I'm so over this roommate drama.
August 1, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

So, I have a roommate. I love her, we usually get along just fine, but recently we argued over some financial stuff and now we're not really on speaking terms. How the heck should I handle this? (Long post, long story)

So, it's a long story, but essentially I paid half of the bills last month with checks and asked her to mail them out. She had no problem with that, but she tried to mail them out of our mailbox at our apartment and the mailman didn't pick them up, so knowing they were slightly late she paid them in full online and ripped up my checks. I had no problem with that, and she said she would sit down and figure out how much I owed her. She said that a few times, but it never happened. Anyway, she let me borrow one of her pairs of sunglasses last week and I left them on the coffee table by mistake at the end of the night. Her cat knocked them off and broke them in the course of the night, and when I got up the next morning I actually stepped on the broken pieces and got a nasty cut on my foot. I cleaned it up, and told her about it when she came home. If I recall correctly, I offered to help pay for it, but there's a chance that I didn't offer anything at first.

Anyway, a few days later she and I went out and she drove my car home because she wanted to leave before I did. I had no problem with that, but when I went out to the car the next day the door was unlocked and my ipod was gone. I assumed she had left it unlocked because she's left our front door unlocked before, but I have no proof and have since let it go. Yeah, it sucks, my ipod is gone and I don't have the money to replace it, so when I saw her next I told her about it and asked if she'd be willing to help me pay for it. She seemed really irritated, and brought up the money I still owed her from last month's utilities (and here I am thinking she's going to tell me how much I owe her). I brought up the sunglasses, and how I was going to pay to replace them. She said she thought I was only bringing that up because I wanted money from her. She said she thought she locked the door on the car. She said if she let someone borrow her car she would have gone down in the middle of the night when she got home and made sure everything was locked, I thought that was ridiculous. Anyway, basically she said she was pissed off and so I went into my room. I thought about it for a while, came back out and apologized for not offering to pay for her glasses sooner, but she said "it's okay that we don't get along sometimes. I'm not mad" so I went back into my room and called it a night.

The next day I looked through our bills to figure out how much I owed her, and paid her in cash for all the utilities from the month before, plus $35 for her sunglasses. I left it with a note on her computer, asking to make sure it was right and whether this made us even. I was asleep when she got it, and she hasn't said anything to me about it.

So, I'm totally over all of this bull. I wanted to get us back to square one, with nobody owing anyone anything. Unfortunately, this was clearly not enough as I saw her last night and she barely looked at me, barely spoke to me. I tried to be cheerful and happy (I have not said anything at all about the ipod since that first night) and interact with her, but she just retreated into her room. Her phone is broken, so I can't call or text her at all. I've been trying to give her space and leave her be since that's what she seems like she wants, but I don't know why we're not on good terms at this point.

Here's the thing, too, I will honestly be a little upset if she doesn't help me pay for my ipod, just because I would help her pay for hers if the situation was reversed. I'm insulted that she thinks I would lie "just to get money out of [her]" and irritated that while her cat broke her sunglasses it's still up to me to replace them....

This all seems so petty, we're really good friends usually and we've only been living together a few months. I'm going out of town on Wednesday, and I'm probably not going to see her much before then, I'll be back a week later.

What the heck should I do here? Be an invisible ghost who hides in my room? Give her space? Stop her and confront her? I sent her a message online that she probably hasn't seen yet saying that I'd really like for us to sit down and talk. I guess I'm also just irritated because I feel like I have to coerce her into forgiving me for something I think I've made up for in other ways, including actual apologies. She has said in the past that she hates how quickly I bring up issues, but this difference is evident in the way that none of my aggravations with her ever turn into anything major because I bring them up at the time, when they're just a small problem. She, on the other hand, holds onto small annoyances and then when I talk to her about anything she brings up everything I've been doing to piss her off. They end up seeming way worse than they are that way.

Gosh! So irritating! Anybody have any thoughts?
posted by wild like kudzu to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These are three separate things. Sounds like the bills are OK now, so that's done. Is the $35 for the sunglasses enough? If so, that's done. What's left is to tackle the iPod issue. Maybe she doesn't have the money and since you haven't brought it up she's stewing over it. Just be the adult, start out by asking if you two are straight on the bills and glasses (a note on the computer is lame, sorry). Then broach the issue of the iPod. If you don't need her to pay for the whole thing, she may be relieved by that, but don't start out with a discount offer. Just find out what she's thinking.
posted by rhizome at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah I know the note was probably lame. It's in my nature to do things like that, I guess it's kind of passive aggressive, even though I thought it was fair to outline how much I owed that way.
posted by wild like kudzu at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2009

Anyway, a few days later she and I went out and she drove my car home because she wanted to leave before I did. I had no problem with that, but when I went out to the car the next day the door was unlocked and my ipod was gone. I assumed she had left it unlocked because she's left our front door unlocked before, but I have no proof and have since let it go.

