out from his roommates when they wanted his room for a baby. It helped that he moved into the townhouse next door with me – both couples were moving on to new life stages. But they clearly stated that when the lease was up, they needed to have an apt for themselves, and wanted the one they were in. Clear communication about changing conditions can make changes easier in functional friendships. Alliteration mostly accidental…

        The ex-roommates’ kid is 17 now, and we just spent a week with the whole family.

        1. That sounds like some top-level communicating! I’m glad it worked out well for everyone and that you’re all still friends.

  8. Yes…..if a ranty diatribe on why I was the world’s most injured party in the whole wide world when I had to leave and he got to stay would have been helpful, unfortunately I still have enough of a bruise from that for inspiration…..

    But! I’ve also lived with other friends where we were hardly perfect roommates – and yet that grief or frustration of moving passes with time. At the end of the day moving is labor – physical, emotional, legal/contract and financial – and even under the best and most exciting of circumstances is rarely fun. And when that labor is split unevenly, it’s so easy for lots of other toxic thoughts to take root.

  9. So much empathy for the letter writer – I have had the impulse to rescue people, but have come to the firm conclusion that you can’t fix anyone elses emotional problems. As much as you feel for this guy, and as much as you want him to be OK, there is a good chance that he needs to hit rock bottom before he is willing to confront the stuff he needs to. Take care of yourself and your partner, find somewhere awesome to live and be gentle with your inner rescuer when you remind them that they are not responsible for fixing him.

  10. I love the advise to talk about it in a positive way – we found a place where we can afford with just the two of us/our relationship is getting more serious/etc. As a step forward in your relationship, and nothing to do with him.

    And I would avoid offering to help him figure out what to do next, avoid the temptation to try to rescue him or talk to him like someone who needs rescuing – not only is it so easy to get lazy and let someone else ‘take care of you’, but it’s actually kind of confidence-sapping to know your friends don’t think you can handle something.

  11. “His alternative free housing option would be with a family member. This is roommate’s last choice option and he would hate it. It is not unsafe or abusive, but it would not be what he wants.”

    Okay, fine, but..

    “He is not in school, volunteering, or otherwise doing anything to move forward in his life… He spends large amounts of money he doesn’t have on his hobbies…We live in an area where finding employment in things like retail/ serving jobs/ temping etc is not difficult. He seems to think this type of hourly work is beneath him.”

    Well, he’s gonna have to choose one of those, isn’t he? This isn’t your problem, LW – if your friend decides that he really hates living with a family member, he can take the “beneath him” job, cut back on the hobbies, and maybe volunteer in his desired industry. Or, he can decide that the living situation is acceptable in exchange for having money for his hobbies and not having to take the undignified job. Either way, it’s his life and his choice, and you don’t have to feel guilty for not providing him with a third option.

    1. Yeah like, this situation isn’t wrong just because he might not like it. And it certainly isn’t on you to fix it.

      Letter Writer, for 80% of your letter I thought ‘Good news: This isn’t on you to fix.’ It’s great that you are so empathetic, that your whole friend group cares about your friend and you want to help him. But our impulses are sometimes utterly different from what would actually help. As others have already said: If you want someone to get their life together you cannot simultaneously treat them like you believe they can’t get their life together. You are free to put this burden down. Your friend can and will figure out how to move forward on his own. You just have to give him a chance to do so by stepping back and letting him handle it.

      1. If you want someone to get their life together you cannot simultaneously treat them like you believe they can’t get their life together.

        Putting this in bold because it is the best advice I’ve read in this whole thread.

    2. I had to move back in with my parents for three months at the ripe old age of 36. I volunteered the whole time I was in their town and it was the impetus to take two 150-mile train journeys in a week to get to a new place / job.

      I am a huge believer in personal responsibility and Making Choices. Roommate *does* have a choice. It may not be a pleasant choice or one they want, but it is their choice.

      1. And the choices here aren’t even that harsh. He takes some crappy low-end work in order to earn rent money while he volunteers to get better experience, or he lives in a warm, safe place that isn’t as awesome as he’d like. Neither option is really awful – just sorta-unpleasant. In neither circumstance does LW need to feel particularly bad for the roommate.

  12. Also another vote for just deciding to move out on your own. He can either also move out, or he can try to find roommates to move into that apartment with him. Also, if you tell him to “decide” he may put that off until it’s too late….after all, what motivation is there for him to decide that, since you are the one who wants it to happen? Asking a depressed person who is having trouble moving forward and being proactive about life to be proactive about that isn’t going to turn out well. See also, “Hey, we’d like you to look for your own place.” Might not ever happen. So just make the decision for yourselves, present it as a thing you actively want to do rather than a thing he has driven you to do, and take it from there. Show him you still want to be his friend (if you do, which it seems you do), and that this isn’t a referendum on either your friendship or him as a person.

    1. Agreed. The LW & partner should make their moving plans and notify the landlord. The question of whether or not the roomie makes a new lease with new roommates is between him and the landlord.

  13. Dear LW,

    I think your friendship with Roommate will survive living separately once the lease ends. I am sure it won’t survive continuing to live together.

    So that’s incentive for you and Partner to announce now that the two of you are moving out.

    My only addition to the Captain’s advice is practice your announcement with friends. That way you two can work through responses to (possible) flailing from Roommate.

    For example :
    Partner: Roommate, LW and I will be moving into an apartment for just the two of us ocean the lease is up. We’re starting to look now.

    Roommate: But what about me?!

    Partner: I don’t know. What about you?

    Roommate: I want to renew the lease!

    Partner: Well, you can! Just not with LW and me. We’ll be living elsewhere .

    I don’t think you and Partner can be his sounding board for feelings around this. The fact is, you’re in conflict with his wishes.

    Good luck!

  14. Yeah, I have a friend who is like this. The timeline is different – we were once roommates until I moved in with a partner, and then, a year later, his life collapsed (there were signs while we lived together). We can’t really save our friends.

    So the captain’s advice is of course spot on. He may be hurt and scared and say things like “everyone is leaving me” or what have you (which isn’t true, but he might say it), but if you frame it as you two taking a step together, he might not be as wounded.

  15. When I was dealing with a family member who was depressed and making choices that were not beneficial to their long term health (success, independence etc) in my view, I felt really invested in ‘helping’ them make better choices to avert the disaster that I could see coming. I was told pretty clearly by her that depressed didn’t mean stupid and she could handle her life the way she saw fit. She was nicer about delivering the message, but that was the message. She was right.

    She helped me realize that whether or not it ended in a way that would be acceptable for me, she wasn’t so ill that she needed to be hospitalized and therefore was capable of making her own decisions as an adult. It was painful, but at the end she taught me that no matter how much I care the only life I can live is my own.

  16. LW, I think it’s admirable that you want to be so kind and careful with your roommate in this difficult situation (for all of you).

    You’ve done a lot of speculating in your letter about ramifications of ramifications of ramifications (e.g. “if we move out and he can’t stay where he is now or find a new place, then he’ll have to live with family and it will be unpleasant, probably”), and I feel like you need to give yourself permission not to look out for Every Possible Consequence of your departure. There are lots of ways this could end, some great and some not so great – but whatever happens, the final result is not within your control. You can shape it, sure, but the best way you can shape it is by bringing maximum kindness and thoughtfulness to the process, which you are already doing!

  17. I am definitely the “sad friend” in this scenario and honestly, I found this question to be really paternalistic, even if coming from a good place. Sad friend is allowed to approach their possible impending disaster however they choose and really, sometimes folks just need to ‘crash’ and have things fall apart for awhile. None of these things need impact LW decisions to move with partner, nor should they be used as an excuse to struggle giving the news of choice to move.

