good roommate has turned bad - advice needed

j3nbJanuary 22, 2007

My boyfriend and I (ages 23 and 24) rented out our extra bedroom to his 22 year old cousin when she needed some extra help. At first, she paid rent on time, she fed herself and she was very respectful towards us when it came to sharing, privacy and being quiet.

Something changed... it's almost like she's an entirely different person. She broke up with her boyfriend last fall and ever since then she's been a non-stop party animal. She drinks everyday and she goes to the bar several nights a week. She comes home late and loud on weeknights. She has no more respect for us in our home, she constantly hogs the one bathroom we have, and she invites guests over all the time often late on weeknights. She has become increasingly irresponcible; in the last month she has been involved in one domestic violence episode at her friends house, an at fault car accident, she has run out of gas on the freeway several times. Everytime something like this happens, we get a call (be it 2 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning) to come and help her out of the mess.

She hasn't paid rent in 3 months. She's stuck in the payday loan cycle and states this as her reason for not being able to pay rent. She has never paid utilities (she needed help when she came to us so we only charged rent without utilities), however she uses them just as much if not more than my boyfriend and I do (sometimes 2 showers a day, internet all night long, uses too much heat in bedroom, leaves lights on all night). She relies on us to feed her everyday, and rather than eat in front of her we buy enough to share. She works full time but insists she doesn't make enough money to make ends meet, but her only bills are the payday loan and rent. Her dad pays for her cell phone, she has no auto insurance... however she still has money to buy a mocha and a pack of smokes every morning.

We (my boyfriend and I) both feel overwhelmed by her at this point and would like to kick her out. We're having problems doing this because at this point we don't feel she is responcible enough to take care of herself. Being young ourselves, we don't feel it is our responcibility to take care of her. Being family, we don't want to kick her out to live on the street (her parents cannot take her in for their own personal health reasons which will be respected).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I basically want to get rid of this annoying roommate as painlessly as possible, if possible at all.

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Talk to her first then ask her to leave. You are enabling her. The money is probably going to drinks, smokes, and possibly drugs. It's not fair, this is not your child, and you are not responsible to raise her. This "roomate" could start to strain your relationships, finances, and personal life.

Don't know the parents health issues but perhaps you should inform them of your problems. Put their childs behavior back on them. Perhaps they can talk to her or start paying her rent etc.

Kicking her out may not only be best for you but also her. Perhaps she will have to "grow up" quickly.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 10:03PM
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I think she's read all your help as a sign that she can take advantage of you. It's sad, but I think it often happens--she sees you a weak, and you are BEING weak.

Tell her you don't want a roommate anymore, that you want your privacy, etc., and that she'll have to leave at the end of the month. Don't make it be about rent, or food, or anything.

Make it be about something she cannot change, even if she wanted to. Then, she can't wheedle, bargain, etc. Or, she can't suddenly come up with the money.

I would first, however, lay the groundwork among the family. First, have a talk w/ her mom and dad. Tell them that you've decided you want to not have a roommate. Also tell them you're worried about her--that she isn't paying rent, isnt' buying food, never has paid w/ utilities, etc. And that she's started behaving in really unhealthy ways. And that you felt an obligation to tell them, so they know, in case they can help her.

Then tell your own parents. You can even vent a little more directly to them, but always make the MAIN be about how you don't want a roommate anymore, of any kind.

But you do also want the idea that she didn't pay her share, and that her decorum has deteriorated, to get oh-so-very-subtly out. Because that will help insulate you from charges among the family that you are uncaring or something.

It will help if you have laid the groundwork among the family first, so that nobody takes her side or creates unpleasantnesses for you.

She's a user, so you will have to set a deadline--don't tell her "find a place and let us know" bcs she won't bother. (also, for your own sake, you need to feel as though you have seized back the control in the situation). And you need to be prepared to move her stuff to her parents' garage (mention this vaguely to them), and change your locks.

Let her parents deal with the concept of whether or not she can live with them--this is not your child, not your parents, not your problem.

Best of luck. I'm sorry you got stung so bad after trying to be helpful. I think it happens to lots of people. It's hard to combine the "I want to help" with the "I'm going to hold you accountable and never buy you food, and get on your case if you act badly" response that really needs to go along with it.

You said: "we don't feel she is responcible enough to take care of herself"

She probably isn't. But you are, and you were when you were 22, right? Children never learn to tie their shoes if someone is always doing it for them.

It's time to say, "she's a grownup, and she'll have to take care of herself." she can swim, if she really wants to. honest, she can. And if she doesn't--it will have been HER choice, not yours.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 10:23AM
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'Don't know the parents health issues but perhaps you should inform them of your problems. Put their childs behavior back on them. Perhaps they can talk to her or start paying her rent etc.'

