The idea of sharing your feelings with your roommates is somewhat daunting. Especially if they’re new people to you. I talked to one of my friends who has personal experience with this. Hunter Gifford is one of my close friends from home who is a student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was placed in a double suite (two double rooms connected by a common room) with three other roommates.
The roommates created a roommate agreement with their RA the 6th week of classes, but things were already tense between the group. Before school started, Hunter had met his two suitemates and had spoken to his roommate, and everything seemed to be fine. The first half of their first week had no problems they all got along and had a good time together. Halfway through that first week, however, things started to get chaotic. Hunter fell sick during the second half of the week, and his roommates seemed to have little regard for his well-being. “I didn’t take it too personally; it was only the first week after all.”
That Friday, they all went to a frat party, and the situation began to escalate. Before the party started, they had a birthday dinner for one of the girls on the floor. One of the roommates was consistently making gay jokes toward Hunter. “They weren’t malicious, but they were irritating.” There had been a rumor spread to another student that Hunter was gay. Hunter confronted everyone on it but, they would continue to “joke” about his sexuality behind his back and to his face. After multiple attempts to get them to stop, Hunter grew more and more irritated with the jokes, and they seemed to become more and more frequent. Later in the month, Hunter spoke to one of his roommates about his issues with the gay jokes directed toward him. He was told that was his suitemate’s way of showing that he was comfortable around him. He told Hunter that he would stop with the gay jokes but subsequently continued. Hunter was later faced with aggression and mistrust from his roommates.
The following week, I received a facetime call from Hunter in our group chat, and when I answered he was sitting on his floor crying. I could hear his roommates in the other dorm all listening to music and having a good time while Hunter had shut himself in his dorm room because he was so upset. As someone who doesn’t like to see their friends upset, I tried to talk Hunter through everything. He told me about all of the terrible things his roommates were doing and their complete disregard for his feelings and opinions.
Once again, the sexuality jokes came up as a topic of discontent as well as other small inconveniences that had been plaguing his suite. Another issue he had with his roommates was constantly washing things for them and doing everything for them. “There was a cup in the room full of utensils that I had to constantly wash…” he continued to say “I left it there to see how long they would let it sit there until someone did them. They sat there for 4 weeks.” His roommates also got mad when he told them about common courtesies. His roommates responding with trivial responses like “you’re not my mom so quit acting like it.”
In the end, it all came down to Hunter making the decision to leave his room and move into another one. “It’s really hard to respect someone you can’t trust.” Having to move rooms while still somewhat intertwined with his roommates had Hunter struggling for a sense of comfort. “After I told them, which was a day before I moved, they wouldn’t even look at me.” Having to remove yourself from a situation is a difficult decision to come to, especially in a situation as big as who you’re living with. “Your mental health is what really matters in the end,” Hunter spoke to me about how his mental health severely declined while he was in that room and around them.
Understanding your feelings and sharing them with your roommates is an important practice. Seeing how even small things began to pile up for Hunter and then led to larger things is a good example of this. Even if you address certain situations and feelings with your roommates, sometimes they won’t listen. When that happens, either talk to your RA and try to resolve things through them or make the informed decision of leaving.