Roommate lost the plot - do I stick it out or leave?
December 11, 2016 8:35 AM   Subscribe

My roommate got very aggressive over a small issue yesterday. I am unsure whether to move out now, or try to empathise with her situation and stay in a flat I like. What are your thoughts?

Been living with roommate for 8 months more or less without any problems. Even though I am significantly younger (25, to her 39), I am quite mature for my age and we have yoga, cooking etc in common.

Up until 3 months ago, she had her long-term boyfriend over 3/4 nights a week. He was pretty loud and noisy at times, but I liked him overall. Sometimes they hogged the kitchen and he would stay for the entire day while she went to work, which I wasn't thrilled about. Eventually they had a blow up fight, he spent about 40 mins walking from room to room shouting and I haven't seen him since. Her mood has been perceptibly lower since then much of the time.

I have a new boyfriend (the first man who is not a Platonic friend I've had over) and he's been over twice now. A few nights ago we were cooking a meal together and she put our monstrously loud washing machine on shortly before leaving as we prepped. So we ended up waiting a little for it to end before sitting down to eat because it was so loud.

She came home around midnight & put another washing on at 1.30am (she NEVER does this). She also shouted repeatedly into the bathroom when my boyfriend was clearly in there brushing his teeth, to say she needed in there when he had been in for about 2 seconds. He was made to feel at least a little uncomfortable, something I NEVER did when her partner was here. Although I tried to sleep it was too loud and I paused the machine. In the morning, there was an angry note taped to the washing machine asking me not to touch things she is using & if I want to talk about night-time noise let her know (she loves a passive aggressive note).

As soon as I saw the note, I asked to speak to her. She appeared 20 mins later with a face like thunder and said 'this is about respect' etc. I said it's not respectful to turn on something so loud at an ungodly hour. She said I should have accepted it as a one off & then said "so do you want to create a curfew for loud noise? By that I mean, say, no chatting or having friends over or having the washing machine on after 11." I told her this was a ridiculous request.

Let me just say I NEVER have people round. Once a month usually, and when I asked her what noisy time she was talking about she said 'your birthday'. It was four respectful women enjoying a few drinks before going out at 10 o'clock to celebrate - on her birthday she was MUCH louder and annoying, but did I say anything? No, because it was her birthday and a one off.

After we agreed on a curfew for the washing machine, the attack didn't end there. She went from room to room shouting about the washing, speaking to me with pure contempt - quite frankly I was bemused for most of it, because it was bizarrely nasty and her body language was aggressive, jabbing her finger at me etc. I simply told her I wouldn't be spoken to like this. She ordered me not to close any of the windows she had opened to dry her clothes in the freezing living room. When she stormed out of the house, I was shaking hard and felt upset, because for a moment I wondered if things were going to escalate physically.

She has not apologised and is pretending nothing has happened. I, meanwhile, still feel very uncomfortable. I am planning to spend 6/7 more months in this city. I sympathise with the fact she has seemingly split up with her boyfriend, who she moved to this country with (they are Spanish originally) and I know the holidays can make this thing even more rough.

I love the area and I am fond of my flat, I've been here for a year now. But is it worth walking on eggshells for any longer? I think I'm trying to decide whether the upheaval of moving out is worth it/staying with someone who seems to have no respect for me.
posted by Kat_Dubs to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If the only downside is the "upheaval" of moving I would absolutely leave.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:45 AM on December 11, 2016 [18 favorites]

None of this is about respect; it's about behavioral norms. Leaving is a good option. Another possible alternative is to yell right back at her when she steps out of line and see how that goes. She's been used to running roughshod around the place, with you never asserting yourself spatially or vocally. You can try and see what happens. She sounds totally un-self aware; possibly startling her into some reality might help.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

Try asking her. "If you were in my shoes, would you stay or go after what's happened recently?" Maybe she doesn't care if you leave. If she would rather have you stay, she can clean up her act. If this was an indefinite arrangement I would move out on the chance this would keep coming up, but for 6 more months she might have an incentive to cool it.
posted by BibiRose at 8:55 AM on December 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

The daily stress of living with someone who is aggressive and itching for a fight with you will be much worse than the temporary stress of moving. You should get out now, especially since you felt things could have escalated physically. That's not a safe place for you any longer.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2016 [26 favorites]

She's jealous of your boyfriend. Either yell back at her and establish your right to exist or move out.
posted by fshgrl at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2016 [17 favorites]

It sounds like she was normal, and now is suddenly off the rails?

If you can speak to her about everything, and show her a TON of empathy, do that. It seems like she's having a really really tough time in life and is lashing out. The problem is that she has not apologized on her own. She must be extremely immature to not realize how awful she's being. Like I said, she's having a really really tough time in life.

