Q: Dear APW,
I did the decent thing and agreed to let two of my now-fiancx’s friends crash with us while they found a new place to live. Four months later and they’re still here.
Their original plan was to move to our town and live in their car if they couldn’t find an apartment. Their car died ahead of the planned move and with the snowy winter we had, my fiancx and I are both glad we were able to offer them our spare bedroom. But I seem to be the only one concerned that they haven’t found a place of their own by now.
I empathize with them because they’re both queer womxn who’ve left unsupportive or harmful families (something all four of us have in common to varying degrees). One of them now has a job in the service industry and the other one doesn’t work, I think possibly due to a disability or chronic pain issue. They’ve searched for apartments but keep running into income requirements they can’t meet. They also seem well-settled into our apartment to the point that they’re basically roommates.
We’ve all agreed that they’ll contribute to rent if they’re still here at the end of the month, which I thought would be extra incentive to find their own place but didn’t seem to create any urgency on their part. Now that my fiancx and I are saving for a wedding, help with the rent will be nice, but I also really value having privacy and space to ourselves. Over the last few months, I’ve always been the one to bring up the topic of our guests with my fiancx in conversation and I get the feeling they aren’t as concerned about the whole thing as I am. I’m starting to feel frustrated and like I’m going to end up with permanent roommates (which I do not want).
Am I cold-hearted to want our unexpectedly long-term guests out? What’s a reasonable amount of time to offer support to someone in a housing crisis? How do I bring up the subject with my fiancx and their friends without making things majorly awkward?
A: Dear Anon,
You’re not cold-hearted at all! You’ve kindly opened your home for a long while, and it’s completely fair to start itching for some space. Ben Franklin says they get three days, and he invented bifocals and a bunch of stuff, so we can call four months generous.
I get the impression that your partner doesn’t fully understand that you’re ready for these friends to go. I also get the impression that maaaaybe you haven’t mentioned it outright because you’re afraid of sounding like an asshole. Ignore that feeling. You’re not an asshole, and the only way to get on the same page with your partner is to be direct. Let your partner know, and then together you can form what you both think is a fair plan. It’s annoying or even scary now, but it’s something you’ll be doing for oh, the rest of forever. Stating your needs (even when they differ from your partner’s) and then expecting them to join you in trying to meet those needs. That’s it; that’s the whole marriage.
Make sure to emphasize to your partner that you’re doing this together. You’re establishing expectations and asking your accidental roommates to move out together. This isn’t a, “My partner said you have to go,” situation, because that’s when it gets bad. You need to be a team; it needs to be important to your partner because it’s important to you. And as a team, you pick a move-out date.
Honestly, that alone may help you breathe easier right away. Anything is terrible when you don’t know if and when it’ll end. It’ll be easier to bear when you can mutter, “Just three more weeks,” under your breath as you eye them hogging the couch. Guys, it’s been a great four months, we can make this situation work for another two months (or whatever), but by the end of the two months, you’ll need to have other arrangements; we’re happy to help you move out that Saturday.
If that sounds harsh, remember: 1. Everyone works better with a deadline. And 2: Part of being a great friend is knowing your limits and setting some boundaries before you become resentful. You are a great friend. So go ahead and do that second part!