Dealing With A Difficult Roommate

By Tamiera Vandegrift 


Unfortunately, living with another person isn’t always easy. Whether your roommate is your best friend since grade school or a random person you were assigned, it’s natural for disputes to arise. After all, adjusting to having to share close proximity to another person who isn’t family is a challenge for everyone. However, sometimes even the mildest roommate disputes end up escalating into tense, uncomfortable living situations. If this is the case, something should definitely be done to make a positive, healthy change for everyone involved.


The biggest thing to remember in the case of any roommate conflict is that you must take care of yourself. Even if the dispute doesn’t seem like “a big deal”, anything that causes you distress is worth addressing and finding a solution. Always keep in mind that avoiding a problem means avoiding a solution and that you deserve to have a stress-free environment to return to at the end of the day.


Roommate disputes are no picnic. In fact, if you are afraid of confrontation, they can be your worst nightmare. The stress can have an extremely negative effect on your academic performance, physical wellbeing, and mental health. So, it is imperative that you address issues with your difficult roommate quickly and directly. Having issues with a roommate is the furthest thing from uncommon and there is always a solution. Keep reading for ways to handle a difficult roommate! 


Roommate Tips: Dealing With A Difficult Roommate 

Be Direct

When you start having issues with a roommate, the first thing you should do is try to address the issues calmly and politely. Leaving behind passive aggressive messages and being rude will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, speak with them and confront the issue with kindness. If you don’t appreciate them having loud guests over late at night or wish that they’d stop leaving a mountain of dishes in the sink, explain your feelings to them as soon as possible. Be sure to use reason and appeal to their better nature. For example, if they are constantly having loud guests over, let them know that you have trouble sleeping and relaxing when this happens. Keep in mind that no matter how annoying they are, your roommate is only human and they aren’t always capable of recognizing their behavior.


It is also important to make sure that these direct conversations take place in person, not over text or phone calls. Without a physical conversation, discussing a dispute digitally can end in a lot of issues if things are misconstrued. Even though it seems less scary to send a text than it is to confront someone in person, you will definitely find better results from addressing issues face-to-face.


Resist Pettiness

When you fight fire with fire, everyone gets burned. No matter how tempting it might be to throw your roommate’s several-week-old dirty dishes onto their bed or leave nasty notes taped to the refrigerator like some reality television show, acting out with pettiness can only make matters worse. Above all, you need to remember to be the bigger, stronger person in the end. Name calling, finger pointing, and nastiness will only breed more tension and stress for both of you in the end. There is no benefit to acting out immaturely unless you want to add living in a hostile environment to your bucket list.


The best way to avoid giving in to the petty urges is to remain calm and keep a clear head. Did your roommate use your kitchen supplies without cleaning them for the third time this week? Take a walk and some deep breaths before you bring it up with them again. Did your roommate let their S.O. eat your leftovers again? Order yourself another treat and take time to cool off before throwing rocks at your roommate’s window. When you have yourself together and you’ve silenced the Evil Kermit voice in your head, you’re ready to discuss your feelings with your roommate directly.


Create Distance

If all of your attempts at communication fail, try to build some distance between yourself and your roommate. It’s an unfortunate, yet obvious fact, that not everyone was meant to get along in the end. Sadly, if you and your roommate fall into this category, there isn’t much you can do to remedy the situation. For the sake of your mental health, make sure you take time away from your roommate every so often. Try studying in the library instead of your living room. Hang out with friends and see what there is to do on campus or around town instead of spending your weekends at home. While it’s definitely still your space that you have a right to, it’s also good to get a little distance every now and then.


A clear head and some space might help you to see solutions to your issue that you didn’t think of before. It could also shift your roommate’s perspective and help them to realize that their behavior is making you very uncomfortable.


Get Help

If your roommate’s difficult behavior hasn’t changed, it might be time to involve a third party. If you live in a dorm, contact your R.A. or Resident Counselor and discuss your options. University housing programs typically offer mediation services to settle all types of roommate disputes. This is especially helpful if confrontation scares you. If you live in an apartment, keep in mind that it isn’t the responsibility of your landlord or property manager to act as a mediator between you and your roommate. However, if you are persistent and present enough reasoning, you might be able to get yourself out of the situation entirely via a room switch or subletting.


If your difficult roommate becomes hostile, tense, or displays no desire to establish a healthy, cohesive household, it might be time to consider some sort of mediation or moving out entirely. 


In the end, having a difficult roommate is not the end of the world. Living with someone new is always a difficult journey, but there are many ways to push through the hard times and improve the living situation for everyone. Always start by trying to have a calm, honest conversation in person. If pursuing a peaceful conversation or mediation doesn’t work, then it’s time for you to move on for the sake of your well-being. After all, the ideal roommate might just be around the corner!

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