Potential domestic violence/abuse roommate situation?
February 28, 2012 12:50 AM   Subscribe

I think I'm in a potential domestic violence/abuse roommate situation. Help!

First off, sorry about the somewhat dramatic title. I hope it didn't scare anyone. I am hoping my situation isn't as bad as I thought.

To get you caught up, here's the original post I made two weeks ago regarding a situation with my roommate.

So much has happened since then. To speed it up, a few days after the argument, my roommate and I were civil and didn't bring the situation up. However, based on some feedback from the Green, I decided to confront my friends to see if what Zee was saying was true. It appears that things are indeed not what they appear to be - while my friends did lightly complain about me to Zee, he definitely exaggerated some of what he said and made it seem worse than what it really was. It turns out Zee treated a girl they were roommates with awfully, because during winter break, he made her think he liked her, but after a while, he said things about her (she's immature, lazy, doesn't go to school, generally not good enough for him) to my good friend. That turned her off.

She shared that with me, and I also shared with her some issues with my roommate - such as him holding the mailbox key with him at all times. I live in an apartment with him and three other people (including a young kid), and he doesn't leave the mailbox key out for us to access - he checks the mail and leaves us our mail. One weekend, when he went to California, he took the key with him, leaving us unable to check our mail. I haven't gotten any mail at all. That fact has been bothering me subconsciously, but it did not hit me until later, and my friend encouraged me to talk to him about it, because obviously we all pay rent and should have equal access. (The landlord gives one copy of the mailbox key to each apartment, so we aren't allowed to make copies.) She said Zee should leave the key on a hook or something.

Well, so much has happened lately as well - it's hard for me to sum things up, and at the moment, I'm too upset and frazzled to really think things through, but Zee has been increasingly making me feel uncomfortable - his vibes, his approach, his way of talking, and such. I had a private conversation with my other roommates, and... wow. I'm sick to my stomach. They said Zee was very controlling; that many friends from their hometown warned them about rooming with him. They said that they felt Zee was controlling indeed - he ordered them to clean the kitchen, clean their rooms even, and one roommate (the husband of the couple) said his father died a few years ago, and he felt torn up about it. He stated Zee approached him one time physically out of anger and yelled (signed) in his face, and would not back off even when he explained he had anxiety and could not handle it. According to him, Zee said he didn't care and continued to yell in his face. That's just one instance, and it happened a while ago. Even tonight, Zee ordered him (and his wife) to clean the kitchen up and do deep cleaning, and bossed them around. They stated they weren't slaves and were older than Zee, yet felt too intimidated to stand up to Zee, and that they felt he was too hardheaded and intimidating - much in the same shoes me. I thought I was alone - but they don't seem willing to help me stand up and get Zee to "chill" and back off. They also said they asked about him sharing the key on a chain or something on the wall last fall, and he refused, saying he valued the key. The husband also stated Zee called him lazy and criticized him. I saw that happen tonight when we were doing laundry - Zee was giving him a hard time and being relentless, and also asking that he clean up his room so Zee could use the videophone with a clean background. Excuse me - it's THEIR room, not Zee. We are all equal, we all pay rent. Zee is the only one with his name on the lease, though.

It's strange, but since the original argument Zee and I had two weeks ago, SO FAR (knock on wood), he hasn't really done anything to me, or said anything bossy. I'm afraid that's going to change, and I am IN OVER MY HEAD. Sorry for the caps, but I have no idea what to do. I don't have anywhere to go (family is 3,000 miles away, no open rooms around that I know of, in middle of the spring semester, etc), and I don't want to screw over my roommates by leaving and having them pay more rent (although I originally warned them I may leave and I wouldn't be here on a permanent basis), and I don't want to desert my other roommates - they deserve better - but I care about my safety.

I'm screaming inside now. I have NO idea what to do, I feel intimidated, confused, hurt, frustrated, and all. I also feel relieved strangely enough, because now I see Zee had the same pattern with everyone else (seems nice at first, becomes rude etc later). While Zee hasn't hurt my roommates physically, it's obvious there's so much going on behind the scenes. The ironic thing is, we're all older than Zee. It's hard for me because of my anxiety - it's hard to stand up for myself, and they feel the same.

