Q: This is a long story so please bear with me.
My roommate and I are friends and busy medical students and we decided to live together near the hospital. I knew she had a cat but it was living at her parents’ house. I’m allergic (which my friend knows) and our lease won’t allow pets, so I didn’t think it needed to be discussed.
However, my roommate decided at the last minute to bring the cat to our apartment, and because I’m entirely too nice, I decided to give it a try with the caveat that she cleans regularly and the cat stays off the furniture.
Not only did that not happen, but my allergies increased in severity. I told my roommate I couldn’t deal with the cat and she had to either send it back home or keep it in her bedroom. She agreed to sequester it in her bedroom. Now she’s saying the cat is depressed, and if she can’t let the cat out then she’ll move out.
We don’t have any other problems. I’m not thrilled with the prospect of living with someone I don’t know. Our landlord has a one-bedroom available for move-in next month and agreed to let me out of my lease early to take it.
But that would leave my roommate to either find someone else or pay the whole rent herself. I feel like I’m putting her in a tough spot, but I also feel like it’s the result of her refusal to be reasonable about this cat. Do you think I should move or stick it out until the end of the lease?
A: This is not a long story, it’s a short one: “too nice.”
Your balking at “no” made a preventable problem for you into a costly one for you both.
Yes, your roommate helped make this mess by bringing a cat into a no-pets apartment with a pet-allergic roommate. That’s just stubborn and wrong.
But these facts gave you even more standing upfront to say “absolutely not” to the cat – “We need to honor the lease and I need to breathe” – and yet you didn’t. Instead you said “er, ah, OK, but this, this and that.” As in, you tried – twice – to say “no” by saying “yes,” which never actually works.
Call it a learning experience, and a common one, too. Just about everyone with a strong-willed friend has tried the say-no-by-saying-yes tactic.
But now you have to lie in the dander-bed you made, accordingly: You either let her move out, or beat her to it. “I like living with you and really want to stay roommates, if you’re willing to keep the cat at your parents’. If not, I have an apartment for myself lined up – I’ll pay my share of this rent for a month to give you time to find someone new.” Whoever moves owes the other one that much. Yes, even though she’s the one breaking rules and promises and the tenets of allergy logic. You allowed it, so you take your hit.
However this ends, please find and embrace your inner “no.” Honestly stating limits isn’t mean; in fact, by preempting messes like this one, it ripens into a kindness the way “too nice” rarely does.
Washington Post Writers Group