Roommates (Not) Wanted

At age 31, I had never had a roommate. I guess there was a long period of time where I lived with my ex-significant other, but to me that doesn’t count. I worked full-time and went to college at night, so I never got the dorm lifestyle experience. When that relationship ended, I was financially stable and never needed anyone to split rent with me. When I met my current boyfriend, he lived with two other female roommates. One had just moved in and the other had been there for four years. It didn’t bother me at all…until we started talking about moving in together two years later.

I assumed we’d find a new place together. He was five years older than me and I figured he would be done with having roommates. As soon as I began looking for places and talking about budgets, he freaked out. “I’m not moving out of this apartment. You’re moving in.” Wait, what? There were already three people living in an 1800 sq ft space. I had a long history of living in the ‘burbs, which meant a lot more room for less money than in the middle of DC. How would I possibly fit my entire one bedroom apartment into a room that I shared with him?

His rationale was that he came from a big family and loved having people around. There was a constant flow of interesting people coming in and out of the apartment. There was an unspoken open-door policy and each roommate had friends over all the time. Some friends even became honorary roommates for the amount of time they had crashed on the couch. It was a nice, fun atmosphere, but I wanted to live like an adult, just the two of us. He wasn’t quite ready for that big of a change.

Most women would have seen that as a sign that maybe we shouldn’t be together. We were on different pages. But our relationship was complicated because of my health. Only 9 months after we started dating, my Migraines became chronic. Now with two years together under our belt, he was still emotionally supportive of my condition. I basically lived at his place anyway, especially when I didn’t want to be alone during a bad attack. He went with me to doctor’s appointments, did research and took me to the ER. He was amazing. But it was a lot of responsibility for him. At the time we didn’t fully understand how my condition was going to play out. It was stressful.

My mom wrote in a Christmas card to him, “thanks for taking care of our defective daughter.” Very funny and sadly true. My family kept telling me they couldn’t believe he had stuck around considering all of my challenges. My family wasn’t far away and I had great friends that supported me too, so he wasn’t my only caregiver, although I preferred his help. Everyone could see how much we were in love. We were a team. We had already weathered a lot and I hadn’t scared him off yet. So maybe I should at least talk through moving in with his roommates.

The pros were that my rent would be cut in half. I was barely working part-time due to the Migraines so saving money would be a huge help. When I did go into the office, I would have a reverse commute which would help with the fatigue I got from being in the car too long. When I was in bed for days on end, I wouldn’t be alone. In my own apartment, I would sometimes be holed up for days with really no human contact. Living in the city would allow me to walk to the grocery store and pharmacy when driving didn’t seem like a good idea.

If he was willing to commit to living together, that showed me he really cared. I just needed to mentally be ok with the situation. So we gave it a shot. I sold extra furniture and stored some at my parents’ house. We got creative in finding ways to store my stuff. Over time we upgraded old decrepit furniture to transform the apartment from college dorm style to mostly adult chic.

It’s almost been three years since I moved in and I’m so glad I did it. We’ve had a few changes in the roommates over time. Each person who has lived in this apartment has had a huge impact on my life. They became my daily support, whether they realized it or not. I think everyone has had a turn in taking me to the ER, picking up my prescriptions or making sure I had French fries and Cokes, which I crave during an attack. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to watch TV with. There is constant laughter in the house. We cook meals together sometimes (ok, I mostly just supervise). Plus I get all the juicy office gossip that is otherwise void in my life now.

It also took some of the burden off of my boyfriend. If he needs to work late or is traveling, there is always someone at home in case I really needed help. It gives him more freedom to hang out with his friends when I’m not up for going out. The open-door policy has ushered in people that I would never have met otherwise in my condition. It gives me a sense of community. It helps to stave off depression. Chronic pain patients can easily become shut off from the world. I am so grateful that my living situation forces me to interact with life.

My boyfriend and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary together. We’re getting older. From the outside it’s a little odd that we have roommates. I don’t imagine that we’ll all still be together five years from now, but I’m so glad that I got over my need to stick to the societal norms. I’ve gained so much from this living situation while having a chronic condition.

Have you ever thought of changing your living situation to better accommodate your illness? Live with roommates, down-size your house, rent out an extra bedroom for money?

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