Help me sort everything out, please. Apologies if this seems really needy or grating, but I'm not at a good point right now. Thanks, and if you need any clarification, please ask.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, if this situation isn't comfortable for you, you should make plans to move.

Second of all, if Zee's name is the only one on the lease, the mailbox key is his responsibility and while it sounds like he is being really controlling about that, it also seems like that's his right. The mailbox key is basically assigned to him by the lease. If you are not happy about his choice to control all of the mail, you can get a PO box and have your mail sent there for $10 a month.

Thirdly, you should probably mind your own drama. If Zee is being a dick to your other room mates, they are adults and can tell him to fuck off. They can also move. Since you confronted him, he's not bothering you, so that's a result. If that still isn't tolerable to you, you're in a mjor metro area - there are rooms. Go find one.

Basically, Zee is a dick but your anxiety is making this feel worse than it is. It certainly doesn't sound like you're in danger. Your room mate being bossy is not abusive. It just makes his a crappy room mate.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:18 AM on February 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


2. Look around for another place to leave. Zee's not directly antognizing you just now (besides the weird mail issues...) so you have a little wiggle room for timing.

3. Stop bonding with your roomies over Zee being a bully -- all you're doing is taking on their stress and over identifying with them
posted by spunweb at 1:44 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, be careful you aren't whipping yourself into a frenzy by narrating this to yourself in a super dramatic way
posted by spunweb at 1:45 AM on February 28, 2012 [21 favorites]

"Zee is the only one with his name on the lease, though."

You are your roommates should realize that you're holding all the cards. "Hey Zee we can't handle your ridiculous behavior because we're better than that. If you don't change now, immediately, we're moving out. and you're the only person on the lease, we don't have to give you notice, and you can pay full rent from now until you find your new roommates."
posted by saraindc at 2:58 AM on February 28, 2012 [26 favorites]

Start looking for somewhere to move out to. Actively looking, today. Zee is a bossy, manipulative pain in the neck, you're not happy, and there are so many living situations out there (even in the middle of a semester) where you wouldn't have to put up with him. I doubt you're in any danger of physical violence from Zee, but it's not like anything short of violence counts as an acceptable living situation, is it? You aren't abandoning your roommates by leaving; they should be leaving too, given his treatment of them, but it's their choice to go or stay, just like it's yours.

Also, there's something else going on here, coming across in statements like this:

...Zee approached him one time physically out of anger and yelled (signed) in his face, and would not back off even when he explained he had anxiety and could not handle it

...but they don't seem willing to help me stand up and get Zee to "chill" and back off

It's hard for me because of my anxiety - it's hard to stand up for myself, and they feel the same

You've been around AskMe a fair bit, so you've probably noticed questions that go something like this: "Dear AskMe, My boyfriend always [insults me/yells at me/puts me down in front of his friends/stays out all night and won't tell me where], and won't ever [hug me/treat me decently/tell his friends and family that I exist/change his relationship status from 'single' on Facebook]. I've tried to explain to him that this upsets me, but he just [ignores me/accuses me of nagging/rolls his eyes/promises to change the behaviour and then doesn't]. I know it's probably not a big deal, but I [have trust issues/was hurt before/am insecure] and can't stop thinking about it. How can I find a better way to explain to him that what he's doing hurts me? Is there a book we can both read? ps - don't tell me to dtmfa, our relationship is otherwise awesome and he's the best boyfriend I could ever find."

For lots of us, when we read questions like that, the answer seems blindingly obvious: the poster should stop blaming themselves, stop thinking that 'being treated decently' is some incredibly high standard they shouldn't expect, and stop putting up with this crappy behaviour. But for the person in that situation, they're not seeing it that way. They're still stuck on the idea that the way out of conflict is communication, and if the conflict's still there, it must mean that they're not communicating well enough and need to communicate better. Because obviously, if someone treats you badly and bullies you and upsets you, it must mean the problem lies with you! Right?

Well, no. Wrong. And I suspect you (like most of us) would see that as obvious in an exaggerated example like the one above, too. But you might not be seeing that you're doing it with Zee, and that your roommates are doing it too.