    The focus on roommates spending habits, sleeping patters, work pursuits, etc seem really invasive and not their concern. It sounds like LW is actually using roommates *personal* struggles as an excuse to delay the inevitable in a way that doesn’t seem realistic. Also, depressed and anxious people can, generally, find support, make changes, and otherwise when they absolutely need to and that isn’t really a concern that should come from a roommate, as long as their abiding by agreements and paying rent.

    I get there is a ‘friend’ component here, but that doesn’t have to become emeshed with house dynamics- “Hey Roommate we are going to move out as a pair” and “Hey Friend, I’m concerned about you” are two totally different things and even being a friend shouldn’t be a free-for-all to judge how someone chooses to cope. If an impending disaster does happen, you still need consent to involve yourself- No consent means that you really need to respect that there are some things friend may not want to share and as a roommate, they should be off limits. None of these things dismiss LW rights to also be free to make decisions that they want to make for their life.

    Respect, boundaries, and consent are a two way street. Both can exist.

    1. I’ve been that roommate too! You can’t always tell how severely someone is struggling, and whether or not they truly are able to work. Especially when it’s a mental health issue. LW can and should move on to a new living situation. But I think it would helpful to cease monitoring the roommate’s sleep habits and work opportunities, and trying to “nail jello to a wall.”


      LW absolutely should move out with their partner, but the little nit picky judgements of how the roommate spends his money – while still paying his rent and I assume doing chores because that wasn’t mentioned – was so paternalistic/mother hen. I was waiting for someone, anyone, to say “it’s none of your business how he spends his money.” Roommate is an adult, and sometimes adults need to make their own mistakes – in order to grow.

      I understand that the LW really cares about their friend and wants him to be better, but I can’t imagine the dripping judgement that the LW displayed in this letter about him and his hobbies/lifestyle is going to kick him out of any sort of anxiety or depression if he stuck around them.

      1. Yes, and the LW certainly knows a lot about the roommate’s finances, or claims to, which is excessive. Any cash roommate receives from family is between the roommate and that family member, and not the LW’s problem as long as the rent and utilities are paid. It sounds like the LW went into it thinking it they could “fix” the roommate, since they wrote “and that living with people who cared about him and were also productive adults would be helpful to roommate.”

        1. It is absolutely a valid concern for the LW to have? That’s why places like you have a real income to sign a lease, not just “cash gifts from a family member that isn’t not particularly rich to begin with.” It’s heavily implied in the letter that the day might come VERY soon where the friend cannot pay rent with these cash gifts anymore, in which case the LW is screwed. I understand that impulse to be like “none of this is your business, LW!” because it comes with projecting how you would feel if someone was making comments about your financial health, but it doesn’t mean the LW is unreasonable to want some assurance that they’re not going to be stuck with the rent in full next month.

          1. There’s only a few months left on their lease. They do not need to micromanage Roommate’s finances, and his name is ALSO on the lease, not just theirs.

          2. Not sure what you mean to point out about his name being on the lease too? In a lot of places, they’d still be liable for his share if he didn’t pay it.

      2. The line “He has not ever had a relationship though he claims to want one” kinda got me side eyeing this a bit. I don’t see how that is relevant information at all, it definitely seems like more of a judgement than helpful criticism. I too relate to sad friend in that I’m going through a rough patch I can’t seem to climb out of, and while I do work full time and have to live with my parents for now, I’ve also never been in a romantic relationship – for a wide variety of reasons, not least of which is simply being lucky enough to find someone. I don’t see how that has anything to do with his stability as a potential roommate. It just got my hackles up instantly. If LW was my friend, roommate or not, I’d absolutely have trouble having a frank conversation about my situation with them.

        1. THANK YOU. I haven’t left an actual helpful comment on this letter yet, because I’m still not done grinding my teeth over this particular phrase. Judging someone (even while standing on the high ground of “concern”) for not being able to find a partner is NOT a good look. Relationships are complicated and also involve a whole other person who doesn’t just magically appear because you want them to. Besides, it’s none o’ your beeswax.

          All right, here is my attempt at helpful stuff. In addition to the Captain’s excellent advice, I’m going to suggest taking the “have two separate conversations” part and take it a step further by actually doing some writing first. Write down in two columns:
          1. Reasons why you want to change your living arrangement
          2. Your concerns about him.

          These should be very clear in your head before you have those conversations.

          It’s very important to note that there are things that should not go in either column, because they will just make him feel judged and he’ll block out anything else you have to say. The part about him still being single is a prime example.

        2. I do see where the LW might be coming from with it… but speaking from experience, it’s still not helpful. I think they were doing some mental math here where “single despite a desire not to be” is just another point in the “cannot or will not do things even after expressing a desire to do them” which adds up to a result of “this person is unreliable and their word cannot be trusted to deliver results” in the LW’s mental calculus. But while this might FEEL the same, it’s not at all the same as “says he’ll pay us back and doesn’t” or “says he’ll help around the apartment but never does,” and you’re totally right to call that out. I just wanted to speak up as someone who has totally been guilty of adding things up as “proof” that I’m right to feel a certain way about something, when really I don’t need to build up an eighty point list to make decisions about relying on someone or not. LW, stop reaching for more things to explain away why your roommate is a certain way! You don’t want to live with him. That’s all you need to know.

          1. “I think they were doing some mental math here where ‘single despite a desire not to be’ is just another point in the ‘cannot or will not do things even after expressing a desire to do them'”

            ^^Yeah, I think that’s exactly it. I see what the thought process is, but I think the LW might be talking from their emotions and needs to mentally sort out which details are relevant to the discussions they’re going to have, what goes in which discussion, and what’s out of bounds for both. (I said something like that in my other comment, but I think I wasn’t clear that the important thing is LW having stuff straight in their head to minimize roommate feeling attacked or thinking “that’s totally unfair and irrelevant,” I mean, he might think those things regardless, but, you know, it’s about damage control.)

    3. Yes the LW is clearly the worst person ever. How dare they state things that are easily noticeable about a person lifestyle when they live together. Also my pearls were throughly clutched when the LW said she knew about his financial situations and work history, almost as if they asked their friend “hey I noticed X Y and Z behavior and I am worried about you” and the friend could have provided more details. The LW is truly an invasive shrew.

      But you know what the greatest sin of it all, the LW dares to care about their friends well being after they’ll move out. Can you imagine the inconsideration!!! worrying about your friend *gasp*. I always abandoned my mentally Ill loved ones with out any concern about the future of their well being, especially when theres a long pattern of past destructive behavior which I have made a point of ignoring. I just cant imagine how someone would have legitimate concerns about easily noticeable behaviors, only awful people do that.

      1. Before we escalate this further! Eek!

        This is why I recommend that the Letter Writer stay out of “We’re so concerned for you” talk while communicating “We want to move out!” Nobody likes a “I’m breaking up with you for your own good” talk, or “I’m breaking up with you because you are too much of a mess for me, please fix yourself!” talk. That stuff HAS to be separate.

        1. The LW seemed to me like they were genuinely concerned about their friend and worried about how their decision to move out might hurt the friend, both emotionally and financially. Going down the line of thinking that the lw is malicious for caring for their friend who is mentally Ill is ridiculous.

          I agree there is probably no way to bring up “hey friend I noticed you kinda suck at money, also we are moving out” with out feelings getting hurt. I honestly think the lw should probably not bring up the topic of money or job with friend.
          However, it’s not wrong of the lw to see that their friend is in pain and want to help friend out if they can.

          If the sarcasms in my original comment was in any way not clear, I apologize. I still firmly believe that some comenters are miss attributing bad motives to the LW in a way that’s very unnecessary and derailing.

          And I know personally when I was feeling depressed/anxious/ in crisses with my identity I would misinterpret genuine concern as judgment. I hope that the comenters who overly identify with sad friend are able to reflect further on their own life. Maybe they’ll discover some of the perceived judgment is actual concern.

