emotional boundary with new housemate!
October 5, 2018 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm relatively new to setting healthy boundaries, but I am keen to do it. Will you, dear MeFi, be a sounding board for my plan to address a housemate issue? (possibly snowflakey; apologies and gratitude in advance)!

I recently moved back to NYC for an academic job after six years away. I share a 2Br/2Ba apartment with another woman who is also in her early 30s and a young professional. We get along very well in terms of cleaning and buying papertowels kind of things-- there are, of course, minor irritations from both sides, but I think generally we both understand that everyone has different habits.

The thing that's been making me feel uncomfortable and angry (i.e. feeling like my boundaries are violated), I think, can be summed up to to: "Housemate wants to be and thinks we are way closer than I want to be/am able to be/ and think we are." She generally means well and her good will is plenty clear to me, but 1) it's a little intense and fast for me, which makes me want to retrieve even more and 2) in the process she says things that I find unpleasantly judgemental.

Some examples:
1) Housemate invites me to join her and her group of friends to go out dancing. I thanked her but declined because I'd like to have a quiet weekend and get some writing done. She then goes on to say things like "we need to fix your workaholism" or "you need to have better work life balance" or "you need to socialize more."

I figured she might not actually know what an academic life looks like even though she thinks she does. So I tried to convey that my work hours are flexible and as an introvert my social life is going to look different from hers. But she seems to be "getting it" very slowly, and I feel like I sometimes just want to tell her to back the f off.

2) In what I think is an attempt to make small talk and to get to know each other, Housemate would ask me about my work, then make comments like "No, come one, you can get your book done in six months, right?" or "Are you still writing your article? It's been a week!" At first I tried to explain the rhythm of academic writing in the humanities, and that I am still figuring things out at the new job. Now I just shut down those conversations, but she still asks, sometimes in ways that I found to be very condescending, like: "Did you finish your work today?"


I've thought about this from a few different angles. I know she wants me to meet all her friends, and maybe she wants to hang out. I also know she had herself aspired to be an academic (but isn't one), so she might just be curious. Or-- if I could be so presumptuous, she might be jealous or feel insecure and want to prove that she knows what's up. She's the sister of a very dear friend from my college days and have heard stories about my group of friends' hijinks, so she may have expected that I'll still have the same demeanors, or assumed that she and I are already close.

But I think maybe ultimately this is about my clarifying my boundaries for her? I think I might write out what I'd like to say--

Hey, Housemate, I appreciate how welcoming and friendly you have been, and how much you want us to know each other. I think I will need to get comfortable with my new job and new life at my own pace, though. So there will be times when I am unable to hang out in a high energy situation with you and your friends, or to talk about the details of my life with you. Also, I appreciate the concern, but I am fine handling my work and my social life, and it makes me feel like I am under attack when you make comments about how I live my life. If you have questions, you can ask those questions directly.

--and practice them, and say them the next time she makes comments again. Or maybe I will clean it up and then email it to her?

Does that sound like a reasonable way to tell her to back off? What would you say/do differently? Thoughts, ideas, anecdata, feedback, and encouragements welcomed!
posted by redwaterman to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
She sounds really annoying, especially for someone in her 30s.

Your script is really good, but in my experience boundary-crossing folks don't usually respond well to hearing a spiel like this, even if it's kindly-delivered. I recommend addressing her actions immediately and candidly in the moment:

"we need to fix your workaholism" or "you need to have better work life balance" or "you need to socialize more."

When she hits you with this, you can respond with, "Thanks for your concern, but I'm really happy with my work-life balance and my social life. Different strokes for different folks, you know?"

"Did you finish your work today?"

This would annoy the ever-loving crap out of me. I would say, "Please don't ask me that, it feels really patronizing. I'm [AGE] and have been getting my work done on time for [YEARS]."
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:10 AM on October 5, 2018 [18 favorites]


Living alone is very lonely. I think back to my memories of roommates, good and bad, and the memories that stick with me is when they asked me for the 20th time to go out to a bar, and I finally did, and I met their friends, and it was a great time. Or it was sharing lives over dinner. Or it was them hogging the living room for 9 months straight. Life is short, and connecting with the people you see every day is so important! It sounds like your roommate thinks that too.