If someone is yelling in your face, you don't need to patiently explain to them that you have anxiety issues which make it hard for you to deal with that - you need to patiently explain to yourself that yelling in someone's face is behaviour you don't need to be putting up with, anxiety or no anxiety. If someone is bossing you around to a point where they're treating you like a child, you don't need to find a way to make them see that it's upsetting for you - you need to acknowledge to yourself that it's upsetting for you, and start taking steps away from that person. If someone is bullying you, it is not your responsibility to 'stand up for yourself' in a confrontational way that will intimidate them into stopping. Refusing to put up with it by removing yourself from that situation is also standing up for yourself.

Zee probably isn't dangerous, but he's a crappy roommate and he's not your friend. Move.
posted by Catseye at 3:14 AM on February 28, 2012 [35 favorites]

He's a blowhard and a bully, but I'm willing to bet he hasn't actually got the stones to be violent or anything other than just loud and pathetic - especially since he's backed down when you stood up to him.

This guy's got some advice on what sort of people they are and standing up to them. There's other good advice on Google, too, and it all seems to say that this isn't the sort of guy who will actually get violent. He might get manipulative, though - trying to badmouth you to others, etc. So become good friends with the others and treat them with respect, and this is less likely to work.

If you're worried that he might sabotage your stuff or steal things from your room, it turns out that motion-activated video cameras on Amazon.co.uk are much cheaper than you'd suspect. As in, about £30 for one that looks like an alarm clock.

Script out the things you want to say to him so that you don't stumble if you argue again.

Also, SarainDC's advice is genius. If he doesn't toe your line, you can all leave him and he has to pay all your rent or go to prison! Epic :)
posted by Fen at 3:14 AM on February 28, 2012

Here's what you do. You go on craigslist, and you look at the listings for available rooms. (You're in DC? I promise there are tons.) You email a bunch of them. If any write you back, you go to see the place. If you get a good vibe from the place and the people in it, you tell them you would like to move in, and ask if you can put down a deposit. Once you find someone who agrees, then congrats, you have a new place to live. Then you go home and write an email to Zee and the roommates. Here is the entire message you write: "Dear everyone: I have decided to move out and am going to be vacating the room as of DATE. Thanks for everything and goodbye. --dubious_dude." If you feel particularly bad about leaving the house in the lurch, you can give a full month's notice before you stop paying rent, but you are free to move out whenever you like -- nothing stopping you from paying rent on an empty room. After that point your obligations to Zee and the house are finished. You can just ignore or delete any emails he sends, and get on with your life.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:17 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Move, move, MOVE! As everyone else is saying, there ARE lots of places available in DC, and you'll be far better off moving into one of them. Even if it's more expensive, it is very, very much worth it to your peace of mind (ask me about my own last roommates, years ago.....)

In the meantime: immediately get a PO box for your mail; the Post Office requires you show something proving your current address, so if you don't have that, try one of the commercial mailbox places. And quietly (without Zee seeing) move out anything you absolutely don't want to lose, like all your personal and/or financial papers, any antiques or valuable jewelry, etc. --- either stash everything in your car trunk, ask a friend if you can put it all in their place for a couple weeks, or get one of those U-Storage places.
posted by easily confused at 3:41 AM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but thanks for the answers so far.

I want to clear up a few things:

a) I'm not trying to come across as defensive here, but I am acknowledging that I did nothing wrong to provoke Zee. I did take his "attacks" described in the original post personally at first, but after being told of all the other putdowns people experienced, I stopped taking it as a personal attack or a slight upon me. I realized that's the way he is, putting people down both indirectly and directly, and I know that it's not ME, it's him.

b) This probably will come across as an excuse (and heck, I'll admit I am kind of making this to be an excuse), but it's harder for me to move because I'm Deaf. I would really rather be roommates with other Deaf people, due to the easy communication access. I have absolutely nothing against hearing people at all, but I would rather live with Deaf people. Hence, the limited/nonexistent space situation. I realize there are plenty of rooms available with hearing people, but I really don't feel comfortable, due to the communication barriers. However, if it came to be a true emergency, I may have to make do with that. Also, the Deaf community is small, and I don't want Zee to spread negative rumors about me if I do move out, or cause other drama. If I were hearing, it'd be much easier to "escape." Make sense?

c) I also don't want to just "flee." I'm not in this for the drama. I don't want to appear selfish or dramatic by making a hasty exit. Perhaps we should all get together (all roommates, including Zee) and have a heart to heart talk with all our concerns and lie them on the table? I don't know if that'll do good, especially based on my original post, but I feel I haven't done enough to truly try and work things out. It's just so intimidating! I don't want to feel I'm "giving up."

d) What's scaring me is I'm probably just coming across as defensive/a victim at this point, unwilling to see things from the other side, and that I'm just setting myself up for trouble. Or maybe it's a good idea to stay and try to work things out amicably?

