November 12th, 2007 Jamie
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line between a less-than-ideal roommate situation and an honestly unbearable one. Last week I shared some tips about how to handle roommate problems, but what should you do if you’ve tried those things and it still isn’t working?
Where to Start
Before you apply for a roommate change, it’s important for you to try to make it work. Aside from giving you a sense of having honestly tried your best, this will also make the housing office (or whomever you have to talk to about a roommate change) take you more seriously if you do decide to apply for a switch.
The first step is simply to discuss what you can do to make the situation better for both of you. If you are having serious problems and can’t work them out on your own, get someone impartial—like your Resident Adviser, for example—to listen to both sides of the story. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you understand each other.
If your roommate won’t agree to talk to any kind of mediator, you should still go to your RA and explain the problem. He or she may have a suggestion about what to do once he/she has more information about your particular situation. At the very least, your RA can serve as a witness that you tried to work out your differences, and can help you change roommates after he/she has seen that you’ve given it your best effort.
When to Change Roommates
Your roommate may not be your favorite person in the world, but if you can work things out, you probably don’t need to change roommates.
However, sometimes there are extreme cases of bad roommate matches—you fight all the time, you have completely different value systems, or one of you seriously disrupts the other’s life. In even worse cases, you might have a roommate who is emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive, severely depressed, or suffering from a condition like alcoholism or anorexia that seriously affects your ability to cope with things, too.
If you find yourself in a situation like this—one that feels hopeless, dangerous, or very uncomfortable—you should probably consider applying for a roommate change.
How to Change Roommates
Every college has a different policy about how to make a roommate change. Some will make the switch for you immediately, others only make changes at the beginning/end of a quarter/semester. To find out what your school’s policy is and to apply for a change, you will probably want to contact the Residential Life or Housing office. Your Resident Adviser can help you figure out where to go to apply for a change.
Consider talking to your roommate about the decision. Approach it calmly and rationally, simply explaining that you both seem to be having trouble making the living situation work, and that maybe a change would be a good idea. In some cases, this can help diffuse the tension between you during your last few weeks of living together (because you can both see the light at the end of the tunnel!). Though it might be awkward, it could be better than having your roommate angry at you if you go behind his/her back to request a roommate change.
Good luck with your roommate, and feel free to email me if you have questions!
Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht
Entry Filed under: roommates