How to deal with a difficult dorm roommate

By Faith Allendorf, Managing Editor for Reporting

For many students, going to college means encountering a lot of firsts: living alone, drinking, failing a class and more. For freshman students who are mandated to live in a dorm, this may be their first time living with another person besides their family.

However, living with a roommate in a dorm no bigger than 12 feet wide isn’t always a great experience. For some students, having a bad roommate can sour the college experience. With a bad roommate, a dorm — which is supposed to be a place of rest — can become a place of burden.

But living with a bad roommate is not unlivable. If you have a bad roommate, here are some actions you can take that can help you maneuver through a tough living situation.

Talk it out – don’t be passive aggressive

Everyone will always say to do this, but having an open conversation with your roommate is an opportunity to discuss your concerns and needs in a way that allows for change. Your roommate may not know that some of their habits are bothering you, and they may be willing to apologize and change in a way that suits you both.

During the conversation, you can discuss expectations, boundaries and ground rules, as well as find ways to compromise on what you disagree with. Talk about things such as item borrowing, guest policy, general cleanliness and acceptable noise levels.

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Make sure you avoid being passive aggressive — doing that will only create more problems. Don’t groan when their music is too loud or make side comments about how often you personally do laundry.

The conversation with your roommate is a discussion that can be difficult to have, but it is one that is necessary. This is your space too, and you deserve to feel comfortable.

You don’t have to be “besties”

It can be disappointing discovering that you and your roommate are not compatible when you go into college with the expectation that you will be close. The truth is that roommate relationships are not like they are in movies and TV shows.

Remember that this is just someone you are living with and not someone you have to like. The best roommates are often the courteous roommates who you can discuss boundaries without worrying about ruining your relationship.

Don’t set the expectation that you two will be friends because if they are not receptive to you — that might make the living situation worse. Instead, work on finding connections outside of your living situation.

Get a room divider and earplugs

Dorms are painfully small, and the concept of personal space doesn’t really exist. However, there is one way you can create personal space: Invest in a room divider.

Room dividers serve as a makeshift door between your side of the room and your roommate’s, blocking both of you from eachothers’ view. Dividers can help create bit of privacy and could help alleviate some problems such as dirty laundry making its way to your side. You can also live without the fear that they will look over at you and see you picking your nose.

However, dividers don’t help with a loud roommate. If they will not turn down their music or leave the room for phone calls, invest in some cheap earplugs. The McKinley Health Center has a pair in their sleep packs that you can receive at certain areas on campus.

Talk to your Resident Adviser

Sometimes, things in your living situation can be so bad that it feels like you can find no way out. After all, housing contracts are extremely binding. However, you still have options.

Talking to your RA can lead to different outcomes. Your RA could mediate a conversation between you and your roommate where you talk about your issues and find ways to solve them. Your RA can also give you advice for dealing with your roommate.

If nothing works, and you can no longer stay in your living situation, talking to your RA is the first step in the process of changing rooms. Moving out is always an option.

Make a home outside of your dorm

Unfortunately, dealing with a bad roommate is not always as easy as having a conversation or buying a room divider, and moving out is a long process.

When other options are exhausted or you need temporary relief, separating yourself from the situation and spending more time outside of your dorm away from your roommate can be beneficial.

Find a home that is not in a 12-feet-wide dorm. Join clubs, study in libraries, spend time with friends or take walks around the campus’ many sights. While avoiding the problem is not always the best option, removing yourself from a taxing living environment will be better than doing nothing.


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