QUESTION: I know there are couples therapists, but are there therapists out there who specialize in solving issues with roommates? The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique and difficult situation that has created tension in all of our lives, but my brother is having an especially bad time right now and I’m at my wit’s end trying to give him advice when he texts me about his problematic roommate.
Brother, who’s 33, is the co-leaseholder of his Manhattan apartment. He has three roommates: one is the other co-leaseholder - my brother’s and this guy’s parents are the guarantors - and the other two roommates are subletters. (Let’s call them “A” and “B.”) The other co-leaseholder and subletter “B” both left the apartment and went home to their families in mid-March. My brother and subletter “A,” who is 24 and had never lived apart from his family before, are the only two left in the apartment.
Since mid-to-late March, my brother has texted or called me frequently to describe “A” with the words judgmental, won’t listen, self-centered, narcissistic, toxic and gaslighting. This dude actually told my brother he was “overreacting” two weeks ago about the importance of staying home during a pandemic! (He also said he was going to travel to North Carolina to be with his family but that he expected to be able to return to NYC whenever he wanted, regardless of whether the health crisis had slowed or if his return put my brother’s well-being in jeopardy.) Today’s argument happened because “A” insulted my brother’s posture while they were sitting on the couch and made negative comments about my brother’s body. Every time they have a disagreement, “A” manipulates his way into getting my brother to drop the fight because “A” can be so “funny and charming” when he wants. Like, who cares?????? Literally every Lifetime thriller villain is exactly like that: charming, until they’re not. Until they do something hurtful again.
I told my brother to contact his landlord, but he doesn’t want to. He says he would feel too guilty about kicking “A” out, especially since his North Carolina family members have all been exhibiting illness symptoms, though none of them knows if it’s actually Coronavirus or just a strain of the usual flu. I know that compassion is necessary in these times, but doesn’t he also need to take care of himself when dealing with a constant negative presence in his own home? Are there legal options for him to let his subletter go since it’s not the same as a tenant eviction? (It is April 1 today, after all…) Brother says he doesn’t want to contact a therapist either since he’s convinced that “A” would lie about having said whatever, but I can’t think what else to suggest besides a mediator. Does anyone have additional insight they can share? I’d really appreciate it!