THE BLOG
11/30/2010 01:02 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

When you've co-signed a lease with the roommate from hell

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My roommate and I are both in 3rd in university and have been friends since high school. We've been living together for only two and a half months now. In that short time, I've learned she has mood issues and that she doesn't forgive easily. We had one big fight that I thought we had resolved. But I guess she hadn't forgiven me because the next argument was a disaster.

The main issue now is that she texts me about our housing arrangement and the texts sound accusatory and angry; they feel like personal attacks over and over. I told her that I didn't like housing texts and she texted me over not 'half-ing' the food well (we share groceries). At that point, I gave her a taste of her own medicine and sent her an angry text back. I hate emotional texting and feel horrible that I did that.

But now she's been ignoring me for the past week. I've even tried to write a note explaining my side and put it on her door, but she didn't touch it. She hides in her room all day, and then when she comes out to cook, she wears her headphones. This morning I overheard her talking on the phone and all I heard was her saying that this underlying seam between us ripped and that I've been trying to mend it. She asked whomever she was talking to what to do. I tried to see the positive in that, that maybe she was ready to forgive me and talk to me. But then I came home and got this note on my door that said, "Please leave
me alone."

I can't understand how someone could react in such immature ways. Angry text messages and then the ignoring make me feel like I'm dealing with a child going through puberty! I've tried to be patient in all of this, but my patience has definitely run thin. And now we're stuck living
together until April since we have an 8-month lease!

At this point, I've made up my mind to not be friends with her anymore but that doesn't mean we can't be cordial roommates, right? I feel like a punching bag right now, constantly getting punched in the face. What should I do?

Thank you for reading this,
Allyson

ANSWER

Dear Allyson,

Whether or not you know the person from before, it's often challenging to room with someone because you are now both living in tight quarters under somewhat stressful conditions. Each of you may have different habits and/or expectations of the relationship. Communication is essential if two roommates want to be on the same page and get along well with each other.

As you suggest, texting complaints isn't a good way to truly communicate or work out differences. Instead, approach your roommate next time you're together and ask her when you can talk. Tell her that you aren't interested in blaming anyone for the problems you're having but you want to resolve them so you can live amicably. Do not respond to any other text messages.

Reframe your thinking so that you approach the relationship as roommates rather than friends. Remind your roommate about the lease and tell her that your goal is to work out a peaceable arrangement. She doesn't have to be your friend but you live together, and you don't want your relationship to have an adverse impact on your primary reason for being there: completing your education.

If you can pull off this discussion successfully, suggest that you meet weekly for about 15 minutes to discuss any housing issues that arise and to figure out how you will share responsibilities for cleaning, respecting each other's privacy, etc. Another issue you might discuss is whether or not you should continue to share food since it's been a bone of contention in the past. Maybe you just want to share the refrigerator and keep separate shelves.

I realize that this can be a very tense and uncomfortable situation. So I hope that you are buoyed by other friendships and don't spend all your time thinking about your roommate. You may also want to talk to a resident advisor at school to see if he/she has any suggestions for handling situations like this, which are more common than you might imagine.

Hope this helps and that things smooth out. Although it isn't easy, you are learning valuable lessons about living with another person.

My best,
Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about college roommates:

Guest post: Meet the roommate

When anxiety clouds a friendship

When your gal pal falls in love with your guy pay

 

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