Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Coworker Has Moved into My Apartment Without My Permission”

About two weeks ago a coworker of mine’s boyfriend told her he needed space and was unsure if the relationship was right. My coworker and I have interacted socially over the last four months but are not exactly “besties”…or so I thought. The night he told her this she called and begged me to come over and stay with her. I did, but begrudgingly. I had surgery early the next morning (which she knew about) but she was so distraught I went anyway. I stayed several hours and waited for her to go to bed before leaving. The next day after my surgery she came over and has been talking about herself and her ex nonstop. I offered to let her stay with me for a couple of days, but now the relationship is officially over and she’s started moving into my spare bedroom.

She is extremely selfish; this whole time I’m supposed to be healing from surgery and she’s in my space demanding attention and wanting me to make her feel better. I’m really terrible at confrontation and we work together in close proximity with a close-knit team. I’m afraid that when I go back to work I really won’t be able to handle her neediness at work and at home. I’m a very introverted person and I required my personal space. I’m already stressed and in a fair amount of physical pain, a fact which she completely ignores. I don’t want to cause her anymore pain — breakup’s are awful — but I don’t want a roommate, especially not a coworker who is so needy. I’m a lot younger than she is but she’s been treating me like a surrogate mother. She hass stayed with me for nearly two weeks now. When should I tell her that I don’t want a roommate and how can I make it as gentle as possible on her already fragile self-esteem and heart while preventing awkwardness at work? — Feeling Invaded

When should you tell your co-worker that you don’t want a roommate? Uh, try two weeks ago! Seriously, the problem here isn’t that your co-worker is needy — although, yes, that’s apparently a problem; it’s that you’re a total pushover who’s is allowing herself to be taken advantage of. Your co-worker is a grown-ass woman who got dumped. She’s not your best friend, and she’s not suffering through something countless of other people don’t deal with all the freakin’ time. Even if you were perfectly healthy and hadn’t just had surgery major enough to apparently take several weeks off from work, it is not your place, your duty, or your obligation to house and support this woman. So, for the love of God, stand up for yourself and tell her to get out of your space immediately.

There’s no reason you should worry about offending her. What she has done is far, far more offensive than you demanding your space back. So tell her that you have no desire for a roommate and having a house guest is interfering with your recovery. If she bristles at that or takes things out on your when you get back to work, you need to have a talk with your HR rep. If she’s as nuts as she sounds, you surely aren’t the only person she’s rubbed the wrong way, anyhow.

Think of this as an opportunity to practice confrontation. Confrontation is not a dirty word. It’s an empowering act that will keep you from being walked all over and taken advantage of. Learn to set — and keep! — boundaries for yourself. People-pleasing is not a good way to make friends, but it’s a wonderful way to build resentment and create stress in your life. Start making yourself a priority so you have the emotional reserve to be there in healthy ways for the people you care about most.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

62 comments… add one
  • avatar

    The_Yellow_Dart September 19, 2011, 7:51 am

    LW – you seem like an incredibly kind and generous person – but everything has its limit. I’m sure if you explain your needs in an assertive and firm way, your unexpected roommate will feel terrible at her imposition and offer to leave right away. And if she doesn’t and things get a little messy – just remember that it’s your house and your privacy that she’s invading, and you are in the right! Wendy’s idea to get HR involved at work, if necessary, is a good one – and I think they’ll be on your side…

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 19, 2011, 7:55 am

    I think that what you’re looking for are the words to use with this woman so that’s what I’m going to give you.

    First, use I statements.

    Begin with I’m an introvert. I need lots of alone time. I chose to live alone because I’m really stressed if I don’t get my alone time. I’m realizing all over again just how much time I need to myself and that I really do need to live alone. I need my space at home to function well at work.

    Then you can volunteer to help her find a place of her own if you’re up to it or you can just give her a date that you need her to be out, say the date you return to work. Tell her you can’t handle the daily interation of all of the people at work unless you can come home to an empty apartment to be alone.

    The other alternative, which is incredibly passive, is to move yourself out when your lease ends. You would have to find a new place which you might not like as much and you would have the expense of moving but you could leave her behind if you were that desperate.

    One other thing you can do is take back the key to your apartment that she has. Just say that it is yours and you need it back. If it’s laying around when she’s home you pick it up and keep it without telling her first. If she leaves it in her jacket you take it out of her pocket. If she keeps it in her room you go in and get it. Remember her room is actually your room and you have every right to go into it. Then she can’t come in unless you open the door and let her in.

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    • avatar

      Slamy September 19, 2011, 10:35 am

      I had a situation with a house guest who ended up staying for 3 months. He was supposed to stay for 2 days. I moved out. He was very angry that he had to find a new place to live, but I was happy to finally have my space back, and after about a year he and I started communicating again. We’re not best friends, but I don’t really want to be his best friend. 🙂

      I wouldn’t really recommend that route, though.. I loved the house I lived in and I sometimes miss it, and it kind of made me look like the “bad guy” to outsiders.

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  • Public Pearl

    Public Pearl September 19, 2011, 8:17 am

    “I’m really terrible at confrontation”

    LW, I want to preface this by saying I’m not talking about you here, but you’ve hit one of my buttons.

