Make the tears stop.
April 16, 2008 12:12 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop making my roommate cry?

My new roommate is one of those people previously documented in these fine pages who cries whenever she is faced with a situation remotely confrontational. She has lived with us for about two weeks and I've already made her cry twice! Needless to say, neither situation felt much like a confrontation to me...

a) On a Saturday not long after she moved in, her and I went to the Guggenheim. We got into a lengthy discussion on whether or not postmodern art is still relevant, with me taking the con side--though I wasn't trying to shit all over the day, I was pretty clearly trying to say that I liked the art we had seen and this was just a quibble. But before long, this turned into one of those conversations where the other person was just mm-hmming and then all of a sudden she was sobbing on the subway platform. In the post-mortem I did on this with my boyfriend, we concluded that maybe she felt implicated because part of my critique of the artist's usage of postmodernity was his complicitness with the fashion industry, which I tied into a larger argument about postmodern art's seemingly uncritical stance on fashion. Because she puts a lot of effort into her outfits, we thought maybe she took that as an attack, but I had no idea at the time, and I certainly wasn't trying to suggest that a private citizen who cares about her appearance deserved to be attacked.

b) After a class we had today, she was telling people about the vegan dinner party her and my other roommate threw on Saturday. I complimented her effusively about her hostessing prowess at the actual party, but today I happened to mention that some lard accidentally found its way into one of the dishes, like, oh, ha ha, things go wrong at every party. She immediately became defensive and started to aggressively assert that this was the other roommate's fault, which I immediately backed her up on. She started to cry anyway.

I just don't know what to do here, on two fronts:

a) What does this mean for my relationship with her? I want to be friends, and when I'm not reducing her to tears things seem all right. In fact, even when she is crying she doesn't seem angry at me, while she was crying today she even reached out to me for a hug. But I don't know if she really is angry at me or not, because she seems pretty good at disguising her contempt for people, based on a social call an acquaintance of hers made here--she complained about him for at least ten minutes before he arrived and after he left, but was gracious and kind and so forth when he was here. What if all the niceness with me is just a front and really I'm the asshole who makes her feel bad for dressing up and accused her of throwing an awful party and poisoning all her friends with lard? The boyfriend thinks I should sit down and talk to her about it, but I'm worried she'll see it as a confrontation and more tears will result. Part of the problem with the crying is that if I have a confrontation with another friend they may react badly, but crying tends to shut down conversation, so I may never get to the root of the disagreement. I still don't know what the deal with the museum was, I just have a theory, and I may have been wrong about this afternoon as well. So if I sit down to talk to her and she bursts into tears, I won't know where to go from there and I risk making our relationship even worse! Besides, confronting roommates is hard because she may feel there is nowhere for her to retreat.

b) The other problem here is, even if I decide not to take any action, what do I do the next time the waterworks start? I don't know what to say--Obviously I try and be comforting and I tell her I'm not angry at her and that everything is okay, and of course I hugged her when she gestured for a hug, and I tried to produce tissues and so forth, but it's pretty fucking awkward for both of us--no one wants to cry in public, but being the guy shifting from one foot to the other and murmuring comforting things to the sobbing woman doesn't look particularly good either. Help!
posted by zeusianfog to Human Relations (59 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe instead of being her friend, just be her roommate? For example, don't go to museums, don't co-host dinner parties. In my experience, this makes things a lot easier for other roommate-related stuff like paying bills or sharing bathrooms.
posted by k8t at 12:22 AM on April 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm going to suggest that you sit down with her at a moment when nothing in particular is going on, and let her know that you'd like to talk to her about your roommate relationship now that you've lived together for a few weeks.

Then simply let her know that in the short period of time you've been roommates you've manged to make her cry twice, both times in situations that to you didn't seem to warrant such an emotional response, and in fact you still have no idea what triggered the first incident. Tell her that you're concerned and confused, and ask her if this is typical for her relationships with other people, or if there's possibly a substantial incompatibility between the two of you. Finally, mention that you're aware the world does not revolve around you, so if this has nothing to do with you and something else is going on, you'd like to listen and help if possible.

Then see where it goes. I think not saying anything is a terrible idea, because you'll be walking on eggshells all the time, and she'll probably keep on getting upset anyway. There are lots of wonderful people in this world who, when paired in a work or living situation like this, simply push each other's buttons to an unhealthy degree. Then again, perhaps she is going through something huge and important and she doesn't feel like she has anyone to talk to. Or maybe she's been getting her way with waterworks since she was a kid, and now it's a deeply ingrained part of her personality. Whatever the cause, talking about it is the only way to start ferreting it out.
posted by davejay at 12:22 AM on April 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and...

but crying tends to shut down conversation

So does your fear that she'll start crying again. If you really can't have a simple conversation about this without a dramatic crying festival, you'd best find out now and start working out new living arrangements for one of you, because that's just not a healthy environment.
posted by davejay at 12:24 AM on April 16, 2008


