I'm living in a really stressful situation. I live in a house share with my best friend, husband and new housemate. We all get on really well and the house is a beautiful place to live. But I'm falling in love with my housemate on every level – it started off as just getting to know each other, then we got on so well that now I look forward to seeing her more than my husband at the end of every day.
The worst thing is: it's definitely reciprocated. My husband and I have been together for three and a half years, and I love him very much, but my feelings for her are becoming all-consuming and this has thrown up so much confusion for me. What should I do?
Oh pal. Reading this makes my stomach churn and my heart lurch. It’s a bit like sitting at the top of a rollercoaster, looking hundreds of meters down, waiting to be plunged into uncertainty and hoping there’s some safety belt to keep you safe.
Right now, your life is like a coin toss. Heads: cosmic forces have aligned so that you may find a love like you never knew possible with your flatmate, highlighting the fact that perhaps you weren’t as happy as you thought you were before you met.
Tails: you’re in serious danger of throwing out a future you’ve worked towards as well as a long-term, loving and stable relationship because (sorry to be glib) you fancy someone else.
You say “the worst thing” about this is that your feelings are “reciprocated”. But perhaps that’s actually the best thing about your situation? You don’t strike me as the sort of person who shies away from commitment – you live with your partner. You married him! So it’s not as though you make a habit of rolling out of one relationship and into another.
Could it be that the fates have aligned to force you to ask yourself a really important question – one that more of us should be brave enough to ask ourselves even after we’ve signed a mortgage or taken wedding vows: am I happy? Do I still want this? Is this actually the life I see myself living for the next ten, 20, 30 years?
Relationships are hard. They require work. Every now and then, the universe tests you to make sure you’re on the right path. You have been given an opportunity to reassess your life. Approach this well and it could stop you waking up in the middle of the night at 40, 50 or 60, going full Eat Pray Love and walking out on your marriage, children and pets because you’ve been suppressing your feelings for decades. Nobody wants that.
There is a lot at stake here. But there’s also potentially less at stake than there will be in the future. You can either commit further to the life you already have or you can shake things up. Either way, you will be OK – I promise.
That said, forbidden things are always enticing. So many of us want people purely because we can’t have them. Temptation can take over our brains, stops us functioning and tricks us into making really dodgy decisions (see: lust). For now, it’s important that you don’t do anything rash because you’re fantasising over someone you barely know and might not even be compatible with.
In practical terms, I’m afraid things aren’t much less complex. You need to tread carefully here.
Depending on how this pans out, you could end up in a scenario where either you, your partner or your housemate (or all three of you) no longer want to live in the property. Because this is a house-share, I’m assuming you all have a joint tenancy, which could make things trickier. Even if you’re all sole tenants, things could be legally challenging at best and financially damaging at worst.
“You probably have tenancy agreements for a fixed term, which you may not be able to end early – your landlord would have to agree or there would need to be a break clause in your agreement,” Shelter advises. “A break clause can allow a fixed term agreement to be ended early by the landlord or tenant giving some form of notice, but often there are restrictions on when the notice can be served.”
There’s further information from Shelter on how to end a fixed term tenancy here. If you have a joint tenancy, they note, “the same rights to end the tenancy will apply, but all of you must agree to end it, and any notice served must be on behalf of all of you” – and if you can’t end it, “you’re all responsible for paying the rent”.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop one of you moving out if things get too much, but because this is an emotive situation, you need to make sure you avoid someone suddenly leaving and not paying their share because it could leave the remaining tenants footing the bill.
I don’t envy you any of this but you must face it head-on. You’re going to have to talk to your husband, your flatmate and your best friend. This is going to mean stepping into the light and telling all parties how you feel. From there, you’ll need to agree next steps. Perhaps you need to leave, to find a room of your own in which to collect your thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the person you’ve fallen for needs to step away and give you some space.
I’m rooting for you, I really am. Every now and then, circumstances force us to confront our feelings, to say the shit we’ve been avoiding. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, where you’re sitting at the top of the ride, but things have a way of working themselves out in the end. You will land safely – I promise.
I am not sure mine is a question or a frustration. I am a 34-year-old woman working in the city and have been trying to buy a flat to live as I have had enough from nasty housemates and landlords (I would also include the fact that monthly room prices have almost doubled since last year).
The current system forces me to apply for shared ownership scheme, in which I have to pay for my mortgage and rent at the same time since banks are not willing to give me credit for the full property value.
The approximate one-bed flat is somewhere between £350,000 and £400,000. My question is: is there (or shouldn’t be there) any alternative to make it easier for us?
Do I have to work my whole life like a robot to pay my mortgage and rent and have almost nothing left for other things in life such as travelling, going out, or adopting a pet or something? Don’t you think government should do something about it?
The other week during the after-work gym rush, I watched a woman pound relentlessly on a StairMaster. Step by step she ascended a road to nowhere, eyes forward as she focussed intently on a News at 6 broadcast about Brexit. After Brexit, the newsreader seamlessly segued into an item about household debt hitting a record high, with families increasingly relying on credit to get by.
Never before was an electorate so disillusioned with a system that deliberately shortchanges them that they voted in favour of economic sanctions on their own country. Let’s just take a moment for late capitalism, shall we? Well done, us.
The “work, pay your debt and sleep” cycle you speak of is now the norm for growing numbers of people who find themselves unable to access homeownership, lack inherited wealth to fall back on and face renting from cradle to grave. So, yeah, the frustration you feel is valid. I mean, is any other reaction to it? Apathy, perhaps? Anger is too exhausting to maintain long-term.
Here’s the thing, though. Even when the world is going to hell in a handcart, somehow, life goes on. People around you will falter and you’ll pick them up. You’ll watch as those around you overcome adversity every day. Friends will get married and they will divorce. People you love will have babies and, inevitably, some won’t quite make it all the way.
You will have paralysing moments where you realise the sheer scale of what you’re up against. Every now and then, you’ll cry yourself to sleep and, yet, somehow, you will still experience moments of joy when you least expect them. You will manage to feel grateful to be here every now and then. You’ll look up from your phone and sense hope in the dark.
Back to your question. You ask if there should be an alternative for people looking to buy. Of course there should. But, honestly, right now, there isn’t really one. Without more truly affordable housing we’re a bit stuck. Shelter have recently argued that we no longer have a “housing crisis” in Britain, we have a “housing emergency”. They estimate that we need to build 3.1 million new social homes so that people can actually save for their futures without fear of rent hikes or eviction.
Until that happens, you must make a decision about your own future based on the options that are currently available to you. Owning something is, by and large, better than pouring your money into a landlord’s bank account and ending up with nothing.
Shared ownership – the dystopian notion of paying rent AND a mortgage – is sadly one of the only things this government has to offer. It is, to my mind, an example of the creative ways our politicians have found to funnel people into ever greater amounts of debt in order to prop up unaffordable house prices.
If owning a home is something you’re in a position to consider but unable to do without a bit of extra help, I’d also suggest looking into Help to Buy – the scheme was created in similar circumstances, but it may be an option for you (though it is problematic in different ways).
And, if it’s not, cast your mind back to the woman on the Stairmaster. One of the greatest tricks of late capitalism and neoliberal politics is convincing us that every disappointment is a personal moral failure. Our generation is being forced to interrogate long-held assumptions – particularly the idea that every generation will be better off, happier, more successful and richer than the last – only to find that they have no basis, and that we’re somehow to blame.
Slow down, sit with that and ask yourself: what do you really need? Can you find a way to be happy right now where you are, doing what you can and working with what you have? It’s not ideal, but to defer to the most apt millennial axiom out there: it is what it is.