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To Leech According To Her Needs

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My roommate's girlfriend is unemployed and just hangs around our place all week, even when he's at work. (She has her own place but is never there.) She's very wasteful with our utilities. Yesterday, after work, I found her in the living room watching TV with the air conditioning on full blast — even though she also had all the windows open and, for some reason, had turned on our gas fireplace! When I muttered something to my roommate about her kicking in for utilities, he retorted that my girlfriend isn't paying any extra. Well, she is here a night or two a week, has a job, and doesn't run up our electric bill. — Feeling Scammed

You need to establish a new house rule: "Residents and their guests can experience only one climate at a time."

Your problem started with going into a roommate situation without rules — without a written document spelling out how things would work between you and how they'd work if something weren't working. Signing a roommate contract (like this example from Nolo's "Every Tenant's Legal Guide": bit.ly/roommatecontract) might sound unnecessarily formal. However, it's wise to do whenever you're rooming with anything more animated than a cactus. Remember, to be human is to be annoying — like, for example, by letting another human move in and cause climate change in your living room.

The fair thing is to get Jackie Brownout to start forking over for the utilities — before it occurs to her to run the dryer all night because the white noise helps her sleep. But the fair thing isn't always the smartest thing. Consider what this is costing you — and what it could cost you. Compare bills from the previous year to get an idea of how much she's actually sending the bill up. No, putting every power source in the house on full blast isn't free, but her usage probably doesn't add more than $10 or $20 to your monthly bill. And no, it isn't fair that you're paying half of that. However, getting into this with your roommate might lead to your putting the $10 or so you'd be saving on moocher energy charges toward doughnuts for the movers you'd be paying hundreds of dollars to haul your stuff to storage until you could find your next apartment.

If you decide it would eat away at you too much to be paying for her, say something to your roommate, but in a mellow way, over a beer. Tell him you really like his girlfriend (because diplomacy, not truth, is life's little lubricant). As far as you're concerned, she's welcome to stay over as much as she wants, but you'd like a new house policy: Girlfriends who stay over four or more days a week need to kick in for utilities.

Stress that this applies to your girlfriend, as well, and add that the particular roommate, not the girlfriend, should be responsible for the payment. The last thing you need is to be going all collection agent on this woman — preferable as it might be to asking her to cut to the chase and heat the house by burning stacks of your money on the coffee table.

For Whom The Wind Chimes Toll

This girl I'm dating is truly great — except for how she is into astrology, buys me crystals to improve my "energy," and keeps sitting me down for tarot card readings. As we get more serious, I feel like telling her I don't believe in any of this. But I think she actually believes in this stuff and would be hurt if I came clean. — Rationally Based

Somehow, people who find it perfectly reasonable to ask a deck of cards whether they should invest in a 401(k) will sneer at you for asking a mailbox for directions to the movie theater. The question is, as a guy who tries to live rationally, can you respect a woman who probably reads books like "The Healing Power of Pebbles" and "How to Ask the Universe for a Pony"? (Without respect, you have contempt, which researcher John Gottman finds is the number one killer of relationships.)

Figure out whether you can compartmentalize — focus on what you love and shrug off her planning her day based around whether she sees a sign in her toast. If you stay together, gently explain that you appreciate how sweet she is in wanting to help you but that you really don't believe in all this stuff. Over time, if you let her see your thought process but don't hammer her with it, she may come around to the merits of evidence-based beliefs. In the meantime, do your best to be polite when she introduces you to her relatives — all her relatives, ever. (Are you free for a seance Friday night?)

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Her latest book is "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."

COPYRIGHT 2014 AMY ALKON

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It's Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess Radio! "Nerd your way to a better life," with the best brains in science solving your love, dating, sex, and relationship problems. Listen live every Sunday — http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. The call-in number during the show is 347-326-9761. This week, Amy Alkon and Dr. Jennifer Verdolin on how and why to set boundaries — even if it terrifies you.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon/2014/09/15/amy-alkon-dr-verdolin-how-why-to-set-boundaries-even-if-it-terrifies-you



Comments

7 Comments | Post Comment
Excellent advice from Amy on LW1: I will add this, however,

In my old house, we had a sudden spike in electric/gas bills during a three month period, and when I called the gas company to find out why, I found out they have a FREE service that will evaluate your home for leaks, etc.

This LW won't need that, but most utility companies (I think it's actually mandatory here in the US) have all sorts of programs to help you lower your electric bill and will actually print out your bill including usage free for any period of time.

So, for the LW, I'd suggest calling the electric company and asking for a statement of usage for the say the last year or so. They will do that for free, and in my area, you can actually do that online.

Where I disagree with Amy is that the LW should NOT under any circumstances say that the girlfriend can stay at the house anytime she wants. WRONG! If she's living at the house, she should pay rent.

I had roommates in college who had their boyfriends over all the time and it's ANNOYING to come home, think you're going to be able to relax in your bathrobe and hang out in the common areas only to find some person there.

