How to Date Your Roommate Without Shaking Up the House
Try Googling, "Should I date my roommate?" You'll be inundated with a ton of articles with one clear piece of advice: No!
However, if you're searching that particular query, odds are you're already in too deep. You're thinking about dating them and trying to figure out the best way to do so without making your other roommates' lives painfully awkward.
Who better to ask about this tricky situation than a psychologist and a relationship expert?
So, why shouldn't I date my roommate?
"It's never recommended to date someone you already have a preexisting relationship with, such as a roommate or colleague," said Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D., licensed psychologist and relationship coach. "If one part of the relationship turns sour, they both turn sour."
You've probably heard the classic saying, "Don't get your money where you get your honey." It's sound advice, and yet, when we spend a lot of time with someone we find attractive, it can be hard to deny romantic feelings.
"We often date people based on proximity," noted Cassandra LeClair, Ph.D., a communications professor and relationship expert. "As you grow closer to someone and emotional intimacy increases, it is natural you start to wonder if a romantic connection could be possible."
5 tips for dating your roommate (successfully)
1. Communicate with all parties involved
If you can't avoid getting involved with your roommate, you'll first want to have a house meeting and talk to any additional roommates about it. Fisher recommends asking how they feel about the relationship and seeing if they have any requests, such as minimal public displays of affection (PDA). Indeed, excessive PDA can make your roommates feel awkward and uncomfortable in their own home, which is something you probably want to avoid.
"Work to understand their feelings about the changes and be respectful if they have concerns," LeClair said.
You're still sharing a space together, and your other roommates didn't get a say in whether the relationship should start or not, so it's only fair to listen now. Open communication will help ease any discomfort or misgivings they may feel.
2. Talk to your partner about boundaries
Once you've had an open discussion with your other roommates, it's time to talk to your partner about boundaries. Boundaries can be hard to establish when you're living in the same house as your partner. On the bright side, all you have to do is walk over to their room and you can be in their company. On the other hand, you may end up spending an unhealthy amount of time together.
"Living in the same home could make it easy to spend 24/7 together, which may suffocate the relationship," Fisher said.
Instead of always hanging out with your new romantic partner, try to make time for your hobbies, friends and other roommates. Also, discuss what an ideal amount of alone time looks like for both you and your partner.
3. Make time for dates
Defaulting to watching Netflix every night could dampen the intimacy. Instead, make an effort to go on dates and spend intentional time together.
"As you are working to build intimacy as a couple, it is essential to establish spaces and times for your newfound romance," LeClair said.
Creating special time together also helps to differentiate a true relationship from a "roommates with benefits" situation.
4. Discuss a plan for chores
A simple thing like dishes left in the sink can cause tension. To avoid conflict, LeClair recommends clarifying your needs in both a romantic relationship and a roommate situation. If one person feels they're always cooking or cleaning, it can cause a rift.
"Couples often split up tasks 'evenly' in terms of the number of chores, but often fail to think about the time, frequency and duration of those tasks," she continued.
Instead of splitting everything 50/50, she advises turning some tasks into a new couple ritual.
"Trips to the grocery store or cooking dinner together can be fun if you look at it from the lens of shared time and building a life together," LeClair said.
5. Create an exit strategy
Unfortunately, we have to be realistic as we circle back to the main reason not to date your roommate: If it doesn't work out, your housing situation will be in jeopardy. Be realistic about this and plan in advance. Fisher recommends doing research on other places to live in case things end poorly. However, there's also the chance that moving out may not be feasible if you live in an area with limited housing options.
"If you have to continue to live together, work to establish new boundaries as individuals. If seeing one another is painful, it may mean that you must schedule separate times in your shared living areas," LeClair suggested.
Is it worth the risk?
All things considered, ask yourself if dating this person is worth it, and be honest with yourself about your reasons for wanting the relationship.
"If you're seeking happiness from another, the risk may be more significant," LeClair said. "If you are secure and happy with yourself and desire to share your life with someone, it may be easier for you to exit a relationship and retain your sense of self-worth and self-love."
Before getting romantically involved with your roommate, consider all the risks and potential outcomes. Relationships are complicated enough as it is, and dating your roommate is no light undertaking.
But just remember, if it's already a done deal, the key is to keep open communication with your partner and your roommates. It'll probably work out for the best.