Ahhh a bad college roommate. Well, we’ve all been there. And if you can’t relate, you’re one of the lucky few. You think it’ll be a good idea to room with a certain someone and sure enough, weeks later, your living situation is in shambles. There are many things that can go wrong when it comes to sharing the same living space with someone. Add a stranger, sorry, I mean “randomly selected roommate” into the mix, and the situation is literally a time bomb waiting to explode. Yes, usually you are the innocently normal one and the other person is the complete psychopath, but you still have to be mindful of your own actions. No one said living with a roommate was easy. Keep reading for tips on how to deal with a bad college roommate.
1. Be sure to be open and honest with your college roommate about what bothers you.
You would think that some things are just obviously annoying and a clear ‘no-no’…but some people don’t catch on as quickly as you’d assume. It is absolutely crucial to be real with your roommate and upfront with them about whatever it is you can’t stand. Besides, sweeping things under the rug will only lead to more problems later on.
2. But…if they do many things that drive you crazy, pick the one that makes you most annoyed and only address that one.
Don’t bombard them with little annoyances, it will only overwhelm them. Chances are if they are doing multiple things that annoy you, then they probably don’t even realize that what they are doing bothers you. And if this is the case, then they definitely aren’t going to be your BFF after the year is over. You can’t exactly ream them out every time they do something small that bugs you. So don’t waste your energy complaining to them about tedious issues, address the largest one and swallow the rest.
3. That being said…don’t hide behind your phone or computer keyboard to express that issue.
Passive aggressiveness is beyond lame. Like, I-have-second-hand-embarrassment-for-you, lame. Not only will it be way more awkward when you eventually have to be together in person, but it solves nothing. We learned how to express our emotions productively when we were in…oh, that’s right…preschool. So unless you are under the age of five, just be an adult and approach the person about what’s bothering you.
4. And only bring up an issue if it is productive to do so.
Please take a minute to stop and think about what you are going to complain to them about. Is it really that worth it? (See point #2.) A q-tip that missed the trash can, a moldy apple in the back of the fridge, a water stain on the coffee table, I mean, who really has time to care? Some things are just better left unsaid.
5. If you are afraid that a situation could turn real ugly, remove yourself from that situation immediately.
If you have absolutely had it, and are afraid you might lash out, it is important to temporarily distance yourself before you say or do something you could regret. Instead, politely excuse yourself and channel that negative energy through a healthy outlet such as this:
6. Don’t be a tattle and tell your RA.
They really don’t care. Hate to break it to you, but unless your roommate is acting in a way that is terribly inappropriate, there isn’t much your residential advisor can or will do for you.
7. Save the drama for your Mama.
If you really need advice, or just want to vent for a minute, step out of the room and call a parent, sibling, or best friend from home. You can complain to them all you want.
8. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
Remember everyone you meet is fighting their own private battle. And if everyone could put all the s*** they’re currently dealing with in life into a pile with the option to take someone else’s issues instead, they would likely take back their own. Try to put yourself in your college roommate’s shoes. Truly. With every situation try to imagine you are them and how they may perceive things differently. When someone is speaking to you in an argument, actually listen, instead of zoning them out and brainstorming your next rebuttal.
9. Constantly be aware of your own actions.
Are you doing anything that could be a bother to your college roommate? Can’t think of a single thing? Then you’re wrong. No one is perfect. (Hard to accept, I know) but at least try to think. Here’s a thought if you think you’re brave enough: simply ask them. Let down your pride for the love of all that is holy and try to better the situation once and for all by selflessly acknowledging that although you’re only human, you don’t want to make the other person annoyed either. If you know you have a weird quirk, let them know ahead of time and make a joke about it. (Sorry I snore like a Lorax, feel free to push me onto my side if you can’t fall asleep…?)
10. Don’t leave passive aggressive notes or send passive aggressive texts.
Again with the passive aggression. Just…why?! If you’re too scared to talk to your college roommate in person then is whatever you have to say really that important?