Finally what we came up with in the last house I lived in (I had 4 male roommates, and I was the only female) was pretty simple, if someone stayed more than 15 days in a month, then they became a "roommate" and had to pay a portion of not only the utilities but also of the RENT. So in our case, one guys girlfriend spent a lot of time one month at our house, so the rent went from being divided 5 ways to being divided 6 ways. This cut WAY back on resentment in the house. She was also put on the chore list and actually ended up doing MORE than her share (wanted to impress her boyfriend).

The point is that this type of squatting doesn't only affect utilities, and if the girlfriend is living there (which is sounds as if she is), she should be responsible not only for her share of the utilities, but the rent and the household responsibilities.
Comment: #1
Posted by: nanchan
Tue Sep 30, 2014 10:40 AM
LW2: This has become an increasing issue in my life as friends of mine get into this stuff and here's my advice to you.

Tell your girlfriend you don't believe in it NOW. This is going to continue, this is a part of her belief structure. And if you don't believe the same way, she needs to know.

As for hurting her, take a look at your REAL motives here. Are you holding back because she's providing you love/sex and you don't want to lose that if you come clean (no pun intended)? Then you are USING that girl and that should stop.

Please tell her, if it matters to her, you may lose her. But it's only fair to both of you to confess this and stop the charade.
Comment: #2
Posted by: nanchan
Tue Sep 30, 2014 10:49 AM
LW1 -
You ARE being scammed: you don't have one roommate, you have two. One official and the other just a freeloader along for the ride, and actually consuming more than the official one. And Mister Official has no problem at all with Miss Extension, because she's his main squeeze and, while he's got the hots for her, she can do no wrong. Loverly.

Move out. Put all the monkeys in one basket and see how your friend copes when he's the only one paying the bills for his clueless floozie. If you're the one with the lease, kick him out. If you're both on the lease, try to find yourself a replacement, but you may have to bite the bullet until the end of the lease, which I hope is not in five years. Either way, move ou as soon as you legally can.

LW2 -
Such differences are called divergences of opinions and tastes. You can't expct to love everything she does and vice-versa. If you want a carbon copy of yourself, pull a Narcissus and fall in love with your own reflection.

You should tell her (gently and with a smile) that you don't go for that kind of things ASAP. Her reaction to your lack of interest will be very informative as to what level of maturity she has reached. If she refuses to accept that you may be a separate entity and have a mind of your own, then you have a problem and I would rethink the relationship, because the problem will keep on cropping up every time you're not her siamese twin.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:51 PM
LW1: You should make it uncomfortable for her to be there. Start acting like you don't see her. If she's watching tv and you're not - turn it off because "nobody" is watching it. If she's using the fireplace - turn it off because "nobody" is using it, etc. etc. And when your roommate complains tell him to suck it.

LW2: Relationships are built on lies because people are fake so you're right on schedule.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Diana
Tue Sep 30, 2014 2:30 PM
LW1--If your roommate's girlfriend is hanging around your place all week and running up the utility bills then she needs to start paying a portion of the rent. Someone stopping by an evening or two a week is not the same as someone who is basically living in your apartment the majority of the week. If your roommate disagrees then you need to find a new roommate. When you do find a new roommate, the two of you need to sit down immediately (before he moves in) and draw up a roommate contract where all the little details that come up when two people share a living space are discussed and the acceptable outcomes agreed upon by both of you. Both of you sign the document and have it notarized and then if any bad behavior occurs, you'll both have a common base for opening discussions.

LW2--Look, people are entitled to their beliefs including your girlfriend. All you need to do is be an adult and explain to your girlfriend calmly and without judgment that you don't share her beliefs in astrology and you would appreciate it if she refrained from pushing her beliefs on you by buying you crystals or performing Tarot card readings. If your girlfriend is open-minded and mature, she'll respect your beliefs as much as you respect hers and act accordingly. If not, then I would advise you to date someone with whom you have more in common.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Chris
Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:01 PM
LW1 -- Try putting her to work doing chores around the place, while you are there. Doing dishes, dusting, sweeping, cleaning out cabinets, clean the AC filter yada yada. When people come around to hangout in my shop when I'm working and I'd just as soon they not be there I will find something for them to do and they usually don't stick around.
Comment: #6
Posted by: J
Wed Oct 1, 2014 1:55 PM
LW1 -- What Amy said. But understand that it's unlikely your roomie is going to agree to this "after the fact," so in all likelihood the only way this gets resolved is if your roomie breaks up with her, or one of you moves out. Were I you, I'd start researching my options/responsibilities related to the lease so I could look toward getting my own place or finding a new roommate, etc.

LW2 -- Yeah, she's great, except for the part where you think she's a bit of a lunatic. Lust and passion will only take a relationship so far. There also needs to be respect. It's fine that you don't share her enthusiasm for crystals, tarot cards and astrology -- but it sounds like you think she's silly and irrational (at best) and a full-on kook (at worst). She's not going to be hurt that you don't believe in astrology, the healing properties of crystals, etc. -- she's going to be hurt that you think she's, well, one crystal short of a full chandelier. People who don't share the same beliefs can very happily coexist if they actually respect one another. You do not respect her. Please find someone you can respect -- and allow her to find someone who respects her.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lisa
Wed Oct 1, 2014 3:44 PM
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