    In my experience, people who say “I don’t like confrontation” are people who enjoy being victims. They passively let things happen and give mealy-mouthed answers whenever asked direct questions. If they leave the decisions up to other people, then nothing is ever their fault.

    I had to work on a project with a girl once who refused to give me her input. Someone had to take charge if we were going to get anything done, so I finally said, “How about we do XYZ?” and she gave me a “Fine, whatever” response. Then she went around complaining to anyone who would listen that I was an arrogant know-it-all bitch who had to have my way on everything. I said, “Look, if you didn’t want to do it that way, why didn’t you say something.” Her answer? “I don’t like confrontation.”

    My point is that when you have control over a situation, you need to make your feelings clear. Here are the magic words: “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me.” It’s direct and polite. Confrontation doesn’t have to be mean or rude. It just has to be honest.

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    • avatar

      El September 19, 2011, 8:54 am

      I actively avoid confrontation on a daily basis, and I absolutely have never, nor will ever enjoy being a victim. I have (and maybe LW, too) an anxiety disorder that makes the idea of confrontation terrifying. I don’t feel empowered, and its impossible for me to see confrontational situations ending in anything but fear and embarrassment for me.

      So, often times people who say “I don’t like confrontation” actually mean, “I’m physically and emotionally crippled by the idea of confronting someone over anything” . It wasn’t a matter of just getting over the idea of confrontation being a negative thing, it took years of cognitive therapy for me to get to a place where I felt comfortable speaking my mind.

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      • avatar

        EB September 19, 2011, 2:39 pm

        I can empathize with that. I grew up in an alcoholic household with a volatile, hotheaded father who would snap at the drop of hat so as a child, walking on egg shells and attempting to diffuse volatile situations became my coping methods of choice.
        I don’t think most people who know know me would peg me as the type of person to shy away from conflict because I tend to be pretty confident, outspoken, and opinionated. I am fine with confrontation in structured settings like work or arguing about impersonal things like politics or wedding etiquette but I can’t handle personal conflict where people lose their tempers. For me yelling is such an anxiety trigger because I automatically associate it with losing control thanks to my father who’s yelling usually indicated he was sloshed and looking to wreak havoc. Logically, I realize that most people’s yelling just stems from frustration or annoyance but unfortunately, my anxiety does not seem to respond to reason. I know that some people grew up in families where they yell at each other one minute and hug it out the next but I personally cannot handle that type of communication style. So basically when I say “I don’t like yelling”, I mean it makes me feel like I am terrified seven year old in a situation spiraling out of control.

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      • avatar

        Feline September 19, 2011, 10:06 pm

        El,

        Both myself and and someone close to me suffered from crippling anxiety in different ways at different times. The person close to me was trying to get over depression caused by a close family member’s death, and was trying SAM-E. That turned out to cause the anxiety, and the person never completely recovered, but is much better after getting it out of the system.

        In my case, I had been taking DLPA as a brain supplement for many years, and, as I got older, I switched from sugared sodas to those that use aspartame. Any drink with aspartame contains a warning for those sensitive to DLPA, but I didn’t think I was. It wasn’t until I went online to order DLPA that I found that anxiety can be a side affect of too much DLPA.

        I switched to Diet Rite soda that does not have aspartame, sodium, caffeine or carbs, and my anxiety level has just plummeted! I am happier and more confident than I ever thought I would be again. I seriously thought that I would live the rest of my life with a ball of anxiety in my gut for not only the actions that I performed, but everyone else’s actions (how can you be holding that 12 pack of glass bottles with one hand? I have to look away because you might drop that all over the place. We can’t drive over high overpasses without me hiding my eyes, etc.)

        I hope that something I’ve said might help you because it has made such a difference for me.

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      • avatar

        EB September 20, 2011, 6:34 am

        I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder for the past decade. Alas, I don’t drink soda nor have I ever taken either of those supplements…major bummer.

        Guess I’ll just continue to manage it with my doctor, therapy, and xanax until the day I FINALLY stumble upon the simple tip or trick that totally eradicates mental illness from my life!

        PS I know it’s a long shot… but any chance you’re a type 1 diabetic?
        Because I am and would love to also find a quick fix to get rid of that!

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    • avatar

      PondLily September 19, 2011, 9:08 am

      I think you’re giving an example of someone who is passive-aggressive rather than someone who doesn’t like confrontation. To me, the passive-aggressive person would rather make trouble without actually having to say what they really mean to someone’s face, while someone who doesn’t enjoy confrontation actually can’t emotionally handle it.

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      • avatar

        MsBorgia September 19, 2011, 10:37 am

        I agree with both of you in that there are many kinds of people who claim that they don’t like confrontation— but I think it’s valid to say that a lot of people who say they hate confrontations ARE self-victimizers, kind of like how people who say “I hate drama and try to avoid it” are somehow always in the middle of it.

        That’s my experience anyway. For the record I don’t think the LW sounds like a self-victimizer but she definitely needs to sack up.

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      • avatar

        HmC September 19, 2011, 12:50 pm

        Omg so true about the “drama” thing. I see apartment listing that proclaim “no drama please!” and I just keep on looking. All the most dramatic people I’ve ever known love to claim that they “hate drama”. If the word drama is so quick to come out of your mouth, then you’re probably dramatic and annoying.