11. Try to maintain a friendly relationship with your roommate regardless.
We’re all adults here. Unless they’re a legitimate psychopath, (which, can happen) wave to them when you pass by them on campus! Ask them how their day was when they get home after night class. Act like a civilized human being towards them even if they have different interests and another friend group than you. You sleep in the same room after all. Don’t be rude. Try to appreciate differences. And if you want to go the extra mile, try to perform small, random acts of kindness as you would for anyone else. For instance, if you order take out, ask them if they want any. If you’re heading to do laundry, ask them if they need anything run for you. 99% of the time they will answer “no,” but they sure will remember you asking.
12. Innocently and slowly distance yourself from them if you need your space.
Especially during Freshman year when everyone is trying to find their own friends and niche, your college roommate can latch on like a barnacle. Bottom line-you need your own space. Slowly and kindly start pulling yourself away if you sense they are starting to get too clingy. Express openly when you are about to leave and go somewhere on your own so they can’t have a reason to get mad at you for lying or hiding the fact that you’re distancing yourself.
13. Don’t try to force a friendship if it ain’t gonna happen.
I know it is hard to imagine, you’re so awesome why wouldn’t your college roommate want to be friends with you? Well, it happens. Sometimes for reasons we can’t comprehend. If someone doesn’t seem to want to be buddy-buddy with you, then don’t push it. That’s their own issue.
14. If you borrow their belongings at times, be prepared to share your belongings too.
It works both ways. And don’t forget to ask before you take something. You don’t want to make the mistake of borrowing something that they have a surprising and meaningful connection to and then getting a stain on it. Just ask.
15. Find a special place where you can speak on the phone in private.
For me it was the bike storage room on my dorm room floor. Cozy… But seriously, if you need to vent about your college roommate to your mom at 10 o’clock at night in private, you need to scope out a go-to spot.
16. If you just want to be left alone, appear busy.
Sometimes you just want to be left alone, or you need to fill the awkward silence. In this case, put on a pair of headphones and listen to music or watch Netflix. Can’t work with music? Keep your headphones on as a decoy and turn with your computer facing them, so they can’t see the screen.
17. Let them know ahead of time when you’re having your boyfriend or girlfriend over.
It’s just the courteous thing to do. Always give a heads up if you’re bringing someone back to your place, even if it’s just a courtesy text five minutes beforehand. It is always better than not saying anything at all! And if it seems like your roommate feels uncomfortable about something, don’t be cruel. Make your boyfriend or girlfriend step outside or take a walk if you sense your roommate needs to talk to you in private, shower, or change.
18. On that note-try to get on their significant other’s good side.
This is key, and if you are already having issues, it might blindside them. Chances are if the two of you aren’t getting along, their boyfriend or girlfriend has a pretty strong opinion of you as well. Try to beat the odds and be super engaging and kind to them. When your roommate leaves to shower, spark up a conversation with them. Smile and act like you care even though you really don’t. That way, the next time your roommate starts to complain to them they will say “You know, she really doesn’t seem all that bad…” Ouch. (Same thing goes with when their parent’s visit as well.)
19. Don’t be gross and stay in the room all day so they don’t have any time to themselves.
If your roommate is the type to spend 3/4 of their day locked in your room playing Solitaire (how appropriate) or even worse, stay in bed all day everyday with the curtains drawn (these things happen, people), it might be too awkward to say something up front, even for the most outgoing of people. If the situation gets really annoying, it is time to take drastic measures. I suggest inviting another friend over between classes or for a wine night in. Having more people in the room may make them feel weird or self conscious about their current situation and force them to be social and snap out of it.
20. Don’t be a self-proclaimed health inspector.
Again, if something is seriously gross and you think it’s truly worth it (like a dirty cereal bowl crowding your desk space for the 3rd day in a row) then bring it to them upfront. But if there is a little trail of dirt that your roommate left by accident when they walked in, don’t take a picture of it and send it to them asking about it. (The real concern here is that you actually had the time to do all of that.) They could have been running late or had something else on their mind, (see #8) or just simply didn’t notice. Again, no one really cares.
Living with a bad college roommate is tough. Have any advice for our readers? Comment below and share this article!
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Anisia is an editor for Society19. She studied English Literature and Journalism Media at the University of New Hampshire and Regent's College London, UK.