I’m having problems with my roommate. I find myself overwhelmed by some of the comments she makes about other women—comments that, if a guy was saying them, would get him called a sexist jerk. The last straw was hearing her complain about going to a party where the host invited another gay girl “for her.” But that other gay girl ended up not being interested in my roomie, and flirted with someone else instead. Roomie threw a fit about this girl going after someone else, like this girl wasn’t allowed to make her own decisions about who she liked, and that roomie was entitled to her affections because she was presented as a sort of “gift” from the host. And roomie was telling me all of this, getting really mad at this girl and the other girl who “stole” her, and how the only girls who will date her are whores who leave her even though she gives them everything, and I just had to get out of the house before the urge to shake her into oblivion got too strong. I wouldn’t live with a guy who treated women that way, and am creeped out to live with another woman who treats women that way.
I want to talk to her about this, but it never seems to be the right time. She’s always depressed, and she gets more depressed after every rejection, which is constantly because she’s employing the “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” method of dating. I’ll just end up the bad guy who’s kicking her when she’s down if I criticize her behavior. The few times I’ve tried to bring up the topic with her, she replies sarcastically about how I can’t relate because I’ve had a steady girlfriend for years. We were really good friends for a while, but this behavior has put a major strain on things. How do I fix this besides pining an eviction notice to her fedora?
Anna says: Being depressed doesn’t give someone a free pass to be an asshole. That said, if your roommate’s behavior is obnoxious but not illegal, your only recourse is to fall back on your communication skills. Yay, more chances to process!
You aren’t the “bad guy” for expressing discomfort over your roommate’s behavior. It’s a very common complaint—living with people, especially friends, is hard. But you don’t have to silently stew when she has temper tantrums or feels that she is entitled to every gay girl at the party. Also, there’s never a “right” time, so you’ll have to bite the bullet and just do it. Ask her when she’s free to talk, and that you have something you need to get off your chest.
If you want the confrontation to be civil, however, avoid slinging around terms like “sexist” and “jerk,” even if she’s acting like one. Instead, you’ll want to talk about how you feel rather than highlighting the ways your roommate is annoying the piss out of you. For instance, “I feel angry when I hear you call women names” instead of, “You always call women whores when they reject you.” (Don’t ever start a sentence with “you always,” actually. It makes people automatically defensive and guarded.) If you tend to panic or choke up during unpleasant conversations, write your grievances down first. Also, it’s helpful to remind yourself of your roommate’s good traits, so you don’t go into the talk feeling like she’s a horrible, unicorn-smothering, nightmare monster.
Be tactful, respectful, and clear. What, exactly, do you want to change? Is it that you want to not discuss her dating life with you? Is it that she be mindful of her attitude and remarks when you’re around? Do you even want to be friends still? Be specific about what you would like to see happen, so that at the end of the talk, you’ll have a concrete idea of how things should look going forward, if they’re going to change (which they might still not). If she’s dismissive or plays the “you have a steady girlfriend and clearly don’t know what you’re talking about” card (even though it makes no sense), you can try the “I feel…” approach from above or limit the contact with her in whatever ways possible. Hopefully it won’t devolve into a moving out situation, but if it gets bad enough, it’s always an option. Best of luck.
Why is it so hard to leave those who treat us badly?—Dating A Jerk
Anna says: It’s hard to leave everyone once feelings are involved, whether it’s been five minutes or five years. Also, it probably has to do with our human tendency of focusing on a theoretical future where you could be happy with your current jerk du jour, instead of focusing on the here and now jerkiness that is your actual reality. Wishful thinking only gets us so far, however.
But don’t worry, sugar muffin, you’ll see the light sooner than later (sooner is my guess) and realize you deserve better. And the next time you spot signs of jerkdom in someone, heed the warning.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at email@example.com.