In-house relationship? Stolen kisses out of view of your housemates


Student housing is a breeding place for many different things: life-long friendships, mange breakouts, and love. It’s inevitable, really. (Excessive) alcohol use, typical college-style experimentations, and lots of free time often turn out to be the recipe for success for relationships both long and short. But if the two lovers live at the same address, other people in the house witness their dalliances as well, of course.

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Romantic relationships in student housing can often cause quite some tensions in a home – especially when they end. But if the love is strong, it can also strengthen the in-house bonds. The latter was the case with a student who tells us about her ‘house parents’. “They had a very stable relationship and really took care of us. Whenever we were hungover, they’d cook for us, and we could hang out on their couch and watch a film.”

It’s not surprising that in many larger student housing units, romance tends to flourish – many large student homes are mixed gender, and often, ten or more housemates share the home. Hooking up doesn’t usually lead to instant eviction within most regular student homes. But that doesn’t mean most homes rejoice when two housemates jump into bed with each other.

For that reason, hook-ups are often kept secret. As Maartje* (25) says: “When my current boyfriend Thomas* (22) and I kissed for the first time, I ran away.” Even though there’d been no witnesses, Maartje still felt pressure from her housemates. They’d gone out that night, and a number of their housemates had felt the tension between the two – and mentioned it, a lot. “They really vilified us.”

If he didn’t run into anyone, I’d get the all-clear sign, and sprint to my own room

Maartje was told, for her own sake as well as that of the house, that she’d be better of letting go of the idea of Thomas. He had a reputation of being a heart breaker, and Maartje had experienced her fair share of heartbreak. She understood the well-intentioned advice her housemates gave her. On top of that, her house had recently experienced the explosive ending of another in-house relationship. Housemate 1 and 2 had had a relationship. When the former was travelling, the latter cheated with the person renting housemate 1’s room. This soap-worthy drama caused an intolerable atmosphere, and the only sustainable solution was to have housemate 1 move out permanently. With this recent trauma fresh in their minds, Maartje’s housemates saw the potential for disaster. But the verbal assault on Maartje didn’t work as intended - in fact: “The secrecy made it all the more exciting.”

Maartje lived one floor above Thomas in the house. Whenever they woke up together in the mornings, and it came time for them to go to their own rooms, a significant distance across enemy territory had to be crossed. They created a thorough strategy for that. Maartje says: “Thomas would fake a trip to the bathroom, when he’d actually be on a reconnaissance mission. If he didn’t run into anyone, he’d give me the all-clear, and I’d sprint upstairs to my own room.” Once, that almost went wrong.

We kept our relationship a secret from our friends, too

After a night of heavy drinking, Maartje unfortunately had to empty her stomach from Thomas’ balcony. The housemate who lived above Maartje heard that, and sent her a concerned message, asking if she should bring Maartje a glass of water, thinking that the sound came from Maartje’s room. In reality, the whole thing played out one floor below, in Thomas’ room. Maartje just barely made it back to her room and jumped under the covers. The concerned housemate knocked on her door with a glass of water in her hand just seconds later.

“In the early days, we kept our relationship a secret from our friends, too,” Maartje says. “We didn’t want the secret to find its way back to the house through our friends.” That meant not only hiding their romance within the home, but also during nights out with their shared group of friends. Both at home and on nights out, their make-out sessions were limited to secret intimate moments in hidden corners.

When Thomas moved out, the two could finally breathe easier. Their housemates’ verbal assault, after all, wasn’t founded on much anymore, and Maartje could finally talk about all the fun things she did with Thomas. When a few months later, the two started dating openly, no one was surprised.

The relationship ended abruptly

This happy ending almost makes you forget why the idea of an in-house relationship scares the socks of many students. Many romances between housemates end in less fortunate ways than that of Maartje and Thomas. Asking around among friends and acquaintances easily provided countless examples. Unfortunately, these experiences are often so painful or personal that the exes don’t want to talk about it with DUB. Fortunately, there’s Anne*, who was a housemate to a couple whose love flourished and died.


Anne lives in a house with ten residents, and a few years ago, two of her housemates ended up in bed together. At first, this was the butt of many jokes. He’d just moved in, and was fully enjoying the student life experience. She’d been a student for longer but didn’t seem to be looking for a steady relationship at first. Anne and her housemates didn’t really think the unexpected relationship had much potential.

Anne was proven wrong. The short-lived romance became a long-term love, and for a few months, things went relatively smoothly, even though she and her housemates didn’t always find it easy to be in the company of a lovey-dovey couple at the dinner table. Anne’s housemates heard some fights at times, but no more than that. But, as with many things, you don’t notice something until it becomes annoying, and so it happened with the romance in Anne’s house.

Are we being sucked into a Cold War?

Anne describes how the atmosphere in the house was affected when one half of the couple became more and more of a homey person. “She didn’t want to do anything, she just wanted to stay in, and he wanted to go out.” That didn’t exactly benefit the relationship, and Anne witnessed the deterioration of the relationship first-hand. The situation reached a climax when he went away for a weekend. There, he succumbed to another person’s charms. That abruptly ended the relationship. An ice-cold reception awaited him at his return. Anne says the betrayed housemate clearly voiced her discontent. Everyone, she felt, had to know exactly what he’d done, and then choose her side.

In the weeks after that event, there wasn’t much homeliness to be found. Every single occasion that might have included the two exes spending time in the same room was stubbornly avoided by both exes. Anne acknowledges that that’s quite a tricky thing to realise when you live in the same house, with one single kitchen where you’re bound to run into each other. The other housemates also had trouble figuring out what to do in the situation. Because they’d been so close to the two, they understood both parties. He was frustrated by a relationship that hadn’t been going well for a while, and she was angry because he’d cheated. To avoid further escalation of the conflict, Anne and her housemates refused to choose sides.

When one of the two moved out, it signalled the end of the tension as well. Both Anne and the ex who stayed behind could breathe easily again. Anne says there hasn’t been a lot of drama in the house since, although she did worry about it last summer when the ex in question didn’t spend the night at home. On social media, Anne saw that the two ex-lovers had had a small rendezvous and Anne held her breath, instantly imagining her house being sucked into a Cold War again. Perhaps Anne would have to join a front for the second time. When asked whether the reunion was just a one-time thing, Anne says: “I think so, or at least, I hope so.”

Housemates, of course, want each other to have it all. Improved cleaning skills, noise-cancelling walls, and a lot of love. But when that love flourishes within a house, others usually hold their breath. Sometimes, that may be unjustified, with romances of the type that have you fantasising about house-babies and marriages. But when things go wrong, they tend to go really, truly wrong, sadly confirming housemates’ worst fears. Love, however, doesn’t usually let itself be steered in a different direction, and if love is found on a single address, there’s only one thing to wish for: hopefully, one of the lovers is a temporary tenant.

*Maartje, Thomas, and Anne are fictitious names. The editorial team knows their real names. They didn’t want to cooperate with the interview using their real names, as to not embarrass their housemates.



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