        Ok sorry, off-topic rant over.

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      • avatar

        emjay September 19, 2011, 5:23 pm

        I understand where your coming from, but let me tell you, sometimes it really is not the persons fault. I despise, really depise drama! But no matter what I do I can not seem to get away from it! It drives me mad! No matter how much I keep to myself, mind my own business somehow, someway my name pops up. I’ll give you a great example:
        Dropped outta night class because the girls were really catty and spread rumors about every body, start back at days, never bothered any one, kept to myself until a girl in class was having a really hard home life and needed a shoulder to cry on. I was there for her, helped her, supported her, gave her advice etc etc… but now my name is being dragged into the mud because I decided to back off because when she needed someone I was there, but when I needed someone no one was there….so I tried to be nice and I bent over backwards but I just couldn’t do it anymore.
        So some of us don’t look for it, don’t want it in our lives, but just trying to be helpful and helping out a person who came to us, the cycle started all over again. Now I really don’t bother with anyone at all. Two more months of school left than I never have to see any of them again!

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      • avatar

        Sarah September 19, 2011, 12:35 pm

        I think the deciding point in this case was the LW actually offering the girl to stay for a few days. That was certainly not necessary and didn’t avoid any confrontation, if anything, if provoked the need for more. To actively choose to offer something that you know will make you miserable and complain to other people about just screams passive aggression.

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      • avatar

        MsBorgia September 19, 2011, 5:50 pm

        Amen to that!!

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    • avatar

      LSS86 September 19, 2011, 6:07 pm

      Well now you’ve hit one of my buttons. And that is refusing to accept that other people have fears and anxieties that you don’t understand, and so you think they should just get over them. A lot of people are afraid of confrontation. The scenario you described is not a fear of confrontation. It’s, as others have said, passive aggression.

      The LW knows that she can ask her coworker to move out. But she’s afraid of the confrontation. She’s afraid of how the conversation will go. She’s afraid that the coworker will be offended and make her life more difficult at work. These are all valid fears, and really hard to get over at that. Telling the LW that she just enjoys being a victim is not helpful at all, and beyond that, it’s incredibly mean.

      But I wasn’t talking about you or anything, just other people who say the exact same thing as you.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG September 19, 2011, 8:35 am

    For heaven’s sake LW – just TELL this woman to leave your apartment. Explain that you just came off of surgery and you need the alone time to fully recover. If she’s normal, she should just be ready to leave then. Can your lease back up your claims? Then show her the lease saying that you’re not allowed to have house guests. Does she have a key to your place? I hope not – if she does, then change the locks. If she still refuses to leave, then while she’s at work, call HR and explain the situation so that they are prepared to put you in a different environment AND DON’T LET HER IN WHEN SHE COMES BACK FROM WORK. If she asks for her stuff, open the door and give her a box will all her stuff accordingly.

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    • avatar

      Bethany September 19, 2011, 9:34 am

      Even if your lease doesn’t state that you can’t have long term guests or other “undocumented tenants”, just tell her it does. Say you got a call from your landlord and she needs to be out in 1 week. Yeah it’s kind of a lie, but it will work and it will salvage your working relationship.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant September 19, 2011, 1:25 pm

        I agree with this so much. Usually I am all for people being honest and assertive, but given the fact that the co-worker already seems to be coca-puffs crazy AND the LW has to continue to work with this woman closely, it seems like putting the blame on the landlord is the best way to go.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant September 19, 2011, 1:35 pm

        It just occurred to me, why don’t you actually tell your landlord what’s going on? In my first foray into living on my own (with roommates) one of my roommates moved in his girlfriend without asking me or are other roommate for the last three months of our lease. At the time, like you, I just let myself get steamrolled and even after a screaming match, she still stayed. I wish it had occurred to me to call my property manager and let them know what was up, now that I’m older I realize they would have been MORE than happy to make sure that everybody who was living was doing so with their knowledge.

        You may have a problem with confrontation, but I am sure your landlord will have no issue making sure no one is squatting for free in one of their rentals.

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      • avatar

        LSS86 September 19, 2011, 7:13 pm

        That’s such a good idea! I can totally understand why the LW is worried about possibly pissing off someone she has to work closely with by asking her to leave. Asking the landlord to kick her out is a little bit like asking mommy to fight your battles for you, but I say, who cares? It could avoid a potentially sticky situation at work, and I think that’s worth letting someone else be the bad guy here.

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  • avatar

    Jess September 19, 2011, 8:48 am

    Just tell her you have a guest coming to visit next weekend and she’s staying in the spare bedroom, so she’s gotta go before then.

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    • avatar

      Renee September 19, 2011, 9:21 am

      Great idea, point blank, is that she has/did have guest status. She can not use your spare bedroom as a storage facility.

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    • avatar

      Eljay September 19, 2011, 9:41 am

      Perfect! And don’t let her “leave a few things”. Take ALL her crap & be gone!

