AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda


I just moved to town and found a place to live on Craigslist. The woman I live with actually owns the house, so she’s my roommate and landlord. Since it’s gotten warm, she’s kept the temperature in the house at 80, because she gets cold very easily. I, however, get hot very easily and am almost always uncomfortable in the house. When I tell her I’m hot, she turns the air down to 77—which is bearable for me—but has never offered to let me change the thermostat myself. I have to ask her each time, which gets tedious. I’ve purchased a window unit AC for my room, which works, but it means I am mostly confined to my room, because the rest of the house is so hot. Is there any better solution?


Your problem, Melting, isn’t so much with the thermostat. It’s with the sense of ownership of the house. I don’t mean whose name is on the title, but who has control over the space. Your roommate/landlady has the upper hand right now. Her biggest advantage isn’t that she owns the house, it’s that she was living there before you showed up. The house is full of her furniture. She has certain ways of doing things. She knows where the recyclables go and how to keep the toilet from running. All of these things combined make you feel like a houseguest, not a roommate. But you’re paying rent, not visiting for a few days, so you’re entitled to a little more. 

Work on viewing yourself and this woman as roommates, not as the person who actually lives there and a guest who just arrived. Imagine that you and she had arrived in town around the same time and moved in to this house the same week. Would she have total control over the thermostat if that were the case? Surely not. And if she tried to assert that, it would seem out of line.

Try adjusting the thermostat on your own without asking her next time. That’s not an unreasonable thing to do in a house where you live and pay rent. If she says anything, tell her, “It was too hot, so I set the thermostat a little lower.” You don’t have to be rude or inconsiderate of her, just remind yourself that you live there, too, and act accordingly. It’s not your house, but it is your home.

More Roommates

I moved to Athens four years ago and have a decent job here. Since I’ve been here, I’ve always lived with roommates—from just one to as many as three. I’m at a point where I really, really want to live on my own. I’m 32, and I just feel too old to have roommates. The problem is, living on my own would be tight on my current income. My car will be paid off in three years, and that will free up some money each month. I also expect to get a raise at work in the next 18 months or so. So, if I move out on my own now, it will be a stretch, but things will ease up over the next few years. I’m past the whole roommate thing, and I want my own space. What do you think?



Solo, I completely understand your need for your own space and more privacy. I also hear that you want to feel like an adult. Having roommates feels childish, or at least twenty-somethingish. But not being able to pay your bills and having to ask your parents for money will feel worse. So will feeling helpless and out of control as you watch your credit card debt grow because you’re using all your cash to pay your rent.  

You don’t have to live with roommates forever, and you don’t even have to live with them for much longer. But if you’re going to make a change, it needs to be grounded in your current reality, not future raises and car payment money you hope to have. Chickens, hatching, etc. Here’s what you can do right now. Figure out if you can reduce your expenses to free up some money. Could you live without the Internet? Shop your car insurance? Any money you save goes directly to the ING savings account you’ve nicknamed “Apartment Deposit.” If you can cut your expenses to the point where you consistently have enough money for a higher rent, you can start looking for a new place.

You should also decide what your priorities are for your living space. Living by yourself is a priority, and that means you’ll have to compromise on some other things. Can you live in a tiny space? Farther away from town? Look at everything. You can move tomorrow if you can find a place for the same amount or less money than you’re paying now.

The other solution to this problem is increasing your income. Can you ask for (and justify) a raise sooner? Are you willing to take on a second job? These can be hard questions, but they’ll help you evaluate exactly how badly you want your own place.

In or Out?

I moved from Athens to Chicago a year ago. About eight months ago, I met my current girlfriend. She’s great in a lot of ways—she’s smart, funny, independent, attractive and has great friends. We first met at a party given by mutual friends. At that party she was so much fun, and she seemed to know everyone. I’m a really social person, so she seemed like a great match for me. In the time that we’ve been dating, though, I’ve found that our socializing styles are really different. Most nights, she likes to stay in and cook dinner or watch Hulu together. That’s fine, occasionally, but I really like to get out and see people and have a few drinks. We do this thing where I suggest going out, she doesn’t really want to, we agree to go out for one drink, end up staying out later, she gets kind of frustrated, and I feel bad that she’s not having fun. This happens like three or four times a week—pretty much every time we get together without specific plans. Am I wrong for not wanting to stay in all the time? Should I try harder to be happy hanging out at home? 



Are you wrong for wanting to go out? Of course not. And your girlfriend isn’t wrong for wanting to stay in. You both have a preference for how you spend your time, and preferences aren’t right or wrong. Should you be trying harder to enjoy staying at home? Only if you want to guarantee that you’ll be unhappy and resent your girlfriend.

I’ve been in the relationship you’re describing, and it’s an unhappy place to be. Neither person gets what they want: a companion who’s fully present and having fun. The nights you’re in, your girlfriend ostensibly gets what she wants but feels a little bad because she knows you prefer to be out. You feel stir-crazy and bad that you’re not happier doing what she wants. The nights you’re out, the roles are reversed. Your current pattern of convincing one person to halfheartedly do something she/he doesn’t really want to do leaves both of you unsatisfied. That push-pull also wears on the relationship and the people in it.

The first thing I suggest is agreeing to spend some more nights apart. Then you’ll each have the freedom to do what you really want more often. Of course, the catch is that you’ll be doing it without your SO. But if you’re both getting more time for what you prefer, it’s easier to do something else the other nights. I suggest deciding on those separate nights a day or two in advance. This takes some pressure off each of you; you won’t have to spend the day half-hoping your girlfriend will uncharacteristically suggest going out and half-dreading that she won’t. 

If spending more time apart isn’t appealing, think about breaking up. If what you both really want is a companion for the things you really like to do, it sounds like you have a mismatch. Your girlfriend sounds great, but she might not be great for you. Your lifestyles are pretty much different, and there’s no happiness in trying to make yourself into something you’re not.