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What to Do If You Hate Your Roommate

How to Approach Roommate Problems . . . Or Know When It's Time to Switch

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Frustrated with your roommate? Think he or she might be frustrated with you? Roommate conflicts are, unfortunately, part of many people's college experiences and can be incredibly stressful. With a little patience and communication, though, it doesn't have to be the end of the roommate-relationship. At the same time, a little patience and communication can go a long way toward determining if it would be best for each of you to find new roommates.

First Things First

If you think you're having roommate problems, there is one of two things going on: your roommate knows it, too, or your roommate is completely clueless. Things may be tense when the two of you are together in the room; conversely, your roommate may have no idea how frustrated you are at how often he finishes off your cereal after rugby practice.

In a space other than your room, sit and think about what is really frustrating you. Try writing down what is frustrating you the most. Is your roommate not respecting your space and/or things? Is she coming home late and making a lot of noise? Having too many people over too often? Instead of writing down "last week, she ate all of my food AGAIN," try to think about patterns. Something like "she doesn't respect my space and stuff, even though I've asked her to" might address the problem more and be easier for your roommate to handle.

How to Address It

Once you've figured out the main issues, try to talk to your roommate at a time that is good for both of you. It's a very good idea to try to set this time in advance. Ask if you can talk when you are both done with morning classes on Wednesday, on Saturday at 2:00, etc. Set a specific time so that "this weekend" doesn't come and go without the two of you talking. Chances are, your roommate knows that you guys need to talk, so give him a few days to possibly put his thoughts together, too.

On the same note, however, if you don't feel comfortable talking to your roommate directly, that's okay, too. But you do need to address it. If you live on campus, talk to your RA (Resident Adviser) or other hall staff member. They are trained to help residents with roommate problems and will know what to do, even if you don't.

Speak Your Mind . . . But Listen, Too

Using the list and notes you made, and possibly in a conversation facilitated by an RA, let your roommate know how you are feeling. Try not to attack your roommate too much, no matter how frustrated you are. Try using language that won't make her defensive, too. For example, instead of saying, "I can't believe how selfish you are when it comes to my things," try saying, "It really frustrates me that you borrow my clothes without asking." The more you verbally attack your roommate (or anyone else, for that matter), the more her defenses are going to go up. Take a deep breath and say what you need to in a way that is constructive and respectful. After all, you'd want the same from your roommate, right?

And, as hard as it may be, try to listen to what your roommate has to say without getting defensive or interrupting. It may take you biting your cheeks, sitting on your hands, or mentally pretending that you're talking on a tropical beach, but do your best. Your roommate may have some valid reasons behind what's going on and be frustrated, too. The only way you are going to get to the bottom of everything is to put it out on the table, talk about it, and see what you can do. You're in college now; it's time to address this like the adult that you are.

If you're having an RA facilitate the conversation, let him or her take the lead. If it's just you and your roommate, try to address the things you both said in a way that can satisfy everyone. Most likely, you both won't leave 100% happy, but ideally you can both leave feeling relieved and ready to move on.

After the Discussion

After you guys talk, things may be a little awkward. Which is, of course, fine and totally normal. Unless there are issues that you just cannot tolerate, give your roommate a little time to make the changes you discussed. He may be so used to how things have been going for two months that it will be hard to stop doing some of the things he didn't even know drove you nuts. Be patient, but also make it clear that you two came to an agreement and he needs to keep his end of the deal, too.

If things just aren't working out, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean you or your roommate did anything wrong. Some people just don't live well together! It may be that you both are much better friends than roommates. Or that you will rarely talk to each other for the rest of your time at school. Any situation is fine, as long as you feel safe and ready to move on.

If you decide that you just can't stick with your roommate for the rest of the year, figure out what to do next. If you live on campus, talk to your RA again. If you live off campus, figure out what your options are in terms of the lease and relocating. You aren't the first person ever to have a problems with a roommate; there are undoubtedly resources already available on campus to help you transition out. Regardless, do your best to remain civil and respectful, and know that your next living situation probably has nowhere to go but up!

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