You Can Live With A Roommate Of The Opposite Sex (But Read This First)

01/26/2015 01:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

So, you've finally found a room you're interested in renting. The price is right, it's close to the subway, and heat and hot water is even included! The catch? You'd be living with someone of the opposite sex -- and you've seen enough episodes of New Girl to know that this kind of arrangement can come with more than a few awkward situations. But, can it be done? I asked a few experts to weigh in on whether or not men and women can live together platonically. The verdict? You can live with someone of the opposite sex...as long as you follow a few guidelines.

1) Don't move in with someone you're attracted to

You might try and convince yourself that the opportunity to live in your dream apartment is enough to keep your panties on. But if the guy or girl you'd be moving in with makes your stomach do somersaults, and you're already hoping to catch a glimpse of their accidental towel slip post-shower, you should probably walk away from that deal. As relationship expert and author April Masini points out, "If you cross boundaries and have sex with [or start dating] a roommate, you will have to live with him or her after you break up, and he or she is dating other people." Do you really want to come home to see your roommate-turned-ex and their new boo cuddling on your couch every night?

2) Be upfront about the status of both your relationships

Does your future roommate have a significant other in the picture? If so, is he or she okay with the fact that their spare room is being rented to someone of the opposite sex? If one of your partners has concerns about your living arrangement, how will this be addressed? Relationship and mental health expert Rhonda Richards-Smith recommends asking these questions before moving in, as well as anticipating the "what ifs" down the line. It's easy to say that neither of you would ever date someone who has a problem with your living arrangement when you both are single, but the tables could turn once a new significant other comes into the picture. Be really honest about how you'd each handle this issue if either of you find yourselves in a relationship with someone who isn't comfortable with your living set-up.

3) Figure out the guest rules of your apartment (yes, even the awkward overnight ones)

When you're talking with a new roomie about apartment ground rules, you want to be agreeable -- but therapist and clinical sexologist Dr. Kat Van Kirk says that not establishing some sort of standards for who you're comfortable having at your new space, for how long, and when, can lead to issues later on. If there are a bunch of dudes playing video games in your living room till all hours of the night on the regular, are you okay with that? Can you tolerate having your TV and couch occupied every Sunday while your female roomie and her crew watch the latest episode of Girls? Dr. Van Kirk says, "decide on how many people can visit, and how late. If one of you is going to have a romantic liaison, decide on how you will alert one another and what the protocol is for the next morning if your guest(s) stay over." If the sock on your doorknob from your college days needs to make a comeback to avoid an awkward run in for your roomie, so be it.

4) Discuss all of those other apartment deal breakers, too

It might sound like overkill, but "Screwing The Rules" relationship coach Laurel House says that these conversations are essential to roomie success, especially since men and women tend to live very differently. "Address your daily habits, from what time you wake up to when you prefer to do chores, as well as how late you stay up," Laurel says. "Talk about dishes, groceries, friends, sound levels, bathroom usage (if you are sharing one), and bill paying. Be honest with yourself and with your roommate about your habits, what annoys you, and what you do that might annoy them." A few things Laurel suggests covering: the toilet seat up vs. down conversation, sex on the sofa you both use, and the level of nudity acceptable. Would you feel okay running into your roommate when he's only wearing boxers?

5) Make sure you both communicate

Therapist and clinical sexologist Dr. Kat Van Kirk explains that very often, men and women have different ways of communicating. "Good communication is probably the most important trait you should share," she says. "Sometimes women will assume that the men in their lives should just 'know things.' Other times, men will let a situation get out of hand because they don't think it's a big deal." Talk about the issue you're having with your roomie before it becomes a habit. Keeping quiet about that week-old leftover pizza box or jumbo box of Tampax in plain view is just sending the message that this is okay with you.

6) Accept that awkward situations will happen, and be able to laugh about it

If you're the type of person that replays your awkward moments over and over again in your head, you might want to reconsider living with someone of the opposite sex. As Dr. Kat Van Kirk puts it, "awkward roommate interactions can run the gamut. Learn to laugh at yourself and with others. This will take the sting out of most misunderstandings."

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