What to Do If You Hate Your College Roommate

Woman frustrated at lazy roommate using digital tablet on sofa
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Roommate conflicts are, unfortunately, part of many people's college experiences, and they can be incredibly stressful. With a little patience and communication, though, it doesn't have to be the end of the roommate relationship. At the same time, these same skill sets can go a long way toward determining if it would be best for each of you to find new roommates.

Determine If There Is a Problem

If you think you're having roommate problems, one of two things is possible: Your roommate knows it, too, or your roommate is completely clueless. Things may be tense when the two of you are together in the room; conversely, your roommate may have no idea how frustrated you are at how often he finishes off your cereal after rugby practice. If your roommate isn't aware of the problem, make sure you know what it is that's really bugging you before you try to address it with him.

Get Clear About Your Issues

In a space other than your room, sit and think about what is really frustrating to you. Try writing down what is frustrating you the most. Is your roommate:

  • Failing to respect your space and/or things?
  • Coming home late and making a lot of noise?
  • Having too many people over too often?

Instead of writing down, "Last week, she ate all of my food AGAIN," try to think about patterns. Something like, "She doesn't respect my space and stuff, even though I've asked her to" might address the problem more specifically and be easier for your roommate to handle.

Address the Problem

Once you've figured out the main issues, talk to your roommate at a time that is good for both of you. Set this time in advance. Ask if you can talk when you are both done with morning classes on Wednesday, for example, or on Saturday at 2 p.m. Set a specific time so that this weekend doesn't come and go without the two of you talking. Chances are, your roommate knows that you both need to talk, so give him a few days to compose his thoughts.

However, if you don't feel comfortable talking to your roommate directly, that's OK, too. But you do need to address the problem(s). If you live on campus, talk to your resident adviser or other hall staff member. Each is trained to help residents with roommate problems and will know what to do, even if you don't.

Be Frank But Diplomatic

Using the list and notes you made, and possibly in a conversation facilitated by an RA, let your roommate know how you feel. Try not to attack your roommate too much, regardless of how frustrated you are. Use language that addresses the problem, not the person. For example, instead of saying, "I can't believe how selfish you are when it comes to my things," try saying, "It really frustrates me that you borrow my clothes without asking."

The more you verbally attack your roommate (or anyone else, for that matter), the more her defenses are going to go up. Take a deep breath and say what you need to in a way that is constructive and respectful. Treat your roommate the same way you would want to be treated.

Take Time to Listen

As hard as it may be, try to listen to what your roommate has to say without getting defensive or interrupting. It may take you biting your cheeks, sitting on your hands, or mentally pretending that you're talking on a tropical beach, but do your best. Your roommate may have some valid reasons behind what's going on and be frustrated, too. The only way you are going to get to the bottom of everything is to honestly air your grievances, talk about them, and see what you can do. You're in college now; it's time to address this like an adult.

If you're having an RA facilitate the conversation, let her take the lead. If it's just you and your roommate, address the issues in a way that can satisfy you both. Most likely, you each won't leave 100 percent happy, but ideally, you can both leave feeling relieved and ready to move on.

After the Discussion

After you talk, things may be a little awkward. This is fine and totally normal. Unless there are issues that you just cannot tolerate, give your roommate a little time to make the changes you discussed. He may be so used to how things have been going for two months that it will be hard to stop doing some of the things he didn't even know drove you nuts. Be patient, but also make it clear that you two came to an agreement and he needs to keep his end of the deal.

Moving Out

If things just aren't working out, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean you or your roommate did anything wrong. Some people just don't live well together. It may be that you both are much better friends than roommates or that you will rarely talk to each other for the rest of your time at school. Any situation is fine, as long as you feel safe and ready to move on.

If you decide that you just can't stick with your roommate for the rest of the year, figure out what to do next. If you live on campus, talk to your RA again. If you live off campus, figure out what your options are in terms of the lease and relocating. You aren't the first college student to have a problem with a roommate; there are resources already available on campus to help you transition out. Regardless, do your best to remain civil and respectful, and know that your next living situation probably has nowhere to go but up.