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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

How to Maneuver Problematic Roommates While Terrified of Confrontation

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “what on Earth compelled me to do this?” or at least something to that effect? I am a firm believer that most of us have experienced a moment, self-inflicted of course, that has made us question every decision we’ve ever made and wished that some lion would jump out and put an end to our misery.

For me, that is how I feel about confrontation, and it is exactly how I felt this week when I finally stood up to my roommate. I am sure Instagram would love to explain all the different ways my upbringing is responsible for that response, but I am self-aware enough to know exactly where it stems from. I just have no idea what to do about it.

I have four roommates. One is great, two are fine and the last will probably be responsible for at least a small portion of my therapist’s salary. I have found that 2023 is the year of problematic roommates. Everywhere I turn, someone has a story so ridiculous and jaw-dropping, you would think cohabitation is the reigning form of punishment in Waterloo. It can be incredibly difficult to voice concerns in regular situations, but when you have to share the same microwave as them for another six months, it feels more akin to diffusing a bomb underwater. Needless to say, I am not a fan.

Our apartment group doesn’t have a formal group chat. Another roommate and I were unsuccessful in talking about the problems at hand, so we got notes involved (I know these can be passive-aggressive, but I am at the beginner level). Our star roommate decided to bring up the notes with me, saying she found them “unnecessary” and that they were “taking over the kitchen”. There were three.

She was ticked off, which makes sense. It has been six months of her working in our main living space every day and taking over the kitchen every night with some style of fish. For six months, I haven’t said a thing. Does she chip my plate? Silence. She throws out a gift of mine. Silence. I understand her being perplexed that we were unhappy because we had let her cruise along for way too long.

Although it has taken me months to learn and I am certainly not an expert in roommate conflict or any conflict really, here are some tips to help you deal with problematic roommates if the idea of confrontation makes you nauseous.

Talk about it

If you can’t bring up your concerns with the source of the problem, journal or vent to friends. Bottling it up will never end well. This will also give you a chance to reflect on how you might address concerns. You could even join Her Campus Laurier and write a little piece about it.

There is power in numbers

Having others in the apartment that agreed with me helped reaffirm that I was not being overly sensitive – which I am always double-checking. There is a sense of security in numbers. Try bringing up your concerns with some roommates to get an idea of how everyone else is handling the situation.

Play dumb

This might just be something that works for me and this particular roommate, but it seems to be most effective. I will bring up a concern with no accusation and phrase it as if I am not really sure who is responsible. A dastardly night gnome has made a mess and we have to collaborate to find out how to beat it. I have a fun little chat with the gnome in question as we both complain about the mess and then I will suggest that maybe we work together to solve it. This approach started with me being too cowardly to point blank and bring up an issue, opting to weave my way around it instead, but it has worked rather well.

Get together

By having everyone together, you can avoid isolating certain individuals which can dramatically worsen the problem. Everyone will feel like they are part of the conversation. They can explain themselves and together you can agree on mutual expectations going forward. Of course, this is in an ideal setting where no one starts to yell and roommates don’t start purposely acting out in retaliation.

This is easier said than done, I am aware. I won’t be declaring any apartment wars, but I want to try and do better for myself and others. No one should be granted permission to make you feel unwelcome in your own home just because you find the white flag comforting. There is strength in being able to resolve issues without resorting to classic confrontation. If you need assistance with problems beyond inconsideration and pigsties, Wilfrid Laurier University also has resources to assist with conflict resolution, housing and mental health support. I hope these tips are helpful and that 2023 does not remain the year of problematic roommates – I am personally getting dizzy from all the Febreze.

Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier University