Living Situations & Relationship Expectations

I feel lied to.

I had heard, from sources I don’t remember, never to move in with people you consider friends.  I don’t know how widespread this advice is, but it’s definitely a thing that I’d heard and was on my mind, right at the time that a friend asked to become my roommate, several years ago.  And so it became the cause for hesitation and ambivalence.

Because what I’d heard was: don’t move in with your friends.  You don’t want your friends as roommates.  Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you’ll live well together.  You’ll end up annoying each other in petty roommate ways and it will destroy your friendship.

I didn’t want to destroy my friendship.

I was terrified of that happening.

So I dragged my feet and thought about declining what ended up being a really, really, really good deal.

Here’s my experience: moving in with my friend didn’t destroy my friendship.  It made every night feel like a sleepover party.

As of the end of last month, I’ve done it again — moved in with another friend.  I was worried about it this time, too.

I guess that advice has really stuck in my mind.

I even saw someone giving the same advice this week.

You know what I realized, though?  Not once, ever, have I ever seen someone say, “Don’t move in with your romantic partner.  It will destroy your relationship.”

What I see, sometimes, instead, is talk of “when” is the “right time,” the right stage, the right passage of time before it makes sense for two romantic partners to move in together.  When.  Not if.  And certainly not “never.”

I’ve seen talk of moving in before getting married being potentially detrimental, but blanket generalizations of “never”?  Never seen it.

It’s accepted to warn people of the dangers of moving in with friends — yet also believe those dangers dissipate in the case of romance.

I feel lied to.



13 responses to “Living Situations & Relationship Expectations

  • code16

    So simultaneously with eep :( that is sucky and I’m glad you ended up having good experiences despite it, even as it added badness that didn’t need to be here

    This is making me (note, I haven’t heard such advice so often/enough to stick much in my mind, so I’m not sure if it tends to include specifics) think about what might be involved in that.

    First thought that occurs: a thing *I’ve* kind of really absorbed/internalized and now have issues etc with is a kind of taboo on relationship negotiation etc in friendships. Like, the idea that that’s bad/not done/inappropriate/not wanted etc.

    For partner relationships, while I also don’t get much social endorsement of the negotiation thing, we do have a pretty strong cultural place for fights and stuff. Which, to be clear, isn’t good, the way this gets socially depicted/seen. But, that *also* tends not to be present in our friendship narratives. For me at least, mostly the only place I get seen depicted for conflict in friendship is over like, loyalty things.

    And so like – if you (general you, not you) have an idea of a friendship as ‘should be relaxed and low/no conflict’ *and* ‘it is inappropriate to explicitly talk about things’ then I can definitely see how that could cause problems if people are living together.

    (On the other hand living with a non-friend wouldn’t do pose the same issue because we *do* see a place for explicit negotiation in roommate relationships).

    • Coyote

      “And so like – if you (general you, not you) have an idea of a friendship as ‘should be relaxed and low/no conflict’ *and* ‘it is inappropriate to explicitly talk about things’ then I can definitely see how that could cause problems if people are living together.”

      huh. Didn’t think about that. I mostly assumed it was a matter of… something like, living with other people is supposed to work best with either 0 intimacy (just roommates/stranger roommates) or MAX intimacy (supposedly, romance and family), whereas friendship is assumed to be this “midzone” intimacy that means it won’t work. But I like your theory a little better.

      …also, probably, this advice may come from a “well it didn’t work for me once, so let’s Make A Generalization” kind of thing. …but then, people don’t make the same generalization when a cohabiting romance falls apart because that’s assumed to be the fault of the romance itself being unsustainable, not because moving in was a bad choice in the case of a romance specifically. :/

      • code16

        but then, people don’t make the same generalization when a cohabiting romance falls apart because that’s assumed to be the fault of the romance itself being unsustainable, not because moving in was a bad choice in the case of a romance specifically. :/


        And like, within that particular framework, that makes sense – in a relationship escalator framework, ‘living together’ is one of the things a romantic relationship is supposed to do, so if it can’t do that then it’s ‘failed a necessary condition’. (So for instance, in some of the kinds of advice that *don’t* tell you not to cohabit unmarried, it might tell you *to* do that because like, trying it out to see how it goes.)

        While friendships don’t have that, so.

  • R.

    Or maybe most people who give this advice have mostly s++tty friends. Or have no idea how to be a good one. I know I’ve been given that advice.

    I’m ambivalent on the subject. I think it all depends on the maturity of the folks involved, and whether or not they consider the friendship worth working on. So far I’ve shared houses with two different friends. In both cases it was rough going due to a myriad of issues, but we stuck by each other and helped each other out anyway because we all felt not only responsible for the friendship but for being good roommates as well. I don’t regret it and I would certainly do it again.

    Good of you to point out that discrepancy on friend advice vs. romantic partner advice. Hadn’t caught that before.