Clearly you haven't let it go, though. Do you usually leave your ipod in your car? Did she know the ipod was there when she was in the car? It was negligent of her to leave the door unlocked, but it's not quite as bad if she didn't know you'd left any valuables in your car, which perhaps she assumed you had the sense not to do. So if she didn't know the ipod was there, I'd say take it as a lesson learned and move on. If she realized your ipod was in the car, like if it was sitting in plain sight, and she still left the door unlocked, I'd expect her to pay for it.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:14 AM on August 1, 2009

Response by poster: She definitely knew it was there, and yeah I suppose saying I've let it go is false, what I mean is that I have not brought it up since then. Stupid of me to leave the ipod in the car as it may have been, keeping the door locked has always prevented theft in the past.
posted by wild like kudzu at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2009

Yeah, a lot of this doesn't make sense. If you don't want drama, stop feeding it. That means acting like an adult and, you know, actually having discussions with your roommate in person. You're going to have to talk to her. Sending her online messages, texts, emails, whatever, isn't appropriate. Leaving her an online message saying "I'd like to talk" pushes the responsibility off you and onto her to initiate the conversation--same with leaving a note and the money for the bills, same with how you waited around for her to tell you how much money you owed her instead of being pro-active and giving her the money ages ago or sitting down with her ages ago and figuring it out. So what you need to do know is approach her in person. Ask her if you can talk. If she is busy and can't right then, don't let her go without saying something like "Okay, so when is a good time for you, then?" Unless you have a rule about no bothering people with shut doors, it is okay to knock on her door and ask her if she is available for a conversation. If she isn't, she will let you know. Knocking on someone's door and asking them to talk is not a bad thing to do.

You have three issues to cover: bills, sunglasses, and ipod. Ask her if the bills are square. If they're not, go through the bills together and square it away. Ask her if the sunglasses are square. She may feel insulted that you left her money for them with a note (it does seem a tad passive-aggressive) or she may not have wanted money for them or who knows--nobody, because you haven't really discussed it with her. So do that. Then you need to cover the ipod. If you really want money from her and push for it, she might get more upset. You need to decide if you really think she should pay you or not. If you don't think you were responsible for her sunglasses, though, then I'm not sure how you can feel she was responsible for your ipod. Her sunglasses supposedly got broken because of how you left them when you were finished using them; your ipod supposedly got stolen because of how she left your car, where you left your ipod, when she was finished using it. She thinks she locked your car. So she really probably doesn't feel responsible for the ipod. (Personally, I don't think she owes you for the ipod, but I also don't think you owe her for the sunglasses. Neither of you directly caused the loss/damage of these items, and it's a risk you take when lending things to people).

Again: you need to talk to her ASAP. Now. Figure out what you want to say, and then go knock on her door.
posted by Polychrome at 10:22 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, just for the future securing of your valuables, it is always a good idea to keep anything you leave in your car that you don't want stolen (or that someone might want to steal) out of view from passers-by. So stuff the ipod in the glovebox before leaving the car and so on. Even if your car is locked, this does not necessarily deter someone who wants an ipod or whatever else they can see in the car from breaking the car window and taking the item. I speak from experience.
posted by Polychrome at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2009

I feel like I have to coerce her into forgiving me for something I think I've made up for

This is a problem on your end. She doesn't owe you forgiveness, regardless of whether you've made reparations and/or apologies. You can ask her to forgive you, but you can't demand it.

You need to detach so you don't feel bad about yourself just because she's mad at you. This sort of reactivity is bad for everyone involved. It has to be okay for her to be mad/sad/glad without ruining your day. There is no need to slink off and act like a scolded puppy. Treat her as justly as you know how, express your interest in hearing her side of things, and then wait -- because the ball is in her court.
posted by jon1270 at 10:29 AM on August 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, whoever stole the ipod owes you for the ipod. I don't think she owes you a thing for it.
posted by Nonce at 10:54 AM on August 1, 2009

You two need to sort this out in a face-to-face, then immediately do something fun. Don't assume it's better just because you talked about it, you have to remind each other how well you get along by doing something awesome. Go on an outing, have some drinks, play a game or some kind of activity, or have some fun, really-connected conversation- you need to inject new closeness into the relationship, fast. Otherwise you've started a wedge that will break up your friendship. I lost a good roommate/friend because we argued over this kind of petty but legitimately annoying stuff and during the chilly period that followed it, we basically forgot how much we liked each other. We were chilly for a few weeks (due to schedules not meshing, a little bit of travel, etc), and even though things were "fine" on paper, as soon as there was one more little annoyance, we blew our stacks and had a messy roommate divorce. Not worth it. We should have just played tag or something after the first fight.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:54 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd be a little irritated if I were her.

