Best of…(Roommates) It’s Not Me, It’s You – When It’s Time to Break Up With Your Roomie


One of the most important parts of the college experience is learning to deal with the ups and downs of having a roommate. Some freshmen begin college hoping to become best friends with their roomies, while others worry about being “sexiled” or finding their milk cartons empty in the morning. It can be difficult living with a complete stranger at first, and small disagreements are totally normal.

However, roommate issues can become more serious. If attempts to improve your relationship with your roommate have consistently failed (not sure what I mean? Just watch Gossip Girl for a hot minute) unsuccessful or you feel uncomfortable in your own room, it might be time to consider “breaking up.” Don’t laugh: approaching your roomie about reassessing your living situation can be as tricky as ending things with a boyfriend! So where do you begin? Check out these tips on broaching the subject, as well as some crucial warning signs you need to watch out for.

Warning Signs:
Some personality conflicts are simply too complicated to be solved over a cup of coffee. Substance abuse, theft, severe depression or self-destructive tendencies will only worsen with time and can become dangerous for both of you. If your new roommate exhibits harmful habits early on, talk to your RA about your concerns. Don’t hesitate to ask your parents to make a similar phone call if the Office of Residential Life is unwilling to give you a new room assignment. Safety is the primary concern, so don’t worry about sounding like a whiner. Feeling comfortable in your room is a huge part of adjusting to college, so put your happiness first.

Face the Facts:
Before having a dramatic sit-down with your roommate, do your homework. Talk to your RA or visit the Office of Residential Life for information on switching roommates. Depending on your reasons for wanting a new roommate, you may be the one who needs to move out. Are you willing to pack up all your things and move into a new dorm in the middle of the semester? Does your school even let you swap roommates before the end of your first year? You may find that you have to wait another semester before you can switch your housing assignment. If this is the case, try to start improving the dynamic in your room. Make an effort to ask your roomie about her classes and overall adjustment process. You may not be best friends, but at least the rest of the year will be manageable. Either way, think through all the logistics before you decide to cut ties.

Set the Mood:
Broach the subject of living together delicately – but ONLY when you both have plenty of time to talk. She may be relaxed when she’s getting ready for bed, but she’s less likely to be receptive if she’s cramming for a test. If your schedules are totally different, send a text message asking if she’d like to meet for coffee or dinner. Showing respect for her time will make her more receptive to listening to your feelings.

Practice Makes Perfect:
No matter how evil your roommate may seem, freshman year is difficult for everyone. Attacking or blaming her for your unhappiness will only make her defensive and hurt her feelings. Plan out your dialogue ahead of time, and practice with a friend or parent. Pay close attention to your word choices, and cite personal reasons for your unhappiness, rather than attacking her. Explaining that you would feel more comfortable in a substance-free environment, for instance, is a non-negotiable statement that won’t make her feel put on the spot.

We Can Still Be Friends:
Although you may no longer live together, you will still see your ex-roommate around campus. When you see each other in the dining hall or at the gym, don’t avoid eye contact. You just started college, so you want to minimize awkwardness while you still can. A smile or greeting can go a long way and will keep things pleasant between you two. Living with someone is very difficult, but if you stay friendly you can maintain a casual relationship despite your unsuccessful dorm arrangement!

— By Sarah Levy, Brown University

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