roommate woes - should I go it alone?
January 3, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Please help me feel comfortable in my own home when I don't like my new roommate but there's nothing wrong with her? Should I just live alone?

I recently got a new roommate. I've lived with roommates most of my adult life and have had some great experiences and great friendships come out of it. I also tend to isolate myself, so having roommates can be good for my mental health and social life. After a year of being very unhappy living alone, I moved in with a roommate and was really happy. That roommate left, and now I don't really like the new one as much. I just feel uncomfortable in my own home, somehow -- it's like her presence irritates me, and I feel annoyed that she's in my space and knows about when I get in and leave, etc. With the roommates I've liked I've also periodically felt this way, but the benefits of our friendship always outweighed the loss of freedom. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with current roommate - she's perfectly nice, well-mannered, etc. I just don't think we have all that much in common.

I can definitely afford to live on my own, although the apartment would be significantly less nice, more expensive, or less convenient.

Question 1: Should I just give up on roommates and live alone?

Question 2: Assuming that I stick it out through the rest of this lease with current roommate (another 10 months) how can I make the situation better?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
how have you found these roommates? Through craigslist or through friends of friends? My first thought was that maybe you need to reconsider how you come to live with whoever you are living with. If you go in "blind" by finding someone online could you ask more rigorous questions to determine your compatibility?

It doesn't seem like from this post that the problem is you not being able to live with other people but that you don't mesh well with this one.

As for question 2- I would consider talking to her about how you feel but with the understanding that it could make your relationship better or just awkward. Maybe she feels the same way and you can part on good terms. Otherwise I would figure out what it is that is really bothering you. You mentioned that its annoying that she keeps track of you- why do you think or know that? It sounds like you need more space, maybe this is a good opportunity to practice effective communication.
posted by janelikes at 2:51 PM on January 3, 2010

sounds like you're feeling self-conscious around her - like there's a person you don't know who now is seeing into all the minute details of your life. Give it a little time, and you'll feel more comfortable as you get to know her better. Getting to be friends with her will help - try making dinner together sometime, or something like that.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:56 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. Yes.

2. By keeping a positive attitude and looking forward to the end of your lease after which time you will stop living with roommates (people with whom you are not already happy and comfortable).

There is no shame in being too old/too introverted/too set in your ways, etc. for living with roommates if you can afford not to. Keep in mind, also, that because most people can read between the lines/sense body language, etc. it is very likely that you are not entirely pleasant for her to live with either.
posted by applemeat at 3:03 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your current situation is as bad as to prompt this question then you have little to lose from mentioning it to her. Reach out to her, tell her how you feel, and give it time. Clear the air and see if it helps.
posted by fire&wings at 3:37 PM on January 3, 2010

I can definitely afford to live on my own, although the apartment would be significantly less nice, more expensive, or less convenient.

I don't care how "nice" the apartment itself is, it's not home if I can't walk around naked whenever I want and leave my dirty dishes laying around. If you want to live alone, it's very much worth the extra money to live alone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:38 PM on January 3, 2010 [13 favorites]

The first time I lived away from a parent, I was so eager to get out on my own that I lived with two acquaintances who had always kind of bothered me, slightly, though it was a sort of subtle barely-above-the-threshold hum that I was all too happy to ignore in service of getting out of the house.

It didn't go all that well. And all those things that subtly irritated me about them just emerged tenfold not soon after we started living together. (I think it took about 3 months for things to go from strained-but-cordial to just strained.) I spent a lot of time avoiding the place, or sitting alone in my room, until I eventually got sick of it and moved out early.

I don't mean to scare you, but in my experience, these feelings may be an early warning of greater problems to come. The only good roommate experiences I've had are with people who I felt unreservedly positive toward.
posted by mellifluous at 4:14 PM on January 3, 2010

I kind of miss having a housemate. An actual roommate that has a bed in the same room as yours can be awful, but I also really enjoy the company of a housemate.

Okay, my housemate did things that drove me batty, sure. I dealt with it because most of the time he didn't drive me batty, and he was actually a rather good housemate--he just left stubble bits in the bathroom sink sometimes and took hour-and-a-half long baths in the middle of the day on weekends. We took turns making dinner, which made for at least one good meal per day (except Saturdays), and it was nice to have someone to wander over and chat with when I felt like chatting with someone. However, we had known each other for a number of years before living with each other.

I think, in all honesty, that your roommate probably doesn't care (possibly doesn't notice) when you get in or when you leave. She probably gets irritated by dirty dishes left in the sink and something or other you do with the bathroom, because these are the requirements of sharing a bathroom and kitchen with someone. I would suggest . . . trying to be better friends with her. I think that things can get better and that you can live mostly happily with people even who drive you a little crazy. As long as she's not driving you totally crazy. Just have a chat with her! "Hey, we're roommates, you seem pretty nice, but I don't know all that much about you, mind if we have a bit of a chat?"
posted by that girl at 4:50 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You said that in general you have had good experience with roommates and that you do better with the social contact that comes from sharing your place. I would say, don't go it alone.

Is it possible that you just need time to get used to her? I have family members that are just plain slow to warm to up to new people (even reuniting with family it takes a few days to feel comfortable with them again).