'Let her parents deal with the concept of whether or not she can live with them--this is not your child, not your parents, not your problem.'

'Children never learn to tie their shoes if someone is always doing it for them.'

This is true... but someone has to show the child HOW to tie them first. I've realized that she was denied this as a child, I only wished I had seen it sooner.
The problem with her parents is not simple, and I suppose more info would have been appropriate in my first post... they are not together to begin with, but on top of that each of them has had their share of substance abuse problems. Her mother lives with her AA sponcer. Her father lives in a one bedroom trailer on disability, also a recovering alcoholic, and I know that his new wife abuses prescription drugs daily. Her (my roommates) mother actually took her out of school when she was a child and she was eventually taken away from her mom, this is why she cannot take care of herself. As a foster child she didn't have a real caring parent to make sure she learned important life leasons. Her overall education level is maybe 6th grade at best, my guess.
I would like to thank both of you for your advice, different points of view are important. I know it seems I am being taken advantage of, however I can't just let her go the way she is, my conscience won't let me. So I talked to her last night, explained the strain she is putting on us, she seemed to understand. She gave me copies of her pay stubs, so I know when she will have the money to pay us back. Although she doesn't know it yet, when she finally does pay up we are going to put it into a trust account for her so that she can have a deposit and first months rent on her own apartment, we don't need the money like she does. Hopefully we will help her out of our home this summer, maybe spring. We told her there will be no more help from us (money, late night rescues, food, etc) she is on her own, but can stay for now because she needs a stable home for once in her life. She actaully bought dinner last night (it was mac'n'cheese but we liked the effort). She has been restricted from unlimited internet use, her online curfew is now 10pm and she only gets 1 hour a day, this seems to keep her in check. We can't keep her from going out, but I spoke to some of her bar buddies and explained the situation, that she shouldn't be out everynight, and I think we might get a little help from a few of them.
I'm proud to say that after talking with her a lot of what I told her seemed to sink in... she didn't drink at all last night (keep your fingars crossed that it lasts). We still have a long ways to go with her, and I realize how unfair the situation is to me and my boyfriend, but for this family heart comes before finances.

Again, thanks for your thoughts... at least now I know that I'm not being unreasonable.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 4:11PM
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This added information does help me I had a similar situation with a girl I knew. Similar family life, brother who raped her parents had major substance problems, and I was a parental figure who took care of her. It was a real load on my personal life and when I got into a serious relationship she was destroying it slowly.

She rented from me (not a roomate) and I did a similar deal where I put away part of her rent for her downpayment. Finally found a home a good 30 minute drive from me. Good distance so she couldn't just pop in unannounced. I'm a realtor and used my commish to buy her a washer/ dryer.

The first few months were really rough as she had to learn how to take care of herself. I would stop by weekly just as support, and around once a month would stock her home with groceries.

My visits got fewer and fewer and now 6 years later I am in touch through e-mail every other month and a phone call twice a year.

Even with your friends troubled past its up to them to want to change. Her childhood has set her up for lots of failures BUT many children who grew up in similar situations are very successfull financially and personally.

I also would explain to her the problems with drinking. She has a greater chance of becoming and addict to alcohol or other drugs since it runs in her family. My family also has a tradition of alcohol abuse. Many of my cousins drank in their early 20's and quit, not wanting to risk their futures. Some never drank as our family reunions are enough to steer one away.

I admire you for your courage and the way you are dealing with this. It/She won't go away anytime soon, so be patient and keep communicating with her.

Part of raising children is talking to them like adults, letting them make their own decisions, and treating them like adults while keeping that watchfull caring eye on them.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 8:43AM
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I once took an abbreviated Franklin Covey course (the day-planner people, though not the Day-Planner people).

one thing that struck me was that in the full course, they have you write down your BIG goals--what sort of person do you want to be? What sort of life do you want to have? What sort of reputation do you want to have? what' simportant to you?

Then, you write down the steps to achieve THOSE goals, plus you keep those papers around all the time, to use when you need to make a decision.

Is there some way you can get this sort of coaching for her? Maybe through the foster-care agency? Might be nice if it didn't come from you. If what she wants is "to not have to worry about whether I'll get fired," then "getting a good night's sleep" might be one of her tools, and a reason not to go out drinking at night.

(I wouldn't count on any help from the bar buddies, but you might start trying to help her see that some of those friends are REAL friends)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 10:24AM
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Everything I know about foster care says that once a 'client' turns 18, they don't want to know about them. Forget helping a 22-year-old.

I think you've taken a good first step. Just be ready to enforce limits. And be careful of allowing any guests. You could wind up being attacked or ripped off.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 1:37PM
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