Response by poster: Well, she's told me before, after and around these crying jags that she cries whenever she feels confronted--"I've cried in class way too many times," "I always cry whenever I meet with my advisor." So this is at least partially her problem. On the other hand, no one else in the apartment has made her cry, dammit. Also, when she talks about the crying--always in the abstract, never directly about a previous crying incident with me--she doesn't seem that, y'know, bothered by it. Like, oh, haha, it is just another funny thing that I do. She attributes it to a combination of a) parents who were lax disciplinarians and b) being eager to please.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:28 AM on April 16, 2008


Excessive crying (and crying over non-cry-worthy things) is a sign of a Drama Queen. It's like a passive-aggressive way of keeping you walking on eggshells. Don't feed into it and don't alter your normal behavior because of it. From now on, just be your normal self and if she starts crying, say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry" and then WALK AWAY. Don't let her be an emotional vampire.
posted by amyms at 12:30 AM on April 16, 2008 [14 favorites]


she doesn't seem that, y'know, bothered by it. Like, oh, haha, it is just another funny thing that I do.

Meh. She ought to be bothered by it. From the way you describe the circumstances, you're not being overly harsh or sensitive. School's tough and stressful, to be sure, which is something of an excuse, but your new roomie is going to have to reign-in that spontaneous fragile crying thing if she wants to have a job, decent relationships, etc. I would gently suggest to her that she might want to look into counseling options, because whatever she wants to blame it on, she needs to work through it and find a more constructive emotional response.

Or yes, on preview, as amyms suggests, she could be a manipulative emotional vampire, in which case I'm sorry that you've got one for a roommate and definitely don't try to be her friend. But I'd give her the short term benefit of the doubt and assume that instead of being a nasty person, she just has some psychological issues that need professional addressing. I would bet that there is counseling available through your school.
posted by mumkin at 12:41 AM on April 16, 2008


She cries easily. Ignore it. It's one of those things you're going to have to get used to.
posted by seanyboy at 1:09 AM on April 16, 2008


She may have a problem with emotional lability. If this is the case, she probably wants to be able to control her crying as much, if not more, than you want her to stop, because it's an embarrassing problem that has many, many negative social consequences - being labeled a manipulative psychic vampire, having trouble maintaining relationships and being taken seriously at work and school, etc.

I don't know how much you want to get involved with this as a roommate, but it might be a productive direction to ask her if she's always had a problem with crying at the drop of a hat and how she feels about it. If as I kind of suspect, she feels humiliated by it and it's affecting her quality of life, she may want to seek some kind of therapy (as students, I imagine you have mental health services through your school, which would be an excellent resource.) Perhaps look at the previous thread on the subject and do some light research to direct your inquiries and maybe give her some ideas to bring to counselling.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:14 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Best answer:
Excessive crying (and crying over non-cry-worthy things) is a sign of a Drama Queen. It's like a passive-aggressive way of keeping you walking on eggshells.


as amyms suggests, she could be a manipulative emotional vampireM

I'm glad I've never met either of you. I'm a cryer. I can't help it, its not just confrontation, I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, I cry when I'm angry, I cry when I get unexpected compliments, I cry when I'm alone watching TV (not weepy stuff - Buffy). That doesn't mean I'm trying to manipulate anyone, I just can't help crying.

Inappropriate crying can be a symptom of suppressed/untreated depression.

Don't stress yourself about it but don't push it either, it can be quite an embarrassing problem, especially in the workplace and it does give the impression that you're more upset about something that you actually are. You probably think you're doing a lot more harm to her (and your friendship) than you are.
posted by missmagenta at 1:15 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a cryer. I can't help it, its not just confrontation, I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, I cry when I'm angry, I cry when I get unexpected compliments, I cry when I'm alone watching TV (not weepy stuff - Buffy). That doesn't mean I'm trying to manipulate anyone, I just can't help crying.

missmagenta, that's not what the OP is talking about... He's talking about someone who cries to shut-down communication, which is what my response was addressing.

For what it's worth, I'm a cryer too. But my crying isn't about manipulation, nor is yours (from your description). Manipulative crying is what the question is about.
posted by amyms at 1:25 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


See... I absolutely disagree with the people calling her out for being a "drama queen". I live a fairly drama free like, but I have a very very low crying threshold. I wish I could stop, but when I am faced with certain situations where I feel intimidated, or threatened, or overwhelmed... I JUST CANNOT stop the tear from flowing. I don't do it to get my way. Often times, it's much more of a hinderance than a help. For example, in a scholarly or professional setting... It is completely embarrassing to not be able to hold back tears, and it does NOTHING to help my cause.

As far as no one else in the apartment making her cry... I am more likely to cry when I am speaking to someone that I respect... Maybe she has a good deal of respect for you as a person, and that's why she's more prone to do it with you? Maybe you just have a more dominant personality than everyone else there.