          1. “I hope that the comenters who overly identify with sad friend are able to reflect further on their own life. Maybe they’ll discover some of the perceived judgment is actual concern.”

            That’s inappropriate.

          2. Of course LW’s motives are good. But the result is still very invasive and very inappropriate. Which can very easily happen no matter how caring the person is, sometimes more easily as it makes it harder to force yourself to do the respectful thing and back off. You don’t have to have bad motives to accidentally drift down a path that isn’t yours to take.

          3. Judgement and concern are not opposites. People can be, and very frequently are, both judgemental and concerned.

            Judgement isn’t necessarily even wrong if you keep it to yourself.

          4. ‘ I hope that the comenters who overly identify with sad friend are able to reflect further on their own life. Maybe they’ll discover some of the perceived judgment is actual concern.’

            Ironically probably the most judgemental thing anyone’s said so far…

        2. I think it was 100% okay for LW to include those details in this letter to CA.

          And it would be similarly not – okay for LW to include them in the conversation with Roommate.

    4. I was LW in a situation like this. In my case, the relationship developed unhealthy parent-child characteristics because my Sad Roomie Friend dumped her emotions on me all the time and asked outright for my advice, time, labor, and money. I knew Sad Roomie Friend was having trouble sleeping because she told me about it and asked for advice and even tried to get me to wake her up and tell her to go to bed at certain times. I knew about Sad Roomie Friend’s cash flow issues because she cried about it all the time and asked me for budgeting help and then ignored the budget that I helped her make and asked me for money to cover the shortfall. (And subsequently asking for repayment of the money was indeed like nailing jello to a wall.)

      LW does sound enmeshed with this fellow in a way that isn’t healthy to either of them, but it’s not clear to me from the letter that LW was the driving force in that situation, or that LW is a serial boundary violator in the way you are hinting. The bit about discussions with him being like “nailing jello to a wall” suggest she’s sometimes overly pushy, but the bit where she says “It’s clear he views himself as a part of me and my partner’s family unit and seems to think he will remain as part of our household indefinitely” suggests this fellow isn’t great at boundaries either.

      The answer for LW is the same either way: back off! But it can be hard to back off someone who alternates between begging for your help and avoiding you.

      1. Exactly! I know all about my friend’s debt situation and relationship issues and work problems (and so on and so forth) because she complains to me about them in detail, repeatedly, while also being utterly unwilling to take any suggestion (“you have debt. do you need the gucci belt?”). I’ve stopped offering advice, but it’s *hard*,

        I mean, I absolutely agree LW can’t “fix” his situation and needs to distance themself, but knowing he has cash problems doesn’t mean LW’s creeping his bank statements. They specifically says he’s a “long time close friend” – this was not some randomly assigned roommate LW says hi to when they’re in the kitchen at the same time. Chances are they came about this knowledge organically, and it’s genuinely hard not to try to help.

      2. Yes, this. The relationship is or has become unhealthy and living together is making it worse. That doesn’t mean the LW or even the roommate has intentionally made it into an unhealthy relationship or wanted it to be that way!

    5. For what it’s worth, I didn’t read it that way at all. This all seems like the kind of info you might learn, without prying, from a friend/roommate—and lets be real here, has they not provided that info we would have been all up in their grill, most likely, asking of roommate was mentally ill/financially insecure/estranged from parents/employable.

      I and Captain agree that it shouldn’t be part of the conversation, but it feels disingenuous to berate them for that “intrusive” info when we probably would have been asked for it for justification had they NOT provided it.

    6. I felt weird about the tone of this question too. It always amazes me when people say “I know this person has depression, but do they really have to [symptoms of depression] all the time?” I get that a depressed person is not the easiest to live with, and nobody has to be a friend’s therapist, but being judgmental about the details of their life is not going to help and might just make them feel guilty for… acting like a depressed person.

      Like. Inaction is a symptom. Depressed people aren’t just like “well, I like being depressed so I’m not going to change my life at all!” It’s the depression actually making it harder to change things. That doesn’t mean it’s LW’s responsibility to take care of their roommate or forgive everything he does, but keep in mind that the way he’s acting is pretty much normal for depression.

  18. The Captain’s advice gives the best roadmap to handling the situation and keeping the friendship intact. However, it is important to note that the LW and his/her partner might be perfect models of sensitivity and diplomacy in dealing with the situation and the friendship might still not survive. Friend is in a bad place and the change in living situation might speed up the inevitable. The strain of moving, plus the reality of trying to find a place when he’s unemployed, heavily in debt, and has little ready cash of his own means that he’s probably going to have to live his worst-case scenario and move in with a relative. And since this will be happening because LW and Partner are leaving this year (as opposed to some indefinite point in the distant future) means that it’ll be easier for him to blame them for leaving him in the lurch (even though they aren’t doing anything of the kind) and lash out in a possibly friendship-ending way than it will be for him to get his act together.

    I hope this doesn’t happen, but LW and Partner need to accept that it might, even if they’ve done right by their friend.

  19. In general the common suggestion of “make it about us wanting our own new place just the two of us” is great — but unless I missed something, the LW didn’t explicitly say that they are definitely looking for a new place for the two of them, vs potentially seeking out a different roommate (for financial reasons, or just because they have other friends it might be nice to live with). I hope they don’t take these suggestions as an implicit “and you better not be considering a new roommate because that would be awful”, because it wouldn’t be awful.

    1. They are certainly allowed to remain where they are and try to get the roommate to move out – whatever works best for them. I emphatically think that is NOT the path of least resistance, which seems to be something the LW is looking for, so I made that recommendation. It is very, very, very hard to get someone to move when they don’t want to move. It is very hard to get someone who puts things off and avoids things to move when they don’t want to move. As always, people can use only the parts of advice (if any!) that apply to them!

      1. I totally agree that they should move out, but if they were considering “a new place with a new friend” I wouldn’t want to tell them not to consider it just because it’s more awkward to explain than “we need a place that’s just for us”!

      2. I think they should consult with a property lawyer if they want to try to force their roommate off the lease while remaining in the apartment – it might be a lot more complicated than simply telling him to get out, and that’s something that we really can’t give them advice about here.

          1. Only slightly complicated if they then want to sign a new lease with the landlord, on the same apartment, and he also does (and finds himself willing roommates or digs up the extra money or comes up with a guarantor or something). In that case it may be basically up to the landlord who they are willing to sign with (unless local laws say otherwise, which some do). Based on the details given (employment, etc) most landlords would likely favour the couple, but it isn’t automatic.

    2. I don’t know if it would be “awful” but I do think it would be a bit of an overstep. If they are the ones unhappy with the living arrangement, they should be the ones to leave. They are all on the lease, and I’m not sure that they really have the right–legally for sure, but even morally–to say “we’re kicking you out.” It would be different if they owned the home, or if they had the apartment themselves first and friend had moved in later and wasn’t on the lease. The current apartment is friend’s home as much as it is their home, so they don’t really have a right to say he can’t live there anymore, at least in my opinion. They can choose to leave, and that might make him choose to leave as well, but his plans need to be his choice, not OP’s.

      1. Once the lease is up, the lease is up. If they don’t re-sign together, it’s a brand-new lease anyway. In fact, even if they did all sign a second lease together, it would be a new lease and essentially a new housing situation, even if it took place in the same apartment.

        It is significantly easier to make a change like this if you change locations, and is significantly more difficult for someone you don’t want to live with to glom on if it’s an actual move, which is why I think that a move is going to be better than just saying “we don’t plan to re-sign a lease with you, so at the end of this one you need to move”, but however this falls out, the roommate is going to need to find a new place to live.

      2. The point is that they might very well leave…to a place with a new/multiple new roommates. And that wouldn’t be an overstep at all.

