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Two roommates having a hard time with a third who is emotionally draining

Published: March 23, 2016 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
Roommates don’t necessarily have to be friends if it feels emotionally draining.



We are females in our mid-twenties and are finding that our relationship with our third roommate, also a mid-twenties female, has become increasingly strained in less than a year of living together. She has a history of trauma, abuse, and issues with trust, and has developed obsessive/repetitive behaviors relating to particular men in her life that are reminiscent of high-school-esque drama.

We initially tried to be open and supportive through her periods of extreme emotional instability and dramatic episodes but have gotten to the point of wanting to disengage entirely. She is currently pursuing weekly therapy but her constant need for an audience and narcissistic behavior have made home an uncomfortable place to be, even after being clear with her about our own emotional boundaries.

Our lease is up in a few months and we’ve considered asking her to move out, but are unsure if that’s appropriate. What would you recommend we do to work through this? Many thanks!

Signed, Jill and Alyssa



Whether people are working, studying or both, a home has to be a sanctuary where they can de-stress and feel comfortable. It’s nice that you and one of your roommates are compatible because as you’ve learned this isn’t always the case.

If roommates can work out a living arrangement that’s suits them, they don’t necessarily have to be friends. But if you have tried to communicate boundaries and have come to the conclusion that your third roommate’s moods and behaviors are too much for you to handle, you need to alter the living arrangement.

There is no easy way to ask someone to move out but try to be as kind as possible to someone who seems to be struggling:

1) Don’t wait until the last minute to give your roommate notice. She may need some time to make alternate arrangements.

2) Together, decide on a firm but reasonable move-out date.

3) In the time remaining, act cordially but not overly friendly.

4) Don’t use this as an opportunity to tell her everything that’s gone wrong. Try to be non-specific and tell her that things just aren’t working out as you hoped they would and the chemistry just isn’t a good fit.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Dealing with threesomes and groups of friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (9)

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  1. Nancy r. says:

    This girl needs to be delt with in a matter where you are direct yet gentle….

    Example: this may sound stupid but adress it as if you were a teacher confronting a student on an important matter… Like if a student was failing and needed to negotiate how to get out of the situation and make sure there were no hurt feelings.

  2. Lisa says:

    I wouldn’t get into all this stuff. I would simply tell her things aren’t working out and when the lease is up we are all going our separate ways. This way there is no room for arguments to start. You could always say you have taken a job out of state and will bot be staying after the lease ends. She sounds unstable, and the best thing for you to do is cut your ties before anything bad happens. Best of luck to you and your other roommate.

    • SB says:

      I think “unstable” is harsh and subjective and you may be singling out the odd 3rd person. I noticed this with young children, that 2 can get along much better than 3. None of you are very old. And you are accusing her of high-school-esque drama? Surely you should end this living situation with the most kindness and maturity you can muster. I wouldn’t lie, as one poster has suggested, that you say you are moving out of state. The odd chance you run into each other would be extremely awkward.

  3. LauraSL says:

    If all 3 of you are on the lease, she has just as much a right to the place as you and the 3rd girl. Given how unstable this girl is I would simply tell her you 2 are not planning on renewing the lease and make up a benign reason if she asks. This happens with roommates all the time, so it’s not a big deal. I generally don’t believe in lying, but given her state a white lie is being kind. Then if you and the other girl want to live together, find a new place discreetly.

  4. Salstarat says:

    The best procedure is to be honest. Your flatmate has told you she is going to a therapist … have you checked that this is actually true? She sounds very narcissistic and ticks some boxes as a sociopath so I would be careful as, in my experience, such people are prolific and pathological manipulators and liars. Also, it is worth mentioning that if she lied about the therapist, she may have lied about her background – it is worth checking that out.

    If you and your friend were the first to attain the apartment, then you have every right to ask the flatmate to leave but you will need to provide her with adequate notice. If she is manipulative, the “softly softly” approach just won’t work because she will, inevitably, do everything she can to stay in the apartment starting from playing the “victim” card, then quickly moving on to pleading forgiveness with promises to change, then escalating to throwing a tantrum and then becoming extremely angry and volatile. Be prepared for this.

    You and your friend will need to be diplomatic; the three of you should sit down and you should advise this woman that her boyfriend problems etc are starting to impact on your need for a quiet, peaceful and untroubled home life and that her erratic way of life is incompatible to yours (and your friend’s). The point is that NO ONE should have to come home every day and suffer a flatmate’s hysterical, unstable behaviour … it is not only irritating, it is disturbing and upsetting. It seems evident that she is not aware of appropriate behaviour nor does she adhere to suitable boundaries in relation to the fact that she is SHARING an apartment with others – everything is, and always will be, about HER. You can be compassionate but you MUST be assertive and firm.

    I suggest you research what legal rights you have in relation to evicting a flatmate to be sure that you are acting within the law. You also need to research the avenue(s) open to you if your flatmate REFUSES to move. If you are not prepared to go down the legal path in this regard, unfortunately, you and your friend will need to be the ones to move out.

    • Amy F says:

      I’m not sure you’re familiar with PTSD and the psychological affects of trauma and abuse as a defense mechanism. Psychiatric conditions and personality disorders are for more complex than reading diagnosis criteria. Diagnosis takes an understanding of the difference between pathological symptomology and having traits or behaviors, unhealthy ones and behaviors that are just plain annoying to others. A person can act in a narcissistic manner without being a Narcissist, particularly during times of stress.

      • Salstarat says:

        I’m sorry, but people can also use PTSD as a crutch and excuse for appalling behaviour. Everyone has stress and trauma in their life and I am no exception. This does NOT mean that people should have to put up with narcissistic, self centred behaviour and, certainly, not have to live with it. What do you expect Jill and Alyssa to do – carry on handling this woman with kid gloves whilst she makes their life hell? There is a limit to Politically Correct handling of people whose self centredness knows no boundaries.

  5. Ben says:

    One thing that might help is to have the discussion that Amy refers to in a therapists office. Three things might happen..

    1. She may get the awareness that her behavior needs to change enough for you and her see a change.

    2. She can process things with a professional present to help her deal with the information.

    3. The therapist can help phrase the information to make it as emotionally neutral as possible.

    In all issues regarding people there’s your truth her truth and a possible third truth.

  6. Amy F says:

    Please tell your roommate as soon as possible so she has the opportunity to process what she’ll surely see as rejection with her therapist and find a new place. She will likely see herself as a victim in the scenario, since she’s already dealing with abuse/PTSD issues. My advice is to let her have this one, rather than trying to “win” a discussion about why you and your other roommate are right and she is wrong. I believe you are doing the right thing for yourself, your roommate and your soon to be ex-roommate, but she’ll probably either see this as a) proof that bad things always happen to her or b) she’s a horrible person and deserves to be “abandoned”. Those are issues she should process with her therapist, not you. Don’t engage.

    You might also consider allowing her to have the apartment and moving to a 2 bedroom apartment, depending on how the roommate situation came about. If she initiated the arrangement, allowing her to keep the apartment is both fair and kind. Moving is one of the life’s big stressors and it would be a pain, but can also be easier in situations like yours.

    When talking to your soon to be ex roommate, try to remember she’s in therapy, working on her issues, and is probably doing the best she can to cope with what might take years to resolve. Often times child trauma victims have arrested emotional development that stops at the time of abuse, so her immature behavior is quite typical for those with similar histories. That doesn’t mean you should feel sorry for her, but having empathy for her struggles, and seeing her behaviors as unhealthy reactions to abuse from which she’s actively working to recover might help you have a more compassionate discussion.

    Good luck.

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