I am 26 years old and I still haven't found a way out of doing this... I suppose the only advice I have is to keep being her friend and learn to take it with a grain of salt. I know a crying girl is like... boy kryptonite... but smile and be supportive and maybe have a good laugh about it so that she knows you're not annoyed or pissed off about any of it.
posted by Mookbear at 1:25 AM on April 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, my crying doesn't mean I don't want to talk anymore... I DO want to finish the discussion. I just can't help it... I imagine that if your roommate is anything like me, she doesn't want to stop the discussion... Also, sometimes I just need to cry for a little bit, get it all out, and then carry on with the discussion...
posted by Mookbear at 1:29 AM on April 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't get the impression that the OP's roommate is crying to shut down communication, because there is little or no advantage to her "getting her way" in either of those situations. It seems more frustrated or submissive than openly manipulative. I don't doubt that there are people who use crying to get what they want, be it attention, sympathy, or the upper hand, but this doesn't seem like the kind of situation that would prompt that behavior.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:37 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's talking about someone who cries to shut-down communication, which is what my response was addressing.
You're putting intentions into her crying, while the effect may be that the discussion stops, that doesn't mean her intention is to stop the discussion and at no point does the OP indicate that this is the case.
posted by missmagenta at 1:38 AM on April 16, 2008


This girl is obviously very insecure about herself. It's one thing if you reduce her to tears over a serious existential conversation about life and humanity, but if she cries over a superficial conversation about art and a vegan dinner gone bad then there are MUCH deeper issues at work.
If you really want to try and befriend this girl (rather than just be her roommate), my advice is to really talk to her the next time she has a moment like this. Fuck the art talk and all that bullshit, talk to her about why she is upset, talk to her about why she feels the need to break down over the smallest of issues. Put things into perspective for her. More importantly, just listen to her and let her get her feelings out. If she really has something to say then you'll become closer with her for listening. On the other hand, if she's just being dramatic because she craves attention I wouldn't indulge her in the least. If that's the case, make sure she pays her rent and tell her to have a good time hanging out with someone else.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 1:43 AM on April 16, 2008


If you sit down with her and have a heart-to-heart about why she cries all the time, she will probably cry then too.

Also, you shouldn't think of it as making her cry. She cried in response to something you did, but much of the cause is really due to her.
posted by grouse at 2:07 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


She's admitted that she cries very easily, and so I doubt these two episodes reflect much on you in particular, given that everyone involved knows that it's an exaggerated reaction. It's also possible that she'll lighten up once she's more settled in to the new living situation. Meanwhile, given that she's obviously self-conscious about the issue and any discussion of it is likely to result in more crying, it seems to me that a more fruitful course of action would be for you to examine why exactly her crying makes you so uncomfortable.
posted by granted at 2:38 AM on April 16, 2008


Oh dear... I've lived with someone a bit like this.

My crying housemate was more the manipulative-psycho-crier though.

I dealt with the crying by preparing what I'd say before talking with her and by being warm and sympathetic when I spoke to her.

Then, no matter how much she tear up, I'd just stick to whatever it was I wanted to say. And walk away afterwards.

In general I tried to steer clear of comforting her but sometimes I'd say that I could see she was upset, that I'd leave her be, and she could come and talk with me when she was ready if she felt she needed to.

It was like living with a particularly unlovely child - I really, really hated her by the time I moved out of the flat. And it must be said, that certainly made it easier to say what had to be said through the tears.

Hopefully it won't come to that with your housemate.
posted by t0astie at 2:45 AM on April 16, 2008


it seems to me that a more fruitful course of action would be for you to examine why exactly her crying makes you so uncomfortable.

I think Mookbear put it best

a crying girl is like... boy kryptonite

A natural response to someone crying is to try to comfort them and make them stop, but when they're crying uncontrollably for no reason, its difficult to know what to say/do. In reality there is nothing you can do.

If it were me in her situation, my preference would be for you to continue on as if there weren't tears streaming down my face. Maybe steer the conversation to something more lighthearted until they stop.
posted by missmagenta at 2:51 AM on April 16, 2008



If you sit down with her and have a heart-to-heart about why she cries all the time, she will probably cry then too.


I'm almost positive she will, but don't let that stop you, if you do want to help her and be her friend. Be prepared for her to cry when this comes up, because if this is an ongoing problem for her it's going to be a painful subject. Don't let the crying stop you.

Whatever you decide to do, don't go into this conversation even remotely entertaining the thought that she's a psychobitchdramaqueenpsychicvampireattentionwhore. Again, I suppose she could be, but that kind of crier uses tears in a very controlled and calculating manner, and I don't get the impression that 's what your roommate is doing. She could be depressed, she could be suffering from PMDD, possibly exacerbated by hormonal birth control, she could have issues with insecurity, stress or guilt, it could be any number of things that are not malicious or manipulative. Approach the conversation with this in mind, rather than questioning whether she's using tears to somehow manipulate you. If it's something she's not entirely in control of, she's been accused of that many times already.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:20 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


An extraordinarily low tears threshold can be a sign of a bunch of things, few of which are good. Nthing the idea of calling her on it, and kindly asking her if she's considered the fact that, since other people cry nowhere near as easily, she might be best off seeking some kind of therapy.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:08 AM on April 16, 2008


Best answer: I'm going to throw my hat in and say that I disagree with the blanket drama queen assertion. One of my close friends tends to hold back emotionally with me, even though I'm really one of her best friends. She doesn't talk about anything "feelings"-wise or with depth, but all of the five times those situations have arisen or something has happened like that, she starts to cry. I'm not sure if this is because she's simply unpracticed in working out her internal emotion externally or with someone she can trust, or if she views discussing those things as a sign of weakness or whatnot, but she's typically embarrassed when this happens which doesn't help things, even though the threshold is *very* low for these events and sometimes triggered by seemingly innocuous conversation.

