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7 Ways to Deal with an Awful Roommate

Deal with an Awful Roommate

Getting along with everyone in the world just isn’t possible, and when you’re stuck with a positively awful roommate who lingers like a bad smell, dealing with them can feel impossible. Not to worry – we’ve got you covered with the top 7 ways you can deal with your awful roommate, including what to do if they won’t lift a finger to help around the house or if its time to invest in sound absorbing panels to dampen the music coming from their room.

Establish Ground Rules

The only way a functional relationship between two people works is with context. In any relationship, context is essential to define what is and isn’t appropriate. In most cases, the people involved implicitly understand this context, but with a roommate, who may be more akin to a business associate than a friend, laying out some ground rules might be more beneficial to set expectations.

For example, suppose you agree to do the dishes Monday through Thursday, and your roommate decides to do them from Friday through Sunday. In that case, you have a much better recourse to call out negligent behavior if the dishes clearly aren’t done on Sunday afternoon.

In some ways, you might find that your ‘awful’ roommate just needs some extrinsic motivation to lead them down the right path, and putting together a list of responsibilities and expectations that they recognize and agree to may help you forge a more amenable relationship.

Set Boundaries

Another critical distinction to help you deal with a roommate who is proving difficult is to set solid boundaries. In some families and communities, some behavior is considered appropriate; in others, the same behavior is considered unthinkable.

Clarification helps, and to set boundaries, you need to communicate clearly. For example, if your roommate enters your room unannounced, give them the benefit of the doubt and provide a clear statement of disapproval: “I don’t like it when you enter my room without knocking. Please don’t do that.”

Direct communication is the first and most important step to building a beneficial (or at least tolerable) relationship with your roommate. 

Lead by Example

Before getting worked up into a tirade against your roommate, it’s important to check yourself and your own responsibilities. Are you covering your portion of the bill on time? Do you engage in any habits that your roommate might find rude? Are you completing your chores as promised? Two bad roommates are much worse than one and can lead to further conflict.

Remember, thinking rationally and clearly about the situation provides a field of depth that you may not have considered and can, hopefully, help you come to a peaceful agreement with your roommate.

Address Problems Early

Minor problems can exasperate you and eventually lead to more significant conflicts; moreover, if a roommate engages in disruptive or unwanted behaviors, not saying anything is akin to permitting — or even encouraging — those behaviors. 

If small things like dishes in the sink, noises late at night, or late rent payments bother you, your first course of action is communication. Starting with a simple, “Hey, could you please turn off the music before 10 p.m.?” or “I’d appreciate it if you could pay the rent on time. It’s very important to me.” clarifies that you’re bothered by the behavior and implies follow-up conversations if your request isn’t acknowledged.

Draft an Agreement

If words don’t seem to get your message across or if your roommate continues to manipulate situations to avoid taking responsibility, it might be time to get their responsibilities written down on paper. Drafting an agreement might seem a little much, but if you’re constantly squabbling with your roommate over who’s responsible for the chores, then your relationship might turn into an unwelcome game of he said, she said.

A written agreement by both parties establishes guidelines irrevocably. If your roommate acknowledges this document, they agree to be accountable when they don’t meet their end of the bargain. You make the same promise. If a roommate persists with unneighborly behavior, you can refer to the agreement. Of course, your roommate may scoff at the prospect and ignore your attempts at mediation. If that happens, then it might be worth considering more drastic measures.

Seek Counseling

If your roommate continues to be hurtful towards you, it might be worth seeking another opinion. Contact a close friend or family member you trust and explain the situation to them, trying to be as transparent as possible about the situation. From there, you can assess whether your roommate is a toxic influence that you need to excise from your life.

If you need to, you can also rely on professional counseling services through talk therapy. They will help you go through your feelings of hurt and distress that may result from your roommate and can recommend additional steps to help you.

Move Out

Moving out should be a last resort, but it’s essential to prioritize your mental health over living with someone who is constantly draining your energy. Humans can be highly toxic, and you might not realize the toll your roommate is taking until you leave the space. 

You might consider this option if any of the following occur regularly:

  • Your roommate refuses to take responsibility for their share of chores around the home.

  • They manipulate conversations to blame you for the state of the house.

  • They are unwilling to pay their rent on time or don’t contribute their fair share.

Of course, if your roommate is physically abusive to you in any way, it’s crucial to prioritize your physical health, too. Call the police if you ever feel you are in immediate danger, and remove yourself from situations where you feel threatened with physical or emotional harm.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, roommates can be pretty annoying. In many cases, you may find that standing up for yourself, laying down ground rules, and drafting a written agreement (if necessary) can help make life better—if only tolerable—with your roommate. If the situation worsens or becomes too much for you to handle, it may be time to consider moving out to preserve your mental health from exposure to a toxic problem.