When you give a reason why you can't go out ("working on my article!") for two weeks straight, she is kind of interpreting it as "I don't want to". Because, what could be more important? At the very least: if you want them to back down a bit, Roommate Law is that you feign that you like them in a 100% nice and sincere way.

If I were in your position, I would do the following:


1. Invite her out to dinner or drinks with just you two.

2. Complain about how annoying your work is BEFORE she asks you to do something. Tell her a little bit more detail. It sounds like she is asking surface-level questions ("Are you done with that paper yet?") because she is trying to connect, but doesn't know how. If she knew a bit more, IE, if you were struggling with finding a source about Bird Migration, she would ask "Did you find that source you were working on?" in a bit less annoying way.

3. Demonstrate interest in going out with friends and hanging out. Talk about detailed plans a bit, what sounds fun to you, what sounds fun to her. Maybe dancing isn't your thing, and you like art museums, well she totally likes art museums too. But, even if it's not "your thing", try to keep an open mind.

4. When she asks you to do something, complain a ton about your work. "I have to do this stupid article TONIGHT because my stupid supervisor wants to go over these changes tomorrow and ugh. Next time I PROMISE."

4. Actually go out with them and have fun, at least a few times. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it.

PS. I am the master of being really rude when I want to know more about someone's occupation. "Oh, you sell insurance? Can't like, an online form just do that? Also, what are your thoughts about the fact that insurance doesn't help people very much on a utilitarian basis? What's your average day like? Oh, why don't you (extremely complicated problem fixed in one sentence)?"

I know that's a fault of mine, and I try to improve. Less solving. Less complaining. More listening. But, my motivations here are 50% get to know someone so I can have more meaningful discussions, and 50% actually learn about their profession first hand.

It sounds like your roommate is kind of like this too. Keep in mind the motivations! It's almost for sure real connection and real interest, or else why would she ask?
posted by bbqturtle at 10:16 AM on October 5, 2018 [33 favorites]


Don't email that! I find that people who are maybe more introverted (you? def me) want to communicate in non-immediate, careful ways - ways that rub more free-wheeling, boundary-ignoring extroverts the wrong way and confuse them.

Your instincts are right, but I'd have on-hand a series of more casual AND tougher-sounding quips:

"That sounds judgey. I enjoy my work, ok?"
"Haha, ok, cut it out please. I just wanna chill at home. You go have fun. Everyone has different ideas of fun."
"Did I finish my work?? Haha, none of ya bizness! Oh, did you mean how did my day go? Great, thank you for asking!"
"I need to socialize more? Have you heard of introverts? I def do NOT need to socialize more, I'd be a puddle of exhausted goo. I'm happy you love socializing tho - what are you up to this weekend?"
"I need a better work/life balance? I'm not up to have my choices being analyzed right now, could we back off a bit from that?"

If after a few weeks of trying these things, she still hasn't got it, I'd be more forceful in the moment, "Hey hey, I feel judged a lot by you. I know you probably don't mean to be harsh, but back off ok? I enjoy living with you, but I don't want to hear your opinions about my choices."
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 10:16 AM on October 5, 2018 [42 favorites]


I would deal with each incident on its own rather than a discussion or certainly an email. Requests for information or participation can be dealt with courteously, warmly but clearly--'Thanks for asking me to 'xxxxx" but that is something I do not not enjoy. If i change my mind in the future I will certainly let you know", 'I work at a pace which feel comfortable for me but I am sure it must be frustrating for others"-- Your interest/concern is thoughtful but I feel quite good about the vbalance in my life" etc. I really would not get in a discussion with her about your feelings and her approach--that sounds like a road to someone getting defensive/righteous/convincing/etc. Simple, polite statements that gently clarify your position. No emails
posted by rmhsinc at 10:17 AM on October 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


You're going into this with a lot of assumptions about your housemate's motivations, and I'm not sure that's justified or doing you any favors. You're providing yourself with fodder to get wound up about these interactions because you think she might want... to meet all her friends, to hang out, she's curious, she's jealous, etc etc-- but unless she has explicitly told you, in words, what's motivating her you actually have no idea what her motives are. Maybe she really appreciates it when her friends encourage her to get through work quickly and she's trying to help you! maybe she had friends who encouraged her to socialize more and it pulled her out of a depressive episode!

