What It’s Like to Be Married with Roommates

groom and groomsmen wearing dinosaur socks

On Valentine’s Day, Michael and I went out to dinner at one of our usual places. The waitress walked us to our table and seated us—then handed us three menus. I looked left and then right at the two men sitting next to me, and for the first time in what feels like forever, I enjoyed a Valentine’s Day date with my husband. And our roommate.

That’s right. I’m married and I have a roommate. By choice.

The original decision to live with a roommate was not planned. While living on the East Coast, a friend of ours was offered a job in California, and his roommate (another friend) was going to be stuck with the unfortunate task of finding a one-bedroom apartment on short notice in an overpriced town. We had an extra bedroom at our place and figured that the additional income we’d get from his rent each month couldn’t hurt, so we agreed to let him stay until with us until he found a new place.

I was hesitant at first because my last roommate experience had been during college and involved a suite of eleven females, which needless to say left me feeling gun shy about sharing a space with someone other than Michael. Not to mention, a roommate completely eliminates the freedom of being able to walk around your apartment naked, a privilege I felt I’d earned.

But then, much to my own surprise, the arrangement stuck.

Though really, it shouldn’t have surprised me at all. Because up until that point, marriage had started to get lonely. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love living with Michael and am so grateful for the life we have been building together. But until we got married, we were both firm believers that your partner shouldn’t be expected to be everything all the time. And yet, marriage had somehow found us living in a state that was absent of any sort of extended community or nearby friends, and it was creating a huge void in our lives in the shape of The People You Spend Time With Who Aren’t Your Partner.

And unconventional as it might be, our roommate filled that void.

So when we were offered the opportunity to move to California, a place where once again we would be without a built-in network of friends or family, I was struck by the fear that we would revert back to the lonesome cohabitation that had previously defined our lives. So I called up our best friend Joe, who was living at his mother’s house in Maine at the time, and asked if he’d come with us. Without a job prospect out West, or even any savings, we knew that moving wouldn’t be ideal for him. But we also knew that he needed the change of scenery as much as we needed him to come with us. So we told him that if he could get enough money to pay for gas to get from Maine to California, we’d take care of the rest. And that’s what we did. Rather, it’s what we’re doing.

I could tell you about the logistical benefits of this arrangement. About how when Michael had to move out to California a month before my job in Connecticut was set to end, Joe helped me pack up our house and then drove across the country with me, caravan style, keeping me entertained on our walkie-talkie set. I could tell you about how he watched our dog for a week when Michael and I both had to travel out of town on short notice. I could even tell you about how Michael and I are finally motivated to keep a clean house after years of living in squalor.

But I don’t really think those things matter as much as what having a roommate has done for my marriage, and really, for myself. When we sat down for our Valentine’s Day date, I looked at Michael and then at Joe and I expressed to them just how happy I was feeling (as I’m wont to do). Michael chuckled and then said, “It’s true, you’ve been way happier since Joe moved in,” before turning to Joe and finishing with, “Thanks, Joe.”

Part of this improvement comes from the fact that Joe provides us with a window to our marriage. His presence keeps us on our best behavior, and it encourages us to take an extra moment before acting rashly or treating each other in a way that would embarrass us if it were to be witnessed by others (read: less screaming matches, more discussions).

But perhaps more than this, having Joe around just feels like what we should be doing right now. When I wrote about getting married young, I talked a little bit about the ways that Michael and I are doing work to prevent our young marriage from denying us the experience of being in our twenties. For a while I thought this was about making sure I was going out and acting irresponsibly on occasion, but now I think what really matters is making sure we’re developing our baby family into the community that will eventually become our big family. When we got married, Michael and I were surrounded by a circle of our most important friends and family, with Joe there beside us as Best Man.

And while the wedding itself was huge and significant, the most important piece of it for us was feeling like our wedding was the culmination of twenty-some-odd years of my parents building their communities, Michael’s parents building theirs, and then from those communities Michael and I building ours, resulting in our wedding day.

Now, living together as we are, Michael and I are taking the foundation that was built by our wedding and making it into what I hope will be the community that defines our future. I get a little weepy when I imagine telling my future children about the year that your mom and dad and Uncle Joe spent Christmas on a horse farm in California. Or the time your mom freaked out at the top of a mountain and your dad and Uncle Joe videotaped it. Or any of the other adventures we’re having right now. And while I know that our living situation can’t last forever, part of me doesn’t feel any pressure to change things anytime soon. Because if what our marriage needs right now is to have our best friend living with us, if that makes it possible for us to treat each other better, create a stronger foundation for our marriage, and have a third person for board games on a Tuesday night, then I think we’re doing things just fine.

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  • Maddie, congrats on the much deserved promotion! This post was excellent. Now I want a roommate!

  • Lisa B.

    I’m engaged and currently living with my fiance, his two brothers and a mutual friend. If my diabolical plan works, S and I will buy this house and no one will ever move out. That may be weird for some people, but I love having people around.

  • We married young and also lived a year with a roommate. It seemed to surprise people, but it allowed us to pay for grad school with almost no-debt. Win-win.

  • Yep.

    (how’s that for a positive response?)

    We don’t have roommates, per se, but our community is so tight that it involves different versions of what you describe as important in marriages: windows, perspective, balance, community. SO important. One of my older friends lamented this past summer, “What is with people getting engaged and becoming selfish?” Because, that’s kind of what as happened – they become so inwardly focused that they forget that they had and were friends at one point. And, I guess, CHH and I have always believed that you had to be separate people in your oneness, so that you didn’t drive each other crazy too soon; and, you have to reinvest in the community that invested in you. Symbiosis and all that.