    3. There are ways and means of fitting that script to the situation “We’re moving to be near partner’s mother/my work/somewhere that’s quieter at night/into this cool housing co-op/where the landlord will let us get a cat”. He may then try to talk his way into the moving party/verbally flagellate himself “But can’t we all move there, is it because I’m a terrible person..etc etc” and LW and partner will have to think of something that’s not engaging with it and asserting the boundary like “It’s not about that, we’d just rather make this move as a couple” and repeat until blue in the face.

      Moving into a place for two is the way to get away with the minimum explanation, as it’s an ironclad socially accepted excuse that’s difficult to argue with. If this option isn’t something they can or want to do, the principle of making it not about roommate but rather about literally anything else is still probably good

  20. Honestly, just treat this exactly like you would if roommate weren’t struggling. Tell roommate the facts as early as you have them and allow roommate to plan. The rest of it is honestly not your business, and irrelevant to the conversation at hand: you and your partner are moving. (And yes, I agree with other commenters that you should definitely all move and not try to kick roommate out.) You and your partner are going to do the work of telling roommate that you are moving, and then you will do the work of actually moving.

    Roommate is an adult who, sure, is going to be in a difficult-but-not-impossible position. But waiting any longer because you don’t know the steps to dance around roommate’s feelings is unfair because it takes time away from roommate in terms of doing the actual work of finding a new place to live.

  21. This is such kind advice. I relate strongly to the roommate, though thanks to sheer luck and luck alone I’ve never found myself in quite his situation. If I were, and my hypothetical housemates/friends needed to end our living arrangement, I’d hope they’d do it pretty much exactly as the Captain outlines here.

  22. Wow! This is very similar to the situation that I was in except I was renting out a room in my house that I own. My roommate was very untimely with his payments and never paid in full at the beginning of the month. As a friend, I was sympathetic to his “hardships” but in the end you cannot carry the weight of their problems because they aren’t your problems! The minute I decided that it wasn’t working for me anymore I just simply said, “Hey – I’m ending our lease by the end of next month. I wanted to give you a heads up so you have plenty of time to look for a new place.”

    I framed it as my problem instead of his. In my case, I said that I’m thinking about selling my house (which is true) and that I needed to start the process. In your case, I think it’s very reasonable to frame it as you and your partner are wanting to start a new chapter by living together with just the two of you!

  23. Since Roommate has some mental health issues, or at least appears to, it might be helpful to put out regular reminders that this is a thing that is happening. Not in direct, emotional conversations, but in natural, everyday conversations. Stuff like.
    “Hye, I’m going to stop at the hardware store on the way home to pick up a few moving boxes and tape. I’ll get some milk at the grocery store, too.”
    “Watch what you want on TV – I’m going to thin out the linen closet so we’re not packing our old towels and sheets.”
    “I’m going to donate these coffee cups to charity. I thought it’d be nice to buy a new set once we get to the new place.”

    Just keep putting those subliminal reminders out there that the decision to move is made, you’re actively working on it, and, um, Roommate should be doing similar planning/tasks of his own.

  24. I’ve been this roommate, to a lesser degree. Regardless of what mental health stuff may underlie his behavior, he is the one making the living situation dysfunctional, and it’s entirely possible he won’t pry himself off his ass to do anything about it until he has no other option. That doesn’t have to be your problem or your responsibility and it doesn’t have to define your life decisions. I’m tempted to be like “oh maybe he needs a med check and to find the right therapist!” because those things were super helpful for *me* but that’s also not your problem or your responsibility. He’s an adult, he’s not your child or your dependent. He’s in charge of the work of getting his life together, and he’ll either do it or he won’t.

  25. Maybe it’s just been such a standard part of almost every answer that the Captain doesn’t feel the need to explicitly say it anymore, but when you ask “how do I explain to him that we are not going to be living with him on the next lease cycle without destroying our friendship or setting in motion an emotional collapse from him” the answer is: you can’t guarantee that ANY method will accomplish this. You cannot control other people’s reactions.

    That’s hard, but it’s always worth remembering that if you are in a situation where you constantly can’t say the things you want to say or do the things that you want to do then you’re not in a relationship/friendship, you’re a hostage. That’s not a good interpersonal relationship for anyone, on either side. Part of treating people well is honoring them as fully formed adults who are responsible for their own actions. Not in a callous or rude way, but as a way to treat them as equals.

  26. “– His alternative free housing option would be with a family member. This is roommate’s last choice option and he would hate it. It is not unsafe or abusive, but it would not be what he wants”

    ^This in particular is just so many realms outside the realm of Things that Are Your Problem to Worry About and Solve. Living somewhere he doesn’t 100% want to live is a predictable outcome of refusing to look for any sort of job for years at a time. As the Captain pointed out, he is fortunate to have this safety net, as many don’t. Living with the outcome of his choices is not an unfair circumstance. Sometimes when the buffer between a person and the unpleasant outcome is removed, it actually forces them finally take action. (Speaking from experience.) Your compassion for your roommate/friend is admirable and understandable and kind! Some things in your letter suggest your compassion and concern might sometimes cross into enabling, and this is one of those things. You may find it helpful to check out a group like Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon while you’re dealing with this situation, just to shore up or maintain your own boundaries and get support.

  27. My last roommate before my fiancé and I moved in together was a very nice woman who had some pretty serious issues. She was successful, responsible, etc, but had some emotional stuff going on and was extremely bitter/angry/passive-aggressive (by turns, usually not all at once) as our lease came to an end and she needed to find a new roommate. I had told her when we moved in together that now-fiancé and I were planning to live together at the end of the lease. We were moving in a deliberate fashion with our relationship but knew that by the time both our leases at the time were up we would be very ready to be living together, so I was very up front with her about how she was going to need to plan to find a new roommate if she wanted to stay in that apartment.

    She was resistant. To say the least. It got super awkward, but here’s what I did: I offered to help her with CL ad-writing after her first two went nowhere, and I did that one, single time, after telling her “I will help you with this ad, this one time, but you must remember that ultimately you are the person who must pick your new roommate, and this is not me taking responsibility for your living situation.” I made myself available to talk to new roommate prospects and I was very positive about the many very positive things about having her as a roommate. (She was actually a fantastic roommate in most ways, right up until the end when she didn’t want me to move out and started acting like a jerk.) But I was also extremely firm about everything. I told her in December that fiancé and I were making plans to move in together at the end of our leases (July 31). I told her in March when we signed our new lease, and suggested that she start looking for a new roommate. In the end, it came down to the wire, to the point that I was starting to make frantic plans to be out of my place 3 days early (because if she had not been staying, our lease ended on July 27 rather than July 31). She got a new roommate literally the same day we would have had to be out.

    LW, I think it very likely that the same thing will happen to you with your current roommate. I think that there will be a lot of dithering and a lot of angst and some extremely counterproductive CL ads that will make you feel humiliated in sympathy for your roommate at having written such a thing, and that you are going to have to exercise extreme willpower to keep moving forward with your own plans while watching your roommate fuck everything up. The things that I recommend that you do in order to minimize this are the following:

    1. Tell your roommate ASAP that you and your partner are not renewing the lease and plan to move out at the end of the current one.
    2. Find your new living situation as soon as possible and you and partner sign the lease. Be very up front that this has occurred.
    3. HIRE MOVERS. Hire them for a specific day, maybe a few days earlier than end of lease, if you can (see #3). This will put a firm end date on your occupancy. This will also stop you from needing or relying on your roommate for help moving things.
    4. If you can, negotiate getting into the new place a few days sooner so that you can move before the end of the month.
    5. Be extremely transparent about all plans. Leave no room for your roommate to think that if he just ignores it hard enough you will stay.
    6. Be kind. This is going to be stressful for your roommate and if he has any rejection/abandonment issues this is going to hit those buttons hard. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move, it just means that you need to be nice about things. Make frequent mention of wanting to get together after move-out day. Suggest a day proactively, like a week post move-out.
    7. On the appointed day, move out.
    8. 4-5 days later, contact your former roommate and invite them to have coffee at a coffee shop (or a drink at a pub) on or near the day previously agreed-upon in order to catch up. Do not invite them to your new home yet. Plead the unpacking mess.

