Roommate Woes

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“My roommate is constantly waking me up in the middle of the night because she comes home drunk.”

Oh yes. This one is a classic. For those of you in a similar situation, I’ll let our friend tell more of her story, because I think you will connect.

“I am a freshman in college and am already having a hard time with the adjustment. I am not a partier or a drinker, but my roommate and suitemates are. I’ve had a couple bad experiences and am contemplating moving out. But, I really don’t want to be that girl where when the going gets tough, I move out. I like my roommate a lot but am finding it very hard to live with her. She comes home drunk and turns the lights on in our room in the middle of the night, and then the next morning acts like everything is fine. I try to talk to her about it, but I can never find the right words to say.  Should I move out or stick with it?”

1. I’m so glad you like your roommate.

That is already a huge win.  Sometimes there are people we really like, people who are great friends, but at the same time aren’t compatible roommates.  The good news is, it’s a lot easier to compromise with someone you like.  Hang on to that.  When you get in moments where she annoys or frustrates you, remind yourself that you like her.

2. You have to talk to her.

I know it seems hard, scary, or awkward, but you have to have a conversation with her about this– probably a few conversations– before it’s okay to call it quits.  Don’t move out unless you’ve communicated your issues and given her ample opportunity to come to a resolution.  Bring it up in an easy, casual way.  The next time you’re both hanging out in your room (and no one else is there), just say, “Hey- I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something. Do you have 2 minutes?”  This is going to signal to her that what you have to say is important to you, but it’s also not something dramatic.  Start by acknowledging how it may affect her and then explain how it affects you. “I know when you come home late at night, it’s probably difficult since I’m already asleep and all of the lights are off, but it stinks for me because… (it wakes me up, I can’t go back to sleep, etc.)  Is there someway we can compromise?

3. You’re going to have to compromise.

I know you might think I’m crazy for saying you need to ask for a compromise, but that’s the only real resolution to this situation.  You can’t expect her to come home and get ready for bed in complete darkness (especially, unfortunately, if she’s drunk).  Y’all may need to buy a soft lamp she can use or some way she can get ready for bed without totally disturbing you.  You may need to buy ear plugs or an eye mask.  I know that may seem unjust– why should you suffer, when she is the one coming home drunk and being inconsiderate?—but this is what sharing a room is all about.  You have to see it from both sides, be willing to compromise, and be considerate of the other person. Both of you have to do this.

4. She’s going to do it again.

After you have this conversation, I guarantee it will happen again. I’m telling you this so that you have realistic expectations. One conversation won’t be enough.  Then, immediately after it happens, you have to say something.  So- when she turns on the overhead light in the middle of the night, you need to say kindly, “Hey! Can you turn that off and…. (whatever y’all agreed upon)?”  If it happens multiple times, you’ll need to bring it up like you did the first time.  You have to commit to seeing the conflict through and finding resolution.

5. When can you call it quits?

The vast majority of the time, I see roommate conflicts completely destroy the relationship due to a simple lack of communication.  90% of the time, people are reasonable and understand they have to compromise and be considerate of others.  Occasionally this is not the case.  Then, and in my opinion– only then, do I think it’s okay to call it quits.  Don’t quit until you’ve genuinely tried to resolve the conflict and live it out for at least the entire semester.  You can do anything for 3 months.  Frankly, I think you can do anything for 9 months.  Also, keep in mind, you could move into another room and have a whole different set of issues with that new roommate.  You will be trading a known conflict for a set of unknown conflicts.

The bottom line is this: You’re going to have conflict with any roommate. Always do your best to tackle the conflict head on with open and honest communication. Any time an issue arises, consider her perspective too and then bring the matter up in an easy, non-attacking way.  Always seek compromise, knowing you are never going to get 100% your way.  And remind yourself, when facing conflict and any relationship issues, you are building major character!

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