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    • fast eddie

      fast eddie September 19, 2011, 9:00 am

      Good idea Jess, make that a relative, her husband and 2 kids who’ll be staying for 2 weeks. After she moves you can say the visit was cut short or simply say nothing. That’s a passive approach but if it gets the job done…

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl September 19, 2011, 8:59 am

    “Listen, __________, I’m really sorry about your breakup, and I know that you’re going through a rough time right now, but you can’t live here. I am an introverted person, and I really need my space and alone time, and you staying with me is not conducive to that. In fact, it’s making me anxious and stressed out, and I just can’t handle it. So I’m going to need you to move out by tomorrow. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.”

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    • avatar

      silver_dragon_girl September 19, 2011, 10:33 am

      Alternately, buy a large food dehydrator and dry stuff obsessively. Fill a large aquarium with blue jello and insert a few goldfish crackers for “pets.” Let her catch you watching her sleep at night. Develop a creepy laugh.

      This method takes longer, though.

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      • avatar

        LSD September 19, 2011, 10:43 am

        Or just move her out all together and pretend like she never moved in. But then Joey has to move back in.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 19, 2011, 11:10 am

        haha, I really hated Eddie!

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      • avatar

        LSD September 19, 2011, 10:43 am

        Or just move her out all together and pretend like she never moved in. But then Joey has to move back in.

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki September 19, 2011, 1:02 pm

        It may take longer, but it sure would be a lot of fun.

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  • avatar

    Blondie September 19, 2011, 9:00 am

    LW- I just want to point out that the longer she stays, the more rights she has. It depends on where you live, but at some point your home becomes her home, and it is a court battle to get rid of her, even if there is no written agreement or lease. I would go with the above and tell her you have out of state guests coming in. Be firm. Polite isn’t being walked all over, and obviously your co-worker is rude as hell anyway.

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    • avatar

      splashes September 19, 2011, 11:42 am

      Totally true. A friend of mine rented out her condo to a man – just a man. his ex-wife moved in too, and at the end of the lease period refused to move out and did not pay any rent. My friend had to actually go to court to get an eviction notice to get the woman out of the condo – even though the woman paid no rent, was never part of the lease agreement, AND was not legally allowed to live there.

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  • Budj

    Budjer September 19, 2011, 9:03 am

    I can understand not wanting to ruffle feathers with a co-worker…if work becomes uncomfortable life becomes a stressful mess…that said…this woman isn’t a delicate flower and you don’t have to treat her as such.

    Kindly bring up you weren’t looking for a roommate due to your natural need to be alone to “reset” and are willing to work with her on when she can find her own place, but you need a concrete deadline. The fact of the matter is you never discussed or communicated she could move in…she is operating off of hopeful assumptions and the longer you wait to crush those assumptions the messier your situation will get.

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  • avatar

    PondLily September 19, 2011, 9:04 am

    Wendy said something that really stuck out to me in her response…”Confrontation is an empowering act that will keep you from being walked all over and taken advantage of.” I’m definitely one of those people that shies away from confrontation…I hate being in tense situations because I’m gentle and kind by nature and I have a tendency to take everything personally, whether it is someone just venting their anger, or venting it at me in particular. I never attack, I don’t get loud, and I usually feel very hurt that others are able to be so aggressive towards me. However, perhaps reframing what it is exactly that you are trying to achieve by a “confrontation” takes the fear and anxiety out of it and turns it into something that will actually end up relieving your anxiety at the current situation.

    In this case, I definitely do not think you should continue letting your co-worker stay without saying anything. As hard as it might be for you, you need to approach her and let her know that things can’t continue to go on like this. Tell her that you were happy to give her a place to crash while she collected herself, but now she needs to find another living situation. If she fires back at you that she has no where else to go and that you can’t do this to her, just calmly say that you’ve already done all you can to help and that now you need to help yourself get better after your surgery, without worrying about a roommate.

    Just keep in mind that she is probably going to be very angry at you, because she doesn’t seem like the type of person that has anyone else’s needs or feelings in mind but her own. But that’s ok. You need to do what’s best for you and not this person that you have no loyalties and have already given too much to. It might be difficult, but it is completely necessary for your health and sanity. And chances are, she’ll get over it faster than you do.

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  • avatar

    EB September 19, 2011, 9:32 am

    Dear LW,

    Yes break-ups can bring out the worst in people but my spidey senses tell me that most likely she’s sort of awful even when not experiencing a crisis. I say this mainly because I find it pretty telling that she is trying to make you, someone who she has only “interacted socially” over a period of four months, her primary support system. Reading between the lines, I am assuming she is latching onto to you because you are are the closest thing she has to friend. Unless a person is majorly on the shy side (which CLEARLY is not an issue for this girl), I find a total lack of friends a major red flag. In this case, it seems pretty obvious that her lack of friends can be explained by what you’ve already experienced: that this girl is a selfish, self-absorbed, “taker” who has no interest in walking the two -way street that is friendship.You have gone above and beyond the call of duty( I would not expect my best friend of 10 years to put up with me if I exhibited similar behavior let alone someone I had known 4 months).

    Bottom line: This woman is an EMOTIONAL PARASITE. Why are you so concerned about her feeling when she really doesn’t seem to give a fuck about yours? Please prioritize your own best interest and create boundaries.