    Here are my reasons for the above: for yourself, you need to know that you have given your roommate every opportunity not to fuck this up, and this includes advance warning and transparency about the timing of things that will affect him (like what day the movers are coming etc). You also need to have very hard deadlines in place so that your roommate cannot argue with them. “Sorry, already booked the movers and paid a deposit!” “Sorry, we signed our new lease last week!” “Sorry, we are still moving on Tuesday!” And finally, if you are comfortable remaining friends with him after the lease ends, you need to be positive about making plans to catch up after you move. If you are not, of course, then don’t make plans or hint that you want to. But don’t invite him to your new space until he has already moved into his, or he might never go home.

    Sorry about the giant wall of text!

  28. LW, a few months ago my partner and I “broke up with a roommate” under very similar circumstances, and so far it has gone quite well! Two things that helped the most:

    -describing our plans as a new thing we were excited about, not a result of problems living with him (a home for just the two of us, our new place has so much light, pets are allowed and now we have a puppy!, etc.) – he was actually able to get on board with being happy for us about some of the details, even though he was disappointed overall that we were leaving
    -continuing to make plans and spend quality time with him both before and after moving out – we had to take the lead on this more than we used to because he pretty obviously started to withdraw from us a bit, like, he wasn’t going to impose on us, but it didn’t take long for him to get the message that friendship was still on

    I’ve actually been really surprised by how easy it was. He even helped us move (and kept to a minimum the complaints about how moving our stuff irritated his dust allergy). We had been worried, because like your roommate, he had thought that us all moving in together meant we were a family now, and he has every single obstacle to a happy life that you listed for your roommate except that he does have a girlfriend but also he has an alcohol abuse problem. So, it turns out it is possible for someone who’s not in a good place and for whom things don’t seem to be getting better soon to take a change like this in stride. I hope it goes just as smoothly for everyone involved in your situation!

  29. Hey, I love the advice of asking for Roommate’s input/expertise. When you’re in a major depressive episode, people just… avoid you. Or look at you pityingly. Or get angry with you when you can’t/don’t do what they think you should be doing.

    Simply going, “but you’re still good at X. You’re good at stuff I’m not good at. We are equals in this world” can be really empowering.

  30. “It’s clear he views himself as a part of me and my partner’s family unit and seems to think he will remain as part of our household indefinitely.”

    That’s not a roommate you’ve got there… thats an old man of the sea.

    1. I admit that all my alarm bells went off at the indication that they felt like part of the family unit after *less than a year* of cohabitation.

  31. However I doubt he will get it together enough to make a plan to move (see above stagnation), and there is a high likelihood landlord would not allow him to remain in the apartment without us (see lack of income), so us moving “kicks him out” by default
    I think many wise comments are pointing out that you seem over-invested in your place in your friend’s future (hopefully) success, but I’d like to point out your thinking here. Default is when all decision-making/choices have been completed and so your action can only have one conclusion. That’s not remotely true here. You don’t know anything about either the landlord’s decisions or your friends decisions because they don’t have the relevant information with which to make them yet (likelihoods, which you may be entirely correct on, are not certainties). Therefore the default doesn’t exist. For all you know, your landlord would prefer to have someone in the apartment rather than no one and will let your friend stay month-to-month even if he gets less money. For all you know, your moving out will be the kick your friend will decide to start making move on. Or not for either of those. But either way, the outcome is not dependent upon your decision alone, and you framing it like this suggesting that you think you have more control over your friend’s circumstances/mindset than you have. Which is what you said started the bad call to move in with him in the first place right? For YOUR sake, re-frame your relationship into something other than that. Don’t center your agency in someone’s else conflicts (your friend’s depression or lack of motivation etc.). Center your agency in your own (you are not happy with the way the roommate situation is going, so you need to make changes).

    1. I understand your point about not taking on agency for roommate’s actions, but practically speaking, if LW and partner move out and roommate doesn’t have a job and someone else to take the second bedroom, he will have to find new housing. I have never met a landlord who would willingly let the jobless relict of a multiple-person lease stay on month-to-month paying half-rent in sole occupancy of a unit capable of holding 2-3 working adults. I will grant that I have spent the last ten years in absolutely brutal rental markets, but even when I lived in a place with a less cutthroat market, this would never have happened.

      1. But ultimately, whether that is or isn’t an option offered to the flatmate by the landlord is none of our businesses!

        Plus, if places are likely to stay empty for a while they can be “protected by occupation” where a property guardian stays for low or no rent in return for it not being squatted or vandalised. More common with mansions or business premises but still possible.

        Flatmate might be allowed to stay on a week to week caretaking lease, who knows? But that is literally the business of none of us.

      2. I don’t think that’s actually a given! From what we know, at least, it seems possible for him to stay if he takes a couple of key steps. He could find new roommates and sign a new lease with them for the current apartment. He could get a job (it sounds like LW is planning to move when this lease ends, not right away, so there’s time for this–and even a crappy retail job would give him some income, which could help his application).

        And heck, it’s possible (really unlikely, I agree, but possible) that the landlord might prefer him to no tenant. LW just doesn’t know, which is what I think meadowphoenix is getting at. LW should make decisions based on what they actually know and what they personally have control over, not based on what they assume others might choose to do.

      3. This actually did happen with a previous living situation of mine. I moved out, and roommate who had some casual work but not much, was allowed to stay by the landlord at a lower rate for a few months.

  32. My husband does this thing that drives me nuts. EX: our son goes to bed telling us he’s not feeling well. My husband immediately starts talking about what will happen in the morning when our son is sick and one of us needs to call out to take care of him. He starts listing all the things that could go wrong – taking time off and the issues that might cause with our job, the cost of the doctor visit, scheduling said doctor visit, arranging pick up and drop off with our one car and the change to the schedule. He works himself up into a dither worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, and that we don’t know will happen. The next morning our son wakes up and is fine and the worry was for nothing.

    I feel like that’s what the LW is doing here. She’s automatically jumping to conclusions about how this is going to go without actually waiting to see what happens. Having a plan is good (LW and her partner will move out on X date and communicating that to roommate) but automatically assuming he’s going to crash and burn without her there and how will she protect him from that? That’s all speculation. Yes, it’s likely that he won’t take the news well. It’s also just as likely that he will be thrilled that the LW is moving out.

      1. I’m a day late on this but had to say, I’ve never heard that whole phrase! Thank you so much!

        I always hear it as just, “Don’t borrow trouble,” and I’ve always understood the meaning to be “don’t get in a dither about things that might not happen,” but now it makes *so much sense*!

        The past, of course, is a lending library where everything is always overdue…

      2. A former roommate of mine used to say, “Worrying is praying for something bad to happen.”

        1. The funny thing is, I’ve sometimes been able to quiet worry by leaning into it and basically making a plan for the wildly unlikely worst-case, like, “Okay, if the world is taken over by giant, sentient cats, I could probably earn their favor by ignoring them completely and coincidentally owning a fish farm. I can’t do anything about the cats, but I could start saving for a fish farm, and practice my nonchalance by joining an improv troupe.”

          I think that’s turning worry into something else, though-it makes me feel better because instead of getting stuck in the loop of the potential problem, I’ve processed the situation and decided I can get through it (even if realistically I’d get mauled to death on day one.)

