• Keeping Friends
  • Resolving Problems

A breakdown in communication with a college roommate

Published: November 18, 2014 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
After her college roommate is accepted to a sorority and she isn’t, there is a breakdown in communication.



I’m in my second year of college now. My roommate whom I considered to be a close friend joined a sorority. We both rushed to join and she ended up getting picked. I do admit I was upset at first and I didn’t talk to her for a while. During this time though I did not want to continue to talk to her because I felt like she was hurting me.

I continue to wonder how she has not approached me despite all the things we have went through. She knows I’m having a tough time but she seems disinterested in me. When we had problems before this, she would ask me what was wrong and we would solve our dilemmas. I would have never imagined she could be this way because before she was always considerate and generally a cheerful person.

I’m still trying to understand her but I’m coming to the conclusion that she is selfish and non-empathetic. This is really taking a toll on me and its hurting me way more that I imagined. She is the first person that I really connected to and the first person to get that close to me.

I just really don’t understand how people can disregard past relationships that easily. I’m starting to wonder whether she just used me just so that she wouldn’t be alone.

Signed, Pat


Hi Pat,

Sorry to hear you’re having problems with your roommate. If I read your letter correctly, you were hurt when she got chosen for the sorority that you weren’t invited to join. You stopped speaking to her because you were hurt and jealous. Now you’re wondering why she hasn’t approached you.

Sometimes we can fall into roles in relationships and forget to consider other possibilities of behaving. For example if friend A usually calls friend B to hang out but hasn’t in a while, B might feel hurt. B might think her friend is mad. Or B might think, I haven’t heard from A, I’m going to see if she wants to go to dinner this week. In the first example, B forgets that she can take control of the situation and do the calling.

Now let’s look at the scenario from A’s perspective. A feels frustrated because she always has to invite B places and B never reciprocates. She isn’t sure if B likes her as much as she liked B.  If A decides she’s going to wait for B to call to see if B will, she might have a long wait or the call might not come. A can also decide to call B, tell her that she would like B to start suggesting activities and extending invites.

In both examples, the second choice will likely have a better outcome, because A and B are using communicating clearly to express themselves. The first choices would likely lead to increasing resentment, anger or hurt, possibly permanently damaging or ending the friendship.

I encourage you to think about your relationship with your roommate and how you’d feel if you were the one accepted into the sorority and she stopped speaking to you. What would you think? How would you feel and what would you want from her? Would you approach her? Would you expect an apology?

When we feel hurt, we often forget about the impact of our behavior on our friends and succumb to a breakdown in communication.  I encourage you to approach your roommate, apologize for treating her poorly, and to talk about your feelings. Not only do you want to remain friends but you also have to live together.

This is a good opportunity for you to stretch emotionally and use communication skills that might feel different or uncomfortable. You’ll be practicing communication that you’ll need in the workplace, with a partner, and if you eventually have children.

Good luck with your friend.  I hope everything works out.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about friendships with college roommates:

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Communication, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. mouse says:

    Hi Pat,
    First, good for you for seeking support. We all need support or a friend to provide a reality check when emotional reactions lead us into trouble. It is natural that you were thrown for a loop when the sorority chose only one of you. It may have felt humiliating and it may have felt or seemed that by being chosen, she was part of the excluding. And I understand the impulse to withdraw and ‘punish’ her. You just didn’t know how to express all that feeling. (and for sure, Pat, ANYONE would have a lot of feeling in that situation)
    The good news is that you have woken yourself up to realizing that you don’t want to lose her. So since this is your first deep connected friendship be gentle with yourself and realize that you are learning. This is part of the learning about how to handle all the things that life throws into our relationships. How do we handle this and stay connected? That’s the question we are all facing over and over. Each time it is new, but as you get more practice, you get better at it. And you draw from past experience to gain confidence. Begin creating that experience for yourself now. A perfect time.

    Request a time when she can sit and talk for 10 or 15 minutes. Its important that she gets a vote on the timing and can be prepared.
    Tell her you were hurt/humiliated/jealous/taken by surprise, etc and you didn’t know how to handle it. Tell her that your friendship means so much to you and you are so sorry to have treated it this way. Ask her to report her own feelings and reactions. Mirror them back to her. Take full responsibility for anything you did, and allow her to speak honestly. Be open to learning how you affected her. Repeat back to her without judgement. Say you are so sorry. Maybe even a few times. (apologies do go a long long way)

    And then bring the question to your relationship. How do we stay connected while this sorority situation brings changes. And then you can hold the question TOGETHER. That is the key. Bring the feelings, bring the difficulty to the relationship. Holding it together is part of creating more connection.

    I am 61 and I am still practicing. We are all still practicing. It is part of our lifework. Relationships that last long or go deep will always face blows of some sort. A lot of people ask how to make that stuff stop happening. Well we can’t. The skill to develop is to come back to the connection, even if the first emotional impulse is separation. And if it is a blow that the relationship cannot hold and heal, that will be evident.

    Good luck Pat, I can tell that you take this seriously and that it is likely you have what it takes to create more good relationships.

  2. Patricia says:

    I could not agree with Jen and Amy – perfect advice from both of them.
    I actually was very moved by Jen’s reply – to thank you JEN.

