I spent most of my 20s living by myself. Not because I had horrible roommate experiences that put me off of cohabitating forever — in fact, I had some awesome roommates — but because, well, sharing your space with someone else can be complicated. Really complicated. If your roommate is a close friend, then you have the strange tension of being friends and being in what is essentially a business relationship. When the normal irritations that go along with living together emerge, you can find them bleeding into and messing with your friendship. Living with someone you’re not friends with is equally complicated — because you’re sharing your personal space (your very personal space) with someone you don’t know very well.
The key to having a good roommate situation is a lot of communication about what is and isn’t OK in your shared space. Every set of roomies will have their own boundaries and rules that work for them, so when you get a new roommate, take the time to talk about how you want to live together. Will you share groceries? How do you divide up utilities? What’s the policy for bringing people home with you (for sexytimes and otherwise)? How is cleaning going to work? Of course, no amount of talk can address everything, and people break rules just as easily as they make them, but talking it out first can at least help to eliminate some unnecessary angst.
That said, there are just some things that are not and never will be OK in a roommate. Yes, having roommates is all about compromise, but there are some offenses that you do not have to tolerate. Period, the end. Here are a few situations in which you are justified in drawing a line:
1. Borrowing your stuff without your consent.
As roommates, of course you share a lot: furniture, condiments, breathing space, and so on. But your roommate does not have the right to borrow your clothes, your computer, or anything else without asking you first.
2. Destruction of property.
If your roommate breaks something you own — even something you’ve agreed to share, like a couch — he or she has to offer to replace or pay for it. Full stop. If your roommate borrows something without asking and then breaks it, then you can be sure that the fiery rage of Hell will rain down upon them.
3. Bad sex etiquette. (“Sexiquette”?)
Having roommates means that you have to be willing to put up with a bit of sex-related awkwardness — hearing things you wish you hadn’t heard, meeting your roomie’s sex partners when you go to have breakfast — but just as you agree to turn a blind eye (and deaf ear) to these moments, your roommate has to agree to exercise some basic, common-sense courtesy. That means: No egregiously loud, beating-on-the-walls sex while you’re at home. No sex in communal areas, even if you’re not home (because you might walk in on it, and nobody wants that). No hogging the shared bathroom so that they can have shower sex (which is honestly the worst anyway). No having sex on furniture (or countertops) that you share. Absolutely no having sex on your bed.
4. Not paying rent and/or other utilities.
Money can be especially tricky when your roommates are also your close friends, but you should never put up with a roommate not holding up his or her financial end of the bargain. If your roomie is running short on cash and needs help, it’s up to you to decide whether to spot him or her. But you shouldn’t let a one-time loan turn into a chronic drain on your finances. If your roommate can’t afford to live with you, then it’s up to him or her to try to find a living situation that works. It is not your responsibility to pay for someone else.
5. Having parties without asking you first.
It’s not fair to declare your apartment a permanent no-fun zone, but your roommate owes you the courtesy of consulting you before throwing a party. That way, you have the option of clearing out if you don’t want to be there, or saying something like, “Actually, that’s the night before I take my crazy final exam, and I need to get some sleep. How about next weekend?”
I’m not talking about general messiness. Part of what you sign up for when you have a roommate is living with someone who might not prioritize dusting as much as you do. I’m talking about full-on, health-hazard grossness. If your roommate leaves food around for so long that it grows mold, or has a dog that makes messes and doesn’t clean them up, then you need to cut that roomie loose.
7. Taking food and/or booze without asking.
Some roommates share food, which is great, but if that’s not the deal that you’ve worked out with yours, then your roommate should not be eating your groceries. And he or she should definitely not have opened that bottle of wine you’ve been waiting all week to dive into. BIG MISTAKE. HUGE.
8. Bringing in houseguests without asking you.
You have a right to know who is in your space at any given moment. Your roommate should always ask before having another person (or people) stay overnight, particularly if that person is going to stay for more than one day. Your apartment is not an Airbnb venue. (And there's another one to the list: It is NOT OK for your roommate to advertise your home on Airbnb without your consent.)
9. Having a romantic partner move in without asking you.
It is not cool for a roommate to have his or her boyfriend or girlfriend move into his or her bedroom without talking to you first. Your roomie needs to hash out with you how having another roommate is going to affect your current dynamic and how that person is going to pay for his or her use of the space (because they might be sharing a bedroom, but I assume they will also be hanging out in common areas).
Images: Vertigo Entertainment & Screen Gems; Giphy (9)