When you start getting serious with someone — someone you'd dare to say you have more than just a "Thing" with a capital T with — it's beyond exciting, especially when you're (finally) living on your own. You have a space to call your own, and you can't wait to invite your partner into that space to learn more about you. But there's definitely one big thing to be aware of here: If you live with a roommate, it's important to consider how they feel about how often your partner stays over at the apartment. After all, it's their home too, and the last thing you want is to step on any toes with the people closest to you.
Even if your SO and your roomie have totally hit it off after getting to know each other, you have to be respectful of shared space, just as you'd hope your roomie would be of yours. Maybe you were single when you guys first moved in together, so you never really talked about the hypotheticals of what to do about these sorts of things, but that doesn't mean you can't ever talk about it.
I know it might seem daunting to put a limit on how often your partner stays at your apartment (which could put a strain on your relationship), or to talk about what those boundaries are with your roommate (who you might discover is really rigid about these things), but according to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent relationship expert in Los Angeles who works with singles and couples, something that might make you feel more at ease is knowing that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to handling this situation.
"How you decide this should be based upon your own individual sets of needs," Dr. Brown tells me in an interview with Elite Daily. "The only real limit is what you and your roommate agree upon."
It's all about finding what's comfortable for all of you, he explains, and establishing boundaries from there.
For example, he says, if your roommate's a really private person, and your partner's spending six out of seven nights of the week at the apartment, that might be making her really uncomfortable — but you might not ever know it, unless you bring up the issue first.
"You have to ask [her] if [she's] comfortable with this," Dr. Brown explains. And if she is, that's great. If not, he says, then it's up to you guys to figure out what the bottom line is in terms of how often your partner comes over or stays the night.
It might feel really awkward to acknowledge there's something your roommate doesn't exactly "like" about you and/or your significant other, especially if you're all relatively close and hang out casually with one another all the time. You want to keep those standing Friday happy hours you three love so much, but you want to make sure you're still showing respect for the fact that the apartment is her living space too, not just yours.
To make that clear, Dr. Danielle Forshee, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, suggests talking to your roommate openly about what it is, exactly, that might bother her about your partner staying over a lot. "Are there certain behaviors? Is your roommate simply a very private person and feels intruded upon? Is it the unpredictability of your partner showing up?" Dr. Forshee asks. "It's possible that if you understand what some of your roommate’s concerns are, you may be able to prevent some of those concerns from occurring in the future."
What shouldn't happen, Dr. Forshee tells Elite Daily, is your roommate going behind your back to complain straight to your partner about how often they're at your place.
In theory, that sounds like some evil, back-stabbing stuff, but this scenario could easily play out in a really low-key, seemingly harmless way. Say your partner let themselves into your apartment while you were still on your way home from work, but your roomie got back and saw your SO with their feet up on the couch for the sixth night in a row this week. Maybe your roommate seizes the one-on-one opportunity to drop a subtle, snide remark about how much higher the water bill's been ever since your partner started taking their daily, post-work shower at your place.
By the time word gets back to you that this happened, you may feel really heated about it. If that's the case, Dr. Forshee says it's best not to talk to your roommate about it until you've simmered down a bit.
"The first thing to do is gather information from your partner about how your partner was approached, and what was discussed," she tells Elite Daily. Then, with a clear head, she says, "schedule a time to meet up with your roommate in a neutral place, and let your roommate know that you understand that they spoke with your partner about financial responsibilities of the apartment."
Make it clear to your roommate that you want to discuss these things privately — between the two of you — Dr. Forshee explains. You don't need to necessarily label your roomie right or wrong for what they did; the most important thing, Forshee says, is to talk openly about what's bothering both of you and come to a compromise you can both stick to moving forward.
However, you should be ready to hear that that compromise may include either a) your partner chipping into some of your living expenses, or b) taking your relationship with your SO to the next level.
In other words, Dr. Forshee tells Elite Daily, maybe this is a sign that you and your partner are ready to start talking about living together in the near future.
"If your partner is staying over so frequently that, from an outsider’s perspective, it appears that he/she is living with you and your roommate, this may be a sign that you and your partner are transitioning into a new phase of your relationship," she tells Elite Daily.
Now, that may feel like you're skipping way ahead of where you feel like you and your SO should be in your relationship — in which case, it may be necessary to compromise with your roommate on how often your partner stays over, and maybe even what your partner contributes toward your living expenses.
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, suggests sitting down with your roommate to establish boundaries on how often your SO comes over or stays the night (what nights are/aren't OK for your roomies?), what's considered off-limits in common areas (should your BF definitely have pants on whenever he's not in your own bedroom?), and how much money, if any, your partner should contribute toward things like utilities, groceries, and maybe even rent.
Additionally, Dr. Forshee says you and your roomie should go over housekeeping responsibilities at the apartment. After all, it's probably only fair that your SO cleans up after themselves if they're already helping themselves to what's in your fridge, right?
I won't lie to you: It's going to feel weird and uncomfortable having these conversations, with both your roommate and your SO. You and your partner will both have to be brave enough to have the "what are we" conversation in an open and honest way, which is never easy, even in the best relationships. On the flip side, you may have to confront the fact that your roommate doesn't like coming home to see your GF dominating the Netflix queue (again). You're going to feel weird about bringing up the idea of potentially moving in together with your SO, and you're going to feel weird about asking them to chip in with groceries. But according to Dr. Brown, it's important that no one takes advantage of anyone else in this dynamic. Expecting someone to pay for half of what three people are using, he tells Elite Daily, simply isn't fair, and even "shows a lack of empathy and a sense of fairness."
It might feel overwhelming to try and please every single person in this situation. But the reality is, we're talking about the sanctity of your living space, and of your romantic relationship. These things are important to you, and the best way to communicate that to everyone involved is through honesty, patience, and respect.