Monday 19 February 2018

Dear Mary: I want to move out to boyfriend but my flatmate is stopping me

Dear Mary

Illustration by Tom Halliday
Illustration by Tom Halliday

I’ve been with my boyfriend now for three years. He has asked me to live with him and I’m over the moon. For the last two years, I’ve been sharing with my very close friend Anne’. It has been just about alright from my perspective, but I’ve kept most of my grievances to myself so as not to damage the friendship.

My boyfriend’s lease is up in a couple of months, before mine, so I want to leave then, but Anne insists that I live out my last few months with her before moving in with him. We hope to move into a bigger place than he has now. Paying two rents seems mad, especially as money is fairly tight for us both. I’ve offered to find her a replacement for me until the lease is up — I’ve already found somebody who is willing to start with her when the lease is renewed — but she won’t agree to that. She is keeping the apartment on as it’s really near her work. Anne is very fond of my boyfriend and I know that she is not jealous, just in case you think she is. What do you think I should do?

Mary O’Conor replies: While I understand your wish to be with your boyfriend full time as soon as possible, I have to side with Anne on this one. You entered into a lease with her and you are both legally and honour-bound to keep to this. Offering to find a replacement is not acceptable, and I am surprised that she has even agreed to your choice of tenant after the lease is up. Sharing an apartment or a house with relative strangers can be disastrous — we have all heard of horror stories, regarding eating habits, hygiene, sleeping patterns, differing tastes in music and unwelcome overnight guests, from friends who have had bad experiences. It is not fair to expect Anne to fit in with your plans, and the options you have are to stay with her until the lease runs out, or pay up and move on.

You have found over the last three years that living with somebody, even a close friend, is not always easy. You decided that the best way for a peaceful co-existence was to say nothing when you were unhappy and this obviously worked for you. Anne therefore had no idea that you had issues and the friendship survived. As you will be shortly embarking on a different type of living together, you should talk with your boyfriend and discuss how you are going to deal with problems when they arise. Because despite being in love you will inevitably have difficulties — everybody does. I don’t think keeping everything bottled up is a great idea because eventually all the little things add up, and what often happens is that there is a mighty explosion — the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back — as the long suffering takes its toll. This takes the partner unawares as they see an over-the-top reaction to a small problem, whereas the reaction is the build-up of frustration and annoyance because the little things should have been addressed at the time. So I suggest that when you move in with your boyfriend you have in place some mechanism for dealing with issues as they arise.

Having said all of that, I hope that living with your boyfriend brings you much happiness — but not at the expense of your long-term girlfriend. We need our girlfriends more than anybody all through our lives. I have a very special one and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.


Dear Mary: My girlfriend treats me like a hired help

I’ve been living with my partner for almost three years. She is a few years older than I am, and has a lot more life experience than me. She has travelled 
a lot, and is very focused in everything she does. She has got a really high-pressure but well-paying corporate job, whereas I am an artist who works from home so am insulated from that fast-paced, stress-filled culture.

Because of her busy schedule I take care of most of the household stuff to lighten her load, and I am always happy to do it. Over the past year or so, though, I have noticed that she has become a bit more bossy and short with me. If I ever say anything about this she tells me I am imagining things, but I honestly do feel that she is almost starting to treat me like the hired help.

She has remarked a few times that since my work doesn’t bring in much money any more, I am lucky I have her to rely on financially. I know that’s true, and it is not that I don’t think she loves me, but I feel like I have disappointed her somehow.

All my friends think everything is great with us, and my own parents adore her. I know I need to stand up to her more, and ask her to treat me with the respect I think I deserve, but I’m afraid that if I do I could lose her completely. But equally, I can’t carry on as if everything is fine — it’s hurting too much. Should I confront her and risk pushing her away forever?

Mary O’Conor replies: The basis of any relationship should be that there is an equal partnership. Not necessarily that they contribute the same amount financially, because that rarely happens, but that each person contributes something meaningful to the relationship and respects the other’s contribution. I am not getting a sense 
of equal partnership in your relationship, as it seems to me that what you are giving to the relationship in terms of taking 
care of the home, is not being acknowledged and respected. I don’t like the fact that 
your girlfriend says you rely on her financially. That is quite a hurtful thing 
to say to anybody but particularly to a partner.

I am concerned that you are not able to let her know how all this is affecting you. Perhaps there is something in your background that causes you to shy away from confrontation, but if you don’t do something about all this, things will only get worse. You will begin to resent her and gradually get more and more angry until eventually what has been simmering inside you will come to the surface — a bit like the scenario I referred to in the previous problem — and you will both be surprised at the depth of your unhappiness.

This can all be avoided if you challenge her when she says something to you that hurts. Tell her that you feel upset, angry, hurt, whatever the word is that sums up your feelings by what she has just said. Do not allow her to brush you off but rather stay with the feeling and get her to see how things are from your point of view. I cannot see that this will push her away from you, rather it should give her an opportunity to reflect on how she is treating you.

You are an artist and therefore very sensitive — or at least you should be if you are good at your work. She on the other hand is involved in the corporate world which can often be devoid of feelings with the emphasis on results and earning power. So you both need to compromise — you by being more assertive and she by being more understanding.

  • You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

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