I think you can and should shut some of this down without making a big deal out of it. I personally think it's worth trying some lightish "thanks but nope!" responses like schroedingersgirl's "Thanks for your concern, but I'm really happy with my work-life balance and my social life. Different strokes for different folks, you know?". Stuff like "I'm happy with the level of socializing I get, but have fun!", "I'm comfortable with my work habits, thanks!", "I'm getting my article done on a timeline I feel good about", "my book is on schedule". You certainly can also add comments like "hey, it makes me uncomfortable when you comment on my work habits and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop", but I'd probably try just "thanks nope!" for a while first.

I concur that this does sound rather trying, but it also sounds like behavior you can probably nip in the bud without a Discussion if your housemate is a generally nice person who's suffering from a bit of social cluelessness.
posted by Kpele at 10:23 AM on October 5, 2018 [12 favorites]


I think your boundaries are correct but this script is waaaaay too intense and explicit for a housemate. It changes the relationship from friendly to cold and will be hard to come back from. It would work with a malicious distant colleague I guess, but it is way too formal and harsh for an annoying friend who's insecure and pushing your buttons (and I agree a bit jealous) but not malicious.

I would just gently and playfully- but honestly- nip back each time she annoys you, always in a friendly tone:

Her- Are you still writing that book?
You- (fast and jokey) I FEEL ATTACKED
You- Did my academic advisor send you to spy on me?
You- Februaryyyy! It'll be done in Februarryyy!
You- Winter is coming!
You- I feel like we're driving to Florida and this question is the equivalent of are we there yet?

Her- You need to fix your work life balance!
You- I don't need fixing, I'm good enough I'm smart enough and gosh darnit people like me!
You- Nah, I like my job. I'm a balanced breakfast.
You- QUIT TRYIN TO FIX ME YOU FIXER

If you can pull off a fast funny tone, the playground standby of NO YOU ARE works really well:

Her- You need to have more fun!
You- NO YOU NEED TO MAV MOH FUN (slurring your words as you say it makes it funny so it doesn't sting even though your tone can veer a pretty close to eff--off).

Ideally if you do this like 4 times you won't have to any more, and because it's jokey, she saves face and you two can keep being friendly.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:26 AM on October 5, 2018 [41 favorites]


This is why I hate having roommates. This. This right here.

The last time I had roommates (prior to my current situation), I had to grow a spine really quickly so I could say "back the fuck off." I said "back the fuck off" a lot. Several times a day. I'm the world's biggest introvert, and my overbearing, pushy, megalomaniacal roommate was pushy, obnoxious, and rude.

If you're not ready for "back the fuck off" yet, you could go with "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible." Or just "That won't be possible." Also keep in mind that "No." is a complete sentence.

In my current situation - living with my caregivers and their family - the dynamic's a little different because I'm so dependent on them for, well, everything. But we've still had some "back the fuck off" moments. It's ok to have those moments.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I feel you - it is difficult for non-academics to understand some of the weirder aspects about academia. My SO the other day replied "You're still working on that project?" when I spoke to him about a project that is a much bigger thing and it has been about 9 months since it started. And it annoyed me, like it annoys you with your roommate. I had to tell him (again) that things are on-going. My parents, even after over a decade of me being an academic, do not understand the working patterns. I get it.

Here's a bigger point -- you might be sending signals to your housemate that you are open to her comments upon your work life because you may (even accidentally) be seeking social support about your work life from her. You're sort of inviting her to be interested in/comment up your work and work-life balance when you're demonstrating that you're willing to talk about it.

One of the challenges of leaving the grad school environment (if that is your deal) is that you leave that network of other people with whom you're regularly checking in with about the status of work - noting that you're about to submit something or you're about to collect data - in my experience as faculty, we just don't do that anymore. We absolutely do not do this to non-faculty/non-academic friends or partners. And we don't do it to other faculty. Everyone is busy. Everyone is stressed. No one wants to talk about the specifics. Indeed, most of my friends are academics and most of us do not to share this sort of thing because it just adds to the stress. An offhand comment about "Submitted a grant yesterday, so I'm pretty excited to relax a bit this weekend" or "Prepping this new class is wearing on me" is as much as it gets. I literally have almost no idea what my very close academic friends are working on right now, with a few exceptions where we made an agreement to be accountable to each other for a task.

