Couples Living with Roommates: Tips on How to Avoid Disaster

roommate couple living together

Let’s be real. In a city as expensive as New York, your relationship status and living situation can get complicated.  Sure, we’d all like to meet someone, date happily and carefully nurture the relationship until we are confident enough to make a joint decision to commit to one another and cohabitate.  Has this ever happened? Maybe once. Most of the time the decision to move in together is expedited by finances, expiring leases, one roommate moving out or practicality in general. Is it a good to idea to move in together because it’s cheaper or less of a hassle? Maybe not the best, but it happens all the time and couples live to tell the tale.

Your love life and living situation, however, can get all the more messy when you throw a roommate into the mix. This happens most frequently when you are on a tight budget (splitting a two bedroom between a couple and a roommate is a sure-fire way to save), but there are a variety of other scenarios in which a couple and a roommate cohabitate. Regardless of the why and wherefore, it goes without saying that these living arrangements can get strained and cause tension between all parties. Before taking the plunge into this financially feasible, yet potentially problematic living situation, here are some simple tactics to promote a happy, healthy, and tension-free trio!

Tip 1: Know What You’re Signing Up For.

If you’re the couple in this mix, it’s important to first and foremost make sure that you and your significant other are ready to live together. It can be difficult for any couple to navigate living together for the first time, let alone doing so while also navigating another roommate relationship. Keep in mind that frequent fighting can create awkwardness for your roommate, and hashing things out in hushed voices is not an ideal way to problem-solve. On the flipside, don’t expect your apartment to be a honeymoon suite 24/7. You might have to tone down your PDA and put on some clothes when your roommate is home.

If you’re the single roommate, there will inevitably come a time (or many times) when you feel like a third wheel. No matter how close you are with the couple, you’re likely to feel left out when you come home to find them cuddling on the couch or cooking dinner for two. Make sure you’re ready for this type of dynamic, especially if you’ve gotten used to having your roommate all to yourself.

Tip 2: Discuss the Division of Finances Up Front

With three people sharing a two-bedroom apartment, splitting the rent equitably can be complicated. Splitting it evenly among all three roommates is not quite fair since two people are sharing a room, but splitting it 50/50 with the single roommate paying one half and the couple jointly paying the other does not account for the fact that the roommate now has to share his or her living space with an extra person. After researching several methods of rent splitting, this formula seems like a fair option for everyone:

  • The bedroom costs are shared by the people sleeping there
  • The common areas of the apartment are shared equally per person.
  • The bills (i.e., cable, electric, household supplies) are also split equally per person.

Test out the calculator here.

Whatever arrangement you work out, make sure both parties are completely comfortable with it. Nothing breeds contempt between roommates like unresolved money matters.

Tip 3: Be Considerate of Common Space.

If you’re always trying to Netflix and chill with your boo but your apartment has only one TV, your roommate may feel banished to his or her room. As a couple, don’t hog the couch and be considerate of that fact that your roommate has just as much of a right to the common space as you do.

While you and your partner are certainly entitled to date nights, you’ll have a better relationship with your roommate if you make an effort to be inclusive. If you and your partner are homebodies, you might also consider going out on occasion to allow your roommate some alone time in the apartment.

In the same vein, if you’re the single roommate, don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy by always assuming that the lovebirds don’t want you around. If you come home and find them hanging in the living room, don’t be afraid to sit down and join the conversation. Unless they’re too infatuated to stop gazing into each other’s eyes (which is a possibility), they’ll appreciate your company. If they really want privacy, they can be the ones to retreat to their room.

Tip 4: Communicate Openly About Issues As They Arise

There’s nothing worse than a slow, simmering resentment between roommates. It often starts with something as simple as a dirty dish left in the sink, and can quickly escalate into full-blown, passive-aggressive warfare. Unfortunately, this risk is often exacerbated in couple-roommate situations. Complaining about your roommate to your significant other often adds fuel to the fire. In turn, your roommate may end up feeling tag-teamed or ostracized over something as trivial as trash bags.

The best way to prevent this from occurring is to communicate openly and often. For example, saying “Hey, I noticed that you finished my entire bag of Cheetos last night. Would you mind picking up a new bag on your way home?” rather than leaving the empty bag on the counter and loudly expressing your craving for Cheetos when your roommate is within earshot. This logic also applies to issues surrounding space, finances, and boundaries. As the single roommate, don’t hesitate to speak up if you start feeling like an outsider in your own home or you want to reassess the financial arrangement. As part of the couple, try voicing your concerns directly to your roommate rather than perpetuating a two-on-one power dynamic.