    I know it might feel harsh but I really feel it’s best to be firm and distance yourself from her. Don’t ASK her to leave; TELL she needs to leave and by what date. ( you could pad that with an explanation of family or friends visiting as reasoning to why she needs to be gone by this date but that doesn’t create as firm of a boundary and gives her room to try and manipulate the situation).

    If she approaches you at work, simply say that you don’t feel this is an appropriate setting to discuss personal matters. If she protests, don’t engage just tell her that you need to get back to work and walk away or return to what you were doing.

    Best of luck LW, you seem like a genuinely good friend; I hope in the future you find and invest in people more deserving of your time and energy.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie September 19, 2011, 8:48 am

    This invader has no legal, moral or ethical exemption from trespassing your home. Depending on local ordinance you may evict her without notice or explanation. She’s a leach and will continue to be so until you put yourself in the position of protecting your home and psychological independence. You can try to do that politely or bring in reinforcement(s). A friend or relative being in the room would add authority to your rightful demand for her to move the hell out of your home. If push comes to shove, call the cops. In California you can do that and she’ll be on the street in 10 minutes.

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    • avatar

      emjay September 19, 2011, 5:31 pm

      That is not necessarily true in all places. In NY if the person is there 3 or 6 months (I forget which) they legally reside at the residence and needs a court order to get them out. So LW don’t wait any longer, and I would get in touch with your landlord ASAP, they might be able to be more convincing then you.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't September 19, 2011, 10:01 am

    Look, LW. I get the whole “I hate confrontation” thing. Really, I do. I’m also introverted and grew up in a family with a lot of yelling and borderline verbal abuse, so I tend to assume all confrontation is going to end up with me being screamed at and called names. But in actuality, most stable people don’t do that.

    I’m going to share with you a little life lesson that I’ve learned mostly the hard way this past year:

    the only person looking out for number one (you) is number one (that’s also you). You get it? If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. And seriously, if you can’t stand up for the security of your own home, what the eff WILL you stand up for??

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  • Heather

    Heather September 19, 2011, 10:13 am

    This situation is nothing a swift kick in her face won’t fix!

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    • avatar

      Jubietta September 19, 2011, 12:25 pm

      In the absence of the purple thumb, I’ll say I hope this is not serious advice. I understand the value of knee-jerk reactions like this as a fantasy (like maybe I could take all of her underwear and dye them bright magenta or I could make cookies for her with chocolate laxative) to help cope with the frustration, but supporting violence in the situation as described would be BAD…not to mention illegal and pre-meditated.

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      • avatar

        GTR September 19, 2011, 10:32 pm

        Honey, do you REALLY think she was serious? Are you really that lacking in a sense of humour?

        Or are you deliberately missing the humour so that you can demonstrate your high moral stance of non-violence? If so, shame on you.

        As for the matter at hand, short of kicking her in the face, the LW should just tell her what the rent is… and make it at least 50% more than the market rate. When the co-worker complains, LW can just shrug and say that that’s what it is, and it will kick in from next week. I suspect that the co-worker will somehow magically recover from her grief and upset and move out before then. It’s amazing how quickly some people can heal emotionally when there are $$$s on the line.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 September 19, 2011, 11:02 am

    I think the easiest way for you to handle this without getting your new roommate going crazy on you is to actually go up to her, and ask her if she has had any luck looking for a new place yet. I think this will work for a couple of reasons. 1. because it will let her know that this is a temporary situation, 2. if she says that she thought she was just going to move in with you, then you can go into the conversation of how you told her it was temporary, and why you want to live on your own, and 3. if she says she hasn’t started looking yet, you can either offer to help her look, or giver he a time table of when she can stay until.
    I think one way or another this unexpected guest is going to be a little mad at you, but that isn’t your fault, and there isn’t much you can do about it unfortunately.

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ September 19, 2011, 11:13 am

    Unless I missed something in the original letter, the LW hasn’t yet even mentioned anything to the co-worker. Granted, the co-worker sounds incredibly self-centered, but I think it’s important to note that before the LW works up her nerve for a major confrontation, it’s important to see what results from just telling the co-worker that she’s been happy to help her recover from the initial shock of the breakup (a lie, granted), but that she needs her to move out immediately, as she does not want it to seem as though the temporary invitation to be a guest is a permanent one to be a roommate.

    I expect the co-worker will still refuse to leave, but it’s worth at least asking before we all assume the co-worker will dig in her heels.

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    • avatar

      MissDre September 19, 2011, 12:34 pm

      jsw where have you been these days? we miss your comments!

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  • avatar

    mf September 19, 2011, 11:26 am

    You might not like confrontation, but the only alternative is to let people walk all over you like this coworker is.

    This woman is using you. She’s not a good friend. She doesn’t even care about your surgery or the pain you’re suffering. So if you lose her “friendship” over this issue, who really cares?

    Here are some words you can use: “Listen, Mandy, I’m sorry about your breakup. I was glad to give you a place to stay when your ex made you move out, but it’s time to find your own apartment now. I need to you move about by next Friday. Thanks for understanding.”

