How to Confront Your Roommate About a Problem

Try to negotiate rather than criticize.
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Even when you're wildly in love, living together can be a bit difficult at times. If you move in with someone you barely know – or even with someone you thought you knew – the challenge can increase tenfold. If you and your roommate aren't getting along and you're locked together until the school year or your lease ends, this could be an intolerably long time. Even if you're not the confrontational sort, you'll have to meet the problem head-on, or it may begin to fester.

1 Plan Your Moment

Prepare what you're going to say ahead of time. This might involve writing it down, or practicing in front of a mirror. If your roommate gets angry – and she might – figure out in advance how you want to respond. Then you can approach her and tell her that you want to talk. She might agree and sit down with you right away, or she might tell you that now isn't a good time. If this happens, schedule another time. Be firm, but not antagonistic. Whatever you do, don't spring the conversation on her when her boyfriend or other friends are hanging around. This is bound to put her on the spot and make her defensive right off the bat.

2 Don't Make It Personal

Whether you write down what you want to say or just memorize your words, avoid using any that come off as accusatory. The MSN Real Estate staff warns against beginning with the phrase, "You always." These are fighting words. In fact, the real problem isn't that she always does this or that, but that one or more of her habits doesn't mesh with your idea of peaceful living. Neither of you may necessarily be wrong. Talk about how the things she does affect you instead. Rather than saying, "You're such a slob," try, "I'm having a hard time getting to class on time when I have to do all our dishes in the morning. Can you help?" This way, you haven't made the problem all about her.

3 Give and Take

Keep in mind that some compromise may be required. After all, you both presumably have equal rights to the apartment. Why should everything be the way you want it? If she works a late shift and wants to listen to music when she comes in at night, that's her right – she just shouldn't turn it to full volume if this annoys you or you have to get up early. Your success might hinge on coming up with an alternative. Agree that she can rock out until the roof caves in on weekends, but you need some peace on weeknights. Or, set a cutoff time – she can listen to her music for one hour, then cede ground to your sleep time.

4 Taking the Easy Way Out

If your roommate simply can't be reasoned with, you may have to move out, if you possibly can. If you can't do it literally, you may have to do it figuratively. Take heart that it's only temporary. Your lease or the school year will end eventually. In the meantime, you may have to crash on friends' sofas occasionally to get some shut-eye, or do your studying at the library or elsewhere. You may have to buy paper plates and avoid the kitchen – just don't neglect to put a few rodent and pest traps out. Don't just leave her a note asking her to change her ways. This is the easiest way out, but it could end up making the situation worse. Written communications are often taken wrong.

Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.