I have a friend staying at my place who is going through bad life stuff. He said he needed a place for a month. We're now six weeks in, and I don't see any sign that he is leaving. It hasn't been bad having him around, but I don't see any progress on his end. He stays home most of the time, and I get no sense he is seeking employment or looking for another living situation. I'd like my space back, but the thought of kicking him out makes me feel awful. What do I do?
Greetings, AR. I hope for your sake the situation has changed already, but in case it hasn't, worry not: there is a way forward. This situation can be resolved with setting clear boundaries and opening the lines of communication.
First of all, don't feel guilty for wanting your space! You have done your friend a huge favor, and I hope he shows you appreciation for that. If he hasn't showed much appreciation, the generous read is that the "bad life stuff" is affecting him and diminishing his ability to be present. The less generous read is that he's taking the situation for granted. Listen to your instincts on this front. You know more about what your friend is going through, and you also know your friend when things are better.
Going forward, you do need to set some boundaries. If I'm guessing right, your friend probably said something like, "I need a place to crash for a month or so," and you agreed, but that was the extent of the conversation. You will both benefit from sitting down to have another conversation about his plan. He might be completely unaware of how you are feeling. You mentioned that it hasn't been bad having him around, so it is possible he assumes that you are fine with the status quo.
Once you sit down together, tell him that you have enjoyed having him around, but that you need your space back soon. You can assure him that you don't want to leave him in a lurch and ask if he has any idea when he might be able to either get his own place or find a different friend to crash with. Work on setting a target date and then ask for updates about his progress toward egress.
This is the kind of conversation that can be uncomfortable for conflict-averse individuals. Even if you feel nervous about it, treat it as casual and normal—because it is! Maybe even bake in a fun social activity you can include him in afterwards. This will let him know you aren't angry at him. Honestly, the more you can operate on the belief that he's going to be cool about it, the more you are (gently) steering him to actually be cool about it.
Now, If he starts to create drama after this or if he fails to initiate update conversions with you—those are red flags. If he keeps negotiating to push back the agreed upon exit date (especially at the last possible moment), that is the mother of all red flags and a sure sign he is using you. I know you want to be empathetic to your friend's "bad life stuff" but going through bad life stuff is never carte blanche to mistreat a friend. And you've been a fantastic friend!
A responsible adult understands and respects boundaries. Think about what you would do in his situation. Wouldn't you be working your ass off to get back on your feet? If you ran over the initial agreed upon time, even if for a perfectly legitimate reason, wouldn't you at least talk to the person hosting you? If there's distance between what you'd do and what he's doing, then it is going to be on you to start putting your boundaries out there and hoping your friend respects them (and thus you). Good luck!
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