Dear Prudence

Help! My Roommate Is Bailing on the Rent—and Our Friendship.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Two women arguing on a couch ripped in half like paper.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prpicturesproduction/ iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Q. Friend breakup: I currently rent a three bedroom house with my roommate, “Diane.” We traditionally rent all three rooms, but my roommate convinced me we could swing half the rent and utilities without another person after we had a particularly negative third roommate experience just prior to COVID. My boyfriend had offered to move in and pay extra rent when he was looking for a place, but Diane dislikes him and threatened to move out if he moved in, which I wasn’t ready for him to do anyways. I agreed he couldn’t move in partially because Diane and I are actually very good friends, despite meeting online just as roommates. We’ve lived together for four years, traveled in the U.S. and internationally (including trips with, and paid for by, my family), spent holidays together, and seen each other through various breakups. She calls me her best friend; our dogs are best friends. Diane is a transplant in my area, and two weeks ago she told me she would be moving back to the East Coast by January 2021. I was totally blindsided. I had never heard her even discuss moving as a possibility in the near future. I know she’s unhappy with her job and love life, but this seems to be quite a drastic decision. She has no job lined up, no place to live, no savings, and has three pets she’ll need to take. Not to mention it’ll be a harsh winter in her area of the East coast, and COVID-19 is still around.

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I now find myself in a precarious financial situation, as I’ll have to find two new roommates in the middle of the pandemic. When I brought this up, her response was that hopefully I could find one person in the next month and half before she leaves, so I’ll only owe two-thirds of the rent and not all of it. She also blithely suggested I buy a house before she leaves, something she knows I’m not in a position to do. I can’t help but feel like a friend wouldn’t do this to me. That I would’ve heard about this before now. I would love to ask what’s going on that prompted this, but I’m hurt and my pride won’t let me. I feel truly abandoned, used, and like maybe we were never friends at all, a thought that’s been devastating for me. We had an understanding that we would be living together for a while, and now I’m at square one. She’s also one of my only remaining friends in the area, so I’m starting to feel lonely already, even though she hasn’t left. She seems unconcerned, talking to friends back home and planning weekend trips together when she’s back, and she’s already bailed on one of the plans we made earlier this month (truthfully, something she’s done many times when she gets a better offer). I’ve pulled back because I don’t know how to be around her without being angry or upset, but I worry I’m wasting the last two months we have as roommates. Am I being too proud or am I justified in being hurt to this extent?

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You can be justified and too proud at the same time! That may feel like cold comfort, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Your hurt is understandable, and your pride is, I think, not bound up in the hurt you feel but in your decision to withhold from Diane just how much she’s hurt you, only alluding to the bind she’s put you in by “bringing up” the problem of looking for two new roommates. I agree that simply asking what prompted her decision, without any indication of how it’s affected you, would be quite painful, and I’d encourage you to be more direct with her. I don’t suggest that because I think you can (or should) try to convince her to change her mind, or because I think you two can go back to the same friendship you’ve enjoyed for the last four years, but because it’s a perfectly ordinary thing to do—when someone you care about hurts you, you should say something. You should speak reasonably and carefully, of course, but my goodness, you shouldn’t just pretend it’s all a great idea that makes your life easier until she moves away. Tell her that you wish she’d told you sooner she was thinking about moving so you had more time, tell her you’re feeling hurt, and if you don’t feel up to making plans for her next visit home, don’t pretend to be. I don’t know what her response will be, or where you two can go from that initial conversation—but I do know that’s where you have to start.

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