If you have a roommate that’s causing you trouble, everyone you talk to about it will probably say that bad roommates are just a part of life, and it’s kind of true. There are good people in the world and there are bad people and there are shades of gray, and the same applies to roommates because, hey, they’re people too. However, just because someone says that having a bad roommate is a rite of passage doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. So here’s some advice for surviving through the roller coaster that is a less-than-stellar roommate (LTSR).
- Pick Your Battles Wisely. There are some things worth fighting for in a living situation, and there are some that aren’t. Prioritize what’s worth bringing up with your roommate if something’s bothering you. I know that a lot of small things can feel like big things in the moment, but they’re really not worth a huge blow up. So take the time to rate whatever it is the roommate has done, and if it’s below a four then it’s not worth bringing up. Leaving clumps of hair in the shower? Talk it out. Leaving food out after cooking? Not as bad. Forgetting to do dishes? It’s all right now and then.
- Try to Communicate Effectively. Depending on the roommate, this can either be easy or hard. Mentioning issues that you’re having in a calm, reasonable way will more often lead to closure than passive aggressive notes or screaming. It’s also worth understanding that tone is really hard to convey through text or written notes so what you think is just a simple question can be taken personally and cause more issues. However, if you have a LTSR who is a terrible communicator this can be a mountain to try and overcome. This was the case with my own LTSR; not only did she take a lot of things personally, but she was also passive aggressive and more likely to escalate things into screaming matches. But by using advice #1 in tandem with #2 I was able to avoid a lot of battles and get my point across effectively without starting an outright war.
- Venting Outside the Circle. I will admit that my other roommates and I often talked about the LTSR behind her back to see if we were all having the same issues or not, but this was not a great idea. A lot of the time it just stoked our anger at the LTSR and didn’t solve anything. A lot of the time it’s better to talk to someone who doesn’t live with you or personally know the LTSR about what’s going on. That way they can listen objectively and help you get over the issues, see another point of view, or just get it out. I know that it’s not nice to gossip, but the best way to deal with issues that can’t be dealt with on the inside or in person is to have another person help out.
- You Might Be Their LTSR. Let’s face it, no one’s perfect. So while you’re bitching about your LTSR and all their habits, they could be doing the same about you. Maybe you’re a neat freak who demands a too-high standard from everyone most of the time (guilty) or someone who makes a lot of noise when everyone else is sleeping. The fact is that there are probably things about you that they don’t like just as much as their issues bother you. Communicating would probably help, but if it doesn’t then it’s worth it just to know that hatred is not a one-way street.
- Find Some Common Ground. Depending on your LTSR this can be possible or not. The only real common ground that my LTSR and I had was that we both loved Supernatural. However, I know that this can work out great for others because it facilitates a healthier relationship and gives you time to get to know each other. This can then lead to communication and resolution of issues in a nice way, and it doesn’t hurt to be on good terms with someone you live with. Even if you don’t become best friends it solves a lot of problems before they become anything big.
- (If All Else Fails) Ignorance is Bliss. Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and admit that no matter how much you let the little things go, try to communicate in non-screaming ways, vent out your problems elsewhere, and empathize with issues it’s not working out. In this case there’s a choice to make: you can either put up until the lease is up or figure out an exit strategy. I was relatively lucky with my LTSR because I knew when her lease was up and held out hope on waiting till then. In the end, due to her unhappiness as well as our own she got out of the lease early and moved out. From what I can tell, she’s happier now and I think that’s awesome. No one deserves to live in misery. The biggest part of this strategy is to avoid the other person—that way there’s no real opportunity for real conflict. Yes, this sucks because sometimes it means holing up in your room all day, but if you hate fighting (like me) then it’s the best idea. [Especially if you get so furious at just the sight of your LTSR that you want to punch them in the face].
Yes, living with a LTSR sucks sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying for some kind of neutral ground. Yes, it’s a part of life and some people are lucky enough to avoid it, but that doesn’t mean you should just roll over and take it. The Captain would also like me to mention that just because your LTSR is the Devil doesn’t mean your next roommate is going to be an angel—like I said no one’s perfect.
Less-than-stellar roommates can be real trouble, but that doesn’t mean they can make your life a living hell. By prioritizing, communicating, venting, empathizing, socializing, and (if need be) ignoring you can survive living with a LTSR and come out for the better.