    Make sure you give her a definitive date, and DON’T BUDGE ON THAT DATE. You don’t need to tell her why. You don’t need to offer an explanation. You don’t need to engage her in an argument. If she gets upset, that is her problem, not yours! If she starts arguing or begging, just keeping repeating, “It’s time for you to move out. I’ll expect you to give me your keys by next Friday.”

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  • cmary

    CMF September 19, 2011, 11:44 am

    I’d just like to point out that whether the LW is introverted or not is beside the point – it doesn’t sound like this woman was ever invited to move in. The LW could be the biggest social butterfly in the world, and feed off the feeling of being surrounded by people 24/7, but nothing gives the coworker the right to claim someone’s guest bedroom as her own without any discussion or invitation. Just saying.

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    Sarah September 19, 2011, 12:06 pm

    LW, I want you to take a deep breath and repeat after me:

    “THIS IS ENTIRELY MY OWN FAULT.”

    ……You had an OUT! It would have been the easiest thing in the world to say “I am so sorry that you are going through this with your boyfriend. I would love to help you, but I’m afraid I will be going through surgery and I will need to be on my own to recover properly. But I’m always here if you need someone to talk on the phone to.”

    Why. Didn’t. You. Say. This? Why weren’t you honest with her? And please, PLEASE don’t say you have a problem with confrontation. I’m getting a little sick of people using this as an excuse, while real people afraid of confrontation have to live like meek mice as punishment for their REAL problem. You do not have a problem with confrontation, you have a problem with passive aggression.

    I know exactly what your thought process is: “Why can’t this woman understand how rude she’s being?” You know why she doesn’t know? Because you haven’t said anything to her. I even would go as far to say you have presented an image to her that is the EXACT opposite of how you feel. Why did you offer to have her stay for a few days? Was it the right thing to do to let her mooch off of you anymore? Or maybe it was because you get to be the suffering hero while being able to complain about it to other people and avoid confrontation at the same time? But now the mooch is moving in, and this is a surprise? This woman asked to mooch when you were getting SURGERY. There was no excuse for her asking this and you could have been the voice of reason to tell her this. You’ll have to be that voice of reason now.

    You spent a good chunk of that letter going “I’m suffering so much to help her and she’s awfullllll.” When you should be really going,”Why did I let myself get in a bad situation without addressing my own needs to this person, and how can I fix MYSELF to keep this from happening?” Stop looking for avenues to complain about this problem you created and actually fix it. Say “Ms. Blah Blah, I am really glad you took some time to work out your issues with your boyfriend here, but I think in order to keep our work relationship well balanced, you should fine somewhere else to stay starting this week.” Its literally THAT EASY.

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      HmC September 19, 2011, 1:02 pm

      I dunno. The LW offered to let the co-worker stay “for a few days”, and now the co-worker has overstayed her welcome. The co-worker didn’t just show up with moving trucks and say she was moving in permanently. And now the LW is asking for advice on how to confront a co-worker diplomatically. The LW doesn’t strike me as some wannabe “suffering hero”, and I disagree with you that it’s ALL her fault. It’s wrong to let yourself be taken advantage of, but it’s also very wrong to take advantage of others in this way, so it’s the co-worker’s fault too.

      Personally, confrontation did not come naturally to me when I was younger and it is something that I’ve had to work on, so I understand that sometimes it can be a struggle between wanting to be generous and second-guessing your anger, and knowing for sure that someone is taking advantage of you. I think it’s a little undermining to just tell the LW that it’s “that easy” to confront the co-worker. For her, it clearly isn’t, so it doesn’t help much to just tell her that it is.

      Anyway, all the LW can do now is have an honest conversation with her co-worker (which she hasn’t done yet) and see how it goes.

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        Sarah September 19, 2011, 2:25 pm

        When I say it would have been easy for her to answer back, I mean that, it could have been done and can be done with little or no confrontation, which for her, would have been “easy”. You have to admit it is way easier to hear “Ooo, you know what? I’m having surgery, and I really need to recover on my own.” than something that’s most assuredly going to be way more emotional and frustrated when she finally confronts her down the line.

        It would be different if the LW was delighted to help her friend and things turned sour, but the LW didn’t like the situation from the start and has only continued to dislike this person even more, but still ASKED this girl to stay on longer. This is what irks me. It isn’t being generous at that point, its being false. If she offered it to be generous, then she would’ve only had a problem when the girl overstayed her welcome.

        Whether you’re afraid of confrontation or just simply passive aggressive, it is ALWAYS easier to not confront someone and instead talk trash about them to other people. Easier, but not better. When you do that, you not only exacerbate your dislike of the person in an unhealthy manner (ie, the person when from being a “friend” to “extremely selfish”) and you also create a length of time where the mooch could justifiably argue that the LW didn’t say anything about it, so how could she have known there was a problem. No matter how bad the mooch girl is, the LW’s actions (or inactions) have done far more damage than the mooch could muster.

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      McLovin September 19, 2011, 1:48 pm

      While I agree with your opinion, I can also see where a more timid personality would have trouble being as straight forward as you are when dealing with a so called, self-inflicted, crisis.