So if you need some social support related to your work, find a friend - even if they don't live in the same place as you - to be your accountability or venting person or whatever and don't engage in this with your roommate at all. [But PLEASE make sure that that person is okay being your academic venting buddy.]

Concretely, don't tell your housemate specifics about what you're working on. She doesn't really need to know. If she asks you what you're working on, just reply "writing" or "grading." When you mention specifics, it allows her an opening to inquire about things "is that done yet? it has been a week!" that are annoying to you. (But don't get mad at her - she literally has no idea and she doesn't need to know.)

An elevated version of that is to not loop your housemate in on anything really related to your working, unless it is critical like -- "Hey, I am trying to finish something this weekend, so I might be up a little late. I'll try not to bother you, but just FYI." To be honest, that is more-or-less how I exist with my partner - details are only related to things like, "Hey, I have some major deadlines at the end of the week, so I need you to be more on top of laundry than I can be." or "Hey, there is a huge deadline at the end of the week, it would be super awesome if you could take on cooking and double everything so that there are tupperwares in the fridge for me." -- But probably your roommate isn't going to do that level. But this is how my partner can support me when things are extra busy. Most academics I know are like this with their partners unless they're also academics, and even then there is variance. This is not to say that I don't broadly discuss what I'm working on with my SO, but the nitty gritty about specifics like that it is at an R&R stage, or that we're going to submit a proposal - that is just something that no one outside of my collaborators needs to know.

A larger comment/idea that you may need to get across to her is something like, "Yeah, I totally appreciate that you're looking out for me with regard to work-life balance. I'm super conscious about that myself. But I promise you, I have it under control. And to be honest, your mentioning of it sort of stresses me out more. But, to be honest, this new position is intense and I need to really focus on my writing/grading/etc., especially in this first year. Again, I promise you that I am also trying to eat well, exercise, rest, relax, etc. - but I need to manage that myself, okay?" If she invites you out to dancing or whatever, thank her, but tell her your need to work. Repeat. Repeat.

The first year is especially tough and I'm sorry that you have this added challenge of your roommate. But her heart in the right place and she doesn't know your deal. Thinking about building scaffolding for the support that you need and from whom (and sometimes when you might not be able to get that support) is a good idea. Also I echo her general concern for any junior faculty that getting regular exercise, eating well, making friends, relaxing, etc. is incredibly important. I was not good enough about that in my pre-tenure years and I regret it now. I also see a lot of people that burn out pretty hard. Not to lecture you, but it is always important to say.
posted by k8t at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


Does that sound like a reasonable way to tell her to back off? What would you say/do differently?

I would deal with it in the moment otherwise she is likely to feel attacked or otherwise "confronted" when I think what you want to do is just give her some info on how your life is different from yours and maybe ask her for a little less intrusion into your habits and life.

So I'd start with some of the simple scripts people have above and give her a chance to back off. Most people are reasonable and if she sees this isnt' getting the reaction she's looking for (presumably she is trying to make friends) she will adjust.

However maybe she's malicious or on a power trip or whatever and after some friendly corrections (make sure you're being clear and not just "well I said that and she SHOULD have understood that was what I meant...") you can be a little more strongly worded. "Hey I need you to not be pushy about my deadlines. You may be trying to be helpful but I'm managing just fine and it's a little odd for you to imply otherwise"

I am sometimes just pretty upfront that the choices I have made for myself may not make sense for them but we';ll have to live with that. "I like my life. This is me. This is how my life is going right now and I am totally okay with it so thanks for your interest, let's catch up when we can but I'm not going out tonight"

To me this isn't so much "This is how academia is" but more the choices you've decided to make given that you are in academia. So don't toss it back on "I am an academic" because there are lots of different ways to be an academic and this is the one you have chosen. Some academics go out every night, you are not one that does. That is fine, 100% ok, but you need to respond that it is a choice you are making to not go out with her, not like "Oh I'd love to but you know... academia!" because then, in her mind, it might give her a common enemy to push cak with you and that is not actually what you want.
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


> Actually go out with them and have fun, at least a few times. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it.

