It happens: After living together for years (or months, let’s face it), you discover that you and your roommate are no longer a perfect match. Maybe it’s her inability to do the dishes, or the fact that she always uses your oat milk, or that her 6 a.m. living room workout wakes you up every single morning. (Good for her, but does she need to exhale so loudly?)
Or maybe it has nothing to do with your roommate at all and you’ve decided you want to live with your significant other or—finally!—alone. Either way, having the convo with your roommate about going your separate ways, residentially at least, isn’t easy. So how do you tell her to scoot without ruining the relationship? I spoke to therapists to find out how to have this iteration of “the talk” respectfully.
Keep scrolling for tips on how to maintain a friendship with someone you don’t want to live with anymore.
Plan the conversation before you have it
Think about what you’re going to say before having any conversation, especially those that make you nervous. Start by seriously figuring out why you’ve made this decision in the first place. If things weren’t always smooth sailing, it’s helpful to write a list of what worked and didn’t work about living together.
“Really take an honest look and reflect on how you have contributed to the situations, both positively and negatively,” says Elizabeth Cohen, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist. “After reviewing your list, spend some time thinking about what worked well and try and recall specific moments of pleasure with your living situation. If you have these positive memories in your heart and mind when you talk to your roommate, your conversation will be more graciously received and you will feel better about it.”
Essentially, you don’t want to sound too accusatory, says Cohen. So once you’re in the actual conversation, you can soften the blow by bringing up what you enjoyed about living together, like movie nights, impromptu dinner dates, and having someone to vent to after a long day.
Have the chat ASAP
When you are totally dreading a conversation, it’s easy to make excuses so you can push it off. But it will be better if you tell your roommate as soon as you decide you want to part ways. That way, they can figure out their next living arrangement without having to worry about time, says Courtney Glashow, LCSW, a Hoboken-based psychotherapist and owner of Anchor Therapy.
“Your roommate will understand as long as you tell them as soon as possible, you are open about your reasoning for moving out, and you express interest in remaining friends,” Glashow says. If you are considerate about telling them in advance and keep the conversation positive, it’s more likely their feelings won’t be hurt beyond repair.
Spend time together outside the apartment
Now, there may be some awkward silences between the conversation and move-out day, but you can (hopefully!) minimize them by focusing on the friendship. Spending quality time together before the move—and after—is key.
“If your friend seems a bit fragile and sad, then you may need to cater to that a bit,” says Glashow. “Spend a little more time with your roommate at locations outside of the shared space. This will get you used to spending time together outside of the home, [and will] show your roommate that you can continue [hanging out] together.” So break your nightly Netflix habit and head out to an AcroYoga class or hit up a new moon women’s circle together.
And remember, you’re not alone in this. “It’s common for good friends to start living together and to have problems with one another due to sharing a living space,” Glashow says, adding that the problems could very likely disappear once you’re no longer living together. More girls’ nights out, less bickering over whose turn it is to take out the compost? Sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship.
And what if you’d rather not maintain a relationship with your soon-to-be ex-roomie? Here’s how to set healthy boundaries with toxic, low-vibe people—and a few tips for making new friends who are a better fit for you.
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