          So it can be helpful to ride those trains of thought out to the end, but I think that only works if you’re not likely to notice all the other potential worries along the way and get stuck in those loops. (What kind of cats? Pack animals or solitary hunters? Are we talking about domesticated cats that have left earth, grown to enormous proportions, and returned with a grudge? Or alien cats who have no reason to hate us yet and just want to bat us around for a while?)

          This is a solution of limited utility, clearly.

          1. I did something similar back when I used to go to Ala-Non meetings. I turned the Serenity Prayer into a formula for coping with things that were causing me anxiety. (Identify what I can & can’t change, identify concrete steps I can take on things I can change, identify concrete things I can do make dealing with what I can’t change easier, make a plan for which steps I am actually going to take.)

  33. 1. Ditch the sense of responsibility for your roommate. Make your decisions based on what makes the most sense for you.
    a) You’re not responsible for him or his happiness in life. He is, and he has options here if he wants to ensure a certain type of living arrangement. He could get a job and find a new roommate, and I bet he’d be able to renew this lease. He could look for a lease somewhere cheaper. He could move in with his relative. He gets to choose which of those options he goes with, and the result of that choice is on him, not you.
    b) You’re not exactly throwing him to the wolves here! I mean, even if he truly had nowhere else to go, you still wouldn’t be permanently responsible for him…but the fact that he has safe, secure options makes this easier in many ways. Even if he ends up somewhere he doesn’t love, that’s OK, most people end up in a living arrangement that they don’t love at some point or another. He’ll be fine.

    2. Frame your decision to seek new housing arrangements in a positive way, based on what you hope to gain (a more you-guys-as-a-couple space? closer to work? pet-friendly? washer/dryer in unit?) rather than what you hope to lose (him as a roommate). Even if the positives are secondary reasons, this will help frame the discussion as “this is a change we’re making for ourselves” rather than “you’re a bad roommate” or “we’re ditching you”. Personally, I think emphasizing the “building our lives as a couple!” approach is a good one, because there’s no way he can try to get around that with “Oh cool, I’ll move with you”, but it’s not the only option.

    3. Skip the ‘As your friends we’re concerned’ conversation. There’s just no good way to pair that with ‘By the way, we’re moving out, you need to find new housing’. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case–both can certainly be true and valid!–but even if you have the two conversations a couple days or weeks apart, it’s going to be on his mind, and I think it’s likely to prevent him from hearing your concerns and responding constructively. Worst case scenario, it might cause additional strain on your relationship.
    If you want to be sure someone is having this convo, see if a mutual friend or a member of his family can check in with him (preferably without them framing it as “Failure To Launch’s Roommate told me to check in on you because you’re doing badly!”). Otherwise, I think you should hold off for a good long while on both sides of your move.

    1. Also, OP, you’re not ‘kicking him out’. You’re considering moving when your lease ends. That’s not kicking him out; it’s a natural ending to a housing arrangement. Leases have an end date built into them. And renewing them isn’t an automatic guarantee–everyone involved, all the roommates and the landlord, has to opt into renewing in order for it to happen. (Kicking someone out, in comparison, is an opt-out deal; the living arrangement hasn’t reached its end date, but someone decides it’s untenable and takes steps to end it prematurely.)

      I know you’re feeling like it’s harsh because he may struggle to find a new housing arrangement that he likes. But you’re not responsible for his housing going forward. He has options: he can find new roommates and/or get a job so he can continue to live independently, or he can live with his relative. It’s his job to figure out which of those is best for him right now. All you can reasonably do, and all that is appropriate for you to take responsibility for, is set the boundaries around your involvement. In this case, that means telling him “Hey, we’re not planning on renewing this lease, you should start figuring out what’s next for you” in a timely fashion. From there, it’s up to him.

  34. You can’t make it ok in his life. You live your own and choose to be supportive or cut off contact or whatever is appropriate but it’s not good to think you need to solve his issues or ‘get him to see’ anything. That’s his job. I’m sorry. It sounds like you’re all hurting a but and you love him. The hardest thing to watch is the train wreck. You can be his friend and love him, whether that’s from a near or far distance. Whatever is appropriate. But you can’t make his choices. Im sorry. I know it’s really hard. We want to save people and it’s kind and noble and good. Show concern but be a separate person and don’t take on his choices as your issue to fix.

  35. The Captain’s advice is good, and I also agree with the other commenters about leaving rather than kicking him out—since you and your partner are the ones unhappy with this arrangement, it’s only fair that you all would be the ones to leave. It’s the easiest logistically as well, because it’s really hard to motivate someone to do something they don’t want to do, especially if it’s a huge pain in the ass and involves uprooting their life. He may even dig his heels in and find a hundred excuses as to why he needs to postpone moving indefinitely. Present it as a decision already made (start finding a new place now if you haven’t already) of which you are informing him, rather than giving him space for a negotiation. Framing it as moving forward with your and your partner’s relationship is the kindest, and allows him to best preserve his own dignity. Remember that too many reasons invite argument, and you’re not being assholes for wanting to leave this living situation.

    However—I know it’s hard and you care about him, but it’s important to remember that he is an adult with agency no matter what your opinions are about his lifestyle. I don’t know if a thorough auditing of his personal life was a means of avoiding possible endless BUT WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF scenarios, theories, and diagnoses in the comments section (sorry, y’all), but I agree that it did come across as paternalistic and judgy. His life choices may appear counterproductive or not ideal to fulfilling his potential as a person, but ultimately those are his choices to make for his own reasons of which you are not required to approve. Hovering over him and monitoring his life is really invasive and kind of insulting, so it would probably be best to avoid any “it’s for your own good” conversation that smacks of over-helping or unsolicited advice entirely unless he’s coming to you for your opinions.

    He is paying his share, which is really the only thing that concerns you regarding his finances. How he gets the money or how he manages it is not anyone else’s business but his own (as long as it doesn’t affect you legally or leave you holding the bag financially). You don’t have to agree with it. Speculating about it is just nosy. He’s also managing his own health, and seems to be doing so successfully, on his own.

    It sounds like there’s a bit of “shoulding” going on that doesn’t need to happen. Please don’t tell him that you’ve been thoroughly discussing “what he should be doing with his life” behind his back and that you’re all Very Concerned, because it’s only going to backfire and embarrass him and make him feel judged. You’re just going to have to allow him, as a fellow adult, to fuck up his own life on his own terms. (You do not have to finance or enable it, however.)

    You are under no obligation to put up with his living habits if you find them annoying, and it sounds like he’s not being a very good roommate. You’re not required to give him a pass on that. Someone doesn’t have to objectively be an asshole for it to not work out. Roommate situations are typically understood to be temporary, if he’s a reasonable person, the news won’t crush his soul.

  36. This is so timely, and the message of “you’re probably going to have to be the one who moves out” is a hard truth for me. I’m dealing with a similar but also different situation living with 3 other people, my girlfriend, my best friend, and the fourth person, who is my girlfriend’s friend. Or, was my girlfriend’s friend, who I’ll call Cat. I don’t think that Cat has realized this (self awareness or awareness of other people’s feelings is really not her forte), but over the years the three of us have grown increasingly further from her. It’s a combination of life attitudes/personality/schedules clashing, but also a big BIG chunk of it is about cleanliness and hygiene, which we have…. let’s just say, very different standards on. We’re all fed up and don’t want to live with her anymore.

    Moving out as a couple with my girlfriend because that’s the way our relationship is developing is one thing, but honestly the three of us just want to live together as friends without her. The real ideal, to be honest, would be if she moved out, because it seems ridiculous to move out of our home because one person can’t be bothered to clean, shower, or not leave garbage strewn around on the regular, but that’s where we’re at now. But I don’t even know what kind of scripts I’d use that aren’t, “All of us are leaving because we don’t want to live with you anymore,” or “Please leave, because we don’t want to live with you anymore,” when she still thinks that we’re the closest and best of friends. That’s also not even getting into the inevitable talk about what that entails for her future, because she has no savings and not a lot of other friends in the area who would be willing to put her up. When that time inevitably comes, I don’t know if there will be any softening the blow, but any suggestions, recommendations from the wise commentators here?