It makes genuine criticism or pointing out my issues with her (which are typically pretty rare) an eggshell affair, since I'm just trying to walk her through how I feel without sounding accusatory, upset or angry; it can still set her to crying, perhaps as a breakdown to how she feels about herself as a person as some manifestation or confirmation of an already negative self-image. I don't know if she's just teetering on the edge of that most times, but I don't think that's the case; instead I think she's pushed down her desire to be emotional about most anything pretty far and so when it surfaces, it's new and fresh and awkward and hard to handle in a manner that doesn't cause her to break down, even if just a little.

I've found myself completely surprised at the things that have led to her crying because I've always been extremely metered in my approaches. And what's worse, when they're not me-induced, she refuses to let it out or let herself cry around me, despite me being someone she can trust and who has never done anything to hurt her or betray her or damage our relationship at all.

This is all by way of saying that there are deeper issues and that everyone manages their emotions and their responses to confrontation in completely different, sometimes "unpleasant" ways. You've heard from plenty of criers in this thread already; you should take a metered approach but also understand that this isn't your fault and that so long as you're not purposefully or vindictively triggering these moments, you're not in the wrong here. It's a self-fulfilling cycle though, and a confrontation about her breaking down almost certainly WILL result in her breaking down and may not be something she's able to manage, access or fix on her own... and may not be something that she sees herself as *requiring* therapy for; I don't really think it is, depending on the specific situation. We all handle these things differently.

It's unfortunate because it makes you out to be the bad guy in a way and can affect how you feel about your interactions with her, but again this needs to not be taken personally as a negative reflection upon yourself. If you do approach her, do it at a time where you apologize outright (even though it's not your fault) as a way of contritely acknowledging that the situation exists. Of course, that might make her cry too. It's really an eggshells game and you'll need to focus on fine-tuning your ability to determine her threshold and stay away from triggers if at all possible.

If you're interested in becoming more engaged, you can ask her about how she's doing or feeling and really listen, but you may have no interest at all in being her therapist, really and that's completely understandable and might not help at all/lead to more crying.

You could also just throw it out there and ask her "so what do you want me to do the next time you break down." But I wouldn't recommend that one...

Just step lightly, react with calm and don't let it impact you in a damaging way. Some people are just like that.
posted by disillusioned at 4:09 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


i like davejay's response. if she's just an easy crier, let her know that you are very sensitive to being "the big guy with the crying girl" and maybe you guys can come up with a way to check in when she has a crying jag to make sure things are really okay vs. not.

you: i think we should paint the kitchen red.
she: i like pink better.
you: but i'm a guy. i don't want a pink kitchen.
she: waaaaah!
you: are you okay?
she: yes! waaah!
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:39 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


FWIW I have been an "easy crier" on and off for years and when I brought it up to my counselor, he basically said I had to just accept that was who I was. Which I was not happy to hear-I am the kind of person who can tear up just reading the newspaper. So I say that to mention that counseling does not always bring a solution.

I would just pick a time to talk to her and find out what is in her head during the crying times. I think you might both be relieved to do so-and that might take some pressure off HER and make it easier for her not to cry next time.
posted by konolia at 4:41 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a terribly easy crier. Whether I'm depressed, not depressed, it doesn't make much difference.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I could easily have cried during both those discussions. This is what I would've been thinking:

a) Why does zeusianfrog want to prove so much that he's right? Does he think I'm dumb because I disagree? Does he think I'm a bad person? Does he think that his artistic judgements are automatically more valid than mine? Do I need to argue like this -which I hate- for me to be allowed to have an opinion?

b) Oh no, I served non-vegan food to vegans!? That's a terrible thing to do! I am a terrible person! Even if I didn't cause this directly, as a host of the party I bear the responsibility!

I would sit down with her at a non-fraught time and bring up, gently (probably tears will result regardless):
a) you're concerned for her, mental-health-wise, and you want to make sure that she takes care of herself, if she has depression or anxiety.
b) you want to know what to do next time, whether it's just ignoring her or something else.
posted by Jeanne at 4:54 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


As another involuntary crier, I will Nth the comments that it's not necessarily a drama queen thing, especially given those circumstances.

I understand it can be frustrating, but here's a suggestion - try just soldiering through. Ask her if she wants a minute, or if she wants to stop the conversation. If she doesn't then just keep going. For me, it always makes it worse when people make a big deal about my tears, because it's embarrassing and frustrating. But the people that are just like, "oh, are you ok? you're fine? ok, lets' keep talking" are awesome.