  • Yet Another Boston Lauren

    Maddie, do you watch How I Met Your Mother? Or have you at least seen some of the earlier episodes, from when they were in their mid-20s? Because Joe is your and Michael’s Ted. And as Marshall and Lily discovered in this one episode way back when, they were lonely when Ted moved out for a hot second and realized they needed him just as much as he needed them. Symobiosis can be a great thing. (Also, the italicized part of your last paragraph totally sounds like one of the intro speeches from the show!)

    • PA

      I love that show! And on the subject of living with roommates as a married couple, has anyone here read Queen of Wands? It’s a now-ended webcomic, but it’s all archived, and it’s awesome!


    • Maddie

      We were just talking about HIMYM the other night! We often compare ourselves to Marshall, Ted and Lily. :)

    • Justine

      I thought of How I Met Your Mother and Ted as I was reading this, too. I’m glad it’s something that plays out well in the real word, too, because it makes me so happy to see Marshall, Lily and Ted, to the point where I want to spend the first few years of living with my boyfriend (pre-engaged, engaged or married, wherever we are when we move in together) with a room mate, too.

  • This is a fascinating read. I’ve never had roommates, and sometimes I wonder if I have not missed out on important lessons, if there are skills I am lacking because I have never shared a house with anyone but my family. I am also wondering how to build and shape a community that grows with us (and me and him separately) as we grow older and remain childless. Just this weekend we wondered about getting a friend of us to become a roommate should we move, and maybe starting up a type of “child-free commune” when we get a little older.

    I have many practical questions for you.. Feel free to ignore them if you don’t feel like elaborating, of course. Are you all extroverted people? How do you manage such a thing as “alone time”? Do you see this as a “forever arrangement” or as something temporary?

    Thanks for a wonderful post, it is very inspiring.

    • I have a roommate-ish situation too, in which my husband and I live in different cities and he has a roommate (the second one since we’ve been married). But when I come home for the 6-week winter break, we all three live together. So I wanted to answer a couple of your questions from my perspective (obviously it’ll be different from Maddie’s). “Alone time” works out pretty easily for us, mostly because of the difference in the guys’ schedules, but also because if I want to have a husband-only date, our group of friends and our roommate are pretty good at leaving us alone. It’s just something we all do for each other. I also think it helps that our roommate has a girlfriend.

      As to whether it’ll be forever – probably not. The Marine Corps is moving us to Japan this year, so our house will be rented out while we’re gone, probably to our friends. And then we’ll probably let them figure out a timeframe for moving out, since we hate the idea of kicking our friends out. Of course, we’re hoping to have a kid at that point, so that may change our views on this!

    • Maddie

      I don’t know if I see this as a long-term situation, but I think that’s more for the sake of Joe than us. Michael and I both know that Joe will eventually need an opportunity to live on his own (he hadn’t before) or to move in with a partner, or something. And we’d never deny him that kind of growth opportunity.

      That said, we’re definitely not all extroverts! It just helps that we’ve known each other f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Joe is Michael’s oldest friend (of 20 years) and I’ve known him since Michael and I started dating nearly 10 years ago, so there’s a level of comfort that’s been built over time. As a result, it’s pretty easy for me to tell both of them exactly what I’m needing (and sometimes that’s as blunt as kicking them both out of the house for an afternoon).

    • Lisa B.

      I am really introverted, but it almost seems to work out better for me. This way, I can choose exactly when I want to hang out with people, because people are always around. I’d like it if our arrangement were permanent, but I don’t think everyone would, especially after Sean and I start a family. As for alone time, it’s pretty easy to just withdraw.

    • Iris

      We are married and have a roommate too. The roommate was actually here before me. It made me nervous at first but then I realized that the world as our parents knew it when they were our age does not exist anymore. At that point I became ok with being married with a roommate. But now I’m nervous again. We just signed a new leases on a new place AND I just found out I’m pregnant. I’m not real sure that I’m ok with being married with a roommate and a child. It seems very inconvenient and…well…..just not cool. Any thoughts on this situation? p.s. I already know that when I tell my mom I’m pregnant that the first thing she is gonna say is “what are you gonna do about your roommate?”

  • Although, I AM curious to know about everyone’s whole experience with having roommates. As in, the negatives.

  • Yes! We are married and have a roommate (who, even better, is PREGNANT, so it’s like having one and a half roommates, right?) We spent Valentine’s Day with her and our neighbor, who is one of our best friends. It was awesome. I think you’re completely right in saying that having a roommate makes you think twice before doing something like yelling at your partner from a completely different part of the house, or slamming doors, etc. It’s a valuable experience.

  • PA

    Thank you for sharing! This is coming at a time that I’m glad to be moving away from roommates and taking some time for just the two of us, but before some recent (frustrating, roommate-related) events, I was worrying about whether we’d be lonely and end up not seeing people very often.

    It’s really nice to read this and realize that married couples have had good, positive, healthy experiences with having roommates!

  • I always loved having roommates in college, and having a roommate in marriage (other than the significant other) might be really fun and interesting.

    Maddie, was it weird for Joe when he first moved in? I know that, if I moved in with a married couple, I’d be afraid of “intruding.”

    • Maddie

      Ha, I’m afraid it’s probably weird for Joe every day. (I kid).

      But interestingly, there is actually a significant shift that takes place between Michael and myself when Joe is around. Not that we suddenly get all platonic, but there is definitely a difference between the Michael and Maddie dynamic and the Michael, Maddie and Joe dynamic. We’ve found a pretty natural way to make space for Joe that creates more of a trio effect than a married couple +1 effect, if that makes any sense.

