How to break up with your roommate (but still stay friends)
After a slew of terrible Craigslist roommates (seriously, who asks if they can use your toe nail clippers after talking about their contagious toe fungus in depth?!), you decided to move in with someone you deemed a foolproof roomie: your friend! After all, you both love the same things, wear the same size shoe, and both agree that staying in and wearing face masks while watching reruns of King of the Hill is perfectly acceptable for a Friday night. What could possibly go wrong?
Lots of things, it turns out. Cohabiting with a friend is oddly similar to living with a significant other, minus the whole sharing the bed bit. Anyone who’s lived with a partner knows that it’s not all puppies and rainbows, and unfortunately, the same goes for living with a friend. Little things like dishes left in the sink or perma-live-in-boyfriends/girlfriends can lead towards resentment in even the strongest of friendships-turned-roommates.
So what happens when you need to move on from your roommate? How the hell do you politely tell someone, “Hey, you are one of my favorite people in the world, but living with you makes me want to run away to Alaska”? It’s not easy, but it’s totally doable. Here’s how to navigate a sticky situation.
Find a quiet, private time to talk to your roommate
As much as you might want to rip into your friend when you see that her boyfriend has left the toilet seat up (again), an angry time is not the appropriate time to approach the subject of moving out. Casually mention to your friend that you would like to find a time to talk, and make sure it will just be the two of you when it does happen.
Explain to her a thousand (or more) times that you love her as a friend
Remember the reasons why you wanted to move in with your friend in the first place. She’s hilarious, introduces you to the best new music, and makes you feel like you could conquer the world. Before telling your friend that you would like to move out, use the tried-and-true sandwich method: shower her with compliments and reassurances as to how much you value her as a friend, and then get into the not-so-fun-part.
Don’t make it a personal attack. Say what you need.
Sure, this might be about difficulties you have with your roomie. Your friend might not know how to manage money and is always late on rent. She might think it’s “cute” when her girlfriend leaves her dirty underwear on your bathroom floor. Whatever the reason(s) as to why you no longer want to live with your friend, don’t start it as a “you do X” attack.
This will take some reflection on your part. Maybe you don’t understand how she is such a neat freak, but that is how she likes to live. Being messy or ultra clean or slipping up on rent every once in a while doesn’t determine whether someone is a good or bad person; they just live differently from you. And that’s OK. Be sure to tell your roommate what you need in a living situation instead of what they are doing wrong, according to you.
OK, I am not saying to be a fake kiss-ass, but do reassure your friend how much she means to you. Even if she breathes a sigh of relief when you suggest no longer living together, being the one who was “rejected” still sucks.
Make plans to hang out. ASAP.
If the friendship is something you want to salvage from the roommate wreckage, make special plans with your soon-to-be ex-roommate. I’m not talking about hanging out in your living room and binge-watching Scandal. Make plans like you did before you lived together – go window shopping, get a mani-pedi, grab a beer – do something that is strictly on friends ground and not obligatory-hang-out-because-we’re-both-in-the-same-room ground.
Once you are no longer living together, hang out as soon as you can.
Again, you want to let your friend know that just because they drove you crazy as a roommate doesn’t mean you don’t love them as a friend. Set up plans as soon as you’re settled into your new place. To avoid any awkwardness, I would suggest hanging out at a public place and not your new pad.
But what if you follow all of the steps and your roommate still takes it personally?
You do everything right. You tell your friend that your anxiety goes through the roof when there is clutter everywhere and that you love her, but you need to live in a place that doesn’t make you bite off all of your nails. You express how much her friendship means to you, but that doesn’t matter to her. You are a monster for rejecting her. As her friend, you should accept her, flaws and all!
If a friend throws a temper tantrum after you calmly tell her your needs as a human being, it can be tempting to apologize for even THINKING you could express your needs. Don’t falter. I know it sounds cliché, but if this person is truly your friend, they may be hurt, but they will hear you and eventually accept your decision. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own home, and if your “friend” cannot accept that, maybe it is a good thing that you are a-part-ment-ing ways.
Maggie Clancy is a horror film aficionado living in Los Angeles. She writes about freelancing and feelings with her sister over on Unbound Process and makes what her parents refer to as “hippie candles” on Etsy. Feel free to follow her sporadic musings on feminism, film, and puppies on the twittersphere: @maggieclancy.