Three quarters of the year down, and you’re probably ready to be out of school — if not to be done with classes, because you’re ready for a hiatus from your roommate. (Was spring break really just last week?) Maybe she doesn’t do her dishes, or perhaps living with her means living with her boyfriend, too.
We’ve talked with Susan Fee, licensed professional counselor and author of My Roommate’s Driving Me Crazy, who says it’s not too late to come up with a little solution if you’re willing to communicate. Here Her Campus writers dish on their own roomie histories so that you can learn a) you’re not alone with horror stories and b) how to deal with them when they arise. Read through these scenarios and see if any of these sound familiar… and learn what to do.
You’ve grown apart and have different groups of friends.
“We had a lot in common, and I thought we could be friends. But when we stopped seeing each other, we felt uncomfortable even saying hi to each other in the dining hall,” Molly* says.
Fee’s take: If there’s no awkwardness, there’s really no problem: you’re just coexisting and sharing the room, but you don’t need to discuss much. You can’t ever go into a roommate situation assuming she’s going to be your friend and be your social connection. A move you can make would just be to agree to break the ice and say, “How about the two of us do something together? Do you want to catch a movie?” You don’t have to have the responsibility of trying to bridge the gap between two whole groups of friends. It’s really just one relationship between you and your roommate. And that’s a lot more manageable than trying to make sure that she likes everybody else that’s in your group of friends.
You have different sleep schedules, and it’s disruptive.
Your room is very open, without any sort of divider. And at this point, you could care less if her clothes crossed the invisible border onto your side of the room—you just wish that she’d respect your need for sleep and shut off the light so you can sleep. “My roommate stayed up ALL night, which kept me awake too,” says Juliet*. “She wouldn’t compromise about it either, so I was always falling asleep in class.”
Fee’s take: First, there’s going to have to be some give and take. Ask yourself, “What can I do to be a little more courteous?” I recognize this because I’m a total early morning person. I’d try to set up everything the night before so when I got up early I don’t bother people as much as possible. Coffee’s already set, I just have to push the button. Clothes are there. Second, you need to talk about it. You don’t need to come up with extremes like asking your roomie to never stay up late or never get up early. Acknowledge your differences. Maybe you concede on a couple mornings and not get up at the crack of dawn. And maybe she’ll agree to an earlier ‘lights out’ or choose to study at the coffee shop instead of keeping on the light.
That bed across the room has been empty every night for the past week.
“It was eerie to have my roommate's things in our room when she wasn't there,” Katie* says. “She even left all her bathroom items in the room - I always wondered how she showered or brushed her teeth.” And without her being home, how are you supposed to ask her to invite your own friends or BF over, or talk to her about anything else that needs to be discussed?
Fee’s take: You have her cell phone number right? That’s one way that texting or cell phone calls bring people together rather than use it as a way to distance a relationship. Call or send a text just to let her know that you haven’t seen her lately and you have something you want to talk about. And then if she doesn’t respond, be courteous and give her a two-hour heads-up if you’re planning on having people over. That’s the best you can do. And if she ends up breaking up with her boyfriend, she’ll be back in the room all the time. You can set the boundaries and frame it as, “I want to be courteous to you,” instead of, “I really need to know when you’re going to be around.”
Your roommate has been talking about you behind your back.
Now it’s just a little more awkward when you look at her next time at the dinner table and you think to yourself, ‘How long has this been going on?’
Fee’s take: You just want to make sure that you don’t engage in an extensive conversation with the messenger; you never want a third party in the middle of a relationship. Just ask that your friend encourage your roomie to speak with you next time. Then, acknowledge your roommate. Start with a curiosity, not anger, as you don’t know for sure what was said. “I just want to let you know that if there’s anything you want to share, you can share it with me. I’m hearing a little bit that you’re uncomfortable with some stuff, and I just want to give you the opportunity to talk about it so we can work it out.” Make it clear you want to work it out, because otherwise she may think you’re just in it to point them out as a bad person.
Most likely, the person doesn’t like conflict. She may try to smokescreen your efforts and ask who ratted her out, but stress that it’s not important who said it, only if there was any truth to it. There’s a chance your roommate might not want to speak to you in person, but she’ll start posting things on Facebook or text you instead. That’s the passive-aggressive way to handle things. You need to constantly invite her to talk to you face-to-face. If you make those efforts and you’re bridge-building instead of getting angry at hers, and she denies it, that’s her problem.