      I also think we’re lucky in that we all moved into a new place together at the same time, so we set down roots simultaneously, avoiding that feeling of him intruding our space.

      • My partner and I have had a series of really close friends we spend a lot of time with. We call them platonic lovers. And it totally changes our dynamic, and makes us more excited about having time for the two of us.

        • Platonic lovers. That is just fabulous.

          But those sorts of friends are great. :D

        • Platonic lovers is a great term!

          We have a large group of friends that we spend a great deal of time with, and it’s really interesting to see how the dynamic changes depending on who is there. Each person also has a variety of ways they claim their family relationships with couples or singles, by being someone’s 2nd boyfriend/girlfriend, being Tijuana married, or a sister wife/husband (none of which is meant in any kind of derogatory fashion).

  • There are so many different ways to have a successful household — I love it!

  • While I don’t think that having a roommate would work for us, I know EXACTLY what you mean when you talk about: “Because up until that point, marriage had started to get lonely. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love living with Michael and am so grateful for the life we have been building together. But until we got married, we were both firm believers that your partner shouldn’t be expected to be everything all the time. And yet, marriage had somehow found us living in a state that was absent of any sort of extended community or nearby friends, and it was creating a huge void in our lives in the shape of The People You Spend Time With Who Aren’t Your Partner.”

    I’m originally from Massachusetts. David and I met while living in New York. When he had to move back to his hometown in Minnesota to deal with complicated familial responsibilities, I came with him. Due to those exact responsibilities, we will be living here in Minnesota for the rest of our lives, with no option to ever live back on the East Coast near my friends and family. While David and I have some mutual friends as a couple, and while his family and his many many similarly aged cousins and their significant others have been so welcoming to me, I am SORELY missing close, wonderful friends that are MINE. MINE MINE MINE.

    I’ve lived out here for two years now and making friends is a BITCH. It’s weird, because it’s never a problem I’ve had before. College? Made friends no problem. Moving to New York City? Made friends no problem. I’m still close with all my life-long friends from childhood. But I have no one LOCAL and it’s driving me out of my freaking mind.

    For various reasons, making friends at work is not an option. I’ve tried joining clubs and taking classes and things to try to meet people that way, but no joy. I’m not giving up, but I am SO lonely and frustrated. It’s like dating all over again, only WAY WORSE.

    • carrie

      There’s a book that I’ve heard good things about, MWF Seeking BFF, that maybe would be a good read and you’ll know you’re not alone!

      Internet hug!

      • Thanks! I’ll add it to my library list, for sure.

        • You are definitely not alone. We moved to Atlanta shortly after our wedding. Husband has lived here before and most all of his family is in the area. At times it feels like it’s ‘his’ church, and ‘his’ friends, and ‘his’ family. And I have nothing. But it has to get better sometime.

    • I’m right there with you. My husband and I are living in Indiana(we’re from Texas) while he finishes his PhD, and making friends has been so challenging. We made friends with a couple during our first few months here, but they moved away. I made friends with a coworker at the first job I had here, but she lives an hour and a half away. Thankfully, our 5-year tenure here will be over in a little over a year, but I definitely wonder why making friends post-college is so difficult.

    • Lizzie

      Kelly – I happened to notice this on my Facebook feed right after seeing your post: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/03/12/outsiders1-is-minnesota-nice-to-newcomers/

      • This is AWESOME! THANK YOU!

    • I just wanted to say I can relate. I have been living in my husband’s country about 2.5 years now and we have friends- joint friends- but I have only very recently made a friend who is “my” friend. As in a friend who I made on my own here. I think when you are out of college and not in a big city that has a lot of changeover, it is just hard to make friends. And any potential cultural differences probably just add to the challenges. Anyhow….just wanted to say you’re not alone, and I hope you find a new local friend (of your own) soon.

    • In the same boat. Moved to his COUNTRY, can’t work right now because of visa stuff, and live in a tiny isolated town. I’m actually going to drive 3 hours for the next APW bookclub, just to meet some like-minded folk!

    • Mai

      I hear you!

      Oddly enough, we moved BACK to Minnesota after 14 months (for me, 12 for him) in Georgia. My work (managing a B&B) left me with no motivation to make new friends. The lack of people in my life other than boss and SO was really wearing on me and after a conversation with my dad where I ended up crying, we decided to move back.

      I fully agree w/ the NPR article – Minnesotians are nice, but we are a bit standoffish with new people. Be aggressive with us – help bring us out of our shells, please call us if we fail to call you. Volunteer all you can (but don’t give yourself away). There was a fact I read a year ago or so that said most Minnesotians make (and keep) a majority of their friends in middle school/first year of high school. So being a newcomer is hard – you need to break into the preestablished circles.

      All that being said, what part of the state are you in? APW bookclub meetup?

      • Leslie

        I am a born and bred MN girl, but am always looking for new friends! Count me in for an APW book-club meet up!

        • Britt

          I’m in the Twin Cities as well – and completely agree with the statement that a lot of Minnesotans meet & keep friends from high school. I’m in for APW book club! :)

  • Mallory

    I love this post! I’m going on year 3 of living with my now fiance and we’ve had roommates the whole time. Granted, we’ve had some pretty awful roommates throughout that time, but nonetheless I like having other people around. Our current roommate actually asked us if we were still going to live there after we got engaged, as if planning a wedding would suddenly make us incapable of living with others.