    1. Moving sucks, but I think a “When the lease winds down the three of us are going to get a place together, we don’t think this is working out” is an ok message to deliver. When you never clean and you have to have hundreds of awkward house meetings and roommate talks about it, it should not be a surprise that people might not want to keep living with you!

      1. Oh, that’s a great way to phrase it– I think I’m letting my own AAARGH!! at the situation leak into any scripts that I can think up. You’d think it would be obvious when it keeps coming up, but…. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        That said, we just renewed our lease, so that’ll be another year of dealing with this situation… but also plenty of time to apartment hunt and get our ducks in a row too, so! Silver linings.

    2. If she still thinks you are all the closest and best of friends, there is a breakdown in communication. The Captain mentions ‘hundreds of awkward house meetings’, but I don’t see in your note here that you’ve been assertive with Cat about household expectations.

      1. It’s some of both. We’ve mostly been tackling it in the moment– telling her not to leave her trash around, to put away her stuff from where she’s scattered it all over the living space, occasionally when…. the smell gets real bad, we recommend that she take a shower, and we have had a couple one on one talks about making sure that we keep the household clean because whenever we start talking about it in a group, she clams up and gets extremely defensive. We try to do group cleanings (which she doesn’t do.)
        There’s a lot of “Oh, right, I was just about to do this thing you’re talking about, but [insert excuse]” and then she doesn’t do it for another week. She comes up with a lot of reasons for why she can’t do this, or hasn’t done that, and a lot of it is based on stuff that is personal stuff that is hard to argue with, even when we know that’s patently untrue. (“Can’t clean up because it sets off medical condition.” “Can’t do that other thing because it stresses out my dog.” “Oh no, despite the stains and the smell, that massive pile of laundry on the floor is all clean.”)

        But it’s been a few years, and it’s gotten to the point where we just spend a lot of time seething, because the emotional labor of reminding her to clean and pick up after herself and clean herself is like managing a particularly clueless eight year old, and none of us want to be the personal manager of a thirty year old who apparently can’t do her own laundry or wash her own body on the regular.*

        *AFAIK, no mental issues play into this. She genuinely just doesn’t smell it and doesn’t think that it’s a problem.

    3. I think your best option is to tell her that this isn’t working out due to different approaches to managing a household. Then let her know that the three of you are planning on getting a place together, and wish her luck finding a new arrangement. She’ll likely be upset, because it always hurts to be told that people don’t want you in their group anymore, even when it’s the right call. You can’t do much about that. But this is a pretty kind way to deliver the message.

      Looking at your reply to another comment, though, it looks like you’re still going to be living in the current arrangement for another year. If I’m reading that right, then you should probably hold off on the “we’re all moving without you” conversation until it’s actually time to start considering new housing options; in most areas, that means ~2-3 months before your lease ends, at the earliest.

      In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, I think it’s time to set the record really, really clearly on this. Talk to this roommate about the issues you’re having. Tell her straightforwardly that cleanliness is a problem, and that it’s impacting her relationships with the rest of you. Tell her concretely what needs to change. If she really is clueless and hasn’t realized that this is a big deal to you, that might lead to significant improvement! If she’s unable or unwilling to change, then at least you know it won’t be a surprise when you sit down in a couple months to have your conversation about moving.

      1. + 1 If this is going to drive you up the wall for another year, and you know that it will, you might as well have that conversation now and it might get a little bit better (which isn’t to say you can’t then move). And if it doesn’t get better, which is most likely, then when she tries to protest you have the response to “But if only you’d told me I’d have changed!!!” because you did and she didn’t.

  37. Great advice. I know a group of friends/ex colleagues where something similar happened; they all worked together, then one guy had mental health issues, lost his job and.. It just wasn’t sustainable.

    It isn’t really my story to give details other than to say that everyone else moved out (individually but within a reasonably tight time period) leaving this person, sadly, to have to address his situation. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, and the housemates were sympathetic people, but ultimately you have to look out for yourself. Especially if you’re jointly and severally liable for the rent, rather than each having an agreement for your own room. And if OP’s lease was a rolling contract rather than explicitly ending and needing renewal, I’d add a caveat to take advice about liability.

    Nobody ever wants to be unpleasant or deliver unpopular news but you can’t leave things as they are. OP, the Captain gives great advice, considered but compassionate all round, and I think this will be the best way forward.

    1. I had to give way more notice to an unbearable roommate once that I wouldn’t re-sign a lease with him, once, and while it was definitely awkward for everyone involved, no one died. The rental market here is pretty brutal, and landlords like to know earlier than is reasonable if you are going to re-sign, so I had to inform the roommate in December, after stalling for a month, that I wouldn’t be staying. Our lease didn’t end for 8 months.

  38. Great advice. I know a group of friends/ex colleagues where something similar happened; they all worked together, then one guy had mental health issues, lost his job and.. It just wasn’t sustainable.

    It isn’t really my story to give details other than to say that everyone else moved out (individually but within a reasonably tight time period) leaving this person, sadly, to have to address his situation. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, and the housemates were sympathetic people, but ultimately you have to look out for yourself. Especially if you’re jointly and severally liable for the rent, rather than each having an agreement for your own room. And if OP’s lease was a rolling contract rather than explicitly ending and needing renewal, I’d add a caveat to take advice about liability.

    Nobody ever wants to be unpleasant or deliver unpopular news but you can’t leave things as they are. OP, the Captain gives great advice, considered but compassionate all round, and I think this will be the best way forward.

  39. There are ways to help your roommate/friend, that don’t involve sacrificing your wants and needs for a living space (or anything else). When I’m having a relapse of depression, some of the things I wish my friends and family would do are: bring me food, come and help me clean (or clean for me, if I’m in a really bad way), help me with my laundry, walk my dog, etc. Depression is an illness like any other, and when it’s bad I need help with some of the basic parts of life. What people can’t help me with is life decisions, like where/when to work, where to live, whether to go to school, etc. When I was in a bad way, no amount of cajoling from my friends or family could make me do something I didn’t want to do, no matter how good for me it was. All it would do is make me retreat further into myself. Mentally ill people are pretty inherently self destructive, and you can’t force us to get help if we won’t help ourselves. It sucks, but that’s the disease.

    Keep inviting your friend to do things, if you want to, after you move out. Even if he always says no. Depression can be super isolating. It really helps me to know that people still like me, that they want to do things with me, even if I’m not up for doing anything. If finances are an issue, pick free/low cost things, and just keep extending invitations.

  40. The how to break the news that you are moving advice above is really solid, so I’d like to touch on the “As a friend I’m concerned about you for x reasons” conversation. I think that this conversation can only be initiated a limited number of times before a relationship is damaged. I also think that situations where “all our mutual friends are extremely concerned about him”, likely involve a lot of discussions about his poor choices. These discussions cement the group’s judgment that he is a slow moving disaster and is not a person to be trusted with his own life… Very toxic. To preserve the friendship, I would stop discussing your friend’s choices. When mutual friends want to discuss, start repeating a script like “Friend is capable”, “friend is responsible for their choices”, “friend will figure it out”.

    Story time: FrankSpouse had a highschool friend, R, who had not progressed up the adulting ladder as fast as we had. R was interested in moving to our city and attending a 2year college program to improve job prospects. We offered R a room in our home for a heavily discounted rent for 2years. Our mutual friends were very excited about the “good example” we were going to be and wanted us to monitor and push R for good grades and then to get “R’s life back on track”. Each time I was pulled into these types of conversations I gave a confused look and said “R is a capable adult”. FrankSpouse and I focused on having fun hanging out for 2years with R while we shared space. When R dropped out of the program, FrankSpouse had Feelings about this. I pointed out that we were doing a good thing for a friend regardless of outcome. R spent some time figuring things out (most of this was after R moved out) and is currently in a good place. The best thing is that we are all still great friends.

