• Suzanne Noble

The Non-Negotiables

Have you ever considered, when choosing to live with someone outside of friends and family, what’s non-negotiable? It could be that, as a vegetarian, for instance, you couldn’t imagine living with a meat-eater. Or that, as an early riser, you don’t want to be disturbed by someone who continues working well into the wee hours of the morning.

Most home sharers I’ve spoken to regard having their own bathroom as non-negotiable. I don’t know of many people who appreciate being confronted with someone else’s hair every time they step in a shower or tub. Or face a shelf full of lotions and potions with nowhere to put their own.

Kitchens can become a source of tension too if one person insists on using all the pots and pans every time they cook without washing up. Or forgetting to ensure there’s always a fork and a knife in the cutlery drawer for someone else to use. Sharing the responsibility of putting out the rubbish, sorting out the recycling is another. If like me, tidiness is an issue, then there's little point in living with someone who, like a boyfriend of my youth, never cleaned a single plate or mug until there weren't any left in the cupboard.

It’s not uncommon for the non-negotiables to sneak up on you until you’ve been living for someone for a month or two. Even if you conduct the most rigorous interview of each other, there are aspects of a person’s behaviour that they may not even recognise themselves. Someone may tell you they’re a super healthy eater who then turns out to have a penchant for takeaways. Or that they like to run every morning, not making clear that by morning they mean 5am, turning on the nutribullet at 6am to wake up the household and the rest of the neighbourhood. I knew someone who liked walking around the flat humming which would have been fine had she been in tune!

How and when overnight guests are or are not allowed can be another source of tension. Why should any of us want to deny someone the privilege of enjoying those first few lusty months of a relationship that may necessitate more sleepovers than was originally agreed? That is until the other’s new partner seems to be not so much a guest but more an additional home-mate. Suddenly accommodation that may be perfectly adequate for two seems too cramped for three. Non-negotiables may occasionally require bending of the rules.

Communication is key and preferably face to face. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, it’s unwise to share any concerns you may be having with your home-mate over email or by text. Asking someone to please use the extractor fan when they’re cooking to avoid the smell pervading the home may be a perfectly innocuous request when delivered in the presence of the other, but passive-aggressive via text-based forms of communication.

You might even want to consider a casual monthly town hall-style gathering where anyone living in the house or flat shares any concerns they may be having to ensure they’re out in the open as opposed to festering and being made worse as a result.

Ultimately, it up to each of us to be self-aware of our own particular foibles and that, as likely as we all are to occasionally get irritated by someone else’s behaviour there’s just as much chance of you being a source of irritation to them.

If you’re seeking to find a home-mate or somewhere in which to live, why not write down your own non-negotiables and bring them up during the interview process? Although I can’t guarantee you won’t discover one you hadn’t considered previously when living with someone new, there’s less likely to be any major surprises. Have you considered what you can't live without or live with?

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