I don't know. Truth is, I'm so confused at this point I don't know what to feel or think. All I can say is, my roommates actually seemed nervous sharing their feelings, keeping an eye out for Zee.
posted by dubious_dude at 3:44 AM on February 28, 2012

a. You're absolutely right, you (nor your other roommates) did nothing to provoke Zee --- he's just a jerk, and that's nobody's fault but his own.

b. Okay, you'd prefer to share with other deaf people. Two choices here: one is that you AND THE OTHER ROOMMATES all move out together: get a place for all of you, and abandon Zee to himself --- and no, you are not in any way responsible for what happens to Zee or his ability to pay the lease he signed --- or check with Galludet and see if they have a roommate-matching program.

c. Getting out will REDUCE the drama. Ain't nothing selfish or dramatic about that!

d. Zee has all of you off-balance, scared and confused, which keeps him right where he wants to be: in power. He's a bully, and he is emotionally abusing the rest of you. PLEASE leave that toxic place!
posted by easily confused at 3:59 AM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

You might also end up finding someone like me offering a room--I am not Deaf, but I went to school for a decade or so with many Deaf people, learned a decent amount of sign, and would be happy to have a Deaf roommate. It wouldn't be the same as living with other Deaf people, and in that sense it would be harder, but it wouldn't be the end of the world, either.

There is no way Zee is going to change. However, when it comes to new roommates, you'll never know what's out there until you try. Emailing a few people won't hurt anything, I promise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:11 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few thoughts:

- It will be easier to communicate with hearing people than it will be to change Zee. I get that it would be much more difficult, but don't let being Deaf hinder you from making positive life choices and changes. It would've been nice if this worked out, but it didn't. I would bet if you search your memory, Zee had these tendencies even in middle school when you met him.

- From your previous post, Zee has selected roommates that are unlikely to leave (a family with "financial and mental limitations"), which works out quite nicely with his personality. You should show him that he underestimated you when he selected you to round out his little fiefdom.

- The Deaf community will figure out the truth. Your roommates have.

- You are in complete control of your life. You need a place to live. He needs rent money. I bet you can find a place to live faster than he can find another rent check.
posted by Houstonian at 4:13 AM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

What about living with hearing people only temporarily until you can find another more permanent situation with deaf people, perhaps at the beginning of the next school year? It seems like that would be better than staying with Zee and in this situation indefinitely.
posted by hazyjane at 4:23 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, upon reading your follow-up, I can see it is not so straightforward to follow my advice and move out. However, the same is true for lots of people (maybe most people) who are living in toxic or abusive relationships. No matter how hard it feels, it is still what you have to do. The potential hardships you face in leaving are far better than the continuing damage of staying.

The impulses you get to stay and try to smooth things over, or the fear you get of the blowup of what happens if you leave -- notice how these are about Zee and how Zee behaves, see how you have internalized his comfort into your decision-making, and minimized your own needs. If this keeps up you will just become a ghost. To protect yourself you have to make decisions based on your own needs and not what Zee needs.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:26 AM on February 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: PercussivePaul - that's a good point. I didn't even realize I was doing that! Why do you think that happened? I usually am so strong and determined, but... what's happening to me?
posted by dubious_dude at 4:29 AM on February 28, 2012

Facing up to the situation and giving it your best shot to try resolve ALL of the issues at hand will make you feel stronger in the long run, much more so than escaping. You should follow your intuition and try organise a heart to heart with everyone, in a positive space, probably not the house. You should all feel able to air your frustrations and either decide to commit to working it out as housemates or not. You also need to be honest with Zee and tell him his behaviour is upsetting you too.

