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Ask Dave

Married With Roommates?

Whitney says her husband is in veterinary school, and they have an opportunity to move into a home with roommates next year. It would save them about $400 a month. Dave advises clear communication.

QUESTION: Whitney in Indianapolis says her husband is in veterinary school, and they have an opportunity to move into a home with roommates next year. It would save them about $400 a month and means the difference between taking out student loans or not. Dave advises Whitney to have clear communication and weigh the pros and cons first.

ANSWER: You’ve just got to address all the potential problems on the front end. We’ve got to have real clear communication because it’s a little strange to have roommates and be married. It’s a little different. If these are party animals and they sit around and smoke dope on the back patio—not your typical vet student doing that—but if they are and that’s not your value system, then you’ve got a problem. We’ve got to have some real clear boundaries, and we’ve got to have some real clear understanding and communication on the front end about what the value systems are that your family operates in and that kind of thing. I just don’t want this guy or this gal to be in appropriate around your marriage or those kinds of things. I just want to be really careful and really clear and not just, “Oh, it’ll be fun! We’ll all get together and pay rent!” No, that doesn’t necessarily work that way.

They may not want an old married couple in there. You may be killjoys. You see the problem. The problem is all the possible misbehaviors, and if you can discuss a lot of those things ahead of time and actually have a contract about house rules that we’re all in agreement on ... All three of them are in a very tough curriculum, so they’re all three going to be very studious. Vet school is tougher than med school in some ways. You have to learn more than one species.

It could be done, but just lots and lots of communication because of the obvious potential perils. Maybe a written set of house rules that you both agree to—both of you add to it, meaning that the two people and you guys as a couple add to it and create a little bit of an idea here as to how this house is going to operate. I don’t want to be married and somebody wake me up at 4 in the morning having a party in the backyard. I don’t want to do that. It’s just a different time of your life than that. One of the benefits here is the one value system you do share is they’re going to be studying a bunch, and they are all in the same school and the same curriculum. There’s some benefit to that because they haven’t got time to goof off a lot. They’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s a benefit. That’s not your typical college student in that regard.