    We’re moving in the fall and my partner really wants to find a place for just the two of us. While I can totally see where he’s coming from since our last several roommates have all been less than ideal, but I had really great roommate experiences in college before I moved in with him, and I’m not so sure I’m ready to give that up.

  • My husband and I are moving this summer. I have been trying to get him to sign on to having a roommate (or two or three) for ages, but I was having trouble articulating that desire in a way that he wouldn’t immediately veto. As we draw closer to our moving date, and once we know where we’ll be heading (curse you, job market!), I’m going to casually send him a link to this post.

    Thanks, Maddie! (And congratulations on the promotion!!)

    • Maddie

      If it adds any confidence to your efforts, I was originally the one who was all “OH HELL NO ROOMMATES DO I LOOK CRAZY TO YOU?!” and now I’m clearly all “PLEASE NEVER LEAVE US.”

      I think if you offer him an easy out, it makes it easier to say yes. You know, just helping the cause. :)

  • Kess

    Oh man, I’m currently in college and I cannot wait to not have a roommate (well, house/apartment-mate – there is no way in hell I’m sharing a room with anyone who isn’t my SO). I’m quite introverted, and sometimes I wish I had my own room without my SO, simply because personal time is very necessary to me.

    But at the same time, I’ve had a couple pretty decent roommate experiences. Fall semester, my SO and I had two roommates and it was particularly nice because I was gone a lot because of class and work and my SO wouldn’t get as lonely. My freshman roommate and I also hit it off pretty well and it was nice to have someone to randomly talk to.

    And yet, I always feel like I’m intruding when I have a roommate, like it’s not my place because someone else is there (this happens even if I am the first one to move in). So I feel like I can’t put my toiletries in the bathroom, or have any dirty dishes anywhere, or have much in the fridge, or play music ever. Basically, it’s a source of anxiety.

    I do wish I could get over that though.

  • oh my gosh! this is just absolutely PERFECT timing!

    N and I just upped and moved from our podunk town to live with another married couple in The Big City. At first I was torn between crazy excited and nervous, and honestly was a little bit ashamed when explaining it to other friends. You know, the whole overcompensating bit.

    But now that we’re actually here, I’m SO MUCH MORE on board with it. I absolutely love it. Our marriage was suffering, to say the least, and this (in addition to the geographical shift) has me feeling 101230 times better, and we’ve only been here a week.

    I’m so glad to see that other married couples do this! THANK YOU for this post!

  • Thanks so much for this post! I’m a thirty year-old, non-profit worker marrying a grad student in one of the US’ most expensive rental markets. So having our own place is almost not an option. When we got engaged I started thinking how I don’t know anyone who’s married with room mates and that maybe we’d need grow up and shell out the big bucks for a tiny studio apt somewhere. Thanks for showing me it’s not only normal have room mates and be married, but great!

  • I just flashed back to the valentine’s day I spent with my cousin and his new wife – the fancy restaurant waitstaff did not know what to make these of three 30-somethings dining together.
    On the roommate topic, I have always wondered why people seem to think you have to give up roommates as you grow up. I live in LA, and a nice place here is pretty expensive, so I have had at least one roommate for the last 15 years (since I was 18). It keeps me from turning into the hermit slob I fear I would be if I lived alone. The company and the help with the rent are awesome – and most every roommate issue can be solved by hiring a nice house-cleaner once a month.

  • Ashley

    Yay another post from Maddie!! I read all the posts here on APW and love them, but I can seriously identify with Maddie as I am getting married young too. (And I have met her in person and she is awesome and funny and has wicked fashion sense..)

    I seriously wish that I could find an awesome roommate to allow FH and I to offset some costs in living in NYC- and another married or serious couple would be even better.. a relatively roomy 2BR that would be WAY out of our price range alone but very doable with others?? I SO WISH. Unfortunately, I have had extremely negative roommate experiences. From the mundane “who ate my cheese?”, to the moderately bad people skimping out on bills and ignoring me, to the still traumatic incident where my roommate threw out the stuffed bunny my deceased grandmother gave me when I was three. Oh, and in college my best friend had a mental breakdown and attacked our other roommate….

    Needless to say, I’ve had decidedly bad luck, but I wish I could trust inviting someone into our lives in that way again. My real estate dreams would come true.

  • Yay for Maddie! I am really enjoying reading your posts :) As a fellow young spouse, I am absolutely in cahoots with my close friends in the same way.

    When we graduated and moved to Los Angeles from the east coast, a number of our friends moved out at the same time. The regular “family dinners” with the whole gang provide a weird sort of weekly comfort zone and moral compass. There’s just something about having a whole crowd that accepts you that’s maybe even important developmentally when your career and home life are still taking shape.

  • I love this post more than I can say! I got married at 21 (I’m now 31…), but looking back, one thing I kind of wish we’d done earlier on is not pretend that just because we got married young (and eventually had kids young) we’d skipped past an entire decade of our lives. It took me awhile to remember to take time to cultivate other relationships, and myself outside of my relationship, too. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Jo

    Also married with roommate. Also a fan.

  • DKR

    Thanks for this, Maddie! Congrats on your promotion!

    My fiance and I have only ever lived with his (now pregnant) sister and her husband – he was living with them before we met, for college – and our three cats, and their dog. After sis got pregnant, we got a bigger place – and my brother moved in with us too. And my fiance’s sister will be moving in with us for a bit (transferring to the area for a new job), with her daughter and their Australian shepherd. So it’s crazy at times, and going to get crazier, but I love our family unit; the way this house is laid out, everyone has their own space, so it works. It probably won’t last forever, but I’m enjoying it while it does.

