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Roommates: When a frayed friendship has a lease

November 30, 2010 | By Continue Reading
Reframe your thinking so that you approach the relationship as roommates rather than friends.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I love reading your blog because it gives me a lot of perspective for my own friendship issues, and lets me know that I’m not alone. But for this one, I feel quite at a loss.

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 because 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:

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I lived with 3 different BFF’s (at different times, not all at one time) during my college/early 20’s.

    The 1st BFF – College Roommate – Only lasted 6 months, we were high school BFF’s. We hated each other after our first semester. She was constantly partying and using our shared dorm room as the hang out place which made it hard to relax and study. After the first 2 months of school when I tired of going to the bars every other day, she turned on me to hang out with more hardcore Frat party girls. She started being mean-spirited towards me and would throw her wet towels on me after she showered and I was asleep, so that I would wake up with a wet towel on me. You know how bad that still angers me?? My dormmate and her new BFF packed up my stuff one night towards the end of the semester and kicked me out of my dormroom – that I paid for mind you! That ex-BFF and I later reconnected and she told me that she’s not friends with those girls from college anymore because all they still cared about was partying. Hmmmm, imagine that! (Too bad she didn’t realize that beforehand because she riuned her reputation at college that year. I mean RUINED!) Be careful who you hang out with.

    The 2nd BFF – Roommate – I loved this BFF very much! She got kicked out of her home at 17 after she graduated from high school and I felt like that was partly my fault because I caused her to get home late and miss curfew. That was the last straw for her parents. I wanted to take care of her because I ccould see so much potential in her. Too bad that she was unable to pay for her side of the bills which caused a major rift because I was having to pay for everything while still having a full schedule at college. I was 19 at the time. We lived together for about 6 months, when we blew up at each other. I had scratched up her Doc’s but I felt I didn’t need to replace them since I had been paying for her side of the bills and rent for the last 6 months which totaled a lot more than what a pair of Doc Marten’s would cost. She moved in with her boyfriend then joined the Air Force. She and I are on great terms now and I love that she grew up to be a great woman! O, and her mother lated paid me my roommates balance for her side of the bills.

    The 3rd BFF – “I should’ve known better” Roommate – I had been living on my own since I was 20 after me and my 2nd roommate stopped being friends for awhile because of roommate drama. I figured I was just as much to blame for those fights as my ex-Bff’s were so I had vowed NEVER to live with a friend again. And I had told my BFF that many times. I would say “if you want to stay friends with me, we can never live together” Well, 3 years into our friendship we had a great offer to live in a house and my BFF begged me to move into the house with her. So, I figured since we were both 24 and both had jobs that this would work out. It didn’t! A week after she had begged me to move in with her and I did she dropped the bomb that she would be moving out in a few months. I was so angry, because I had moved out of a great apartment I had had for almost 5 years where I lived by myself. I thought she was selfish to trick me into moving in with her and her to leave only a few months later leaving me high & dry with no roommate to help pay rent. Also, this BFF was by far the nastiest roommate I have ever had. She let her dog do his business all over her room and she wouldn’t clean it up. She expected me to do the cleaning too. I had just finished cleaning the dishes and she arrogantly threw her used cup in the sink and expected me to just be her maid, to which I said, “Are your hands broke? Clean your own cup!” She rolled her eyes but didn’t clean the cup. Neither did I. When she left she took a bunch of my DVD’s and my DVD stand. She denied taking them but pictures of her in her new living room with my stuff in background doesn’t lie. She left her nasty tainted room for me to clean. I cleaned her carpets 3 times with a rented commercial carpet cleaner and it still smelled like dog urine in there. I didn’t get my deposit back when I moved out because the landlord had to replace the carpet in that room. We aren’t friends at all! I am convinced she is a Malignant Narcissist with Histrionic tendencies. This woman really did a number on my psyche.

    Long story short, living with someone is a whole different ballgame than hanging out with someone all the time. I will warn my children about living with friends. It always seems to turn out bad.

  2. Tori says:

    its best not to room with a friend. if you do it could really ruin your friendship.

  3. Anonymous says:

    living with a friend is not a good idea. i need my privacy and some friends can take that the wrong way. they simply think you do not want to be around them.

  4. Allyson,

    I lived with one of my best friends for over a year, in two different homes, and it nearly killed our friendship.

    Even though our quarters weren’t all that tight (we had a huge 5 bedroom house between 3 people) we still had knock-down-drag-outs over the smallest roommate stuff – dishes, noise, personal space.

    It often got to the point (for me) where I just wanted to leave a note outside her door that read “leave me alone” – it got pretty ugly.

    I found that cohabitation with a loved one really opens up a new layer to intimacy.

    For me, with a lover, this new layer of intimacy is expected and so when roomie challenges arise they feel normal.

    With my best friend they felt icky and awkward – like we should have had all of that figured out prior to moving in with one another.

    But, really why should we? Neither one of us had a very good home life growing up, and we were still learning how to live happily in a home with other people.

    On the one hand, how she and I treated each other was immature behavior, but on the other, it was necessary behavior. We needed to go through that for some reason.

    You are both learning a lot right now, whether you realize it or not.

    The main reason I am sharing is because the friend I am referring to and I are back on good terms now.

    We don’t live together anymore (that helps!) and we no longer have those negative feelings about one another.

    Going through that living experience with her, I now feel closer to her, like a sisterly bond.

    I hope that happens for the both of you, as well. Even if it doesn’t feel possible right now (it certainly did NOT for me back then) it still IS possible.

    Love,
    Leslie

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