The Guidance Counselor on Difficult Roommates

Emily is not a licensed guidance counselor, but neither was Ann Landers.


Q:

I need advice on how to support my roommate. She is very emotional and needs a lot of emotional support. The other night she cried because of stress in her life (midterms, homesick) for about 2 hours. She is always stressed out, I feel I have never seen her not stressed. I’m a freshman and I have my stress too but she and her stress is starting to overwhelm me. Any advice?


A:

It’s really nice of you to be concerned and to try to help her as much as you can, but when it comes down to it, you’ve got to take care of yourself. College is (evidently) a difficult adjustment for a lot of folks, and your own adjustment will be delayed if you’re always needing to console her. Next time she’s having an emotional episode, and if you can’t handle it, try saying something like “Hey, I’m really sorry that this is so hard on you, and I wish I could be here to help you out. I’ve got a paper to write so I’ll be in the lib, but text me if you need anything.” Then, go to the library or the gym or wherever you need to go, maybe send a check-in text so she’s not feeling isolated, and pick her up a lil something next time you’re in the Cave. Showing that you care from a distance can be a compromise with your own mental health, and may urge her to find other coping mechanisms and outlets for her stress. P.S. You can suggest that she visits CAPS in the Student Pavilion for therapy designed specifically for Seattle U students, and they even have urgent care hours.


Q:

I feel really bad but my roommate really bothers me. We are friends and I like her but she has some habits that really annoy me. Some of these habits she can’t change or I’m too nervous to tell her. (I.e. eating with mouth open, not cleaning, talking really loud). I can’t move out because it would really hurt her and I have a year lease. I try to get alone time but it is really hard to get alone time with her.


A:

Wow, it’s only week three? Winter term has a way of burning out Some habits she can’t change, but some habits she can, especially if she knew that they bother you. If you had tendencies that left your roommate seething, would you like to know? Probably. It’s not a bad idea to have a “pet peeve talk” so you can preemptively avoid behaviors that are annoying to the other person before you unknowingly do something that’s normal to you and then you’re unsure why they’re irritated. Cleaning is something that’s an issue for just about all roommates, and can definitely be compromised. To have that conversation, address it as a team effort of getting a good system down, instead of it seeming like you’re calling her out for being a slob. People are more receptive to change if the person asking isn’t acting like they’re morally (or hygienically) superior. As for the noise, I think something like, “Hey, I’m trying to concentrate/read/etc., would you mind keeping it down a lil?” is appropriate. As for how she eats, I think that’s on you to not look at her. You’ve got to pick your battles of the most important issues to address; too much criticism is overwhelming, discouraging, and hard not to take personally (and the last thing you want is a defensive and uncooperative roommate). For your alone time, try finding moments of solace outside the house. Make your room into a space you enjoy being in, and spend time there (with the door closed) if and when you need a break. By the way, don’t feel bad–it’s normal for even living with your best buds to be taxing sometimes.


Bye!
Emily

To submit a question, visit guidance-counselor.tumblr.com

↑ Back to top