Oh, and if you are going to bring up the crying, it might be best to do so *while* she's crying, but only if you can do so in a non-defensive way, which I appreciate may be difficult. But just a quick, low-key, "hey, is there anything I can do to make you not cry?" might work.
posted by lunasol at 5:16 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


The two of you don't get along. Back off and don't try to be her friend, much less her therapist!
posted by Carol Anne at 5:25 AM on April 16, 2008


So not knowing you might make what I'm saying completely incorrect, but I'll throw it out there, because you sort of sound like someone I work with who is generally thought to be the nicest person in the world except for when she's being a beyotch. (Not calling you that! Just read on...)

Analyze exactly what you are doing and saying. You turned a fun trip to the art museum into (to me) a nauseating artsnob conversation where, albeit that you had the best intentions, you continued to "argue" instead of just saying "Well it was neat looking, thanks for coming with me." Because really what you did was pit her against you in an argument where you got to show off your mental art prowess and maybe made her feel like a giant glowing ignorant pile of dog terds because she happened to like the stuff.

Next, you took the glowing focus and congratulations of a party-well-done and decided to throw in a fairly significant error, again making you sort of look like the know-it-all. Didja have to say it?

Really, I'm making no assumptions about you at all, but I can't make any about her either without watching your interactions. You sort of come across (to me), as one of those "Enough about you let's talk about me" sorts who is fantastic at making people feel less than good about themselves sometimes.
posted by TomMelee at 5:38 AM on April 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


The opening sentence of your post is interseting:

My new roommate is one of those people previously documented in these fine pages who cries whenever she is faced with a situation remotely confrontational.

You've already placed her in a particular category, judged it as unsavory one and decided she's a problem. That's pretty shitty. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't, but you've clearly devalued her and her personality and you're obsessing over two small incidents which seem to have effected you more than they've effected her. That said, it doesn't mean you're wrong per se, just that there are clashing personalities here. But if you're going to look at this situation as she's wrong, I'm right, then you've already set it up in your mind that there has to a winner and loser here. Is that really what you want? Probably not, you're just in situation where you don't know how to deal with a certain type of personality. Recognize that and take it as a learning experience, both about her and yourself.

Rather than trying to brainstorm with your boyfriend over what her problem, just talk to her, realizing she's an easy crier and accept it, without judging her about it. It doesn't mean you have to be best friends, but if you're going to be roommates, it helps if you two can at least get along.

As noted by several easy criers in this thread, it's just something they do. It's not about you, so you don't have to drawn into it or feel a certain way. Just let them be themselves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:21 AM on April 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that crying when provoked by even the slightest or most random stressor can be a manifestation of panic attacks, an organic disorder, rather than a personality flaw such as being intentionally manipulative. I can say from my own experience that were it not for the miracle of modern medicine, I'd probably burst into tears each time somebody looked at me funny. She may have undiagnosed anxiety issues - just a thought.
posted by chez shoes at 6:27 AM on April 16, 2008


it should be her problem, not yours

lard in a vegan dish would make me cry too
posted by Salvatorparadise at 6:31 AM on April 16, 2008


Aside from your roomie's great unfulfilled need to burst out crying all over the place, there could be some kind of cultural divide contributing to your issues. Reminds me of that great MeFi post of yore about "Ask" versus "Tell" culture. Maybe your fascinating intellectual discussion is her awful hideous argument or something. Not that there's much you can do about it I guess. Perhaps don't expect too much in the way of sudden intense friendship where something milder and more patient might work better. Good luck, perhaps you should stock up on tissues and remember- you can't win them all.
posted by Coaticass at 6:40 AM on April 16, 2008


She cries easy. You knew that going in. You seem to think that you're triggering it somehow and that you can fix that, but the girl just cries easy. It's not about you. However, there are some things you could take into consideration if this is a problem for you:

You're a guy and she's a girl. You like debates and she cries at any hint of confrontation. Find other friends to have those debates with. What else might be adding to this? Are you bigger than her? Taller? If so, are you towering over her in these discussions? Think about your body language and your tone of voice. Try sitting down and speaking more quietly. With the vegan example, try to anticipate her reaction ("ohmigod that's terrible! it wasn't my fault!") and try to mitigate that from the start. If you can't do that, just don't bring it up.

It seems like your goal is not to make her cry ever again. Given her disposition, you should probably re-think that goal. Establish a way for her to let you know if this is just regular every-day crying or actual something-is-really-wrong crying, and then only worry about the latter type. It's hard not to think that it's a crisis every time someone cries, but it's not a crisis for her, so don't let it be a crisis for you. It doesn't sound like she's holding it against you.
posted by heatherann at 6:43 AM on April 16, 2008




I would be more curious than really caring about her feelings and would just have to ask her why she cries in situations that clearly don't warrant tears.

Also, where the hell does lard come into play in a normal dinner party, let alone a vegan one?
posted by mattoxic at 7:06 AM on April 16, 2008


Let her cry. It is what she wants.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2008


You've already placed her in a particular category, judged it as unsavory one and decided she's a problem. That's pretty shitty. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't, but you've clearly devalued her and her personality and you're obsessing over two small incidents which seem to have effected you more than they've effected her.