      Given the fact that the LW admits to having issues with confrontation, I would suggest that she thanks the roommate/co-worker for helping her through a rough situation the last 2 weeks of recuperating and saying something like “you’ve been a tremendous help the last 2 weeks and I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. I’m feeling better(hopefully) now so I’m ready to have my life back to normal. How long do you need to find your own place?” While the roommate might try to stall for time, I just feel that’s it’s important that the LW ask an open-ended question so that the roommate is forced to make a time commitment decision on her own in order to avoid any more conflict.

      If that doesn’t work, than I recommend a full-on Sarah intervention.

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      mf September 19, 2011, 4:49 pm

      Agreed. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re scared of confrontation. It’s still your responsibility as an independent adult to ask for (sometimes demand) what you need. If you can’t set boundaries, people are going to take advantage of you. Unfortunately that’s just the the cookie crumbles.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow September 19, 2011, 12:18 pm

    Is she paying rent? She’s not a roommate if she’s not paying rent. Right now she’s just a guest who’s overstayed her welcome. Have you asked her how long she’s intending on staying? It doesn’t have to be a big “confrontation” – just ask her about her progress on finding a new place, then steer the conversation toward an end date. You can even frame it as you just trying to help. This isn’t a conversation you can keep avoiding, though.

    I wonder if the co-worker is holding out hope that her BF will take her back? Maybe that’s why she’s reluctant to find a PERMANENT place of her own – it means she’s admitting defeat and concretely moving on. I do feel sorry for her. The fact that she’s latching onto the LW means she probably doesn’t have many (if any) friends or family in the area. I’m enough of a pushover that I could have easily gotten myself in the LW’s position.

    That’s why I think the LW should just ASK her where she’s at, see what she says, and go from there. It will at least put the idea in her head that this is NOT permanent and maybe will be a much-needed hint that the LW is sick of her staying there. Have an end date in mind, though – and don’t offer too many reasons/excuses for why you want her to leave, because then she can just argue with it.

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    HmC September 19, 2011, 1:14 pm

    LW- confrontation isn’t something that comes naturally to me, either. I know that sometimes it’s a struggle to admit to yourself that you’re being taken advantage of, and that you are entitled to confront someone. But clearly, I think you know that your generosity isn’t being grossly taken advantage of here. I understand that you want to be diplomatic because this woman is your co-worker, and you don’t need to be hysterical or even that emotional about it, but you really must talk to her. And you are entitled to here! Lay out in your mind what you want to tell her, stick to objective facts as much as possible (many of the commenters have already laid out good specific things to say) and talk to her when you’re feeling calm. I think you know that logically, what she’s doing is unfair to you. Be polite, but be honest. Any objective and rational third party, including fellow co-workers, that become privy to the details of this circumstance will not judge you at all for telling this woman to leave. In fact, they would probably think of you as a doormat if you don’t.

    Good luck!

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    AKchic September 19, 2011, 2:39 pm

    *cough*
    Wow. Just wow.

    Having had surgeries myself, I do know what it is like to want to be able to recover without having to play hostess. My grandpa died three days after I had one neck surgery, and I had to have a follow-up 11 days afterwards, which was 2 days before his funeral. Needless to say, the countless relatives running around looking down their noses at the “stoned”, divorcing granddaughter with (then) 3 kids.

    As much as you don’t want confrontation, the best way to stop being used is to confront the situation. Lying and saying that you have guests coming is only going to get a “but I haven’t heard anyone say anything” or get herself to thinking that once the guests leave, she can come back. It’s best to approach it like a band-aid. Fast. She may whine that she’s being dumped twice, but honestly, she set herself up for it, not you.

    Consider it a lesson for you, and practice. You need to learn to stand up for yourself and to keep yourself from being taken advantage of. This is your classroom. Do something about it or continue to be a doormat. Your choice.

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    HelloJello September 19, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Sure, you should have nipped this in the bud weeks ago, as in immediately after she called and told you she needed a place to stay. You could have just given her the number for a nice, cheap motel you knew of. But at the end of the day, it’s your place. Tell her she has to find somewhere else to go. Give her a couple days, because, honestly, you’ll probably feel guilty otherwise. But you really don’t have to give her a laundry list of reasons why she has to leave. Because it’s YOUR PLACE.

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      HelloJello September 19, 2011, 4:25 pm

      And by laundry list, I meant grocery list…

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    jubietta September 19, 2011, 4:51 pm

    One angle I haven’t seen discussed is the difference between explicit and implicit agreements. It’s possible for someone, the co-worker, to assume in the absence of an explicit statement (you’re welcome to stay here for 10 days unless there’s a problem, and then we’ll talk) that there’s an implied agreement working (that she’s welcome to stay as long as she needs to). I wouldn’t see an implied agreement like that in this situation, but that’s the joy and sorrow of individuality, and I didn’t just lose my primary relationship and my home.
    Agreements are great in the way that they can be amended and changed when new information comes to light. Here the LW has a better understanding of how intrusive it is to share her space, especially following surgery. Changing agreements depends on how much someone wants to change it and how much power he or she has in the situation to force a change. It appears that the LW has plenty of desire, and hopefully now has a better understanding of the power she holds, and I hope that she’ll take the time to negotiate an explicit agreement with a win-win resolution where both of them get all of what they needed (the appropriate space without negative affects at work) and some of what they wanted (to look herself in the mirror and know she stood up for herself without causing another feeling being to suffer).
    Good luck, LW, and here’s to a strong recovery.