First, you are late on paying your half of the bills. So she floats you the money and pays the bills, and instead of immediately paying her back, you wait. Ok, she said she'd tally it up for you, but they were your bills and she lent you the money -- you could have, should have, added it up and given her the money right away.

Then there's the glasses on the coffee table. Coffee tables are usually about knee-high. Even if the table is sitting on tile, I find it hard to believe that knocking them off the table would break them. I do find it easy to believe that stepping on them would break them. So, maybe it would be a wash with you not owing her anything, stating that you can't be blamed for stepping on glasses when they are on the floor. But claiming that a cat broke the glasses? A little irritating.

Then the car. If she did lock it, how is a theft her responsibility?

So from her point of view, in the past month she's loaned you money that you didn't repay quickly, you broke her glasses, and you blamed her for a theft. Yeah, I'd be miffed.

Having said that, I bet when you get back in town everything will have blown over. An apology -- while maybe not technically required -- would be a nice gesture and go a long ways toward getting this right again. It would mean, though, looking at the situation from her perspective, seeing that you aren't completely in the right, and wanting to get along more than wanting to be right.
posted by Houstonian at 11:16 AM on August 1, 2009

Best answer: We only get one side here, but what's jumping out to me is how she had not told you what you owed for the bills, and then used that debt against you when you ask for something. She had made an explicit verbal commitment to add up the bills. Then, in bringing up the bills, she didn't (did she?) acknowledge that of course you haven't done your part (paying), since she hasn't done her part (adding) yet.

That seems like dirty fighting to me. If she's going to fight dirty and avoid you, or store up grievances and not tell you, your ability to make this situation right is rather limited. You might want to stop feeling quite so responsible for what's going on now and look at your limited ability to fix things.

And you may have to be the one who pushes to have it dealt with forthrightly. I'd certainly quit trying to sweep the disagreement under the carpet to get back to having a "good" relationship (the false "I'm over it" thing). If you have a problem with something, have a problem with it -- it's more honest that way, and then you can work out your issue.

So, don't feel responsible for the general suckiness of the situation, and do tell her exactly what you want rather than just being nice. I'd go with "so hey, I really want us to get back to the great roommate relationship that we had. But this money stuff is coming between us. I'd still really like you to help pay for the iPod. If you don't think you should have to, I'm open to hearing why, but we need to work this out so that we can go back to normal." Next time you see her (maybe she'll be on her way straight to her room), you could say, "hey, can we quickly get all this money stuff cleared up?"

I feel like I have to coerce her into forgiving me for something I think I've made up for in other ways, including actual apologies

Obviously, you can't. Just get things to a place where you feel like they're settled for you, and then let her feel whatever she wants to feel. You can't get her to forgive you, but in your relationship with yourself, you don't have to pretend that it's not unpleasant for you. It's unpleasant, and you can be honest with yourself about how it sucks. Over the long run, if someone's way of handling conflict or harboring anger at you is really hard on you, the friendship may not be one you want to maintain.
posted by salvia at 11:19 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't see how she is even remotely responsible for the iPod. If you had not left it in the car, it would have not been stolen. She claims to have locked the door, and maybe she did. Someone can still unlock the door and steal your iPod.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:06 PM on August 1, 2009

If you want to patch things up, you may need to accept that both of you had access to the bill information, and that when you lend something (a pair of sunglasses, a car) shit happens. You can be right or you can get over this drama. You need to stop thinking "I'm right, I'm reasonable, I gave her money for the glasses, so why won't you answer my note?" and move on to "Last week really sucked, and I'm sorry for the times I was inconsiderate or stubborn. Can you forgive me?" Say this in person. Don't add any excuses or ask for payment for the iPod (yes, yes, I know--you paid for the glasses, just let it go).

