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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Asserting ourselves without causing conflict

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Author Topic: Asserting ourselves without causing conflict
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My roommate and I, who I will hereafter refer to as Sarah, have lived together since August. We have gotten along wonderfully. We are very similar people, and share similar views. Any time there has been a problem with the apartment, we have taken care of it patiently and politely, and have never had a conflict. She is, all in all, the perfect roommate. We have already signed to continue living together until our graduation in a little over a year.

Probably a little over a month ago, our apartment complex moved another girl (who I will call Paige) into one of the spare bedrooms downstairs, and it has caused nothing but problems.

Paige is significantly younger than Sarah and I, and is in her first year at a nearby junior college. She moved into our apartment at an unusual time because she was having conflict with her previous roommate.

Paige is from a very privileged socioeconomic status, and doesn’t seem to have developed much independence in her formative years. She does not feel capable of doing much of anything on her own, whether it’s academic or living an adult lifestyle in general.

It should be noted that both Sarah and I are of mixed race, minority religions, and relatively unwealthy backgrounds. Being feminists and strong proponents for equal rights, we are also in the political minority. And we’ve both kind of feel that there has been a small amount of evidence that because of that, she thinks that we are inferior to her.

Since she moved in, there has been a never-ending stream of problems. The first was the litter box. Paige and I each have a cat, and before she moved in, I kept the litter box in a supply closet downstairs. However, Paige complained that it smelled bad and that it was unfair for it to be so close to her bedroom. After discussing it with Sarah, I moved the litter box to the common area upstairs between out bedrooms.

I thought that Paige would be happy, but the first thing out of her mouth was that “That’s the place where I work out.”

Eventually we decided to move it into a spare bedroom that we technically aren’t supposed to have access to, and the problem was solved. But new ones cropped up.

Her mother came to visit not long after she moved in, and told Paige that Sarah and I should be “ashamed of ourselves” because the floors were dusty and there was cat hair on the curtains. Even though I had mopped the floor just a week prior, Paige complained to me that it was dirty in a manner that strongly implied that she felt it was my responsibility to clean it. Both Paige and her mother have given the impression that they feel it is Sarah and I that are responsible for the upkeep of the house.

I’ve also noticed that I seem to be the first person she comes to if the needs help with her homework, help cooking something, or someone to give her advice about her problems. However, I am also the first person she blames when something goes wrong.

For example, when she moved in, she complained that her old roommate was “dirty” and that’s why their old apartment was infested with bugs. A few days ago, an infestation of the same species popped up only in her bedroom. When we suggested the most likely explanation, that the insects from her old apartment may have laid eggs in her furniture, she got extremely defensive and said it was because we leave dishes in the sink and don’t take out the trash often enough. There are never dishes in the sink for more than a few hours at a time, and since Sarah and I recycle, we always wash everything before we put it in the trash. Also, if that were the reasoning, they would be in rooms other than just hers. But she seems so intent to blame us for everything that goes wrong.

While these have been the main large conflicts, there have been tons of other things. She has stolen both some of my and my cat’s food. She has neglected to pay me back for her portion of a cabinet we all agreed to buy. On more than one occasion, she has rinsed out the littler box in the kitchen sink, knowing that both Sarah and I are extremely uncomfortable with that. Once she complained about me “stirring a pot too loudly” when she was trying to sleep at 4:00 pm, yet she watches TV at 2:00 am at top volume. She goes on about how obsessed she is with cleanliness, yet complains about the smell any time we use a cleaner. She locked my cat in her bedroom overnight, and was angry when he went to the bathroom in there. She also dated a drug dealer and brought him to our house repeatedly, something neither Sarah nor I were comfortable with. Both of us dislike it when she makes homophobic comments, but it particularly bothers me because Sarah is bisexual but not publically “out”, and I hate that she has to feel discriminated against in her own house.

Both Sarah and I are non confrontational people and do not like to argue. However, we feel like she is starting to walk all over us. We have gone out of our way to make her feel welcome and meet her needs, and she has not reciprocated. She blames us for everything that goes wrong and is constantly making demands, yet also always wants our help, advice, and companionship.

We are terrified that she is going to renew her lease. So far, her parents won’t let her because she is doing so poorly in her classes. But I really don’t know if they are going to cave or not. I have lived here for over a year, and Sarah has lived her since August. As we have both renewed our leases, neither of us would be able to move even if we wanted to. But we can’t bear the thought of living with her for the rest of our time in college.

However, we need to solve the immediate problem at hand. What is the best way for two quiet, non-confrontational people assert themselves to someone like this without causing problems/fighting? I feel like the only good thing is that Sarah and I are on the same side.

Any advice?

Posts: 444 | From: United States | Registered: Apr 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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You know, you are -- as you're experiencing -- going to have to deal with conflict sometimes. There's just no avoiding it in life.

We can be non-confrontational people in general, to be sure, but we will need to be able to deal with conflict, and sometimes, -- if not often, that means we have to be non-confrontational people being confrontational at that time.

So, what I'd say here is that you both need to be very honest with Paige, tell her how you're both feeling, and address all the conflicts you have been having with her, seeking resolutions. One of the things you might ask or make clear is that you'd like to very much limit the interactions you have with her, and things like your cat's food are off-limits to her, just like say, her underwear drawer would be to you.

Obviously, if this isn't about her subletting from you, but having her own lease, you two can't do anything about whether she renews or not, and asking her not to is, I'd say, out of order, however understandable it'd be.

In the event she does, and this stuff can't get resolved, then as much as it blows if you like it where you live, sounds like you and your roomie should probably see if you can't find somewhere new to rent.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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