Ask Andi: I Can't Stand My Roommate

Dear Andi,

My roommate has become a total pain! She says a lot of stuff that irritates me and sometimes hurts my feelings. It almost always seems intentional. We knew each other for a while before we started living together and used to be really close but now it seems like I don't who she is, as if she has changed in the past few months. We almost never hang out and when I go home I go straight to my room. I don't like inviting her places because she seems to leave a bad impression on everyone I introduce her to. Like she isn't nice to them and begins to judge them after they say hi. I've tried talking to her about her attitude and she always blows it off nonchalantly as if she could never do anything wrong. I'm starting to reconsider my living situation but I don't wanna just leave because I would still like to save any chance we have at still being friends. How do I turn this situation into one where I am happy? 

Sincerely,

Living in Hell 

Dear Living in Hell,

The stresses of life often change people and relationships to the point at which everything seems so different.  This is how you probably feel about your friendship with your roommate.  You’ve done the most important thing, which was to address the issue with her.  For some reason, she isn’t quite getting it, so maybe you need to change your approach.


You spoken to her about her attitude, and naturally she acted defensively.  Where you feel she thinks she can do no wrong, she may feel that you think her intentions were bad.  The best way to bring up an issue to someone who is acting differently is not to point out their actions.  Many people lack the insight and maturity to see themselves from another’s shoes.  Therefore, I would word your statements in a way which you are the subject, not her.  Instead of saying “you have been different lately,” you should say, “I feel that something has changed in our friendship lately.” Instead of telling her that her actions hurt your feelings (which I hoped you let her know!) you should word it as, “I feel hurt when you say, ‘….’ Because it makes me think you mean, ‘…..’.” I know that it doesn’t seem like changing the order of the words will make a difference, but it does.  When we hear “you” we are on our toes, we are alert and ready to defend ourselves.  She may act the way she has because she may think that you have no right to draw conclusions about what she says or does.  This is why you need to word it in a way of how you feel or what you think—because she can’t deny those statements to be true.

The impression someone leaves on your friends can say a lot about you.  Many people judge others by those who other associated themselves with.  I can understand your frustration when you want to include your roommie among your other friends, but the way she acts ends up biting you in the butt.  Until you work out your issues with her, you won’t be able to add others to the equation and expect things to be as they were before.  What I mean is that as much as you want to invite her along- don’t.  This doesn’t mean you need to ditch her.  This means that you need to arrange a separate time for just the two of you to hang out.  There’s probably something she feels but hasn’t said, so provide an opportunity for her to say it.  Thing of any relationship like a hammock- it needs to be tied at both ends before a person jumps on it.  Just like this, your relationship with your roommate needs to be secured before you can handle the presence of others around and expect everyone to feel comfortable.

When you readdress the problem, make sure you put everything into perspective for her.  Don’t focus on actual things that were said or done, just give her the general picture.  Tell her that you feel there has been a difference between you two lately, and it makes you feel a certain way.  Tell her that you do not know what has changed but that you want to figure it out and that you are open to listen to anything she has to say.  If she asks what you mean, then you can elaborate and give actual examples of what she’s done to make you feel this way- but hold off on the minor details until then; bringing them up can seem petty. 

As difficult as it is to do, you need to take all the blame aside. Whatever she has said or done should be taking as the action itself without any added conclusions or inferences.  We can only know our own intentions and not how others take them, or what the intentions of others are. There could be a huge cloud of fault hanging over your head that you may not realize is there.  You don’t need to analyze your every action to find fault or a reason why she’s been different, but know that there is a possibility you have done something to contribute.  If she has an issue with you or anything that has happened with you, it is up to her to address that.  Likewise, understand that she may be unaware of the fault hanging over her head- so politely remind her of general changes that occurred and how they make you feel. 

There may be no apparent reason for the changes in your relationship.  Sometimes people just change.  She may have a personal reason for acting this way, or maybe you have gradually changed without noticing.  Keep in mind that the fact that there is a change in your relationship doesn’t put anyone at automatic fault.  You feel that she has been rude and insulting lately, but it could be that you have been oversensitive and uptight lately or at least from her perspective.  The whole point is that it doesn’t have to be one person moving away from the other, it could be that both of you are moving in different directions.  After you are as open and honest as possible with her, you will be able to tell which the case is. 

Be prepared of not being able to see eye-to-eye or of her not wanting to fix anything.  These are both things which are beyond your control.  So long as you neutralize your statements, you speak from the first person, and you go into this conversation prepared and open-minded, the rest of it depends on her.  Go into this conversation with all of your judgments and feelings toward her action set aside.  If you cannot do this, you will either continue to live in hell or abandon your chance to salvage your friendship.  I see you care a lot for your friend so I know that you will be able to be the bigger person and effectively start this conversation.  When it’s all been said, you will have done all that you can do at this point.  You won’t be “just leaving” because you would have taken the time and effort to address the issue and hear her out.  If she is not willing to communicate on that level, then you need to let it be. Your own happiness is vital.  If your relationship with her is taking from your happiness, it needs to be let go for now.

Xoxo Andi