I had a 23 year-old client, “Joe,” come in the other day telling me that he was starting to have romantic feelings toward one of his three roommates, “Susie.” Joe wondered what impact it would have on the roommate relationship as well as the impact it could have on the apartment if the two of them “got together.”
Of course, by “getting together,” Joe meant hooking up one night and seeing where that took them. In fact, Joe and Susie had even discussed that possibility. For all of you who are in the same boat as Joe and Susie (and a lot of you are), here are my thoughts on whether or not to advance the roommate hook-up.
If you and a roommate act upon these mutual desires, you should expect a significant change in the entire dynamic of the roommate environment. Attempting a sexual relationship with a roommate most often produces more negative results than positive. The only guaranteed positive tends to be the twelve minutes or so in which you are hooking up.
On the other side, the negatives could be far-reaching and quite uncomfortable. Often times, it increases the tension, which is usually felt by all of the roommates sharing the apartment. Further, if things don’t work out so well, one or both participants feel trapped, knowing they are returning home to an uncomfortable situation.
I have also seen instances where engaging in this type of relationship with a roommate is often the result of needs being met or satisfied for one, but not really for the other – i.e., the failed relationship. What is just a hook-up for one could be much more to the other person. This often leaves one of the two feeling resentment and anger that can be difficult to overcome in close living quarters. It can put an unnecessary and unfair strain on any uninvolved roommates, as well.
And, dating someone else following an unsuccessful roommate hook-up can raise the uncomfortable bar to new levels, with a dash of bitterness thrown in. Remember, this isn’t someone that you can just avoid – you live together, with a lease, for a defined period of time.
More often than not, this type of behavior does not turn into a continuing relationship but rather into the deterioration of the pre-existing friendship. Sometimes, it is difficult to turn off feelings, but if the boundaries are set and you stick to your values, including valuing your friendship, the likelihood of a positive outcome increases.