Living in lockdown with your housemate's other half isn't always easy. But there are ways to make living arrangements stress-free for everyone.
Thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, countless relationships have fast-forwarded to cohabitation. It seems many find the alternative option of ‘Zoom date night’ far less appealing.
But with over 5 million shared and rented households in the UK, many are now living with people they never chose. Namely, their housemate’s partner.
Here’s our guide to making the most out of living with your housemate...and their other half.
With rights come responsibilities
Of course, if you’re accepting them as a housemate they’ve got to act like one. That means contributing fairly to bills, shared food and rent.
And because no one yet knows how long lockdown will last, it’s well worth having an honest conversation to thrash out some ground rules now.
Ultimately, the couple should be treated as two separate people.
After all, the boyfriend or girlfriend will benefit from the heating, water, electricity and internet just as much as anyone else. In fact, it’s a good idea to bump up your broadband package if you can. If there was ever a time to pay for unlimited use it’s when 80% of your waking hours are spent on Netflix.
Now might also be a good time to finally put together that household chores rota. Again, if you’re being scrupulously fair the couple should not partner up in this process.
Otherwise, they’ll be splitting their share of the cleaning in half while you’ll be doing the whole lot.
What about splitting the rent?
Rent is a bit trickier to work out if they’re sharing a room. But there’ll still be an extra person taking up space in the lounge and jumping ahead of you in the shower queue.
How much more they should pay is up for discussion. Remember, they are sharing a room, so technically they’ll have less space than you.
So, if two of you were paying £500 each before, you could change the split to £450 and £550. On a positive note, it’s a very good opportunity to reduce your bills.
It’s just the kind of awkward chat you probably want to avoid when you cannot escape straight afterwards. But the sooner you have it, the sooner you’ll stop small irritations becoming a bigger problem.
No matter how trivial it seems, it’s best to get it off your chest. If you’d rather everybody kept their hands off your speciality tea bags, then say so.
Create your own haven
Even if you’ve sorted all the practical details, you still need a place of your own to retreat to.
Often in a friendly houseshare, your bedroom is somewhere to sleep between work and socialising. But now is the moment to turn it into a space you can enjoy being awake in too.
That could mean creating a comfy corner you can read in or use for virtual pub quizzes.
Fortunately, lots of shops are still delivering. So if you (and the space) can stretch to a bean bag or a few large cushions, some art or cosy lighting, you’ll soon have a snug spot to curl up in.
Rearranging rooms to fit everyone
Your bedroom is not the only space that could do with a rethink.
Are there enough chairs in the kitchen so everybody can sit around the table? Could you move the furniture in the lounge so you can all see the TV?
The key to communal spaces, and what you do in them, is that they’re inclusive. Especially when your housemates are the only humans you’re allowed face-to-face contact with.
Everyone needs to feel welcome because we’re all a bit brittle right now.
Friends are still friends
If your housemate was a good friend before their partner moved in, they’re still a good friend now.
Try to carve out some quality time alone together to remind yourself of that. Perhaps you could use that precious exercise hour and go for a walk together. Or schedule an evening to rewatch a film you both love.
Keep doing the things you used to do for each other. Obviously you’ll need to change some habits. But small acts of kindness like this tend to be reciprocated, and that’ll make everyone happier.
If you really want to earn housemate brownie points, you could let them have a date night. Make them dinner or just keep to your newly cosy room. If the day-to-day realities of coronavirus lockdown have knocked the romance out of their relationship, it could be just what they need.
Working out an exit plan
There’s a lot of talk of exit plans at the moment.
You might want to double-check your new housemate has one too...
No matter how well you all get on during coronavirus lockdown, it’s a good idea to find out whether your current living arrangements will continue once it’s all over.
You may decide when the world is back on track a change of scene would be good for everyone.
In which case, it might be time to start looking for a new property to rent. For help, check out our rental property viewing checklist.
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