Overall I think you should move out. But talking to her once and giving her a chance to apologize can't hurt the situation more than her behavior already has.

Uh... do you think she might be drinking or taking meds or something? If she is on anything that alters her perceptions and reactions, there's not much to be done other than move out. I'm so sorry for both of you.
posted by jbenben at 9:10 AM on December 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Have you been in the apartment for a year or for 8 months? Are you on the lease in common, or is one of you subletting from the other?

If she is on the lease and you are renting from her, I would give notice and move out, and tell her why you are leaving. Her behavior is bullying, and I wouldn't put myself in the position of being at a bully's mercy.

If you are on the lease and she is renting from you, I would give her written notice that she needs to move out. (Check your local laws to follow proper eviction proceedings, etc. I'm pretty certain that every jurisdiction would allow for you to remove from your sublease a tenant that made you feel physically threatened, but the steps to follow would vary by location.)

If you are on the lease jointly, determine the penalties for breaking the lease and any other requirements regarding sharing the space (most leases I've signed have a clause regarding noise curfews, etc). Have a conversation with her where you outline the problems and the solutions that you require in order to continue living in the space together. I'd probably still move out, because I've put up with too much roommate bullshit in my life to deal with being scared of the person I am sharing a living space with. To me, no, it's not worth walking on eggshells.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:11 AM on December 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Her behavior is unjustified and she sounds very immature. You could try to have a conversation with her about her moving out, but I don't think that will go well. I think you should move out - but not right away. If you only have a few months left on the lease, plan to move out when the lease expires and take your time finding an apartment that you'll like just as much as your current apartment. If you have almost a full year left on the lease, make sure you look over the contract to see what happens if you break the lease. Take your time finding a new apartment and a subletter. Feel free to break the lease once you have those two things in order.

If you ever get to the point where you think you may actually be in physical danger, then leave. But if you're not, take the time to make sure you'll be happy in your new apartment.

Most of us have had bad roommates of this caliber. It's annoying and stressful, but it's not the end of the world. In the meantime, maybe pick up some hobbies that get you out of the house and spend more time visiting your friends. You may want to move your possessions into your bedroom if you worry she may be the type who disrespects other people's possessions as revenge.
posted by Penguin48 at 9:28 AM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I missed the part that you'll only be living in that city for 6-7 more months. I think the answer depends on when your lease contract ends, what you're planning on doing 6-7 months from now, and what your other housing options are.
posted by Penguin48 at 9:36 AM on December 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

If things have been OK other than her being noticeably more down since she and her boyfriend broke up up until this recent week, you might give her the benefit of the doubt that something else in her life is going wrong and she's taking it out on you. Maybe a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, maybe something stressful happened at work, maybe she's sick and dosed up on medications making her make snappy and prone to making poor choices. It's not an excuse for her behavior but if it is something like that, it's indicative that this can be a temporary issue and she can mend things and you can get back to having a content household until you leave the city.
posted by Candleman at 10:50 AM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone who've had very successful roommate relationships and amicable partings with both a heroin addict who stole my possessions and deadbeat who vanished with months of unpaid rent and a pile of broken stinking hoarder garbage in their room that I had to remove with a literal shovel. . . I'd run like hell from this nutter as soon as possible.

Life's too short, and no amount of money is worth this aggravation. Run, quickly. Take on debt if you have to.
posted by eotvos at 12:20 PM on December 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

My read on it: She has deep, serious sexual/emotional issues and the combination of her break up followed by you bringing home a boyfriend for the first time hit a nerve for her.

While I am always sympathetic in such cases, I have yet to see a situation like that turn into normal, healthy genuinely respectful treatment from the person feeling triggered. Best case scenario seems to be they stop actively shitting on you. But don't expect remorse or amends. If anything, you can probably assume shitty behavior will be the new norm, no matter what you do.

Whether you stay or go, your life might be easier in the meantime if you a) stop bringing your bf home and b) avoid mentioning him as much as possible. This will probably not create a good atmosphere. Your best experiences with her are probably behind you, not ahead of you. But it may help avoid "putting out the fire with gasoline" type scenarios.

