DEAR KRISTIN: I live in a large home with several roommates. At first, we all got along beautifully, but after a few months the cracks in the armor began to appear. We’re all young professional women on our way up the career ladder, but it’s beginning to feel like an elementary school slumber party gone wrong. One roommate’s constantly swiping my food (“sneaking a few grapes right quick,” is how she describes it), and another has a bit of a drinking problem.
I can’t afford to live by myself and to be completely honest, I don’t WANT to live by myself ‘cause I’ll be lonely. I know this sounds like a sophomoric problem, but when you’re living it out in real time, it’s not so sophomoric at all. I’m kinda between a rock and a hard place. Any suggestions?
DEAR ROCK: You’ve got some boundaries to set, some decisions to make and some actions to take. First off, tell Miss Sticky Fingers to quit stealing your food. She might think of it as “sneaking a few grapes right quick,” but it’s your food and she’s stealing it. Unless you want to starve and unless you want her to continue walking all over you, you must handle your affairs and demand that she stops all this nonsense -- and do it quickly before it settles into any more of a dangerous pattern than it already is.
You describe your situation as a “slumber party gone wrong” -- but the difference between an elementary school slumber party and your living situation is that all of you are good and grown women, so act like it. Mom and Dad aren’t standing at the top of the stairs, listening in and waiting to swoop down and save you. This is your life.
Consider either calling a house meeting to address the issues as a group, or speak directly to each roommate one-on-one. Avoid sounding angry or accusatory, but be direct. Offer up a solution -- namely, everybody needs to start respecting each other’s property, boundaries and emotional space -- and if they don’t adhere, then get the hell out. Look for a new place.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is the fact that you cannot control their actions -- but you can control your own actions, so if your attempts to adjust the situation go ignored, exercise the control you have over yourself and get out of Dodge.
And keep in mind that it’s not just your physical space over which you have total control and dominion, but your mental and emotional headspace, too! Mindset matters. Quit tricking yourself into believing that you’re in an inescapable quandary. Quandary? Yes. Inescapable? No.
For all my readers who might be experiencing similar frustrations in your own lives, I say this: Know yourself well enough to know when you’ve reached your saturation point. And once you‘ve reached it, change the situation.
No one else can define this saturation level for you BUT you -- and no one else can address this situation in a way that works best for you BUT you. Change is hard, but being unhappy and feeling trapped is even harder.