Not to mention you linked to her askme's on the same subject - thus "outing her" as your "problem roommate" and essentially asking all of us to talk behind her back about her "problem."

I 2nd shitty.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2008


Not to mention you linked to her askme's on the same subject

I don't believe any of the linked questions are written by the roommate. I think they were chosen because they are illustrations of the problem the OP is facing. I could be wrong, though.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:07 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Some helpful stuff here, wanted to respond to a few comments directly. From the bottom up:

where the hell does lard come into play in a normal dinner party
It was a vegan pizza party. One of the pizzas was bean-based instead of sauce-based. Many of your non-whole-foods beans use lard in the cooking/preserving process. Not too clear on the details but this discovery was enough to turn that pizza into a pariah.

You're a guy and she's a girl. You like debates and she cries at any hint of confrontation. Find other friends to have those debates with. What else might be adding to this? Are you bigger than her? Taller? If so, are you towering over her in these discussions? Think about your body language and your tone of voice. Try sitting down and speaking more quietly. With the vegan example, try to anticipate her reaction ("ohmigod that's terrible! it wasn't my fault!") and try to mitigate that from the start. If you can't do that, just don't bring it up.

Funny you should say that, because I DON'T like debates. The art conversation was not "you think this and here is why you are wrong" but instead, I made a remark about a piece, she wanted to know exactly what I meant by that remark, I elaborated, she asked for further clarification, I continued to explain and because she didn't say anything I got nervous and kept talking and explaining further. I never even figured out where her disagreement lied re. my disquisition about art because she just started to go "mm-hmm." I realize that can be a clue that someone is about to react badly to you or doesn't agree, but it also could have meant other things: she could have been listening intently, maybe she didn't disagree but didn't know how to respond, maybe she wanted to let me finish, etc.

Also, yes, she is very short and thin and I am tall and somewhat imposing, so that may be an issue here, but I can't exactly change that...

You've already placed her in a particular category, judged it as unsavory one and decided she's a problem.

I don't really understand this reaction. I was trying to get to the heart of the matter. I mean, I could have written three paragraphs of intro about awesome she is and how much I like her and want to be her friend, which is true. I could have blurted out a bunch of interesting but maybe not relevant biographical details. Maybe what you are saying is I should be blaming myself more, which I am willing to consider, and that leads us to...

I work with who is generally thought to be the nicest person in the world except for when she's being a beyotch

What this sounds like to me is: change everything that you are doing wrong except for the parts that you are not doing wrong, which does not help me very much. I really like talking about art. It's kind of important to me. Other people I talk about art (mostly women) with get along with me fine, even when we don't agree. You are right about the second comment--I didn't have to say that. But I also didn't realize it was something she had taken so damn seriously, I thought it was a funny but harmless mistake (no vegans ate the pizza and there was plenty of other food.) I am a little concerned that the problem here is me, but no one else has reacted this way to me before and she's explained she reacts this way to lots of things, so it seems more like it's her problem and I just have to figure out how to deal with it as her friend and roommate.
posted by zeusianfog at 8:07 AM on April 16, 2008


Response by poster: My roommate has never heard of Metafilter, and if she had, why would she submit three questions on the same thing under two different usernames and 1 anonymous posting?

By the way, I also think the emotional vampire accusations are off base, and I'm not satisfied with the "just stop hanging out with her"/"don't be her friend" answers because I like her and when this isn't happening we get along really well.
posted by zeusianfog at 8:16 AM on April 16, 2008


I'm a cryer too. For me, it gets a lot worse when I'm stressed, and at certain times in my cycle. It's also worse when I'm talking to someone I want to give a good impression to. So in her situation I think I'd be crying too - she's only just moved in with you, so she's probably not feeling that relaxed around you yet, and she probably wants to be friends too so she cares what you think of her.
She might say it's not a bit deal, but she probably does find it embarrassing and would like to be able to control it more, though you should check that maybe she honestly doesn't mind.
For me, I much prefer it when whoever I'm crying in front of continues the conversation, and just checks briefly that I'm okay. It makes it a lot more embarrassing when people make a big deal of it. It's really not anything personal.
FWIW, debates (even informal "discussion" type ones) are one of the situations in which I am most likely to cry, along with one-on-one meetings with teachers, supervisors etc. Justifying myself and my opinions is really stressful for me. She may feel the same.
posted by pocketfluff at 8:18 AM on April 16, 2008


You absolutely should NOT walk on eggshells around her. Don't let her change your life or how you approach people. I see a lot of people blaming you, trying to make you feel bad. I completely understand the desire to "get along" well with everybody, but there are people out there you cannot deal with. It sounds like she is one of those.

Do not blame yourself.

You cannot change her and don't let her change you.
posted by ozomatli at 8:19 AM on April 16, 2008


(by the way - even though debate-type situations might make her cry, that doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't want to discuss differing views on common interests with you, just that she might cry during them. I suggest you talk to her about this, and ask whether her crying is a signal that she doesn't want to talk about whatever it is, or whether you should keep going or give her some time out.)
posted by pocketfluff at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2008


The problem is not you, and you should not be blaming yourself. Nor is she the problem. Neither of you is a problem, she just might have one, and that problem doesn't devalue her as a person. She just might need help overcoming that problem, or you might just have to work around it.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2008



My roommate has never heard of Metafilter, and if she had, why would she submit three questions on the same thing under two different usernames and 1 anonymous posting?

