Roommate versus family — help!

I like living with my roommate but my family is pressuring me to move closer to them.

Our elder has some questions — like, why so much pressure from your mother?

Dear EWC

I am a 37-year-old single male and am currently living with a long time friend and roommate. We’ve been moving from apartment to apartment for the last ten years or so and it’s time to move again in a couple of months when our lease expires. Over the years, we’ve been moving further and further away from where my family (parents and siblings) lives. I have been receiving a lot of pressure from my family to move back to their city so we can be closer. The further away I move, the less and less I see them. I am now torn between where I should move when the lease expires. On one hand, I want to stick with my friend. We’ve been together for a long time, we have the same interests and hobbies, and we occasionally go out and do things together. The downside is that he has several living habits that I really do not like. I’ve tried to talk to him about those habits, but my requests are usually ignored. Since we are equals, I don’t have the authority to force him to change. On the other hand, I also want to move back to the city where my family lives. This would involve my friend and I going separate ways.

My family has offered me financial support, as well as assistance with some personal issues that my friend doesn’t seem willing to help with. The downside to this option is that it feels like a step backward. I would most likely have to downgrade to a less expensive apartment as I would not have him to pay his share of the rent. Although, my retired mother offered to move in with me to help with that. They also have a very negative opinion about my roommate due to the living habits that I mentioned earlier. My mother, in particular, is very vocal about it and tells me that I need to “get away from him”. I am having a very hard time weighing the pros and cons of my options. It seems like I am choosing to either abandon my family to stay with my friend or abandoning my friend to live with my family. I appreciate any advice or suggestions on what I should do.

Nick replies

You seem to be going about this decision quite rationally so I’m going to pose some questions for your consideration.

You don’t mention why you and your good friend aren’t interested in renewing your current lease and staying put or why you move about so much. Is it due to work? Is it a preference to explore new places? Is it a ten-year unconscious decision to put some distance between you and your family for your emotional sake? Is your constant moving about due to his peculiar habits and management doesn’t want to renew your lease? Is it something else?

You don’t mention what particular problems you are shouldering which you don’t think your roommate is interested in helping you untangle. Are they physical problems (a physical challenge?) Mental problems? Workplace problems? Relationship problems? Socializing problems? Financial problems? Other?

You don’t mention whether you’ve invited your roommate to help you with your problems or not. Perhaps, if not, he doesn’t want to intrude. Or if you have, he doesn’t feel up to the task or the right one to be helping, professional-wise.

You don’t mention precisely what his peculiarities are. Do they drive you up the wall to the point of being deal-breakers? Is your living arrangement an Odd Couple (the movie/play) type situation where one of you is a neatnik and the other is more of a “throw my stuff anywhere, don’t worry about the dishes in the sink” kind of guy? Is it a steady parade of unannounced guests or overnight paramours? The reason I list these series of questions is that you could switch out roommates and be dealing with a new bunch of issues and that includes switching your good friend for your mother as your new roommate! You need to factor that in.

You don’t mention why your next move would be farther away and not back towards your family or why you and your roommate would have to part company if you chose to return to your hometown.

You don’t mention how your roommate feels about any of this. Is he looking to go solo? Does he genuinely like being with you? Is he a good friend you enjoy having around? Have you considered how much you would miss him as a roommate or miss him as someone to hang with and talk things over with?

After you answer for yourself these questions, I think you have to weigh the pressure your family, especially your mother, is exerting. To me, that is the biggest yellow caution flag. You are 37. You are an adult. Your mother and family are welcome to express their opinion for your consideration, but they are way over the line to pressure you to bend towards their preferred will (unless you were doing something detrimental or illegal, or being taken advantage of, of course). I can’t imagine what additional control they would try to exert if you were within their clutches.

And if you were to become financially dependent on any one of them (for instance, if your mother moved in to help with the bills, you could never opt to move out — an option you have right now btw with your roommate buddy). Her “offer” to help would be a way to further control you and might be a decision you would come to regret.

You mention that your mother has not been shy about her dislike of your roommate. You don’t mention precisely why she has it in for him or feels he’s an unduly bad influence on you (again, you are an adult and get to determine whether he is or is not). Does she dislike him for some objective reason, like he’s never steadily employed or sticks you with most of the chores, takes advantage of your good nature or belittles or bullies you? Or is it more of her personal beliefs that he clashes with (I’ve known two mothers who did everything short of sneaking in and packing their sons’ belongings and dragging them back home when they found out their roommates were gay, for instance) or she feels he’s a bad religious influence or something?
My point is, if she’s meddling from afar, what chance is there she would not dictate your social life and personal life if you were in the same town or (shudder) she was sharing an apartment with you?

If you have some personal issues that your family has offered to help you with if you move back home, but are unwilling to help you with if you don’t. Then that’s a form of emotional blackmail. Once they recognize a problem and attach a condition to helping you with it, they are interested in control, not in helping. You need to weigh that as well.

As I mentioned, because you are approaching all this rationally, I’ve posed some questions you need to consider. Without being privy to your answers but based on what you have included in your letter, I would vote to stick with your roommate. That does not mean you would be wrong to have a good, wholesome discussion with him before signing your next lease and ask him to verbalize any of your quirks he’d like to see tweaked after ten years of being together and then you mention your list regarding him. Then see if any of those items are such that they would be deal breakers or if any can be altered as you co-sign your next apartment.

If anything I’ve recommended is confusing, let me know in a follow-up. If it’s pretty clear, then factor it into your decision-making if you find it helpful. If you or your roommate have additional questions in the future, feel welcome to use EWC again. We are all here volunteering to offer our advice in order to help you get through some of the thorny issues you come across in your life’s journey. I wish you well.

Letter #: 435848
Category: Friendship

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