That being said, there is the very real likelihood that these people are not ideal housemates for you. Living in a share house means more than sharing a house, you have to share emotions, ups and downs, also neighbors and bills ;) If you each agree positively to work on the accepted resolutions in a constructive, active way then make sure you yourself has short term milestones so you can gauge how it's working out. If in another 2 weeks, month or 3 months (upper limit!!) things are not good then you need to work out if it's worth staying: consider also if the benefit of having access to hearing impaired services is worth the opportunity cost of your confidence and happiness you could gain by living somewhere else. Also consider that share houses are rarely if ever permanent situations.

I also agree with above that you should get yourself a PO.

In my opinion you should keep an active eye out for other rooming opportunities from this day forward regardless of how things pan out. They haven't treated you well to date, they seem to be insecure islands rather than a solid team and it seems to be from deep seated issues rather than anything to do with yourself. In addition to that, you don't hold the lease, you have a married couple who will always side together and the three of them may side against you at any moment (given the volatility to date). You've also told them you may give short notice at any time, does that mean at the time you moved in you instinctively felt it wasn't going to be permanent?

Wishing you luck
posted by Under the Sea at 4:31 AM on February 28, 2012

PO Box even! Definitely a must!!
posted by Under the Sea at 4:32 AM on February 28, 2012

I imagine this would be complicated to pull off, but could you and all your housemates move elsewhere at the same time? Find a house with 5-6 free rooms (that's the complicated bit, I don't assume many places that would have that many rooms free at once, but you never know) and then all of you move out. Then you've got a new house without all the problems of getting to know new people, and you've moved without abandoning anyone else so you don't have to feel like you "ran away".

Although if they feel the same way you do, it is also likely that they're blaming themselves too and they feel like they're the ones making Zee act the way he does. Make them read this thread, so they can get the same advice you have.
posted by Fen at 4:35 AM on February 28, 2012

Why do you think that happened?

This is what happens with aggressive bullies and abusers. They hurt you and blame you for it, and in order to avoid getting hurt again you try to modify your behaviour. Eventually you're afraid to act in any way for fear of setting them off except in the narrow bounds they define for you, and since these bounds can shift according to their moods, you live in a state of constant confusion and fear. It's textbook emotional abuse. (Hang out on AskMe enough and you will hear it all.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:35 AM on February 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

I also get the impression that "sitting down so everyone can express their feelings" sn't going to work because what everyone is feeling is that they're to blame and someone else should take the lead. He'll dominate the group discussion as surely as he dominates individuals, and nothing will get resolved. They first have to realise that he's a crappy housemate, and that they're not, and that no-one else is going to stand up for them. THEN have the meeting.

I must point out that this isn't based on experience of this sort of thing, however. Just general impressions.
posted by Fen at 4:39 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yet another unintentional excuse (it's the reality) - we all are on a very tight budget. This is the cheapest apartment they could find. Moving to a new place, therefore, is almost impossible, unless we find a really cheap place. Divided 4 ways currently, that's still very expensive (at least for the couple). They also have a 5-year old, so moving out will complicate things further.

Also, they can't read this thread. They were delayed learners, and cannot read very well. :-\ I think their lack of intelligence with reading/comprehension is another root of their shame, as well, along with their financial limitations which helps them to enable Zee to push them around.

To be honest, PercussivePaul, I didn't realize what Zee was doing was outright emotional abuse/aggression. I mean, obviously, the title implies it, but I guess I am -that- in over my head that I'm either in denial, or I haven't grasped the whole situation well, or I'm overreacting. It's hard because you don't see Zee in action.

Just to be clear - not defending him at all whatsoever here. And, sorry if I'm annoying anyone by threadsitting, which I learned the hard way is persona non grata here at AskMe.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:41 AM on February 28, 2012

Fen, the idea of having a discussion for people to express their feelings is based on below dubious dudes comment:

c) I also don't want to just "flee." I'm not in this for the drama. I don't want to appear selfish or dramatic by making a hasty exit. Perhaps we should all get together (all roommates, including Zee) and have a heart to heart talk with all our concerns and lie them on the table? I don't know if that'll do good, especially based on my original post, but I feel I haven't done enough to truly try and work things out. It's just so intimidating! I don't want to feel I'm "giving up."

