September 21, 2008 in Features

Housemate has right to veto new tenant

The Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with “Mark” for eight months. The distance hasn’t been too much of a problem, as we’re usually able to visit each other about once every three weeks. We’re finally at the point where we want to move in together, which is exciting. Unfortunately, we’ve come across one major setback: his housemate, “Kim.” They’re good friends, and nine months ago, they decided to go 50/50 on a house together. Kim said she would be uncomfortable sharing a house with a couple.

I thought Kim and I had a great relationship, and I don’t understand why she would feel uncomfortable, as she’s rarely there. I respect her opinion but am floored that she actually said no, because he does own half the house. Now they aren’t speaking, and I feel she’s basically stunting the growth of our relationship. Mark and I are scrambling to come up with alternatives. Is it really fair for her to say no? – Still Floored

Completely. Her home, her sanctuary, her call – hello, regardless of hours spent there. I suppose you could preface each of those with “half,” but even then, her vetoing you from half the house effectively means you’re out.

You and Mark are upset, sure. No one likes it when Mommy says no.

Until, of course, they grow up to appreciate Mommy for keeping their youthful (read: harebrained) schemes in check. Obviously you’re adults, and, thanks to geography, you’re no doubt accustomed to sharing a home when you’re together. However, your details and my math suggest you and Mark have spent about 10 weekends together. That’s pretty thin. Even if it turns out that you’re 10 weekends into happily ever after, your renting your own place in his town wouldn’t hurt anything but your bank balance.

Cohabitation can tell you whether you can stand each other on a daily basis. In the process, it can also drag a relationship well beyond its sell-by date: When faced with the prospect of not only breaking up, but also finding a new home, and, ugh, separating all that commingled stuff, not every unhappy cohabitant has the strength to go through with the breakup. They become slow-motion captives to blah.

That’s why shacking up belongs near the end of your rose-petal-strewn journey of mutual discovery, not at the beginning. Having your own address gives both you and Mark the freedom to stop and say, “Oops.” And it’ll goose you, I hope, into establishing yourself as more than an adjunct to Mark.

Significantly, it also spares Kim from being the grudging witness – in her own home, mind you – if/when your fast-moving, untested love train derails. (Recognizing all the above is what “I respect her opinion” means, by the way.)

And speaking of harebrained schemes – your signing a lease would give Mark and Kim an interval to figure out what the future looks like for their joint investment. When they bought the house, where did they see the 50/50 thing going? Did they ever talk about the possibility – verging on inevitability – that one or both would pair off? Did they set parameters for buying each other out? They can’t think ahead retroactively. However, you can think ahead now, stick up for Kim, and get the two of them talking again.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.


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