Another thought - would it be OK if she turns out to be just a roommate and not a friend? The flip side of you needing time to warm up is that it may be that you are expecting an instant friend and she either isn't interested or is slow to warm up herself.
posted by metahawk at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2010

I am absolutely convinced that there's such a thing as anti-chemistry, which I seriously think is pheremonal. I have had this experience before, of intensely disliking a person who's done nothing to deserve it.

On the other hand, it's okay to have nothing in common with your roommate. Maybe she's just more interested in leading her own life than in hanging out with you at home. That's okay.

Can you narrow down "recently"? A day, a week, a month, six months? If you still dislike her at the six-month mark, I would say it's time to move on.

Whether or not you choose to live alone is a separate issue. There's no reason why you can't move in with a different roommate.
posted by ErikaB at 6:44 PM on January 3, 2010

Assuming that I stick it out through the rest of this lease with current roommate (another 10 months) how can I make the situation better?

Make a real, genuine effort to make friends with her. Invite her out for coffee or drinks. Do stuff with her. Have conversations with her around the house. Say hello when you arrive and depart (so it's less like she's spying on you and more like you're actively greeting her).

The more you like her and talk to her, the less it'll seem weird when you're both at home.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

>I also tend to isolate myself

Being anti-social is not something you can fix or treat, really. If you can only tolerate people if they are "best buds" then its really best to realize that most people you will live with will not be that friendly with you. Best bet is to just live alone.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:58 PM on January 3, 2010

You said that the last time you lived alone, you were very unhappy, so that might not be the best answer. Given that you occasionally felt annoyed/uncomfortable with your last roommate too, it's possible that you'd feel this way with anyone. When you initially moved in with your last roommate, did you have the annoyed/uncomfortable feeling more frequently? If so, it seems like something that will mostly subside as you get to know the new roommate better. I agree with those who suggested talking to her/hanging out with her more and seeing how it goes from there.
posted by whitelily at 9:40 PM on January 3, 2010

Depends on how hard it is to find a decent roommate in your city. If it's hard, maybe you should work on developing some common interests or a friendship with her, even though it doesn't come naturally. You know, like making "friends" with coworkers.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:23 AM on January 4, 2010

Question 1: It sounds like you have an approach/avoid stance towards living with another person, something that I experience, too - when I'm living alone it doesn't take long before I get, well, lonely, but when I'm living with someone there are times when their mere presence sets me on edge and I feel that "loss of freedom" you mention. With me it means I'll go through a long stretch living with someone, then go through a long stretch living alone, etc. On the whole I guess it works, and it means I don't have to ever "give up" on living with or without other people - this really isn't a decision you have to make once and for all in either direction.

Maybe you could spend these next several months figuring out what it is that you like/don't like in a roommate, should you eventually choose to get a new one. For instance, I'm happiest living with someone who shares that need for personal space and alone time; when I know we both want to be alone at times it puts less pressure on me to feel like I ought to always be available and sociable any time my roommate is home. That alone can be huge - it can really be freeing to know that your roommate doesn't expect to hang out with you all the time, any more than you expect/want to hang out with them all the time.

Question 2: If there isn't anything specific that you'd like to address with your roommate, it MIGHT be a good idea to hold off on talking with her about this right now, at least until you can be a little more clear on your feelings (or have more time to get settled in with her). Is there a specific outcome you want to achieve based upon talking to her right now? If I were in her position I think I would be really bewildered if the person I'd recently moved in with told me they were bothered by my presence but there wasn't anything specific that I was doing that I could "fix" or address - what if it just leads to a self-reinforcing cycle where she starts walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting you, her unease increases your own, etc etc etc?

Perhaps instead you could take a long-term view and try to realistically assess the situation: assuming she really is as polite and innocuous as you say, then it sounds like the worst-case scenario is that you have ten months - not even a year to go - where you're living with someone who isn't your BFF but who isn't exactly a nightmare roommate, either. On the plus side there, you will have fulfilled your commitment and perhaps learned more about what you do or don't want in a living arrangement; there's also a chance that you might work through this initial period of discomfort and end up warming up to her after all. On the whole it may not be a clear cut "win-win" situation ... but maybe it's at least a "win - don't-exactly-lose" one?
posted by DingoMutt at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2010

Another thought: how long was it between parting ways with your old roomie and taking up with this new one? Could part of the reason that you're unhappy with the new one be that you're still missing (and comparing her to) the old one? Maybe your current unease stems more from the discomfort of change than anything else, in which case perhaps after you've been living with her long enough you won't find her so unwelcome after all.

Allow yourself some time to adjust - and don't forget that no matter what, this is a situation that has a clear end-point less than a year away. In the meantime, even if you don't need the money her rent is saving you, sock aside that extra cash you would have been spending and then use it to do something really nice for yourself when her lease is up! Having a clear end-point AND a desirable goal/reward are things that often help me get through situations that I'm not immediately happy about; maybe it could help you, too. Good luck to you both.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:46 PM on January 4, 2010

« Older Studying through depression?   |   paralysed by choice ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.