I think if you try to allow for a conversation together then even if it goes pear shaped (likely) dubious dude has at least given the opportunity to try resolve rather than walking away from it altogether. It will make his decision to then leave, trusting in himself, easier. At least if that chat is in a public place then Zee has to maintain some composure.

I wouldn't consider finding a Newhouse together at this stage considering the Personality issues and current conflicts.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:54 AM on February 28, 2012

Holy shit, get yourself out of there. You have a lot of reasons why you're not doing so, but it's very obvious that you're uncomfortable at best there, and anything else, including a temporary situation on someone's couch, would be preferable. You can't think straight while this dude is hanging over your head, and though it's nice that you're taking the other roommates into account, you are, at the end, only responsible for yourself.



posted by xingcat at 4:54 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's not abuse, maybe it's just toxic, there's perhaps a line somewhere and a whole spectrum in between and it's true I can't really tell from here. I merely intend to point out that he seems to be behaving like abusers do and you seem to be behaving like a victim of abuse. You can try the self-tests here (signs of abuse and abusive relationships) and elsewhere on the web to learn more.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:00 AM on February 28, 2012

Man, I've moved out of apartments with roommates, just because I didn't like their taste in music. Stop wasting your time trying to figure this guy out. He isn't your problem. Just get a new place and get on with your life.
posted by empath at 5:42 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a ton of deaf people in DC. I'm sure you can find somewhere else to live.

My limited knowledge of the DC-GU young deaf community is that there is a ton of drama. Try to find less drama-filled people.
posted by k8t at 6:20 AM on February 28, 2012

DC? If you´re open to living with hearing people as an interim solution, my old housemates there are going to have an open room for April 1st. Rent is somewhat negotiable, lease is month-to-month. Not the world´s most exciting neighborhood, but good metro/bus access, and I can guarantee you that your roommates won´t jerk you around like Zee´s doing. MeMail me for into.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:20 AM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Jeez, kick him out if he's that much of a problem. His name isn't on the lease, yours is; tell him it's time to move and find a new roommate.

Problem solved.
posted by ook at 6:21 AM on February 28, 2012

I misread. He's the only one on the lease. So leave.
posted by ook at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2012

Zee sounds irritating. But you are WAY overthinking and dramatizing the situation. There's not even a hint of violence in the story you told, so why are you calling this "potential domestic violence?"

What's your question anyway?

Do you want permission to move out?

Do you want us to agree that Zee is not very nice?

Do you just want to rant?

You only have to spend as much energy and thought on this as you choose to. Are you choosing to dwell on Zee's attitude? You can just stop doing that, you know.
posted by General Tonic at 6:28 AM on February 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

In a bad roommate situation, your options are: set healthy boundaries and minimize contact with the bad roommate, move on your own, or band together with the roommates you like and move with them. There's no other option. No magic words to turn an asshole roommate into your friend. You mention you're in school. Can you go to your university's student counseling service to talk through your roommate situation, as well as your anxiety, with a therapist? Alternatively, can you find support through an organization for Deaf people? Your anxiety is so apparent in your posts and updates: it's messing with your ability to assess and change your situation.

Also, I wonder if, to some extent, Zee's behavior toward the family might be his attempt to play an older sibling or social worker-type role in their lives. It sounds like perhaps they're not able to fully care for themselves and their child (or maybe it just looks to Zee like they're doing a poor job). Zee bossing them around, ordering them to clean up, nagging them about chores, criticizing their "laziness," etc.--to me, this reads like Zee saying, "You can't function like independent adults because of your disabilities? Fine. I will step in and tell you what to do for your own good." It's not kind, and it's not a healthy dynamic, but I wonder if that's what's going on. What do you think?

This family--they're Deaf, developmentally disabled, and have a small child. Are they receiving all of the government benefits they qualify for based on these three factors? Do they have a social worker? Are they connected with a nonprofit (or several) that helps developmentally disabled adults live independently and/or parent successfully? If the answer to any of these is no, that's something to act on (if they want to, obviously) that might make moving easier. They may qualify for financial or housing benefits that could make a move possible. Or, a social worker or other professional could help them sort out their options and choices more clearly (given that they are unable to read, this could be important).
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:49 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm also confused as to what you want from the Green. Everyone is giving you solutions, but you just keep returning with excuses. You seem to be very attached to certain situations and people that make you unhappy; I don't know if it's your anxiety that holds you in this place or what, but you are coming off as increasingly over-dramatic and oddly stubborn.

