You didn't mean for this to happen, but it has. You moved in with a roommate who seemed like the right fit for you, a great companion and potential friend. You started to spend more and more time together, enjoying the same activities, cooking together, relaxing in your space, and all of a sudden... You realize you've developed some romantic feelings for your roommate.
One of the reasons that developing romantic feelings for a roommate is a frustrating situation is that expressing those feelings can lead to major awkwardness in an otherwise-great roommate relationship. Also, romantic feelings can have other effects, including:
- Letting a one-time romantic dalliance confuse or color your relationship with your roommate.
- Starting to date and then realizing you were better as roommates, but now feel odd and uncomfortable around each other.
- Your roommate might not reciprocate the feelings, and you might know that based on their behaviors, such as dating other people.
- Even an excellent roommate-turned-romantic-
partner relationship can have trouble because of constantly being around each other in the early stages of the relationship.
Thus, these romantic feelings require a lot of thoughtful consideration before you make a decision about how to move forward. Plot out what would make you feel most fulfilled, what would be best for your roommate, and how you think you two can move forward once such feelings are expressed. Here are five paths to take that can help you cope along the way.
The Avoidance Plan: Get Excited About Someone New
One of the most useful paths, especially if you notice that your romantic feelings are faint but noticeable, is to double down on finding a different person to develop feelings for. After all, this roommate relationship is really great! If you have the willpower to do it, date someone else or join a few meet-ups or clubs where you are likely to meet and ask out other people. Not only does this give you a chance to take a break from the closeness in your living situation, it also could result in a great partner who becomes an excellent companion alongside your roommate for cooking and movie nights and such.
This may seem like a bad plan, but the truth is that not every romantic feeling is a sign of deep, all-out, soul-mate-level love; sometimes, we develop romantic feelings simply because of tons of proximity and great positive regard for each other. This is a good plan to consider if there are big reasons why a relationship between you wouldn't work: for instance, people who eventually want kids and people who don't can be great roommates, friends, and companions, but having a long-term relationship could be hard for a pair like that. If you are already worried that your romantic feelings couldn't yield the kind of relationship you want, avoidance through dating someone else may be the best and smoothest path away from those feelings.
The Boundaries Plan: Create a Little Distance So You Can Get Your Bearings
If those feelings are a little stronger, one of the smartest tactics, before you blurt out a declaration of love, is to spend some time apart. Find a reason to spend more time out of the apartment: join a gym, attend club meetings, or just visit a few other friends. Don't actually avoid your roommate, just create reasonable ways to take a beat and not let things progress too quickly. For instance, relaxing together while watching a movie introduces a potential situation for romance, and all too often such opportunities lead to romantic behaviors without anyone thinking it through. This isn't bad or anything, but it could result in you regretting having made that move so fast.
This step may seem like it isn't important because it doesn't end in you definitely over the person or definitely dating them, but believe me, it's important! Consider the following things that could happen while you get a little distance:
- You could meet someone new who you like just as much or more than your roommate, avoiding the awkwardness of a roommate romantic relationship.
- Your roommate could start dating someone new, closing the door at least for now.
- You could realize your feelings are less strong than you thought, and that they are fading to friendship.
- You could realize that your feelings are stronger than you thought, and you want to really make the effort to start this potential romantic relationship on the right footing, not accidentally or casually.
Creating distance also means knowing your own triggers: even if you and your roommate often partake in alcohol together, for instance, it might be good to ease up on it for the time being, since alcohol does lower our inhibitions somewhat. It could also mean not telling your roommate as much personal information as before, since greater sharing of information can make your feelings of closeness even stronger. These aren't things to quit forever; they are things to pause while you figure out your next step.
The End-of-Lease Plan: Find Another Living Situation and Give the Feelings a Shot
One valuable approach, especially if you are nearing the time to renew your lease, is to find a new living situation. Your roommate could be hurt if you spring this on them, so make sure you explain it clearly and give some positive reasons why the new place is preferable. Give them plenty of time to find a new roommate, or recommend friends you think they would be compatible with.
Once you've figured out your rooming situation, you might be ready to level with your roommate about how you feel. Explain that you want to stay close but you don't want them to feel pressured into a relationship or awkward about the lack thereof by having to live with someone who just expressed feelings for you. Make clear what you are proposing (a first date, becoming boyfriend-girlfriend, just a fling, etc.) and give him or her space to think about it. Don't expect an immediate answer, and find a way to get out of their hair even if your apartment is small. When the answer comes back, you'll have the opportunity to move forward together or to rebuild your platonic friendship as non-roommates - both paths forward can be positive.
You can opt for a variety of timelines for this plan; if you want, you can tell them your feelings and offer to move out without making solid arrangements to be moving out anyway. This is a little riskier, since you don't want your roommate to feel pressure to keep you around if things are weird now, but if you are confident that your roommate can handle what you have to say about your feelings, you can always let them make the decision of whether its time to end the roommate situation or not.
The Proceed-with-Caution Plan: Strong Reciprocal Signals Sometimes Mean "Go For It"
If you and your roommate are clearly vibing, both flirting intensely even after you've tried the distance plan, you can certainly try becoming romantic with a roommate! It might be worthwhile for you to set down a general plan (i.e. if this goes south, I'll move out and you'll stay here; I'll pay partial rent until you find another roommate), but some folks find great success moving from roommates to romantic partners. Similarly, if you can sense that both of you are in this for only a physical relationship, you can probably make that work too - just remember that communication is helpful to avoiding hurt feelings and incorrect expectations of each other. Do what you can to privilege the feelings and emotions of your roommate who you care about.
The Friendship Plan: If Things Don't Work Out, Work to Retain Your Closeness
Regardless of whether your roommate doesn't see you romantically or you two eventually break off your romantic attachment, it can be a good idea to put extra effort into bringing the relationship back to platonic friendship. It's such a shame to lose a great relationship with a friend because a romantic dalliance didn't pan out, so make some preliminary plans about how you'll work back up to platonic friendship if things don't go the way you hope. Would you consider:
- Moving out but spending time together in large group friend settings?
- Double dating once you both are with other people?
- Continuing to live together but being honest when you need space from each other?
- Committing to not bringing up the past or "trying again" for a romantic relationship, which can cause worry and frustration?
Regardless, as adults you can definitely handle these romantic feelings. There are major pragmatic reasons to proceed with caution if you are interested in your roommate romantically, and more so than with other people, there is a lot to lose if things don't work out. Count the costs in money, time, and lost friendship, but if the benefits still outweigh the drawbacks, make your intentions known and see what happens! You might have found the love of your life.
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