By the way, I also think the emotional vampire accusations are off base, and I'm not satisfied with the "just stop hanging out with her"/"don't be her friend" answers because I like her and when this isn't happening we get along really well.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:16 AM on April 16 [+] [!]


You're in a tough spot. If you want to retain a relationship you are going to have to very very careful that it doesn't devolve into a one-sided affair where you are constantly on guard of making her cry. This will lead to resentment and a nasty fall out. When things are fine keep about your business, but when she has an emotional break-down you must stand strong and keep telling yourself that its not your fault. At that point in time take a deep breath and continue on as before or walk away and give her time to recover. After she calms down let her come to you to engage conversation. If she ends the discussion by crying it is her responsibility to reach out to restart it.
posted by ozomatli at 8:26 AM on April 16, 2008


A few more things:

- Don't "walk on eggshells." Don't avoid topics or discussions just because you think they might make her cry. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't want you to do that, and if she knows you are, it will likely make her feel terrible, much worse than when she was crying before. You don't really have to worry about your stature either. I don't think this is an issue of being physically intimidated.

- I can't say for sure, but from all the information I've gotten from you , she doesn't dislike you. Not even secretly.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2008


This situation has two pieces: her crying, and your reaction to her crying. You can only control the second. Work on noticing and toning down your reaction to her crying.

(Judging from what you've written, maybe it's something like this: OMG she's crying! She must be really really upset! I need to comfort her and make her stop! She thinks I'm a giant asshole! I'll never be able to talk with her like a normal person!)

Crying obviously doesn't mean to her what it means to you. Treat her crying like an involuntary physiological reaction, like blushing.

Sometime when she's not crying, ask her what she needs you to do when she is.

Don't freak out and avoid all difficult topics -- that way lies housemate doom. If you really can't handle her crying, start working on your exit plan.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:56 AM on April 16, 2008


I'm an easy cryer and often what I'm actually crying about has little to do with what initially triggered the crying jag. As others have written above, it is embarrassing to not be able to control something that our society has deemed the A-bomb in interpersonal communication. What I appreciate the most is when the person with whom I'm speaking with simply says something along the lines of "do you need a minute?" and carries on with the conversation.

I don't think you can get your roommate to stop crying. I do think you can learn to not be taken aback by her tears: based upon what you've written, the emotions responsible for her crying are not directed toward you.
posted by jamaro at 9:19 AM on April 16, 2008


This may be harsh, but she sounds nuts. I dated a woman like that once -- not just the crying, but the taking everything waaay too personally. It didn't end well at all. I say just withdraw -- roommates, not friends.
posted by paultopia at 10:03 AM on April 16, 2008


It's possible she's crying because of general anxiety, rather than because of anything in particular you're doing... like a nervous tic. That could help explain why she might this more around people whose opinions she values, if that's the case, and be able to blow off other things.

Maybe you should just ask her how she wishes people would respond when she starts crying at unexpected times. It could be best to pretend she's hyperventilating or having some other non-tearful stress reaction. Pause to help her take a few deep breaths, smile at her, and then try to continue the conversation even if she's a bit sniffly.

Also, everything louche mustachio has said.
posted by zennie at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2008


Keep carrying tissues. If she starts, just wait and hand her tissues until she's gathered herself enough to continue the conversation.

Somehow over the past few years I went from never crying at all to positively dripping at the smallest hint of stress in front of other people. It gets worse when they ask what's wrong, and since I don't know why the crying starts so easily I can't offer an explanation, and that just makes it even more embarrassing. I am certainly not nuts.
posted by casarkos at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2008


I think you have large and largely unconscious hostility to this woman.

she seems pretty good at disguising her contempt for people, based on a social call an acquaintance of hers made here--she complained about him for at least ten minutes before he arrived and after he left, but was gracious and kind and so forth when he was here.

Graciousness to a guest you do not care for is an expression of developed ethics at their peak. I wonder if what you call complaining really amounted to an apology to you (and maybe your other roommate) for the imposition of an intrusion she would rather have avoided in the first place. Excessively accommodating to be sure (it is her home as well as yours, after all), perhaps even a shade obsequious, but you seem to be construing it as darkly as humanly possible.

After a class we had today, she was telling people about the vegan dinner party her and my other roommate threw on Saturday. ...today I happened to mention that some lard accidentally found its way into one of the dishes... She immediately became defensive and started to aggressively assert that this was the other roommate's fault, which I immediately backed her up on.