    Story number two: I have a close family member, D, who is making unconventional life choices. I believe and signal to D and others that I think that D is capable and is leading a valuable life. Other family members regularly try to get me to relay their judgment about D and D’s choices to D. They point out that D listens to me and I can influence D. I used to listen to their judgment, lately I’ve been enjoying stopping that conversation with a “D is responsible for D”. This has positioned me as a safe person for D. When D needs help, D asks me (knowing that there will not be an avalanche of I told you so).

    Best of luck house hunting.

  41. Hey, I just want to say that I totally agree with the Captain’s advice to do what you need to do and not try to take responsibility for your friend’s life or emotions. However… I’ve also been in your friend’s shoes, or some pretty similar looking ones anyway. The thing was, I was dealing with near-constant panic attacks and a lot of intense suicidal thoughts, and my “failure to launch” was the direct result of these. My anxiety was worst at night, so I’d watch Netflix till four am just to try and keep the panic at bay, falling asleep only when I could no longer keep my eyes open, usually from four till around noon. I struggled to find a job that could work with my crazy schedule, and when I finally found one, I got fired within a month because I couldn’t concentrate due to anxiety. I too had to ask family for financial help in addition to my social support, since social support money alone wasn’t enough to cover both groceries and meds. I still managed to participate in theatre rehearsals, which I know looked like “fun stuff” to some people, but the fact was that theatre was a potent form of therapy for me and one of the only things keeping me sane/alive. About the only thing I did more responsibly than your friend was avoid getting into credit card debt, but if it hadn’t been for generous family and my country’s welfare system, I might have done that too.

    All of which is to say, even as you go about separating households from your friend, try not to judge him too harshly! His brain may be a far scarier place than he is willing to let on, and what looks to you like irresponsible behaviour may be his best attempt to deal with it.

  42. LW kinda sounds like they’re building up an unnecessary case against Sad Roommate as an entire person instead of facing a roommate situation they’re afraid of dealing with. Letting your ego take control to the point that you’re judging your friend for things like being single while you’re conspicuously partnered up, is kinda toxic to yourself and the friendship. Getting together with all his and LW’s mutual friends to talk about how concerned they all are about him is almost certainly not a group exercise in humility and respect. If I were the friend this would NOT make me feel ok.

    When people who have dealt with depression try to encourage another person who is suffering from depression, they often remind each other “I know you see yourself and the future as hopeless shit because you’re wearing depression goggles, so I’ll remind you of how great I think you are and how good the future can be.”

    It doesn’t seem the LW is in a position to remind Sad Friend of those things when they see Sad Friend’s future as a ticking time bomb and are busy building an imaginary case for What’s Wrong With Sad Friend. LW might instead consider that Sad Friend could very well make it through this troubled time as a much stronger person, and might be the example LW turns to one day when LW is struggling. It sounds like LW’s concerns contain a core of good caring intentions so it’s worth re-approaching the friendship with a more open POV. But if LW is really looking for a way out of being friends with Sad Friend as well as a way out of being roommates (as people sometimes do when a friend struggles with depression), then it would be kindest of LW to be honest with themselves and move on instead of trying to absolve themselves of friendship by convincing themselves that Sad Friend is a hopeless problem person until Sad Friend notices and stops hanging around them.

  43. First, someone looking for money/support will review their options from most convenient to least convenient. When you’re asked by someone in a hard position, it may feel like you’re the difference between their chance to succeed and their chance to fail. But you’re really just the next stop on the list…there was an easier one before you and there will be a harder one after you.

    Second, “What appears to be a crisis is often the end of the illusion that things were working.” It’s rare that someone is actually in a situation where they were OK before and they’ll be OK after, if they can just resolve one immediate issue.

  44. Hey LW, lots of other commenters have focused on the practical housemate situation so I am going to focus on the relationship dynamics.

    I apologise if I’m off base or projecting, but you remind me a lot of me from the past, so I thought I would put these question to you. Because I wish that someone had asked me these questions in my early-to-mid twenties, and asked me to really, really think about them, not just for a few minutes but for a few weeks.

    Who was it who made you believe it’s your sacred duty to save other people from hardship by taking it off their shoulders and onto your own? Who made you believe that this is your path to being a good person and having value? Who made you believe that straying from this path would make you a selfish, worthless, hateful person? And what reasons did they have for getting you to believe it? How did it benefit them? How did it affect you?

    In my case, I was taught that I was so much smarter/stronger/luckier than everyone else I cared about, that the least I could do was spread my good fortune around by making their lives as easy as possible. Otherwise I was just selfishly hoarding all my good luck for myself and I didn’t deserve to have anyone love me. I’ve also seen it play out in a way where the designated carer is taught to feel incredible weak/stupid/worthless and that the only way they can redeem themselves is in service to others.

    It’s an awful way to live, and the worst of it is, you don’t even *realise* how awful it is until you get out the other side and learn to stop living that way. Because everything up to that point just feels like “how life is” and why would you expect it to be different? But at the same time, it’s not like you don’t get anything out of it. You’re the competent one. You’re the fixer. You can shoulder responsibility and get stuff done. You feel powerful even at the same time as you feel like a slave. You feel impossibly mighty and pathetically weak simultaneously, because you can fix anything, anything! – except your own inability to say no to others and prioritise yourself.

    When I still felt compelled to solve other people’s problems and/or protect them from the consequences of their own actions, this had two major effects on my friendships and relationships:

    1) The people who had their lives together and a good sense of boundaries did not connect with me for friendship/romance, nor I with them. I had been trained to believe an intrinsic part of the good side of a relationship was the rush I got from feeling competent by solving other people’s problems or protecting them. People who didn’t want my interference and/or judgement avoided me, and people who didn’t want my help made me feel like I had nothing to offer and was worthless, so I avoided them in turn.

    2) The people who did not have their lives together glommed onto me. Some quickly discovered how easy it was to get me to feel responsible for their well-being; how anxious I would get if they didn’t eat or drank too much alcohol or otherwise couldn’t seem to find ways to be happy. People who wanted to abdicate responsibility for their lives and decisions were all very happy to let me take up that burden for them. I thought I was teaching them how to manage things better, but ultimately they did not want to learn how to manage things better. The whole point of being friends with me was that I would do those things for them, so they wouldn’t have to. That didn’t stop them resenting me for making them feel inadequate though. Most of those friendships/relationships ended in an explosion of hurt feelings sooner or later, with each of us blaming the other. Some of them really had consciously been in it to take advantage of me; many more had just been in a bad place and had appreciated the help at first but then got angry when my Helping became Halping became Controlling. I was just so sure that I knew best about what they should be doing. It was a recipe for disaster and that was what I got.

    You don’t have to do this, LW. You don’t have to take up other people’s burdens. Even if your housemate’s failure to plan would make him homeless, it wouldn’t be your responsibility to save him from that, because he’s not a child and you’re not his parent. His responsibilities are his own, and the very worst consequence of him failing to manage them is that he will have to move back in with his parents for a while. Sure, he won’t like it. But you seem to feel like it’s *your* job to make sure that he never has to experience anything he doesn’t like, and it’s absolutely not. The job of setting up your housemate’s life so it contains maximum happiness and minimum unhappiness belongs only to your housemate. The more you try to do that job for him, you will probably make him more helpless, and you will probably make yourself more stressed, and you will almost certainly not actually make him any happier.

    Focus on yourself, LW. It’s okay to do that, and it gets easier with practice. I promise.

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