  • There’s something so weird about the modern American idea that the only family that counts is your partner, and maybe your birth family. One of the awesome things about queer culture is that people had larger chosen communities (read about it in Families We Choose, which made a serious impression on me in college) who acted kind of like family. That’s disintegrating some as it becomes more possible for queer people to stay part of hetero culture, rely on their families of origin, and create nuclear families. I don’t ever want to live with roommates again if I can help it, but one of the best ever situations was living right next door (in a triplex, so we had adjoining doors) to someone who slowly became one of our best friends. When we wanted comfort or companionship or needed someone to watch the dog or made too many cookies, we were both right there; when we wanted privacy or space, we could retreat to our separate homes.

    That’s what I want. But then she moved to Idaho, and my other friend in the neighborhood is moving to Philly, and my other good friend is spending most of next year in China, and honestly I’m really bummed about the fact that my community is once again going to be spread out all over the country & world.

    • Maddie

      One of the hardest transitions of life as of late has been adjusting to the fact that my family of creation is growing up, sometimes growing apart, and becoming ever more spread out by distance. So far the only way I’ve found to combat this is to keep adding to it, making our friends be friends with each other, so that eventually we end up having a piece of the nuclear family we’ve created anywhere you go.

      But it’s tough, man. So tough.

      • Yeah. And that’s what happened when we moved here: we made two really awesome, practically family friends (which I think is pretty damn good for only having been here two years), both of whom are leaving. Plus the best-friend-since-sophomore-year who happened to be here waiting for us is moving back to the town we left. It’ll be the… fourth, I think? time since college I’ve had to pretty much completely rebuild my community, not counting the six months I spent traveling. I’m still in touch with the other communities, and have one subgroup that meets up every 8 months or so. That’s awesome. But it’s not the same as being able to call people up and see if they want to come over for cake right now.

        I also have a whining inner 2-year-old who says I DON’T WANNA MAKE NEW FRIENDS! I WANT MY OLD FRIENDS TO STAY!

        While this is mostly just me complaining about casual loneliness, I’ve been thinking a lot about how HARD this year has been — family deaths, illnesses, unemployment/disability — and how unbelievably meaningful it’s been to have the friends who packed our kitchen, helped us move, took care of the dog when we had to leave town, fed us dinner when we were having really hard weeks, drove us to doctor’s appointments, etc etc etc. These are people who are there for me like family. We don’t have a social vocabulary for that role, or for why it’s important.

        • This, this, a million times this. It sucks so very much.

          • DKR

            I want to “exactly” what Laurel said: “There’s something so weird about the modern American idea that the only family that counts is your partner, and maybe your birth family.”

            I’ve had this same conversation with two dear friends of Native heritage (one Sioux, the other Cherokee). For them, the cultural norm is multigenerational families – a new mother, for example, has her mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers nearby for support. I think there is a lot of sense in that way of life and agree with Laurel about the importance of community.

            Funny how we’re having this conversation, and this post from Maddie, this week; last week’s issue of Time magazine ran a cover story called “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life”. Idea number 1 was living alone, and the rise in the number of people living alone at all age brackets.

  • Sarahkay3

    Someone asked about the negatives, and I wasn’t going to spoil the roommate love fest, but someone asked. Being a couple with a roommate didn’t work out for me. When I was married before, my husband was a student and I was working part time. We were living in a high rent beach town and needed to share rent to make it. We moved in with a good friend who was over every night anyway. The first year of marriage was hard, just negotiating our new roles and figuring it all out, but we didn’t have the private space to do so. Even our bedroom had thin walls. In fact, we spent our first wedding anniversary with our roommate Sitting on the couch. Sometimes I felt I had two husbands. My husband had always shared domestic tasks with me, and cared about the appearance of our home, but with another dude (and his buddies) around, it became more of a frat house atmosphere. I ended up being the only one who cleaned and tried to keep a home, and that built up a lot of resentment towards both if them. And it fell to me to deal with the crappy stuff like when Roomate didn’t pay his share of bills. Husband and I ended up fighting more because we were both angry at Roomate, and I didn’t feel supported. I don’t want to go into detail, but it really changed our dynamic and emphasized a lot of faults in our relationship that we had happily worked around/through before. It was a tough time, and not something I’d do again. I wish we’d found a studio as a couple and stayed friends with our buddy, and maybe stayed married to each other in the long run.

    • I was in a very similar situation two years ago. About three months before our wedding (bad timing in retrospect) my husband’s cousin asked if he could move in with us. He was waiting to hear about a job offer and uncertain whether he’d stay in town or move back to his home state. Not wanting to sign a lease, he wondered if he could rent out one of the rooms in our house. We all generally got along (although I can’t say I knew him all that well) and he seemed like a pretty tidy guy. Plus, my husband and that side of his family are very close. I think part of him was afraid of his family’s reaction if we turned the cousin down.

      My husband and I said yes. Things were bad from the start. The first day he moved in, he moved the entire contents of his apartment into our living room area. I came home from work to find mattresses, chairs, and a dining room table–among other things–smack in the middle of my house. They sat there for a week before he finally got a storage unit. He never cleaned anything (I mean he didn’t even rinse dishes). He left the TV in his room on all the time. He constantly let our cat out of the house at night and we’d have to go searching for him.

      Like SARAHKAY3, I started feeling resentful of the situation (and toward my husband). When I cleaned the house, I felt like I was cleaning up after both of them. They were pretty chummy with each other and it made me feel like the bad cop, like, “Hey, he’s your cousin–you should talk with him about X, Y, Z.” I know in retrospect that I agreed to the situation too. I had just as much responsibility to tell the cousin what was cool and what wasn’t.

