Does “We need to talk” make you nervous and tense when your partner, friend or home-mate confronts you about a necessary conversation?
Communication with anyone, but especially with your home-mate, shouldn’t make you nervous. In fact, you should welcome it because apart from discussing an annoyance, it also opens the door to having an honest conversation about expectations on both sides. To make a shared housing situation work you need to know your personal needs and communicate them with your home-mate.
Time for that talk
Years ago, my flat-mate went on a three-month vacation in Europe. Not wanting to get stuck with the entire rent, we agreed to sublet her bedroom to another friend. Early on, the arrangement turned out great, but then I started to notice a few things that didn’t make me too happy like piles of wet towels on the bathroom floor or a stack of dishes in the sink. Not wanting to antagonize her I kept my mouth shut and put up with it.
Then one weekend, I went away and when I returned, I found a woman, whom I didn’t know, cooking up a storm in my tiny kitchen. I looked at her, she looked at me, smiled, and said, “Who are you?”
“Uh, I live here,” I replied and added, “Who are you?”
It turned out my friend recently met the woman who was traveling cross-country and needed a place to sleep. That was when I had to speak up and tell her this wasn’t acceptable.
Be up front from the start
If you’re considering home-sharing, whether it’s with a friend or someone you recently met and vetted, set ground rules from the very start. They don’t need to be so rigid that it makes your new housemate regret moving in with you, but they can’t be so loosey-goosey or let’s play it by ear type of rules. And remember it’s a two way street. Your home-mate is paying to live under the same communal roof and has her own set of expectations and pet peeves.
It’s best that before you agree to live together and a check is handed over that you have that talk about how you will live together, ranging from household chores, to upkeep and repairs, to cleaning out the cat’s litter box every other day to not using the washing machine as a hamper for dirty clothes (yes, I’ve known men over the age of 40 who do this).
Don’t be shy broaching certain topics like a lover sleeping over too often and leaving his mess, or having a friend who needs a place to stay because they’re in the middle of a crisis, or an adult child who needs to temporarily live under your roof. These are important discussions to have so that you’re both on the same page.
It’s common courtesy
Finally, if some of the house rules seem ridiculous don’t break them, hoping she won’t notice. Most likely she will notice and might feel awkward or resentful to approach you. Be courteous, sit down with your home-mate and tell her if something seems nit-picky. Share with her your concerns so that you both can reach a compromise, and live happily ever after.