Also, if you leave something valuable out in your car, visible to passersby, you're lucky that no one smashed through your window to get to it. Whether your friend left the door unlocked (which was a stupid thing to do, if she did) or someone just jimmied the door open (which is shockingly easy to do), all you lost was an iPod.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:32 PM on August 1, 2009

YMMV, but I suggest keeping friendship/roommates separate. The borrowing of stuff makes me nervous. Letting someone else drive your car? Wow. I try to keep my roommates more like business associates.
posted by k8t at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's also possible that whoever stole your iPod managed to unlock your car in order to steal it.
posted by corey flood at 1:30 PM on August 1, 2009

Best answer: YMMV, but I suggest keeping friendship/roommates separate. The borrowing of stuff makes me nervous. Letting someone else drive your car? Wow. I try to keep my roommates more like business associates. posted by k8t

K8t's probably right, at least as far as this friend goes. If she's not going to take responsibility for the loss of your iPod, can you imagine how ugly things can get if she damages your car?

I'm sorry, but I disagree with those who are saying she isn't at least partially responsible for the loss of your iPod. I was brought up to believe that when you borrow something, you return the item as you found it. You were kind enough to lend her your car, she should return it and all of its contents as you lent them to her. Yes, you shouldn't have left your iPod in the car, but she should have used common sense and at least put the ipod in the glovebox and locked the frigging door.

She said she thought she locked the door on the car. She said if she let someone borrow her car she would have gone down in the middle of the night when she got home and made sure everything was locked.

That's about the lamest thing she could have possibly said under the circumstances. If I were you, I'd never lend her a damn thing again. I hope you guys can go back to being roommates and on good terms, but you'll probably have to write the iPod off as a lesson learned.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:05 PM on August 1, 2009

The car was returned in the same condition as when lent. The theft occurred at night and would have happened regardless of who drove it home. The fact that the OP left the iPod in the car shows negligence on her part and the roommate is not responsible. She said she locked the door, you can't prove she didn't.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that she is responsible for the iPOD theft. It would really bother me if someone left my car unlocked. Not only does this make anything you leave IN your car vulnerable to theft, it makes your car itself more vulnerable to theft.

However, different people carry different ideas about responsibility. Maybe if she had her own car she wouldn't worry about leaving it unlocked. Even though others say you shouldn't have left it in your car, frankly it's your prerogative to leave your iPOD wherever you want. If her actions (leaving the car unlocked) put your iPOD at risk, the least she should do is offer to pay for half.

The one thing to keep in mind is that *demanding* that she "do the right thing" may fracture the relationship further. However, you CAN ask. I liked what jon1270 suggested in terms of communicating assertively. Trying to ignore the unresolved issues, as you've been doing recently, may not be effective in getting your relationship back to normal since it seems like she is mad but is not communicating that directly but is instead being passive aggressive. When people act that way resentments tend to simmer since neither party feels like their side is being understood.

This is just me, but if I were you I would try to communicate assertively--ask her to help pay, but then accept "no" for an answer if she doesn't feel it's her responsibility. But if that is her response, I would not loan her my car again. I would explain that, saying,

"I understand where you are coming from and I accept that you feel that paying for my iPOD is your responsibility. But I'm afraid that I realize that I might not feel as comfortable loaning things out as I thought. This was an error I made. I would be happy to give you a ride now and again but I don't think I will be able to loan my car out next time, since now realize I am very protective of my stuff since it's hard for me to afford to replace things. I don't want to put our relationship in jeopardy again since it is more important to me than my stuff is. I'm sure you can understand where I'm coming from."

I'm not sure how this would be received, but maybe others can add their thoughts.

Unfortunately, many people read notes as passive aggressive. I don't feel that yours was, but some people just don't understand why you wouldn't want to talk in person. The thing is, people like myself think more clearly on paper than they do in a conversation--especially in cases when I know the other person may be mad about something. An in-person conversation can quickly escalate, whereas a note gives you time to think through your words. But others don't always feel that way, I have found...You may consider asking her if she prefers to speak about this sort of thing in person next time it happens and ask if she took offense at the fact that you left a note. Maybe explaining your reasoning ("I wasn't home but wanted to respond asap so you wouldn't be left hanging...") would help patch things up.
posted by mintchip at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think the reason she's not okay with you yet is because you've successfully shamed her by paying her for the bills and glasses right away -- clearly she either can't afford to replace your ipod or doesn't think she should have to, but now that you've ponied up she feels guilt and pressure (which often coagulate into resentment).

Let it cool off for a few days while she decides what to do. Be nice like nothing's wrong. It isn't. Don't bring up the iPod again until things are sunny with you two, and she'll surely know by then what she is prepared to offer you.
posted by hermitosis at 3:29 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm really surprised at some of the responses here, particularly the ones that try to blame you for the iPod being stolen from an unlocked car: "The fact that the OP left the iPod in the car shows negligence on her part and the roommate is not responsible. She said she locked the door, you can't prove she didn't." Say what? What planet are you from? It's not negligent to leave your belongings in your own car. And if you borrow someone else's car, it's your responsibility to lock it up. Obviously. Goes without saying. Anything stolen after you fail to lock it up should result in an abject apology and offer to replace it.

