Should you have a rule on how many nights your flatmate's partner can stay?

It's the age-old conundrum which has probably arisen in almost every Kiwi flat at some point - how often is too often for a flatmate's partner to stay over? 

It's a problem that I've experienced myself, in a classic case where I was, in fact, the overstayer. 

In my own partner's last flat, his flatmate asked - while I eavesdropped - if I could stay over less, as they rented the room out "as a single room rather than a couple's room".

She even went as so far as to request I didn't stay consecutive nights. 

At the time I thought she was being over the top - but was she?

One Kiwi Reddit user put it to the people, posting that they were at their wit's end with their flatmate's partner spending "more than 50 percent of days" in their sharehouse. 

"I'm curious as to people's thoughts on the matter," the Redditer wrote. 

"How often is reasonable for a flatmate to invite their significant other over to stay the night (having showers ect)? Once or twice a week? Three to four times a week? Every day or as much as they want?"

Opinion was split on the matter, with some resentful of anything over the two-day mark, and others of the opinion that if you pay for a room, you're allowed to have anyone you want in it.

"Two to three days is fine for me but would hope they both spend time at the other person's house as well to even out things like power/water use," one person wrote. 

"Personally I wouldn't mind if my flatmates had their partner's over more but if they're staying more than three times a week they need to be contributing to water/power/toilet paper etc," another added.

"If they are constantly in communal area that takes a toll too. My flatmate's girlfriend is cool though." 

angry girl between two embarrased guys
An unwanted partner in the mix can make things uncomfortable. Photo credit: Getty.

Sharing their own situation, another person explained that their flatmate's partner rarely stays over "but spends a lot of time in the flat". 

"Our flat is closer to his work than his parent's house - where he lives - so he drops by to shower before/after rugby training, often cooks dinner for them both (and neither of them clean up) and leaves late at night, leaving all the lights on overnight. All without any financial contribution," they complained. 

"His general attitude is that he's a flatmate, making decisions/comments about the flat, and not seeming to realise he doesn't live there." 

In general, one to two nights a week was the consensus - particularly if the significant other was showering and using communal spaces. 

It's an opinion echoed by Margo Regan, Auckland-based relationship, addiction and sex therapist, who told Newshub that for some flatmates, one to two nights per week is okay - especially it's reciprocal and at the beginning stages of a relationship. 

"However, for other people, it may not be agreeable with the original flat-sharing arrangement and may lead to built-up resentments and conflict," she added. 

Relationship expert Margo Regan.
Relationship expert Margo Regan. Photo credit: Supplied.

Regan pointed out that the types of problems the situation may bring can vary. 

"Some may feel that the extra person is not doing their fair share of cleaning or contributing to bills and that the home environment is being disrupted with reduced privacy from uninvited guests and the playing of loud music," she says. 

"And let's face it, nobody enjoys that awkward 'three's a crowd' feeling in their own home."

Regan noted that everyone is different, so while some flatmates may be happy for a partner to come over five nights a week, others may not. And some may resent the reduced social ambience or shared meal arrangement when a flatmate stays five nights or more away at their partner's place. 

She added that communication is key, and gave a three-step process for anyone dithering around the issue:

  1. Describe the situation specifically that is bothering you. For example, the problem may not be so much about paying for the bills as it is having an extra person in the house. If you live in a one-bathroom home and three people start work at 9am, this could cause a problem with the morning routine.
  2. State clearly how you feel. Perhaps you feel disappointed that there hadn't been a prior discussion.
  3. State what you desire. This could mean asking if it's convenient before a person calls around. Perhaps it's a new arrangement on sharing the rent 50/50 or agreeing to do extra cleaning or bring gifts. And in some cases, it may just mean that it's simply won't work.

To prevent a similar situation happening in future, Regan says it's always good to have a conversation before the lease is signed and discuss "what happens if" scenarios.

"If you're the person leasing a room, it might be good to say that if someone gets a partner, then one to two nights would be okay but no more than that. 

"Ultimately, it's important to be comfortable giving feedback and not take things personally, accept complaints gracefully, and avoid situations where resentments build-up to boiling point. 

"You've got to be ok having those difficult conversations because everyone should feel comfortable living in their own home."