I would probably leave.
posted by Michele in California at 12:47 PM on December 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I too have lived with a passive aggressive, right down to the passive aggressive notes and arbitrary rules imposed upon me and my guests. We also had things in common and fun times together but that is not enough to live uncomfortably and feel like a guest in your own home the rest of the time. My advice to to get out of there.
posted by atinna at 12:53 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it seems clear that the combination of her getting broken up with and you bringing home a new guy is what's pushing her over the edge. She sounds like she doesn't want to have to see or hear you two being happy - I think that's what the washer deal was likely about - and she just wants it to stop. I don't think this is likely to go well.
posted by corb at 1:47 PM on December 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you think you can handle the anxiety until the New Year, I'd suggest giving her the benefit of the doubt until then, while enforcing your boundaries and continuing to live your life. She could just be going through a really rough time between her breakup, Christmas etc., and you having a new boyfriend. Yes, she should have apologized, but some people are just terrible at doing that, and it does sound like you stood up for yourself well and got your message across. Maybe her behaviour was a one-off.

Have a plan, though, in case anything else happens over the next couple of weeks. If it does, get the heck out of there. One outburst could be an aberration, but two is a pattern, and you don't have to put up with that kind of crap.
posted by rpfields at 2:54 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just for an alternate perspective, I would find your turning the washing machine on pause quite annoying and passive aggressive. It does make your washing stink to do that....but you know- typical flat mate stuff. Still, the whole bit about her using the washing machine while you cooked sounds a bit...overblown. As in, to me it sounds as if you are making it all really personal and aggressive, but it's just a washing machine. I mean, maybe you do need to just discuss a noise curfew.

It def sounds as though she over-reacted. Can you speak to her about this now that she has (presumably) calmed down?
posted by jojobobo at 11:53 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would start to look for new living situations immediately. Things may still calm down to the point where you can live there, but it's a good idea to know what other options are out there.
posted by Melsky at 3:21 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think that's bizarre behavior for a 39-year-old. If this were an age peer and you were close, I'd say to try to have a conversation, because...well, honestly, because I remember being in my early twenties and being passive-aggressive/angry in ways that were totally unacceptable and having a couple of come-to-jesus talks that changed my behavior, and sometimes when you just lack experience being in the world, you don't know how to do better.

But someone who is nearly forty and has had relationships, worked, etc - honestly, if I were in this situation I would move out if possible. Someone who acts like that as a full-grown adult is going to do it again and again every time she gets upset and/or doesn't get her way. Do you want every fight with her to be like this? I'd actually be a little bit scared in this situation, not so much for my physical safety but about ending up dealing with this kind of blow-up once a week or something.
posted by Frowner at 6:00 AM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would try to have another conversation. For one thing, it's unclear here what sort of "house rules" you guys have set up. Have you guys had a conversation about the washing machine being noisy and it not being ok to turn it on when other people have guests over or late at night? Be aware that people have different levels of noise tolerances (I'm not sure I've ever met a washing machine that would be loud enough to prevent me from cooking, but then again I haven't been in your apartment, so who knows!)

I'm also unclear here why you're so opposed to a "no loud noise after 11 pm" rule, when it sounds like you've only had friends over until 10pm anyway? If you're really not bugging her during these times, why not just agree to a set rule so that you guys have clear expectations? Everywhere I've ever rented has had a pretty clear noise curfew (often set before 11pm), and I don't find it ridiculous at all. Of course you can make exceptions for parties or special events, but the key thing is that you would TALK about it so everyone knows what's going on beforehand and feels respected rather than just having to suffer in silence.

Basically, I would attempt one more conversation at a time when you are both calm, and try to set up some explicit ground rules around things like noise, guests, etc. You guys really should have had this all along, but it's clear you need it at this point. How that conversation goes should tell you a lot about how feasible it will be to stick it out in this apartment. A factor I would consider is that you know you'll only be in this city for 6 more months...that's a lot more bearable than an indefinite period of time. And, depending where you live, it could be hard (or expensive) to find a place for that short of time. Maybe you guys can just agree to stay out of each other's hair for that amount of time and then avoid each other like crazy until you are moving anyway.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:48 AM on December 12, 2016

Thanks everyone. I've started looking for a new place and have a viewing set up. I haven't had a proper night's sleep since this occurred.

Frankly, the last few months have been rough, with multiple funerals among other stresses and the thought of sitting down to have another talk where she may, or may not, fly off the handle again is too much to bear at this point. She has said 'hello' and offered no apology since, we've been staying out of each others way.

Fyi to jojbobo, it was 1.30am on a Friday night after a long week - if I hadn't paused it, I wouldn't have got to sleep or had a very restless sleep. During this attack I apologised to her anyway & we agreed on a washing machine curfew - after this, she still kept shouting and coming back into the room with further nasty comments. I've decided I can't fundamentally live with someone this aggressive & self unaware, so while I wish the best for, it is time for me to move on when I find something suitable.
posted by Kat_Dubs at 6:41 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

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