Dear Uncle Mat,
I took in a friend as a roommate when he lost his job. I have, or I should say had, a second bedroom I use as an office and let him crash there. Then when he was stressed about his storage bill, I let him move his stuff into my garage. He sleeps on the couch in my office, cooks in my kitchen, and parks his car in my driveway next to mine, now that I can’t use my garage. I live in a pretty small house and am used to it being my sanctuary. He isn’t a particularly bad roommate. He keeps the place clean, prepares food for me almost every day, and I am certain my cat is in love with him. I can’t say anything bad about him, except he is here all the time and I am going crazy. I feel like every day when I come home to him a little piece of my sanity kills itself. I appreciate that he doesn’t go out and spend money he doesn’t have, but he doesn’t leave the house at night or on the weekends unless we do something together. He does pay half the bills and buys groceries. He has some savings and is living off them sparingly. I understand this is a hard time, but he needs a life. I can’t be sure he is looking for a job as hard as possible since I am at work all day. He says he applies and I know he has been on an interview or two. I believe him, but his life is depressing me. I can’t even imagine what he feels like. He has lost some weight and is pale. I mean, he could just go walking or bike riding or get a hobby. I feel bad because I don’t even want to invite him out with me anymore because I need to get away from him. What should I do? He doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. His family lives in another state and I hate to kick him to someone else’s couch. I feel like that would ruin our friendship, or what is left of it. How is it that we are becoming estranged now that we live together? How can I still help him and help me?
Dear Crowded House,
Clearly you haven’t been married. Moving in with someone is a sure way to place some emotional distance in a relationship. That sounds like a bitter joke, but is potentially very true for non-romantic housemates. I lived with my best friend for a year and we didn’t make good roommates. We would need to leave the house to hang out together, and luckily that was still fun for us. We just couldn’t sit in the same living room together for terribly long.
He isn’t your husband. You may not be helping him anymore. You are giving him shelter and that is kind, but you aren’t helping him move on with his life. He is stalled out and you are merely enabling him to sit and stew in it. You have fulfilled your obligation as a friend and then some. I am not suggesting you kick him to the curb, but you can lovingly tell him it is time to pick himself up and take some new direction. Simply put, he can’t live on your couch forever. He sounds a bit depressed and unfulfilled by his new role as your houseboy. He is possibly as uncomfortable as you are but not sure how to change the situation since his resources are limited.
Offer to keep his belongings in your garage if you want, but ask him to search out a new couch to surf for a while. Just give him a supportive push. You do not need to do anything else for him. You have been generous and it is fair to want your home back. Your friendship has a much better chance of survival if you help him out of your place now. If you wait till you break emotionally over it, you are likely to do permanent damage to your trust in each other.
You can’t fix his life. If you could, he wouldn’t be on your couch.
Much understanding and love,
Your Uncle Mat
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