The benefits of living with a stranger

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Thinking about how we want to live as we get older, many of us like the idea of living with a close friend. Having a laugh together, watching a movie with a glass of wine, a leisurely breakfast reading the papers on a Sunday morning, or spending the holidays together and not feeling the least bit lonely. Think of Friends or the Golden Girls who’ve become icons of house-sharing.

But what if you don’t have that best friend who is available or even interested in sharing? That’s when for many of us the idea becomes a lot less attractive. There’s the risk of getting yourself into an unwanted situation – what if you don’t get on with the other person, even on a very basic level? What if they turn out to be a freak or fraudster? Quite naturally, there’s more risk involved in moving in with someone you barely know.

And yet, living with someone you don’t yet know has great benefits – and might work out even better than living with your best friend. Why is that?

First of all, living with a friend will almost certainly change the dynamic of your friendship. Daily habits are easily overlooked by the fact that you get on well with someone. Living together will inevitably uncover things you didn’t know before. Are they really messy or don’t pay their bills on time? It can be a lot harder bringing up difficulties and annoyances with a friend vs. a stranger. Things unsaid (or said, for that matter) can easily ruin a friendship over time. So perhaps the best starting point is to decide what personality traits and lifestyle habits are most important to you, and ensure your housemate fits your most important criteria.

Living with someone you don’t yet know can also greatly enrich your life. It’s tempting to spend all our time with people we already know well and who we feel comfortable with, but getting to know someone new exposes us to a different lifestyle, new ideas and attitudes to life. You might not agree with or like every single thing about them, but it will surely bring new energy into your life and broaden your view of the world.

You might get a little more privacy and time to yourself. If you live with your best friend, it might be awkward not to spend all your time together, share meals, or split the cost of food bills. With someone you are just getting to know you can establish these rules much more easily without offending the other person.

And lastly, you can gain a new friend (or several) if you find a good match – and that’s probably the biggest opportunity of all. As long as you are being selective in your choice of housemate, are honest with them and with yourself about your likes and dislikes, you will have a new friend over the course of a few months. We’ve seen it happen so many times when the right people find each other. We’ve interviewed a few of them – take a look at some of these wonderful sharing stories.

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