When you’re sleeping three feet away from another person—whether it’s a complete stranger, your best friend or your friend’s friend’s friend’s friend (who she just swears you’ll absolutely LOVE)—things are going to feel pretty cozy pretty fast. For every story you’ve heard about roommates who are attached at the hip, you’ve probably heard five about girls with terrible experiences. Read on as seven collegiettes share their most horrific roommate experiences and we tell you what to do to make sure you don’t add to the list!
The Horror Stories
“[My roommate and her long-distance boyfriend] are constantly on speakerphone. He wakes her up in the morning. They Skype while I'm trying to do homework. They dirty talk on the phone while I'm trying to sleep. And what's worse, you can't reason with either of them. I have to wear headphones whenever I'm watching Doctor Who or listening to my Taylor Swift, but she can have NCIS blaring from her laptop and him singing/screeching while I'm trying to study. The one time I asked them (very nicely, although I wanted to scream!) to be a little quieter, he called me a brat and yelled at me. It's so bad that I've slept in the bathroom twice.” — Amy*, student at Florida Southern College
Harboring a fugitive
“One of [my roommates] invited her out-of-state, non-student boyfriend to live with us, with no warning. Pretty early on into the situation, we learned just in passing that he wasn't a student (and wasn't allowed to be one) because of prior criminal charges. And although we had made several complaints to our RAs and residence coordinators, everyone kept telling us that they had to see it happening for themselves, and worse, that if we were found in the room while he had any paraphernalia with him, we would all be liable. He was such a permanent resident in our suite that when his girlfriend and the other roommate left for Thanksgiving break, he stayed behind with the keys and about six of his equally questionable friends. We actually had to get the cops involved to have them removed from the room for the weekend.” — Jenny, University of South Florida graduate
Party till you puke
“I knew my roommate liked to party a little bit in high school, but it got totally out of control in college. We lived in a dorm where we shared a room. She came home drunk and threw up all over the room…on two separate occasions. It smelled terrible!” — Ingrid, junior at Auburn University
Say it to my face
“[I] walked in on my roommate talking about me and didn’t say anything. Just pretended like I hadn’t heard. But it was really awkward between us for a while after that. We ended up doing subtle things to show that we were pissed.” — Lexi, junior at the University of South Carolina
“My freshman roommate had a boyfriend who lived off campus, so she would stay at his apartment a lot. One night, a bunch of us decided to go out, but she said that she was going over to her boyfriend’s house and sleeping there, so I knew that I would get the room to myself and not have to sneak in late. When I got back from downtown, a little earlier than usual, I flicked on my lights to reveal her boyfriend’s bare ass mooning me from her lofted bed because they decided to stay in our room instead. I slept in my friend’s dorm that night.” — Nicole*, junior at the University of South Carolina
Are you freaking kidding me?!
“My ex-boyfriend decided to visit me since my university was close to our hometown. He came for a few days and he met my roommates, and it was actually pretty fun. Almost a month later, my roommate let something slip. She and my ex-boyfriend slept together in the lounge of our building.” — Sarah, junior at the University of Victoria
“She was constantly asking me to tidy up, and there was this ridiculous dry erase board that she wanted me to write on every time I left the room saying where I was. But what didn't make any sense was that she didn't have any rules for herself. Her friends would come in our room to hang out all of the time, which was fine, but when I wanted to go to bed, I would politely ask them to leave and she would get pissed. It was a bit ridiculous considering I only really used that room for sleeping and yet I couldn't even do that.” — Emma*, junior at the University of Notre Dame
How to Make Sure They Don’t Happen to You
There’s no way to completely prevent roommate drama. Sometimes you’ll get stuck living with someone who just can’t understand how to respect someone else’s living space. But there are some ways you can work to try and improve your rooming experience—so you don’t fear for your physical and mental health before you go to bed every night.
Talk it out
Seems obvious, right? Well, for many girls, sitting down and talking to your roomie about basic living styles might feel formal and uncomfortable, when you’re just trying to show her that you’re totally cool and casual.
Turns out, you can have the conversation in that cool and causal way. “Start things off by hanging out together. Have a weekly dinner or coffee together to get to know each other better,” says Christie Garton, author of the UChic College Girls Guidebook Series. “Set some ground rules together at the start that you both feel good about and can stick to.”
Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, agrees. He believes that not talking about your personal preferences will only hurt you later on. “Living with someone when you’ve never lived with someone before is incredibly uncomfortable, and the knee-jerk reaction is for people to keep secrets as opposed to sharing what makes them uncomfortable,” he says. “By starting with ‘I want to know what makes you uncomfortable and I hope you want to know [too], are you cool with that?’ you diffuse all of the bigger issues that come later.”
It’s not you, it’s me
If you have a huge problem with your roommate, chances are, she has a huge problem with you. What? You? But you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong! Girl, it’s time to get off your high horse and realize that there are two sides to every story.
Cohen notes that we are quick to blame someone else for any problem we have. “You ask yourself the question: ‘What’s my role?’ Because a lot of times most people with big roommate issues are 50 percent of the problem,” he says. Your mom, siblings and best friends may all be telling you your roommate is crazy, but they aren’t really objective bystanders. Ask your roommate if there is anything you do that she would like you to change, and offer to do those things. If you give a little, hopefully you’ll get something in return.
Dealing with the “third roommate”
If we had a nickel for every time we’ve heard, “Ugh, my roommate’s boyfriend is always in the room,” we could probably pay our rent for a month.
The fact of the matter is, whether your roommate hates that your SO is always around or you hate waking up to your roommate’s SO’s dirty underwear on the floor, the room only belongs to the people whose names are on the door (and no, this does not mean you should write another name there). “Having your roommate’s boyfriend hanging around all the time can be a huge stressor,” says Garton. “Set ground rules for times when you are OK with him being there…like those nights where you work or have group study. But no one should have to live with an uninvited third roommate at all times.”
Whichever one of you has the boyfriend: maybe limit the Netflix-and-chilling to one or two times a week. There are plenty of romantic experiences you can have around campus. If your relationship can’t exist outside of your twin bed, you have some other things to think about.
Out of options
You’ve tried to have several productive conversations with your roommate, set up meetings with your RA, offered to sacrifice some of your lifestyle choices for her benefit, and still, you’re totally miserable. At this point, especially if this girl is causing your grades to slip, your mental health to go awry or your personal safety to be put at risk, get out of that room. “Never put up with an unfixable roommate situation,” says Garton. “It’s your education, your life and you need to get on with it!”
So before you freak out or move out, try to work it out. Your room doesn’t just belong to you. And if you ever think you’re alone in the crazy roommate world, look back at these horror stories—you’ll find yourself in great company.
*Names have been changed.