This is literally what my mom said to me when I was nervous about going to friends' birthday parties when I was in elementary and middle school. She was usually right back then, but today she recognizes that I'm 28yo and can autonomously decide whether or not I'm feeling a social function on my own.

OP, you are a grown-ass woman and can make your own decisions about whether or not you should socialize with these people. You don't have to force yourself to hang with them.

Let's all do better and stop "parenting" fully-functional adults.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


Agree with the others about setting boundaries. I'd also add that it'll likely work best if you stick with one or two phrases when things like this come up vs. getting sucked into a discussion. It's been my experience that rephrasing things invites people to take a different approach to still try to get their way/what they want.

"Thanks, but that won't work for me" can be used in lots of situations.
posted by Twicketface at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2018


I like minimizing the number of words said because then there's nothing to argue with,
but I might be used to worse boundary pushing idk.

her: you should come out with us!
you: no thank you.
her: come on, you need to socialize more.
you: sorry, I can't say I agree. have fun though!
posted by bagel at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I had a housemate in grad school who was a dancer. She was very lively, energetic and social. I found her delightful in many ways but she kept kind of hassling me about my "work," aren't you done yet, you need to get out, etc. One day she stopped at my room and said, "I can't believe you just sit around all day reading." I snapped a bit and said "I can't believe you just dance around all day dancing." I could have said "I can't believe you just stand there all day being a bank teller" and I think the result would have been the same. She backed off and we had a more formal but still pleasant relationship.
Lesson: Sometimes I think it works best to just let some of your genuine irritation show when someone is being passive aggressive.
posted by nantucket at 11:19 AM on October 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


Extrovert who used to unintentionally push a lot of boundaries with introverts here!

First off, yes, what she's saying is annoying and rude and I would find it so as an outgoing extrovert too! But since she's your roommate and I assume you want a good relationship, I think the key is 1. assuming good intent and 2. pushing back in a direct but friendly way when needed.

For assuming good intent - it can be hard for both extroverts and introverts to understand each other. It took me a loooooong time to realize that some people really would prefer to stay home and work than go out. I took it personally way more than I should have. I like to think I wasn't as pushy as your roommate, but I might have been. However, that was in college and my very early twenties. By my early thirties, I'd come to accept that some people really do just prefer quiet time at home (and come to enjoy it myself!) - your roommate is a bit old to still be expecting everyone else to live like she does.

So for asserting boundaries, I agree with others that dealing with it in the moment is the best way. If she asks you if you finished your work, you can say "well, it's ongoing but I got a few good things done" and if she pushes beyond that you could say "hey, I know you mean well but I'd rather not get into it - how was your day?" If she's pushing you about going out, you can say "Oh, you know, I'm really excited about where my research is at, so I'm happy to just stay home and dig into it."

Also, do you never want to go out with her and her friends at all? If not, that's ok. You can just keep declining and she will stop asking. But if you're not opposed to it, I'd just accept one of these invites - it will probably help with roommate relations and you may even have a decent time.
posted by lunasol at 11:23 AM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Your question left me wondering if there are cultural issues involved. It sounds like your roommate is more of the overly engaged New Yorker, while you are more comfortable with negative politeness. It is likely that her comments are not intended to be taken seriously and responded at length. It's her form of small talk, which means you can respond with meaningless polite noise of your own.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:31 AM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


I may be projecting a little onto your housemade, but I have one suggestion for your script - it may help if you level-set by giving her an idea of what you do want rather than what you don't.

For example, "there will be times when I am unable to hang out in a high energy situation with you and your friends" doesn't really help her understand if you do or don't want to be invited (do you? I'm not clear) in the future, but "gosh, I'd love to do something like that once this paper is over in December, probably not 'til then though" or "I'm so wiped on Fridays, but let me know if you ever go on a Saturday" or "y'know, that's not really my scene but you guys have fun!" or "I get kind of exhausted by big groups, but I do enjoy $names, let's have them over for dinner one of these days!" all give her more information about what it is you do want. As an anxious extrovert those kind of ambiguous "no, I'm not feeling it" answers can be unintentionally hurtful if they come from someone I'm still getting to know since I don't know if it's a rejection of my friendship overtures or just a situation that doesn't work for them.

