For a lot of young and/or single folks, choosing to go in on a lease with a good friend makes sense on a lot of levels. Given the skyrocketing cost of living, it’s much more economical to co-rent a place. Then there’s the added sense of security you get by having another person in the apartment, especially if you don’t like feeling alone or become easily scared at night. Plus, you and your best friend already know each other pretty well, so the prospect of moving in together most likely seems exciting to the both of you. Who wouldn’t want to come home to their closest confidante, talk about each other’s day over a beer, maybe binge-watch some shows, or hit the town together?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are certainly ways in which sharing a living space with your BFF can be a ton of fun and provide an opportunity for maturity and growth. The experience might give you a better idea of how to appropriately manage responsibilities between two people, navigate interpersonal dynamics, and establish boundaries — things you probably didn’t give much thought to before. In most cases, however, the “fantasy” of living with a friend quickly gives way to reality, as we’re all human, and there are aspects of people’s personalities or lifestyles that you’ll only become privy to through living with them. How you choose to handle the inevitable disagreements that come up will make all the difference between a positive situation and one that could cause a once-close friendship to become strained.
Take Klara’s story for example. After graduating from college and accepting a student teaching position in the greater Philadelphia area, she and a college buddy made plans to rent a basement apartment together in what was an otherwise rather expensive market. Klara feels that the friendship remained strong through the experience, but cautions against going in blind and not discussing things like chores well ahead of time. She says: “I wasn’t passive-aggressive or anything, but it became clear that Melanie just didn’t want to do the dishes, and I was left with that responsibility.” Having these conversations early on helps to take the guesswork out of those mundane, often unglamorous tasks that are part and parcel of apartment living. You can easily start to resent someone for not chipping in and doing their fair share, and given enough time, that resentment can erode the friendship.
Laying Down Ground Rules
Until you live together, there’s just no sure way to find out if your bestie isn’t so keen on things like vacuuming. But when it comes to cleaning, the best strategy really is to “divide and conquer.” You could agree to take the trash out while your friend wipes down the countertops. We all have our preferences when it comes to cleaning up, and whether you’re a neat-freak or you have more of a laissez-faire air about you, you’ve got to get issues like this sorted as soon as possible.
Food is another potential area of conflict, so you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page in terms of that, too. It need not devolve into leaving sticky notes on containers, but you should express your feelings about things like sharing. Maybe you can plan to share milk, eggs, bread, sugar, and other staples but keep more speciality items to yourself.
Another common pitfall for friends who move in together is the nature of the relationship changing in some way. This is completely natural, but it’s also helpful to take a step back and examine your dynamic with the other person. Being around someone more than you ever were before, even if it is your best friend, can become emotionally taxing — possibly even unhealthy — and nobody can be everything to another person. That’s why you shouldn’t neglect other relationships or activities you’re involved in that are separate from the friendship. It’s important to carve out some time for yourself and your interests, and to allow your friend the space that they may need as well. Your weekly yoga practice could act as an outlet, and a hobby that you enjoy all on your own. You could also invite other friends over on the weekends to hang out as a group so that you’re not always just hanging out with each other to the exclusion of other friends, many of whom you may already have in common.
Living with your best friend isn’t all fun and games, and even the best of friends can bicker from time to time. However, learning to share your space with another person, warts and all, is an important life skill that can prepare you for other relationships down the road. Don’t be surprised if your friendship evolves throughout the period that you rent together. Instead, embrace any disputes that arise as teachable moments. When they are swiftly dealt with, they often serve to deepen the friendship, and help both of you mature as people. That is the ultimate goal: having a good time and making memories while simultaneously getting a crash course in conflict resolution, and having another person by your side to help you juggle your newfound responsibilities.