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Dear Athena: My BFF turned out to be a nightmare roommate.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Dear Athena is Her Campus Oswego’s Advice Column. Click here to submit (it’s completely anonymous)!

Dear Athena,

“My best friend and I decided to move in together off campus at the beginning of this year. At first it was great. Then they stopped doing the chores around the house we agreed on, and brought in a stray cat without my permission. The cat can be aggressive and is not potty trained and pees on the floor and I end up cleaning it up. They have their friends over all the time and are constantly out now or drinking and smoking in their room. I’ve tried to talk to them about it but every time I do they accuse me of being too controlling. Our friendship is basically over now but the lease doesn’t expire until January. What do I do in the meantime? I’m really upset because our friend group has taken his side. I’m also afraid he’s damaged the apartment so I won’t get the deposit back.”

— BFF Turned Roommate Turned Nightmare

Dear BFF Turned Roommate Turned Nightmare,

I am so sorry to hear about the end of your friendship. I know that when you are best friends and so in sync that it feels like nothing in the world could change that. To see them change in a way that you no longer can get along with each other is extremely difficult. My sympathies are with you, as I know the majority of your letter is about how to deal with them as a roommate, but I want to acknowledge the painful loss of this companionship you must be feeling. Perhaps a visit to the Counseling Center on campus may be in order?

As far as the roommate situation goes, I can see why you’re upset. I’m surprised that your friend group has taken his side (I wonder if perhaps they enjoy using your apartment as a party/crash pad all the time and don’t like that you’re trying to intervene in that?). However, your experiences are not dissimilar to many people’s. Choosing to live with your best friend isn’t always the greatest option because often people are very different to live with than to hang out with. Occasionally roommates who were close before can have an expectation that their friend won’t mind their messiness or may even pick up the slack for them. Sometimes, people are just not used to living on their own and outside the dorms for the first time, and the stress of it turns people into someone else entirely. I wouldn’t blame yourself in this scenario. Having different preferences on when to do the dishes and how many parties there should be are common roommate disagreements. However, bringing what sounds like a feral cat into the house (which isn’t good for the cat either as feral cats are not made for living indoors) without consulting you and then allowing it to soil your home and leave you with the responsibility to clean is way beyond any preferential differences. You’re right to be upset and frankly, your roommate should get rid of the cat. 

As far as your lease is concerned, it is obvious this is not an environment you want to be in any longer and might be best to see if subletting or reletting (in which someone takes over the remainder of the lease for you while you move out) is an option. Looking over your lease and talking to your landlord would be helpful in this scenario as you’ve mentioned concerns about your deposit as well. Depending on if you’re renting a single room or the whole apartment together, you may be able to retain your deposit if you explain what has been going on with the cat, parties, and smoking. Additionally, your landlord can also move to “cure” (meaning ask them to stop or be evicted) your roommate if they have violated anything within the lease agreement, and common violations include excessive partying/noise complaints, smoking inside the residence, or having undeclared pets. 

If truly none of these are an option, the next step would be to sit down with your roommate and try to have an open and honest conversation about how to make it work best for both of you. Try to reinstate that chore agreement and declare boundaries on things like cleaning up after the cat and how many friends are allowed over for each of you. In the end, you can’t force your roommate to do anything, and so if they refuse to change their ways, try to change your mindset instead. Focus on doing things that make you happy, get out of the apartment when you can, and just wait it out until you can leave. Again, I’m sorry you’re going through this and I wish you all the best of luck!

Dear Athena,

“What do I say to my friends with benefits to make it obvious that we’re just casual?”

— Keeping It Casual

Dear Keeping It Casual,

Friends with benefits (FWB) is such a tricky situation to manage — as I’ve learned in the past myself. I don’t want to assume too much, but it feels like perhaps you’ve caught on that your FWB has begun to develop feelings for you and is looking to make this into a relationship, something you thought both of you were on the same page about not doing. People can develop feelings and emotional connections even if they never intended to because humans just aren’t perfect. While our feelings and logic reside in the same part of the brain, they both operate on different signals, so it’s much harder for us to control the feelings part than the thinking part. 

The best way to approach this is to set firm boundaries, such as sitting down and having an honest conversation along these lines: “I really like what we having going, so I wanted to make sure we’re on the same page about this being a casual hookup, as I’m not looking for a relationship right now. How are you feeling about this?” The bad news here is that if they tell you they’ve developed feelings, you probably can’t continue the FWB anymore. If they assure you they haven’t and can commit to only something casual, then great! But if they communicate that they have feelings for you, that will unfortunately be the cue for you to exit the situation and start looking for someone else. No matter what people say, even if they say they’ve developed feelings but can keep it casual, I know from being both on your side and the feelings side that it’s really not possible. The relationship for your FWB will become one-sided, and feelings will start to be hurt. You don’t want to open your phone in a week to a paragraph long message about how much they care about you and they’re hurt that you don’t want the same thing—no one wants this. Have an open and honest discussion where you both state what you feel, and if that is not the same thing, then it’s time to politely end things.

Shannon Sutorius is an award winning 23-year-old English major, over 40-time-published author, editor, and former Teaching Assistant currently attending SUNY Oswego who graduates in December of 2021. Shannon is one of the current Campus Correspondents for Her Campus Oswego, previously Senior Editor, and currently writes the Advice Column, "Dear Athena." Shannon has worked with and been published in Great Lake Review, Medium, and Subnivean. Shannon's awards include the Edward Austin Sheldon Award, Pride Alliance's Defender of LGBT+ Rights in Journalism Award, and the Dr. Richard Wheeler Memorial Scholarship. As well, Shannon is an active member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She currently lives in Oswego and has a dog named Nugget.
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