Same thing with work. "there will be times when I am unable to...talk about the details of my life with you" is ambiguous and seems to set a "don't talk to me" kind of boundary, which it doesn't seem like you actually want. Something like "ack, the lab is stressful enough, please don't remind me" or "can we talk about literally anything else?" or "it's taking 9 months because encoding every five minutes of our recording literally takes two hours, can you imagine?" or "yeah, academic schedules are like that...omg are you caught up on The Good Place?" allow you to steer away from the touchy parts or toward something more interesting/meaty/non-stressful without just shutting the conversation down. I'm reminded of this ask - she may not care about academia, she's just asking about the thing she knows is a big part of your life, and you don't want to talk about that thing, steer toward literally anything else.

Also, if you're straight-up not interested in talking or hanging out at the moment - the two best ways to communicate that are probably either to hang out in your room or to wear headphones - in my experience they're the two best signals to clearly say "introvert introverting, please don't disturb" to roommates without being rude.
posted by mosst at 12:07 PM on October 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


Assume good intentions and redirect annoying words. (Easier said than done, but a script helps.)

"Did you finish your work today?" [this would make flames come out of my ears btw - f&t]
"it was a good day! How did yours go?"

"oh so you finished your article?"
"Coming along. What'd you get up to today?"
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:46 PM on October 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


You know, if I were you (and I'm a huge introvert, academia-adjacent, etc), it actually would make things better if I built up the social aspect of the relationship a bit more. This has worked for me in the past. It may not work for you, but might be worth considering.

As an introvert and person-likely-to-be-reading, and as a person who really values quiet and stability, I am readily annoyed by change, noise, questions when I'm focusing, etc. I also tend to assume the worst when I'm annoyed.

I also tend to have a lot of inertia - I know that I like being alone and reading, so it's difficult for me to switch to "maybe I should be in company and not reading sometimes, a change of pace is actually good for resetting the brain". And yet I've noticed that doing something different (not necessarily in the MOAR-FUN-WHOOPEE way, just a change of pace) actually helps me manage stress.

I've also noticed that when I know people better, they annoy me less - their characteristic words and actions seem more like quirks and less like annoying flaws. Because our interactions have a foundation of emotional engagement, it's easier to be direct with them - saying "I'm serious, when you leave hairs in the sink it makes me want to bite your face off, for pete's sake clean the sink" to a stranger is a deal-breaker, but you can do it with a friend.

Also, I always think that I want relationships to be cool and distant and collegial, but what I actually want is for them to be warm and friendly but not chatty-when-I'm-trying-to-work.

If I were in your situation, going to brunch with her (or dinner, or errands) once every couple-three weeks would do a lot to fix the relationship and would ease my irritation/stress levels.
posted by Frowner at 1:01 PM on October 5, 2018 [16 favorites]


Change Yourself, Not Her.

Stop responding to anything unpleasant that she says and keep paying attention to your own stuff!!

Please no spiel. Don’t address anything she says. Stop explaining!!

Every time you acknowledge Bad Behavior from her, she sees it as permission to keep going. Cut that out and she’ll stop or you will stop caring.
posted by jbenben at 1:33 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am in your shoes, demographically/professionally, and I've had similar roommates. I would respond to most of these implied criticisms with, "Hahaha, right???" And then let it go. It works great for me, at least.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:54 PM on October 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


I am in your shoes, demographically/professionally, and it sounds like I also have a similar roommate. I would respond to most of these implied criticisms with, "Hahaha, right???" And then let it go. It works great for me, at least.

Yep, agreed. I use something similar, like "haha, very funny." And then change the subject or just go about my business. This is because I don't feel like having some back and forth about my work or whatever, am not looking for advice, and don't feel like I need to justify my choices. I also agree with someone above who was saying you want to sort of train her by modeling the questions that are more appropriate. "Did you finish your work today?" vs "How was work today?" or just "How was your day?"
posted by JenMarie at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I like what some someone said above: Her: did you finish that thing yet? You: haaaa if only , or haaaaaa i wish, but such is life is academia.

