SECRETS, rogue Whatsapps, awkward breakfasts and happy ever afters: uni halls and houses have seen it all.
With shows like Fresh Meat, Geordie Shore and Big Brother glamorising the in-house romance, many students find themselves seduced by the allure of the housemate hookup at some point during university. But how bad can it really be?
I set out to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly of the experiences of those who rebelled against the “don’t shit where you eat” rule:
“I would listen out for when he went for breakfast”
So how does the housemate hookup start? What’s that first moment that makes you ignore the advice to stay clear? One student at Leeds University, 21, says she and her current boyfriend moved in together because of a mutual friend, having never met previously. “I would listen out for when my boyfriend went down for breakfast in the morning,” she admits. And how did you know it was more than just a friendship? “At [our own] house party we ended up getting together. It was within about two or three weeks!”
That’s not to say there weren’t doubts: “I thought it best not to mention it to anyone at all when I thought I was developing feelings. I thought if no one knew then it wasn’t real. Everyone tells you horror stories about getting with your housemate so I was quite hesitant at first.”
“Our other housemates never knew, even today”
Housemate romances are at risk of turning into horror stories of broken friendship groups, and so are sometimes kept secret. A second year Sheffield student says: “I got with a housemate twice during first year- drunk both times- and didn’t tell anyone. It didn’t even happen because we really liked each other but more just… Because.”
“Our other housemates from last year never knew, even today. We’re both in other relationships now but we’re still not very close friends anymore – so wouldn’t recommend going there with a housemate.” Would your other housemates have been angry? “No, probably supportive actually – but it wasn’t a relationship or anything, so I don’t think they needed to know.”
“Get with them so long as you’re not going to make it a mess for everyone else in the house”
Some housemates are supportive, others shocked. “I had [my housemates’ relationship] dropped on me on the tube and was so surprised I just stuttered for about five minutes,” says an English student from Warwick, advising: “Get with them so long as you’re not going to make it a mess for everyone else in the house.”
A design student, 20, said she saw one housemate coming out of another’s bedroom, which was the first the house knew of it. “I think we were all awkward about it at first but after a while, we didn’t mind.” In summary? “YOLO – if you like them, do it, but don’t isolate yourself from your house.”
“After we had sex I realised the entire conversation had been recorded and sent to our group chat”
A third year, 21, says that she slept with a housemate when “very drunk after a house party, and had been flirting for about a week”. Did this night go unnoticed by fellow housemates? Certainly not, despite intentions to keep it a secret. “After we had sex I was leaning on my phone [while] discussing the fact that I hadn’t shaved but didn’t care ’cause he was my best friend… Then I realised the entire conversation had been recorded as a voice note and sent to our group chat. So, everyone found out…” Was it worth the drama in the end? “We were best friends before we hooked up, and were not really friends afterwards. Freshers, stay clear!”
“be sure about what you want”
There’s no guarantee of a peaceful ending, and faced with the possibility of sitting next to your ex through breakfast, should you save yourself the risk altogether?
Don’t give up hope just yet – some couples have made it work. Alex, a Leeds university graduate, lived with his girlfriend since freshers, and they’re still together. “We became best mates before anything really happened, he explains.
“Everyone always says ‘don’t shit where you eat,’ so I think we had to be really careful but we waited three months before we decided. I think that’s the best way to go about it.” As for life after uni, Alex points out that “the bonus of it working out is that you already know you can live with them.”
Likewise, Kate, of Birmingham University, is still living with her first-year flatmate-turned-boyfriend, Ellis.
“Living together now is not an issue for us, partly because we get along so well, but also because I don’t think we spend any more time together than we would had we not lived together, as Ellis’s [medicine] course is intensive.” However, she still cautions that “living with someone you have broken up with won’t be nice – I’ve watched it happen to others – so be sure about what you want.” You have been warned.
With your housemates knowing just about everything – from your mood swings to your takeaway order and bathroom habits – is it any wonder that sometimes the ‘don’t shit where you eat’ rule gets thrown out of the window?
Either way, housemate romances will continue to wreak havoc in halls. The overall advice seems to be: only get involved if something really worthwhile is going to come of it. Or more simply, as one student puts it: “If you can’t move on when it falls to pieces, keep it in your pants.”