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      AKchic September 19, 2011, 7:19 pm

      *shudder*
      I HATE implied agreements. Even one-sided ones. I have a big home. Obviously, I need it with all my kids, and with an ex-husband that visits all the time from another state.
      My sister lives in another state, but is constantly fighting with her SO (military) and is constantly in a state of “I want to move back home”. She used to live with my mother and her husband. They moved to a smaller apartment in hopes that it would get my sister (and bf and new baby) to move out (it didn’t, they didn’t leave until the military moved the bf to another state). Now that she’s gone, my mom’s husband is praying that she doesn’t move back.
      A few months ago, my sister pulled the “I dumped him again and I want to come home, can you get me and the baby tickets to fly back home” routine. First call Mom’s husband (I just can’t get used to calling him my step-dad, he’s too cool/nice) made was to me to see if she could stay in my spare bedroom. Why? Because it IS a spare bedroom, already set up for company, I have more room, I’m used to kids, she’s my sister, etc. I said two words. “Hell no”. Then the both of us laughed. The next week, she was back with the boyfriend because he threatened to take her off the bank account.

      It’s like all of the relatives expecting to stay at my grandmother’s house when they come to AK on vacation because she has two spare rooms and lives by herself. Unless you speak up for yourself and set boundaries – you can’t complain about being used and walked on. You do it to yourself by not setting boundaries. By allowing implied agreements happen.

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    emjay September 19, 2011, 7:24 pm

    My question to the LW is….why didn’t you say anything to the co worker when she proceeded to move all of her stuff into your home? Didn’t she ask your permission first? Right then and there would have been your window of opportunity to tell her that she was not welcome as a roomie.

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    LSS86 September 19, 2011, 7:57 pm

    LW, I’m just like you in that I get myself into situations I don’t want to be in because I’m terrible at standing up for myself. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them no. A whole lot of people on here are saying to just stand up for yourself and tell her to leave, but I understand that it’s not that simple. You’re worried about how she’ll react. You’re worried that she’ll make you out to be the bad guy and will make your life hell at work. Those fears aren’t just going to go away. And honestly, I don’t know that I’d want to practice my confrontation skills in a scenario where there’s the chance that it could have a negative impact on your work environment. Though I would strongly advise that you do practice your confrontation skills in situations with less risk. For instance, if you’re eating out and your food was cooked improperly, tell the waitress that it’s not what you ordered. That may seem like a simple thing for most people on here, but most people-pleasers have a hard time doing this – you don’t want to inconvenience the waitress, you rationalize that it’s not really a big deal, you’re worried that the cook will spit in your food for sending it back, etc. Conquering smaller battles like that make it easier to deal with the bigger ones when they arise.

    But for now, I really liked the suggestion of bringing the terms of the lease, or even the landlord into the picture. Someone also mentioned telling her that you have a house guest coming, so she needs to leave. Though if you go with that one, I would actually invite a friend or relative to stay over to “help with your recovery.” Not so much so that you won’t be lying, but so that you won’t forget that you lied a few weeks later when your coworker mentions your house guest and you accidentally say something like “what house guest?”

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  • katie

    katie September 19, 2011, 8:18 pm

    ok, LW, so if your not comfortable with having an honest conversation with this girl, then you can always lie. but i mean, like, really lie. you could type up a fake eviction notice for the “unnamed guest” of yours… you could say that your doctor told you that you have a very dangerous contagious disease from your surgery and you cant be around anyone. maybe your adopting a prized show dog and she needs her own room. your turning the space into a cheese making room, a priest recently clued you into the gateway to hell that is underneath the bed, you need to fumigate all the bedbugs out– i mean the options are really endless.

    so then, you have your awesomely crafted story, and now your going to have to tell it to her…. which is going to include having a conversation about when she is exactly leaving… soo, really, your going to have to talk to her either way, huh? it doesn’t matter if you feed her an award winning fiction piece or if you have a calm conversation about why you need your space back, you just need to talk to her.

    bite the bullet, LW.

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    moonflowers September 20, 2011, 2:31 am

    The most empowering thing I learned from “Feeling Good: the new mood therapy” was that we are each responsible for our own emotions. It sounds like an obvious concept, but it means that if we say something that is perfectly reasonable and someone else gets upset at it, we aren’t responsible for that person’s emotions, because THEY ARE. This doesn’t mean you go around insulting others, of course, but even then, getting angry in response to an insult is still a personal choice, as odd as that may sound.

    What this means, LW, is that if you politely, firmly, and clearly tell this coworker that she must go, rightfully asserting your need for personal space, and she doesn’t take it well, her reaction to it is entirely her responsibility. You can’t “make” her upset any more than she lets herself get upset. All you’re doing is asserting your rights; if she can’t handle it, it’s her business.

    And I do understand that making it awkward at work is a concern, but if this woman’s behavior is indicative of who she is most of the time, I am nearly certain that anyone at work who knows her will not believe her right off the bat if she complains that you’re mistreating her or something. In fact, they might think you deserve to be sainted for putting up with her so long.

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