    Remember that it was you who stopped talking to her – your friend may be feeling that you are a bit immature for not dealing with the situation properly from the beginning. Approach her for forgiveness and nurture your relationship with her.

    And as Jen said – go out there and have fun….do NOT sit and sulk (I have done this so much in the past and regret it). I am trying to teach my 8 year old daughter the same – when her friends are getting together without her, I tell her to get off her pity party and make plans with somebody else.

    • Jen says:

      Thank you, Patricia. I appreciate your kind words. We’ve all been through so much. It’s gratifying to not only help myself, but to share it with others and not waste all that suffering and learning! 🙂

  3. Leeanne says:

    Your friend didn’t do anything wrong. You were so jealous, you stopped talking to her and as you stated you continued to not talk to her because you were hurt. How is that her fault? Why is her success hurting you?
    You owe your friend an apology.

  4. Jen says:

    Dear Pat,

    A few things I’ve learned from life and from some of these friendshpblog posts that are really valuable. I waited waaaay toooooo long to remove myself from toxic relationships in college and other stages of life. When I finally did, though internally painful, I have benefitted greatly and have NO regrets. However, it sounds like you have a good friend and relationship there, worth holding on to. I totally agree with Amy, you might as well speak now, b/c otherwise the friendship may fade so much or become so full of hurt, that it breaks anyway. So what do you have to lose really? Speak up kindly now, share your concerns and pain. This may or may not help, but it’s the best shot. And here is probably the greatest gem of truth I have picked up recently: If someone or something comes between you and a close relationship, LET IT! LET IT! Relationships are always changing, ebbing and flowing. If we do not let them grow, change, be closer, farther, like shaping a clay figure, the friendship will become brittle and BREAK. It is actually a BLESSING when others get in the way for awhile!! Really!!! What is really happening is it is adding depth and dimension to your friendship. Your friend NEEDS friends outside of her sorority (I was in a sorority in college, and my most stable and satisfying friendships were one of my roommates and some other friends). I’ll tell you what, I was SO disappointed to see, year after year, these sorority girls constantly engaged in drama over their friendships, fighting one month, best friends the next, swept up in changing alliances the next, and on and on! Plus they were SO immature about how they chose new members. I remember on discussion after RUSH about some girls not being chose because they had too much acne!!! I was SO ashamed to belong to this, tears actually quietly flowed from my eyes. My last year of college I didn’t even bother to attend meetings. I didn’t formally quit or have a confrontation. I just faded from the partying, “hooking up (yuck!!),” immature relationships, etc. I was disgusted. I am not saying your friend will run into the same experiences. But I am saying that this is really just rounding you out, stretching you. LET IT. Get together with your friend sometimes, remind her how glad you are that you are friends. Tell her you are glad that you can be her friend “outside the sorority.” Tell her you are glad you are expanding your social circles. Are you carbon copies of one another? Of course not. Life has other plans for you. Would you be upset if she was mathematical and you were artistic? Probably not. It’s the same with being chosen for a sorority or any other club or talents or interests in life. You didn’t get to choose your birthday, gender, family, or your name. SO much is out of our control. Take this as a great lesson in life that you can survive NOT being chose, you can survive this little hit. Life is full of hits. You are not only a survivor, you are a thriver. You can find your own niche AND keep your good friend in your life. If you keep this kind of attitude. Also, if you and your friend grow apart over the years after graduation, etc., keep the link in your heart. One day, when you or she find yourself in a life crisis (infertility, divorce, major illness, etc.) you may be seeking each other out for support. Unless she does something directly cruel to you, I would try to keep this relationship in your life, whatever quality it is. It will change, it will ebb and flow. Try to go with the flow. Expand your own friendships with new classmates, clubs, offcampus, family, etc. Don’t give up. And be your own best friend. Chances are, your good friend has no clue how to really deal with this problem between you two, and so is not handling it all that gracefully. Get up, dust yourself off, take yourself out for coffee. Hang out with your mom, or a sib, or an aunt. Write in your journal. Go to a comedy show (or get a jokebook from the library), and laugh. Look at the clubs on campus, and try them out. Start a study group in a hard class(notice a few of the attentive kids, approach them after class, offer to meet up or give them your email, etc.). Take a walk and notice something beautiful. Get all dressed up and go out on a date with or without a guy. Study. Fly a kite. Join the frisbee golf club on campus, etc. Take it easy. Be casual and easy on yourself and your friend. Laugh again. Smile and make funny faces in the mirror. Love yourself. God does and so do many people in your life. I’ve probably gone on too much. Have fun!!!

    • Jen says:

      Sorry for my typos. “Chosen” not “chose,” etc. 🙂 New AND old friends keep things fresh. Try not to depend too much on one friendship. Find your inner strength and lean on yourself a bit more. Be brave and expand socially. You’ll make some new friends, and others will not be interested right now. That’s o.k. and a normal part of life. You can do it!

    • Pat says:

      I am very grateful for your thoughtful and kind words. I realized I was at fault which shows me I still have a lot to learn. Everything happens for a reason and because of this I’m able to push myself a lot more. While we are not friends anymore, I do appreciate the memories we had together but they are now part of the past. This event has made me appreciate the close relationships I have now. The reason they are still tightly bound is simply because of the caring on behalf of the people within the relationship. Again thank you for your wise words, as I will take the risk of becoming more brave!

Leave a Reply