Further, I don't forsee the roommmate powwow happening, because your other roommates are likely not going to stand with you - if not for the simple fact that they are more passive, then for the fact that doing so is inherently more risky for them, given their budget and family situation, than for you as a single person. This coincides with the fact that you are actually not all equal in this situation.

I have a friend who lives in DC and keeps renting rooms and having bad outcomes from it, and it's partly for this reason - you aren't on the lease, you have a lot less control over your living space. Is his behavior shitty? Absolutely. Your only power-move here is to threaten to move out, which is the one thing you all seem to be unwilling to do and he's probably well aware of that fact... and might even call your bluff. So, then what?
posted by sm1tten at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Frankly, you sound like all of you are afraid of confrontation and, for this reason, you need to make Zee out to be some sort of abusive nut rather than a garden-variety control freak. This is unfair of you and is making you come across as a person who'd rather have drama than peace. (And, frankly, it matters a poot in a whirlwind whether or not Zee said he liked somebody and then didn't really like them, so on and so forth. Lots of young people do that and still manage to pay rent on time, keep shared spaces tidy, pay bills, etc. It's not an indicator of roommate worthiness and is really none of your business.)

You have many options here that do not involve cowering in your room in abject fear of Zee.

1. As you have been sagely advised by many, many people already, get a P.O. Box. Boom. End of mailbox key problem. You will probably come to feel differently about mailbox keys when you have a lease of your own and are perhaps one day faced with replacing a lost mailbox key. It is not as simple a fix as you might think and this is why Zee overzealously guards the one to your unit as if it were a hunk of Unobtainium. Sure, he's a jerk to go out of town and leave you without access to your mail. PO Box obviates this headache once and for all.

2. Find another living situation. So, so, so many people say, "But I just couldn't possibly move right now...." when what they mean is, "It would be so much easier if this other person did what I want to make my life easier than for me to face the expense and hassle of moving..." This is not a workable, long-term attitude. You have to creatively find ways to make things work for yourself; sometimes this means the proverbial beg, borrow, steal to remove yourself from a living situation that's less than ideal. You have to rely on yourself rather than expecting other people to conform to your wishes. If you can't do that, then you become a garden-variety control freak like Zee and that is obviously not what you want.

3. Figure out your priorities and your advantages in this situation. Your advantage here is that, though Zee has the lease, you have the cash Zee needs to cover the rent. So, you need to sit down with Zee like an adult and firmly but unemotionally voice your dissatisfactions with the current tone of your living situation. You need to figure out what you will be willing to assert and what you'll be willing to sacrifice before you have this conversation. Are you capable of saying, "Zee, unless we reach a compromise on [insert salient, relevant household issue here], I'm afraid I will have no other choice but to withhold the rent until we do."? You're living without a lease, yes. You have no legal protections. But, conversely, he can't report you to anyone or kick you out for being in violation of the lease for non-payment of rent because....you get the picture. You both need things from each other. You need to recognize that, embrace it, grow a spine and start asserting yourself.

Now, apropos of that last paragraph, I'm not really getting what you want. It's not clear to me what your complaint is, other than the mailbox key thing and that Zee can be a jerk who throws temper tantrums and talks behind people's backs and sometimes says mean things. Well, those aren't unusual behavioral traits, honestly. Especially amongst college-aged kids in roommate situations, truth be told. Zee has structured his existence so that he alone has the lease so, in his mind, he alone has the final say. That is something you can either work with or not, end of story. You're not going to change him. If your options are so limited that you can't move out right away, you're simply going to have to stick up for yourself with focused arguments about concrete living situation issues, not personal choices Zee makes that are none of your business.

(And frankly? Adults in shared living situations should once and for all make up their minds to KEEP THINGS CLEAN. Not being willing to keep shared spaces tidy and free of ick is rude, and having to ride herd over inconsiderate roommates who think because they pay rent they don't have to wash dishes, sweep or clean the stove is a real pain in the ass. The only exception to this is your private space, obviously, provided you can shut a door to prevent others from having to see/smell it.)
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Zee has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn't respond to logic, reasoning or people's feelings, so no amount of advice about approaching him is going to improve the situation. People don't change. Zee certainly isn't going to change for you because he is Grade-A Asshole material. Look at the number of ex-roommates he's burned through.