Definitely want to echo avoiding emailing or texting or any written convo a out this sort of thing , it might come across as a bit intense and nutty.

Disclaimer for above is im just an internet stranger with a few paragraphs of yours to go on, so if theres a lot more too this we here dont know take all of this with a grain of salt ( :
posted by elgee at 3:34 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree with comments above that this is to handle in the moment and give her less information about your work, because she doesn't engage with you in work talk in a way that is helpful for you. I'd do this either by changing the subject, not acknowledging remarks or making a mild remark that doesn't really give them any footing. Some thing that I would find hard to say in a stern tone I feel okay about saying calmly and maybe with a grin.

* My work-life balance is my responsibility, thanks
* Huh
* I'll keep that in mind
* I think I've got it worked out, thanks
* It's going according to plan, thanks
* So how's *your* job going?
* Hmmmm

A step up might be:
* This is my problem to solve. I promise you that if I need help I will ask for it! (note: does not specify that you will ask her).

I would assume that she wants to connect and be buddies and this strategy has worked for her in the past. (I can imagine liking that approach when I was younger). It helps my stress level to assume good will until I have proof of malice. Look for ways you can connect that are enjoyable for both of you and focus on those.
posted by bunderful at 4:43 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sending an email like that will be a line in the sand you won't be able to come back from, and it will make your relationship super awkward and not great. I think email is appealing to you because as an introvert you may be conflict averse and perhaps you like to process emotionally more intense things by yourself.

But I would urge you to reframe this, as not a conflict. I totally get this, I'm an introvert myself, and generally despise going out - especially on a weeknight, ye gods. But you know what? I recognise my preferences are a little outside the median, and I own it! When people ask me out, I don't dress it up, or provide overlong explanations. I say, "Oh no, I absolutely hate going out on weeknights and do it like twice a year under exceptional circumstances. This ain't one of em. Enjoy your night, I'll be enjoying some tea and these little coconut biscuits I just found."

I suspect some of your discomfort around this is because you might feel judged, you might feel a little guilty/defensive for the way you like to live. But you don't have to! It's just different strokes.

Your instincts that she doesn't fully understand your preferences are right, but your proposed method of dealing with it could use a little work, cause it's not a conflict, it's a communications breakdown. So try communicating super clearly: "Oh articles like this take a long time to write, I'll probably be working on it for 6-8 weeks longer!"; "I really don't like going out very much, but thanks for the offer."

Honestly, your housemate is trying to be friendly and connect with you . Until you've lived in the icy gulag of housemate hostility, you won't appreciate how valuable that is.. Just keep being you - she'll get the message soon.
posted by smoke at 6:25 PM on October 5, 2018 [18 favorites]


Many, many thanks to all!! I'm very grateful for all the different perspectives and will heed your suggestions to address it in the moment. I will also think a little bit more about why I feel so judged and uncomfortable, even though I know it's not coming from her, and I especially like the idea of reframing it as a communication breakdown.

Also, it's really helpful for me to hear that I don't have go out with her friends if I don't want to. FWIW, I don't dislike the idea, but I know it'd be stressful for me to engage with a large group that already has its own established dynamics and inside jokes, and I'd really like reserve the socializing energey I do have for building my own support network first. The comments helped me clarify this in my own head, which made me less avoidant of the idea. So thank you all for that, too!
posted by redwaterman at 7:49 PM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


As an extrovert doing a lot of work on boundaries (mine and others), I'd find all the hyper-jokey responses you've marked as Best Answer really off-putting if they were coming from someone I didn't expect to hear them from. It'd feel like a mockery. Some people I'm used to that kind of teasing from and that's fine - but if there's a sudden change in personality, that's more likely to set off my "oh fuck what the hell went wrong do they hate me now are they an asshole WTF" alarm.

How long has it been? Sometimes it just takes a while to really get to understand someone's patterns and figure out what works for them. Hell with close friends it can take me about a year to really get our communication styles right. Give it time, you're both probably just feeling each other out and trying different approaches.
posted by divabat at 3:39 AM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


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