How do I get out of this potential roommate situation?

Help me Fortune Cookie! I’m currently apartment hunting with two other people for a three bedroom place. But I’m having second thoughts. You see, one of those friends has a minimum wage part time job, and school is making it very hard for them to find more work. I’m afraid they won’t make enough to keep up with the rent and utilities. They’re both good friends, and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, but I really want to start looking for two-bedroom places with my other friend. What do I do?

You can’t sit with us.

04-08-13-41-59 / 31

Hello Diner. You’re preparing a bitter recipe for hurt feelings, which is probably why you placed this Order. Your original plan makes sense. It’s very easy to get together and think about all the great times you’ll share as roommates. But then the stagnant stench of reality fills the room, and soon you’re choking to get out. That’s why promising flirtations become unanswered messages. That’s why idealistic policies become comic strip fodder.

Your friend’s feelings are going to be hurt–especially if you keep your other friend as a roommate. You humans are so averse to being left out that it doesn’t matter who’s doing the rejecting. Researchers found that even when members of the KKK excluded someone in a game, that person was just as distressed when someone they liked acted this way. [1] Keep in mind, these are all adults.

I can’t say how long people stay mad, or whether they fully forgive everyone, but your new living situation will be a constant reminder that you two once left them out. That would be hard to get over.

“That’s fine, Fortune Cookie,” you might say. “Thanks for the guilt trip. Now what do I do?”

Of course, Diner. We couldn’t leave it at that. There would be no repeat customers! The simplistic solution would be to just tell the truth and have them be mad at you–possibly even ending the friendship, but you specifically said in your Order: “no hurt feelings.”

Avoiding hurt feelings is a little more challenging–like making gluten-free fortune cookies: harder to chew and a little off. Apologies, Diner, we’ll try our best to cater to what you can stomach.

If it’s about finances, you can help your friend make the same conclusion you did–that they just can’t afford it in the long run without major changes. Put together a budget and show them what’s the long term financial expectation. You don’t have to start with, “I don’t think you can afford it.” Instead, start fresh with all three of you seeing what apartments you can afford with everything split evenly, limiting costs to what your low-earning friend can pay long-term. The available choices may surprise all three of you. Your friend may realize their expectations are a little high, or the places you all can afford aren’t really that bad.

But if the apartments really are that bad, and it came down to safety or just wanting a better standard of living, you would just have to be honest. At best your friend would understand and voluntarily remove themselves from the arrangement. At worst, it would seem less personal or unreasonable.

Ask yourself again why you want out. If it’s because you don’t like the person enough, telling them that truth would reset your relationship to a more honest one. In the long run, you’ll save yourself the tiring effort of having to deal with someone incompatible with you.

To be the most fair and least offensive to this friend, you will have to turn down both friends.

Part of your human experience is to go through uncomfortable situations and learn how to negotiate them with more finesse and nuance next time. Whatever happens, you’ll come out better in the end–hurt feelings or otherwise. Good luck, Diner.


[1] Gonsalkorale, K., & Williams, K. D. (2007). The KKK won’t let me play: Ostracism even by a despised outgroup hurts. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(6), 1176-1186.