      Anyway, my husband and I fought about it. It caused a lot of friction right before our wedding. I finally told him (on our honeymoon) that the cousin had to move out. It was just putting too much strain on our very new marriage. And I wanted my house back. We had a talk with him when we came back from the moon and he was gone about a month later.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important to keep strong relationships with your community/friends even when you’re married. We have a whole slew of friends who are constantly at our house and we’d let any one of them live with us in a heartbeat if they needed to. I guess you just have to establish some boundaries before you invite someone to live with you (especially if it’s just been the two of you for a while). We didn’t do that before his cousin moved in, and it resulted in some badness.

      Some things that are also interesting to think about with the whole marriage/roommate thing is the affect of the economy on situations like this (are they happening more?) and the inevitable question–for many couples–of having elderly or sick parents move in.

    • TJ

      One of my husband’s groomsmen had just begged his way into being our roommate when we got married. In addition to M’s horrendous behavior at our wedding, he began actively trying to drive a wedge between us the day we got back from our honeymoon. Within that first month of marriage, M lied to me about being fired from his job (but convinced my husband not to tell me), stopped paying rent and bills, and started bringing home a string of random friends who would stay for weeks at a time. When I confronted him about these things, he told me that my husband had “said it was OK” (which turned out to be a lie almost every time). Cue the fighting. My husband refused to evict M because he didn’t want to make his friend homeless. I finally had to be the bad guy, put my foot down and asked him to be out in 15 days; when the day arrived, he refused to leave, screaming that he hadn’t been told the date, that my husband wanted him to stay, that the only problem in the house was me. I threatened to call the police on him for trespassing; he was out by nightfall. It turned out that he’d been selling drugs out of our house the whole time (but couldn’t pay rent?!), but my husband was so furious at me for damaging their friendship that between the continued fighting and the financial hit we’d taken thanks to M’s delinquent rent, we almost got divorced three months after our wedding.

      On the flip side, when M moved out of our three bedroom apartment, one of my best girlfriends and one of my husband’s former roommates moved in. Since they’ve settled in, we couldn’t be happier. They watched the drama with M unfold from the sidelines, and make it a point to do the basics, like paying rent on time, no random long-term guests, defusing fights and not selling drugs. But then we all have our own relationships, too. My husband works nights and I’m at home writing my dissertation, so we would spend a lot of time alone if it wasn’t for Andy watching Sopranos re-runs with me every day at lunch time, and Tina going to my husband’s house music shows (ugh) with him. He gets a live-in drinking buddy, and I get a live-in ice cream binge buddy. “Family dinners,” when we have them, are so much more fun with four than two. Like another commenter said, having people around makes us fight more fairly than we might if we were alone, which we desperately needed after the precedent of nastiness M helped set. We’ve also managed to put several thousand dollars in savings because of the rent they pay. I wouldn’t trade this arrangement for the world.

      But I still won’t let M in my house. I guess I’m saying that it can go either way. Although careful roommate selection and clearly stated expectations have made all the difference.

  • I had about 10 different roommates during university. 2 of them, hands down horrible and made life hell. 6 of them, I could take or leave. 2 of them? I would give almost anything to have them move in with me again.

    There’s like this special magic in having roommates.

    Right now, though I love living with just Bunny. It’s like living on my own, but way better. We’ve discussed the possibility of roommates in the past, and I think if the right person and the right circumstance ever came up we’d snap all over it.

    • MDBethann

      I think the best way to work with both good and bad roommates, whether you are married or not, is to create what we called in college a “roommate agreement.” It forces you to talk about, and put down on paper, what each roommate’s roles & responsibilities are and boundaries too. You can make it about whatever you need it to be in order to keep peace and harmony in your home.

      Scheduling things may even help a married couple figure out who does what and when better. I told FH that I wished he would make dinner more, since he is a good cook too. Since he likes routine, I asked if he would be willing to cook Tuesdays & Thursdays and I’d do the other days. I commute 4 days a week and he works from home, so this helps out a lot and keeps dinner from being late on the nights I commute. We also divide up other chores – I do most of the cooking & dishes, but he does the trash, recycling, mowing, & cat care. We both garden and clean the house and we each do our own laundry. The important thing is, we each have responsibilities that we agreed to, so it is harder to have the resentment build up.

      I too had mixed experiences with roommates. I am still great friends with my randomly assigned college roommate – we were roommates for 4 years. Other roommates made great friends, but not great roommates – we just had very different living habits. In grad school, I tried the roommate thing for summer jobs – sometimes it worked, sometimes not. After awhile, I was really ready to have my own space. While I think learning to live with others is important, so too is it important to live on your own – having your own space that you are solely responsible for – rent, bills, food, landlord haggling, maintenance, etc. It is a valuable learning experience that I feel helps me better contribute to the care of our house. For my FH, living on his own meant he learned to do his own laundry, cook for himself, etc and isn’t dependent on me for everything. We have skills that we might not otherwise have if we hadn’t lived on our own for awhile. Not that you can’t develop these skills living with a roommate too, but the roommate(s) can be a crutch/excuse for not learning those things though.

  • Hlockhart

    I love Maddie posts, and this one especially. It sounds like the particular relationship you have with your roommate makes all the difference. My now-husband, then-boyfriend, and I lived for a year with an engaged couple who were (and are) very dear friends. Lots of people who heard about our arrangement thought it was weird, but we just all got along really well, communicated well, and resolved conflicts basically before they even came up (with rare exceptions, which have become funny stories). I don’t think it would work with anybody, or even with most of our friends, but the special relationship we have with that couple made it great.