Moving out and finding a new place with your Deaf roommates (sans Zee) is admittedly a bit more complicated given your financial restraints (and the couple's kid), but it's really your best shot at finding a new home. I had a toxic dickhead roommate once and the only solution was to leave. If you're paying to live somewhere, you should at least be afforded a sense of security and comfort. No one should ever have to get stressed or afraid about coming home.

Tap into the community you have and ask like crazy for apartment referrals and etc. Check craigslist obsessively. Don't resign with the assumption that everything will be too expensive. You can do this! This stranger believes in you.
posted by hellomina at 8:19 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody's saying you have to sign a 20 year lease handcuffed to hearing people. Go get a room that doesn't have an asshole in it for a couple of months. Even if it's really tiny and shabby, it's only for a couple of months and nobody's up in your face and stealing your mail.

If your social circle requires you to stay and be abused by this person, they are a bad social circle who hates you and you should not make this decision based on them. It's much more likely that most people are aware that the shit-talk coming from Zee is his problem, not the person he's talking about. They may also be afraid of him or just unwilling to make the effort to evict him, but it's really easy for you to be the better person here. Stop gossiping about him - with your roommates, with other people, period, full stop.

You should go. Yes, it'll be difficult, but what other solution did you think you were going to get? It's unethical and illegal to drug his food, give him a head injury, tie him up, or otherwise manipulate or control him. You can't make him be nice.

Generally the choice is choose to stay in a bad situation or choose to leave, but let it be a choice either way and live with it. In this case, when you are using the phrase "domestic violence" and then running back in here to defend your abuser and refuse all other options, that advice doesn't apply. You need to get help, and you need to help yourself.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Move out. If you find good roommates, or even normal people roommates, you shouldn't need to communicate with them in a way that can't be done by writing, if necessary. And living with hearing people will mean that you have a home that is not part of whatever drama the small Deaf community is going nuts about that month.
posted by jacalata at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

TryTheTilapia writes; Frankly, you sound like all of you are afraid of confrontation and, for this reason, you need to make Zee out to be some sort of abusive nut rather than a garden-variety control freak.

Now, if you're genuinely afraid of Zee and believe there is potential for this situation to escalate to violence, then you need get out of there now. Are you afraid that Zee could become violent towards the family he is helping out? If so, you are living in an apartment with a man you believe capable of being violent in front of a child.

Get out now.
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:18 PM on February 28, 2012

This guy is a mean bastard who should be paying rent for your empty bedroom.
Get a PO box, get a new place to live. Don't tell him that you're moving either, just move. Is there a logistical issue here, like needing a car?

Believe me, you will feel so much better once you have a secure, calm, happy home life that doesn't involve walking on eggshells or broken glass. Don't settle for anything less, you're better than that. Everyone is better than that.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:12 PM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your advice and suggestions. Believe me, I've been mulling this over plenty.

I've tenatively decided to hold a roommate meeting for the short-term to agree on cleaning rules (so Zee can't boss my roommates around anymore), and to see if he will be willing to share the key. I also will begin searching for new places and hopefully move out by either April or May, and just keep my distance until then. I'll also talk with my roommates and help them to budget (so they don't have to depend on Zee to hold their finances anymore, as he's not reliable with giving them the cash they need), and see if they would be willing to move with me.

I have wonderful friends who will support me through this, which I'm incredibly thankful for. Without them, I'd still be in panic mode. Thanks also, everyone. If you care to keep updated, MeFi-mail me and I'll keep you updated with any developments.
posted by dubious_dude at 5:55 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

so they don't have to depend on Zee to hold their finances anymore, as he's not reliable with giving them the cash they need

posted by Houstonian at 5:32 AM on March 2, 2012

This whole thing is just getting more and more weird by the update.
posted by sm1tten at 8:08 AM on March 2, 2012

It might be time to contact Adult Protective Services. I can't make that decision for you, but if he is withholding their money from them or they are unable to take care of themselves, they need help, probably more than you can provide.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:32 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

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