Home Away from Home
If your roommate thinks it’s their duty to nag, guilt and reprimand you, the two of you need to talk.
By Nicole Fryer, University of Pittsburgh
Is your roommate acting like your parent?
Chances are, they’re acting that way because they love and care about you. But, when they’re lecturing you and telling you how to live your life, they probably seem anything but loving. In fact, their advice can be downright irritating and make the situation ten times worse.
I’ve never had to share much of anything before college. But now I share my bedroom, which means I also share my life, whether I want to or not. I love my roommate, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better, but sometimes, she tries to become my mother and help me with my disastrous life. She can pick up when I’m not eating enough, when I’m too quiet or distant and basically any other time my mood changes and I’m not one hundred percent myself. If I’m drinking smoothies instead of eating real food, she’ll ask me what’s on my mind. If I’m quieter than usual and not my bubbly self, she’ll ask what I’m stressing over. Magic.
Being a concerned roommate isn’t really a problem. But when she’s constantly telling me to stop having feelings for a guy (easier said than done), confronting me about my relationships and attributing every downfall—no matter how big or small—to my feelings, shit gets old real fast.
Every confrontation turns into a deep talk, then an argument and ends with one of us in tears because we bring up wounds that aren’t healed. There’s no doubt in my mind that her behavior has put a dent in our friendship. We’re both miserable.
If you’re dealing with a roommate who insists it’s their duty to give you unwanted advice, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Don’t Hide from Them
If you’re anything like me, your first instinct is going to become quieter and hide what’s happening in your life. Unfortunately, there’s a lot wrong with keeping secrets.
I’m a person who needs to share things about my daily life, so not telling her everything stresses me out even more. Like I said, my roommate has some voodoo powers and can tell if something is off, so keeping secrets doesn’t really work for me.
Plus, if you’re hiding something and if you have other roommates, there’s always a chance they’ll slip up and say something you were trying to hide. Awkward.
2. Listen Up
Yeah, shitty advice no one wants to hear. Sit and listen to their concerns and advice. You might learn something about yourself from someone else’s perspective, and there’s a good chance their advice is going to be right.
Still, no one wants to listen to someone telling you the guy you’re seeing isn’t worth your time, or that you’re overly stressed over school and need to take a break.
Whatever the case, just take a deep breath and listen. They’ll appreciate your effort, and they’ll think they’re helping you, which is exactly what they want.
3. Talk to Them
Next piece of advice: If they continue bringing up the same issues, talk to them and (politely) tell them to back off. You’re in college; you’re an adult, so do whatever the hell you want to do. No one else can run your life and make decisions for you.
I can’t stress the importance of this, and I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that I need to do what I want. Make sure your roommate knows you’re running your own show, and even though you appreciate their concern (trust me, you do even though you think you don’t), you’re going to do you.
I can’t promise the conversation will be easy (it probably won’t be), and I can’t promise that one conversation will fix everything. After I had the talk with my roommate, she avoided me for days and barely spoke to me. She was downright pissed off I had stood up to her.
Now we’re doing better. She still brings up certain concerns she has, but her lectures are becoming less frequent. So yeah, talking helps. If they don’t listen to you, just keep reminding them.
4. Are You the Parent?
If you’re not the person receiving unwanted advice, there’s a good chance you’re the one being the parent, which is totally okay. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been in both situations, and there’s often times where I find myself “momming” my friends and my roommates.
I’ve always been a person who cares too much about my friends and wants what’s best for them. Since I’ve been on both sides, I’m trying to tone down the parent side. Yeah, I still care a lot about my friends and their well-being, but I’m trying to stay out of their personal lives.
I suggest you try and do the same—holding back could end up saving your friendship.
If you’re worried about your friend, you need to tell them. Sit them down, tell them the reason you’re concerned and express your feelings. Give them a chance to tell their side of the story. If they disagree with your opinions or tell you they don’t want your advice, then let things be. Just make sure you let them know that if they need anything, you’ll be there to listen no matter what.
I’ve lost so many “friends” because they told me they wouldn’t be there for me once I’ve learned my lesson. Yeah, shit gets old after a while, but your friend is going to need someone to lean on when things don’t turn out the way they expected.
5. Keep It in the Family
Another bit of advice: Don’t go expressing your concerns about your friends with their other friends. You may think you’re helping by trying to get their other friends on board, but all you’re doing is pushing them away.
In one of my roommate’s “talks” with me, she told me that she and my other friend were messaging each other on Facebook discussing how they were going to stage an intervention. I felt so betrayed and hurt. I don’t know if I can trust them with certain things anymore, and I don’t feel comfortable discussing anything with them. Now, I’m back to keeping secrets, which isn’t where I want to be.
Bottom line, communication is key, regardless of whether you’re the parent or the one being parented. Just make sure you and your roommate understand each other’s boundaries.