    • This is sort of similar to what my husband and I did When we were engaged we lived with friends of mine who were newly married and it was fantastic. It was so nice to be in the middle of life with another couple and get to build on our new relationships together. Having them around helped us figure out a lot of things we needed to know going into marriage, and the way the house was set up we all had plenty of our own space. It helped that all four of us were dog people too so the two dogs got tons of love.

  • About a year into dating my now husband, my best friend started dating his roommate, and for the next two years, the four of us basically lived together (not “officially,” but when you spend 12 out of 14 days at someone’s house, to me that qualifies as living together). When my husband and I finally decided to officially move in together and get our own place, I got really sad and lonely. I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed living with my two other best friends. As much I loved living with Kevin, I missed them desperately and adjusting to life with just me and Kevin was harder than I imagined it would be.

    Today, we are married and they are engaged, and we refer to each other as our brother husband and sister wife, because we really are like a family. The experience of living together for so long really bonded us, and our relationship with them is different than with most of our other good friends because of it. Now that we are “grown ups” with guest rooms, we still have sleepovers.

    All that is to say that when your young, regardless of your relationship status, I think living with roommates can be an awesome experience. The two years we all spent living together were some of the best experiences I had in my 20s, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

  • Class of 1980

    Not just for twenty-somethings!

    Top model Cindy Joseph is 61 years old now. She was approached to model at age 49 when her long wavy hair was full of silver. You’ve seen her everywhere – in commercials and catalogs for Dolce & Gabbana, Ann Taylor, DKNY, J. Crew and Garnier.

    She lives with her partner and five room mates!


    EXCERPT: She shares a Victorian house overlooking the Hudson River in New York with her partner, Bruce, and five other friends, which provides her with a built-in community. “It’s great; you can tap into that energy whenever you want,” Joseph says. “I’ll never live alone again.”

  • One of the hardest things about moving right after we got married to a city where we knew no one was losing the community we’d built as single adults/a dating couple. I remember often telling my husband in the first year of marriage that I just wanted one or two people around who’d known me as something other than a wife. And that had nothing to do with wanting to be single again and everything to do with recognizing that a community that could see me as an individual rather than just one half of a couple would go such a long way toward making me a better partner in our relationship.

    About 8 months ago, a year after moving to the Bay Area, we signed a lease at an apartment complex where several of our new friends live, and the proximity has made a huge difference for us in terms of being able to foster intentional community. We joke that it’s a bit like being back in college dorms, but really there’s been something wonderful about having people who can just pop over for an impromptu dinner, with whom we can run errands and share resources and share our lives. I think it’s helped us both flourish, as individuals and as a couple.

    One of the quotes we put in our welcome message on our wedding program was to the effect that it’s a pernicious myth of modernity that marriage is a solely private endeavor. I stand by that quote more than ever these days.

  • katieprue

    Fiance and I are in a similar situation, only our friends have their own address (hurray for the duplex!) We are in our third year at the duplex–the first year we had a great, quiet neighbor with an adorable dog, the second year took a turn and we ended up in housemate hell so after all that (including telling, not asking, our landlord that the upstairs neighbors will not be offered a renewal lease) we invited our friend to move upstairs. He brought a fantastic roommate with him who has quickly become a new friend. I’m very introverted and can be socially awkward, so having people around all the time was at first an extremely scary thought but it’s turned into an everyday exercise for me to get outside of my little bubble. While we have been laughed at (*eyeroll* what is so wrong with living near a dear friend??) it has turned into one a fun, convenient, and interesting experience.

  • The first two years my fiance and I lived together, from ages 22-24, we had roommates, and it was great. For the first year we lived abroad in a shared house situation, and that was fabulous, both because it provided us with connections in a new city where we knew no one, and because it sort of eased us into living together, like a happy medium between being college students with roommates and being adults living alone. Next we lived with someone we’d been friends with for a decade, and that was fun too.

    Now that we’ve lived together for six years just the two of us, I don’t think we’d go back to having a roommate– but I’m very glad we did it.


    I loved having our housemate. He lived in our basement and so had his own personal space when needed, along with a separate bathroom (sharing a bathroom with someone other that the hubs is something I could not deal with anymore). But hanging out in the evenings, hitting the pub on a whim, the perks of having a housemate were awesome! I do think that it was far easier for me to have a second boy in the house. I don’t know that I could have dealt with an extra girl, having had many female housemates in college. I think it totally depends on the personality of the extra, and the dynamic between you all, but I agree with Maddie – you can easily develop a ‘threesome’ dynamic that is not like a married couple and a third wheel. I miss having him, but he finally outgrew us and is now living with his girlfriend (my little boy is all grown up!)

  • Kristin M.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post! My fiance and I are preparing to enter the exact same situation, and the reactions we get make me second guess myself, even though I am totally fine with the idea! Thanks for validating me :)

  • I love this. The summer before we were married, my then-fiance and I had our future Best Man (and always best friend) live with us. It was awesome and despite the occasional squabble over whose turn it was to get the milk, I still look back on those days with affection. :)

  • Ian & I had two roommates for our first year of marriage: his little brother, and one of his college friends. I actually miss the situation sometimes, which SHOCKS me. Living with three college dudes had its drawbacks. The dishes were never done, my food was always scarfed up in the kitchen, and there were a LOT of drunk girls coming in and out on the weekends and throwing up on our carpet. (Ew.)