When a car is broken into, you can usually tell - scratches around the lock, etc. Barring any evidence that it was broken into, or unless she can say for sure that she locked it up ("I thought I locked it" is not convincing, and "you should have gone down to check that I locked it" is so lame it's rude), she owes you either a new iPod (if it's a current model) or an amortized portion of the replacement cost (iPods last, what, four or five years?).

Then there's crap like this: "First, you are late on paying your half of the bills. So she floats you the money and pays the bills, and instead of immediately paying her back, you wait." Um, no. When an adult says, "I'll let you know what you owe," you shouldn't have to chase them down about it, and it's definitely out of line to try to use the fact that they never got back to you against you.

I don't have a lot of constructive advice to contribute here, but I wanted to call out some of the bullshit people are spouting here.
posted by Dasein at 6:33 PM on August 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

If your iPod was visible, your car window might have just gotten smashed into in order to get to it.

I'm not sure hassling her about the iPod is a good idea. I wouldn't ruin the relationship. Good roommates are hard to find and a good roommate is more valuable than an iPod.
posted by anniecat at 6:54 PM on August 1, 2009

In your shoes, I probably would have figured out what I owed based on the entries in my check register from when the torn-up checks were written, and/or asked again to figure it out with her. I'd have apologized and offered to pay for the glasses, but if the cat really did it, I'd hope/expect that she'd decline. I'd probably gently press, once, for whether she was sure she'd locked the car, and if she still claimed to have done so, I wouldn't expect anything for the iPod, since leaving it in the car is a risk.

Also, I'd check your car insurance policy before lending your car to your roommate. In my state, I can lend my car to anyone and still have insurance coverage if something happens, with one exception: I can't lend it to anyone who lives in my household without having them listed on the policy. If I did and something happened, I'd have no coverage at all.
posted by daisyace at 7:40 PM on August 1, 2009

Dasein, it's not hard to break into a car. I used to lock my keys in my car all the time and with a little practice, it's easy to break into cars without evidence of scratches. The roommate says she locked the door, and there's no way to prove that she didn't. The OP learned a hard lesson of the fact that you should never, ever leave anything of any value in your car, ever. Now, does the OP leave the iPod sitting out in open view or does she keep it in the glove box? We don't know that since we haven't heard a response on that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:15 AM on August 2, 2009

Response by poster: Well, for the sake of clarity and as a general update, firstly I'll address the visibility question. I kept my ipod in my middle console. Secondly, I'll say that I wholeheartedly admit that it is foolhardy to leave valuables in a car as I did, but as I said keeping it locked has always prevented theft in the past. Besides which the car looked as if it was simply opened, no signs of forced anything. It's not the kind where you can push down the lock from the inside of the door, as hers is, and I'm guessing that's why she left it unlocked. When you get out you have to put the key in the door and lock it, though she's seen me do it I didn't explain that to her, assuming she would double-check. This assumption is clearly out of line with her character, and so I'm counting this as a loss. On the bright side, it could have been my whole car that had been stolen, or she could have run up on a curb and damaged it. Any number of horrible things could have happened, but instead all I lost was an iPod. I do believe it was her responsibility and duty to make sure my valuables which I lent to her were safe, and she failed in that regard. I don't believe she did it on purpose, and she probably believes she's done nothing wrong. I'm not upset about it anymore, I've paid my half and the odds are even now. At this point it's on her as to whether she's the type of person who would pay for a new iPod out of courtesy or not. I won't be upset if she doesn't (she hasn't mentioned anything and I sure as hell am not going to bring it up again, I do have to live with this girl) but it will simply be a lesson in trusting her and it will reflect poorly on her in my mind.

I agree with those of you who are encouraging me to exercise caution when lending her my things. I feel sometimes that she places a great deal of value on her possessions and not as much on mine. Understandable, sure, but I try very hard to respect her belongings in ways I feel she doesn't do the same for me. I don't know if I mentioned it, but she has installed a lock on her door since we moved in, and she always has the door locked if she's out and even when she sleeps. This seems excessive to me and screams "I don't trust you, stay away from my things!" especially when she locks the door while I'm in the living room, as if I'm going to burst through the door or something. Anyhow, it makes me feel a little funny, so in response I've gotten a lock for my own door. It seems that our relationship is returning to the purely cohabitual and not so friendly sort. Sad, maybe, but I think it's for the best.

Thanks for everyone's thoughtful advice.
posted by wild like kudzu at 10:09 PM on August 3, 2009

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