If she is a vegetarian on moral or religious grounds, or any of the guests are or your roommate is (not to mention the possibility any are observant Jews or Muslims), lard finding "its way into one of the dishes" is a catastrophe. It may well put her into a terrible moral dilemma about whether to tell the guests or not, since some of them might be required by their faith to undertake rituals of purification. Even if this is not the case, she could be deeply shamed if this information got out, and deeply guilty if she chooses to keep it to herself. I can't be entirely sure, but it sounds as if you said this in front of the group of people she was telling about the dinner after class! ("which I immediately backed her up on"). What an absolutely devastating accusation you have made against her there. I hope you were very, very sure of your facts, but even if so, I can hardly imagine a more inappropriate and hostile passively aggressive act than blurting it out to her in front of other people.

If she were Asking a question about this problem the two of you are having, I would be advising her to keep her head down and make finding another place to live a high priority.
posted by jamjam at 10:35 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


See, I think the problem is not that she's crying, but rather, how you're interpreting the crying.

You're taking it personally, like "OMG I MADE A GIRL CRY!" It seems much more likely is that what is happening is that she is OMG EXPERIENCING A BIT OF STRESS, which yes, for the cry bunnies, will cause weeping.

At one point during a breakup, I spontaneously cried all the time. I couldn't stop it. It was very annoying. I had to commute, work and sit through team meetings with tears streaming down my face for nearly two weeks. I had to tell people "just ignore it, I can't stop it" and they all managed to develop that skill remarkably quickly.

I truly believe you will be able to similarly adapt. Just ask her if she needs a tissue and carry on the conversation as if she is not crying.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:41 AM on April 16, 2008


I'm a crier and when I get the littlest bit emotional about something my eyes tend to well up with tears. For me it is not about manipulation, in fact it is something I'm actively trying to stop. I don't know if your roommate is similar to me, but if she is than I would suggest treating her like you would treat any rational person when you have tense and/or confrontational discussions. I really appreciate it when the people in my life learn to see past my tears.

However, if she's using her tears to try to gain certain rights in the apartment or to cause you to walk on eggshells near her, I truly think you'll need to bring it up with her. If the situation doesn't change, I think you would want to find a new roommate.
posted by shesbookish at 11:15 AM on April 16, 2008


Response by poster: Jamjam--I think what disturbed me about the way she treated our houseguest was when she was complaining about him, it was "ugh, I don't want to see him at all, he's such a loser, I can't say no to people, this is going to be dreadful." not, "oh, I'm so sorry this person is going to be in your house," though she did ask if it was okay if she had someone come over, which of course it was. I felt bad for the guy, and honestly, the reason I felt bad for him was because I suspect that maybe people talk this way about me. Watching her be flawlessly gracious to him when he was here just made it worse. Frankly, it doesn't strike me as ethical to pretend you enjoy spending time with someone you utterly despise and to tell everyone when he leaves and before he arrives how much you despise him. This doesn't mean that she's automatically a bad person--I think I've done similar things to this before, and I realize it's not ethical, and I hate myself when I do it, but it's part of what comes with being a generally non-confrontational person.

It was a relatively small dinner party, and no one actually consumed the bean pizza except for the omnivores present, because an eagle-eyed vegetarian grabbed the can and checked. No harm, no foul. Obviously there is no way of being 100% certain, but I doubt that the 10 people there abstained from meat on religious grounds--these are more like hippies and anarchists, which I realize can also be religious, but I would have been really surprised. Anyway, no one ever mentioned anything like that. I suppose there's a very small chance you may be right, but it's moot because no beans were eaten anyway. And of course I was sure--someone got up and announced that there was lard in the beans in the dish, and no one should eat it if they were vegetarian.

What complicates that second incident is I've observed her interact with others--and interact with me--and engage in light teasing, even about veganism. The people she was talking to in this class are members of a loose group of acquaintances in this class who also playfully tease one another. This teasing is a really socially charged event, because the rules are rather poorly defined, and it is hard to know if you are going too far. Though to add evidence to the people who are suggesting she is just having a hard time of it, I happen to know she hates that class and finds it stressful, and she had struggled--and failed--to get a word in edgewise during the discussion. Our slightly negative interaction was probably the cherry on the sundae.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:47 AM on April 16, 2008


As a legal aid lawyer, I pretty much interact on a daily or at least a weekly basis with people who are crying. I also tend to hang out in the female world, where in some corners crying is common and/or not really a big deal. So, for me, I just don't take it particularly personally if someone cries, even if it's in response to something I said. It really doesn't bother me or seem like a negative or make me feel manipulated. If it is someone's effort to be dramatic or manipulative, it certainly doesn't work on me. Is that possible in this situation?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:23 PM on April 16, 2008


I had a friend like that for a while in college. She also did the "talk shit about someone all day long, then be nice to their face routine". I'm quite positive she did the same thing to me as she did it to all our mutual friends. Our friendship ended one day when she decided I was Satan herself for not having the time to give her boyfriend a ride to the bookstore one school night. Yeah, she had some issues. If I had that friendship to do over again, I'd decline. But in your case, I'd go with what amyms said.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2008


Basically, you're being outplayed eight kinds of wonderful by this girl.
posted by Sitegeist at 10:38 PM on April 17, 2008


"Hey, when you cry, I worry. Is there something I could do differently?"
posted by Furious Fitness at 11:31 PM on April 18, 2008


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