    But here’s what I miss: Ian’s friend was always really good about telling us when one of us was being ridiculous in a fight. The four of us all watched a lot of the same TV shows–How I Met Your Mother was one of them!–and we would all go to trivia nights together. Also, someone was always home. It’s weird how quiet our apartment is now.

  • It is so fascinating to me to hear about being married with roommates! I don’t think it is something I would ever want to do – my husband and I are both fairly introverted. While I love going out and being social with friends, we both NEED lots of alone time, and the thought of having a roommate makes me want to curl up in a ball with my head under the covers. BUT I totally get all the positives of having a roommate, especially the whole trying to find good friends as an adult and not expecting your spouse to be everything for you at all times.

  • Aurélie

    It’s been almost 7 year since I began to live with my partner and we’ve almost always had one roommate (or more). But as our twenties are coming to an end, it’s becoming difficult to figure if / when to move on and, well, have him move out.
    I’ve been definitely ready for that change for a while but my partner isn’t totally yet (though, he’s slowly coming there…). It actually feels a lot like all the pre-engaged state with all the stress (when can we get over with that and go on with the rest of married / roommate-free life?) and the dropped hints (wouldn’t it be nice if we could hang around naked all the time / have a great party with booze and a white dress?) and the decision not being mine only to take (after all, we’re three in that roommate relationship).
    So I’m just waiting and trying to think about something else while my two men are slowly making their own way through all that thinking… Oh boys…

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  • Carrie

    We were a couple with a roommate for a while — before we got married, but after we’d already been living together, just the two of us, for a few years. Our roommate was a woman who we’re both close friends with, and who I’d shared an apartment with in college.

    We all enjoyed the heck out of it. It was fun to have someone else to hang out with rather than just each other. Sometimes all three of us would hang out, sometimes pairs of us would hang out while the other one did their own thing, and sometimes we’d all go do our own things separately. We all had a good sense of when to give each other privacy, which helped a lot. (Our bedrooms were also on opposite ends of the house, and there was a private master bathroom attached to our bedroom, so that also helped.)

    I’d totally do that again now that we’re married, if the situation ever arose.

    Our former roommate is now married, too — to another good friend of ours. I have daydreamed about buying a huge old house and just having both our families live there — us, them, our future kids, their future kids. Like an extended family living together.

  • I’m so glad to read this because I am about to be that single person moving in with a married couple. And sometimes I think it will be awkward and weird. But then I remember how much money I will be saving, they will be saving and how I’ve come to realize in the past year of living alone, I don’t like being by myself in a world full of people. So, for now, I am content to be living with people, even if it is a married couple.

  • RB

    This post really hit home for me. I live with my fiance in a high rent part of the country where we are both graduate students. When we moved in together we opted to move into a larger house with two friends not only to save some money, but also because I wasn’t interested in living by myself when my partner is away- his research takes him out of the country for months at a time. A year into this arrangement and we both think it’s great- we have built in cocktail hour in the evenings with people we love, “family” dinners during the week, and a garden that actually gets taken care of because there are enough of us to make it happen. It really feels like home. We’re getting married in September and do not intend to move elsewhere until we finish our degrees and start jobs somewhere new.

  • KT

    I’m really glad I found this post. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and we have a 2 year old son. We were looking to move when our current lease ends, but haven’t been able to find anything that would work for us. A couple that we are good friends with have extra bedrooms in their place and are offering to let us move in with them. They our great with our son and are very responsible people. We would still have plenty of space for ourselves, as would they. I love the idea of being roommates with another couple. I feel like this would be fun and great for all of us. When I told some of my other friends about this option they all told me it was a terrible idea and that we wouldn’t like living with roommates. I was really upset by this and have been searching for people in similar situations that have had a positive experience. Again, thank you for this post. It had reassured me that this is a potentially great move for us :)

    • Jackie

      Did this arrangement work out in the end for you? How long did you and your family stay with the other couple?

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  • WC

    *sigh* I would agree with this post, but my roommate is my future brother-in-law and he doesn’t have a job. I told him he could stay until he got back on his feet, but they refuse to sit down and talk a timeline. I love him, but I can’t have him there forever. Trying to convince the fiance this is bad news has been nearly impossible. Suggestions?

  • MM

    I am in some what the same situation but its not as happy as yours. My husband has a friend that he has known for years move here from another state because he (the roommate) was in his 40 and still living in his parents basement and seemed unhappy. My husband figured if he moved here may be he would be happier and we could use the help with bills till he found his own place. Well it was suppose to last a year which is now going on 3 years. He is a nice enough person. Both my husband and I have issues with him but I more so mostly because it was suppose to last a year not going on 3. Also we never get time alone. The roommate doesn’t work and never leaves the house (seriously he’s a hermit and spends all day on his computer playing games),his room smells and he never cleans it or helps around with house chores and he has bad hygiene. We have mentioned the job thing to him a few times but he has money and pays rent so we can’t really push it. And we have mentioned that he needs deodorant but he just shrugs it off. I have talked to my husband who doesn’t really seem to get where my issues lie. He just says “It won’t always be like this.” “soon” plus he has loaned us money ect. I want a marriage not a marriage with a roommate. My husband and I get no time alone unless we leave the house . We can’t even have a conversation between us two without the roommate thinking he can jump in and add his 2 cents. We are now planning to move out of state and guess who is coming with us! Every arrangement I have made to have a place to stay till we find an apartment has falling through when I mention it will be my husband,I and another. When and how do you tell someone enough especially when they have loaned you money?