  • Silvermoon

    I mean also it might depend on who you are? Because I know for a fact that I have dear friends I could never live with but, like, because of reasons such as:
    -I need to see them in small doses
    -Their level of cleanliness is lower than mine and I couldn’t deal with it in my own home
    -They make too much noise (singing, music or even just personality) and I couldn’t live with that level of sound.
    And that’s neither their fault nor mine but I’d rather ruin a relationship with a stranger (housemate) than a friend.
    On the other hand, I do have 2 friends I could possibly live with if they moved interstate to me and also I have seriously thought about /if/ I ever have a romantic partner, living in nearby but seperate houses (lol I mean assuming we could afford that).

  • Kasey Weird

    Oh my god this advice and it’s nonsensicalness. Like obv people shouldn’t arbitrarily live with just any friend, since friendship compatibilities and roommate compatibilities aren’t exactly the same thing. But like also tbh the idea of moving in with *strangers* is the kind of crap shoot that gives me actual anxiety attacks.

  • Sennkestra

    Ugh yeah this advice…I also sometimes wonder if the most vehement defenders of this have bad friends. Otoh I think it might also depend on the type of person you or your friends are – I and most of my friends are pretty laid back people who don’t sweat the small stuff, so there’s a lot of leeway. On the other hand, I’ve met people who get stressed much more easily and care more about little details, so a little roommate drama could be much more damaging and thus riskier that kind of person.

    Still, as someone who has had a brilliant experience living with several different friends over the last ~5 years, living with friends is great – and it’s strengthened a lot of friendships for me, because I am bad at seeking people out and keeping in touch, so living together provides good supportive social structure for me – not just between me and my roommates, but with all of our common friends too.

    I think there is a grain of truth somewhere in there, in some very specific situations – specifically, I was told a (better) variation of this, which was “if you are moving away for college for the first time, it’s better to live with a stranger in the dorms for your first year; don’t just move straight in with friends if you don’t want to stress your relationship with said friends”. In those specific circumstances, I think it can be good advice, in that most of your friends at that point are probably other high school students used to living with parents who have never lived on their own…both of you will still be figuring out what your own living styles are like, and still figuring out how to be a decent roommate, so it’s hard to tell whether you will actually be compatible, and you don’t necessarily want to be each others independent-living guinea pigs. But that said? Even then it should be a suggestion, not a blanket rule.

    On the other hand, once you’re past that point and you and your friends have figured out your own living styles? Especially as mature adults? At that point, if you deem yourselves compatible, friends make much better roommates than untested strangers.

  • Calum P Cameron

    All good points.

    When I was first moving out of the student halls at uni (which were only available to first years or people with specific circumstances) and had to find a flat, I was given similar “advice” by the father of one of the friends I was finding a flat with, who said, only half-jokingly, something about how we should prepare ourselves for the possibility of hating each other by the end of the year, because that was what happened when he was our age and moved in with friends for the first time.

    And, in hindsight, I wonder whether what he (and maybe others who give similar advice) was perhaps trying to express was more something to do with the likelihood that we, being young and utterly inexperienced at living in close-quarters with other people (even the halls were technically set up more like a hotel than anything else), had a very high chance of making mistakes in WHICH friends we chose to live with on our first attempt, not having yet learned how to thoroughly check for incompatibilities in advance. Kind of a “hope for the best, plan for the worst” thing: “try to move in with friends you think you can live with, but don’t ignore the possibility that you’ll get it wrong on your first try”.

    And to be fair, if that was what he meant, he was kinda right. His daughter got on great with all of us, but she did have to move out after a year because we just weren’t, at that age, qualified to support her in ways that were good for her mental health; and my friendship with the only other dude in the flat ended up being about the third rockiest friendship I’ve ever had, largely because we were exposed to each other longer-term and in closer quarters than was good for us (one of the only two rockier friendships I’ve had being the guy who moved in to replace him and then hit on our ace mutual roommate while she was in the middle of a PTSD episode. The other one being an entirely unrelated guy who, by the time I severed all ties to him, was openly identifying as a fascist. That last one at least had nothing to do with living together).

    Every friend I’ve chosen to live with SINCE learning by experience what to rule out has gone swimmingly – although, granted, that’s exactly three people including the one of my original roommates who, by fluke, turned out to be entirely compatible and has lived with me whenever possible since.

  • queenieofaces

    I’ve…somehow never heard this before? I HAVE heard a lot of “don’t date your friends” (who the heck am I supposed to date then, says super greyro Queenie), but never “don’t live with your friends.”

    • Coyote

      LOL @ “don’t date your friends” spoken to a demirom…

      Anyway. Good. The less people hear it, the better.

    • Sennkestra

      I’ve only heard this in the context of picking freshman year dorm roommates, so I don’t know how widespread it is elsewhere. But then I also live in an area now which is so expensive that it basically requires young people to have roommates for years so roommate culture here is a little different maybe?

  • toafan

    To throw another disorganized point in the pile, there’s the trope of “oh, my roommates from X are some of my best friends”. So clearly it is not the case that the state of being roommates and the state of being friends are incompatible.

    I haven’t encountered this lie myself but yikes.

  • AngryRantBlogger

    If you follow my blog and read about my experience with my ex roommate you would clearly see why everyone warns against moving in with a friend. You totally got lucky and got the pros of moving in with a friend though!

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