How to deal with roommate struggles: A Belltower guide
Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer
There is often no better way to learn from yours or someone else’s mistakes than to reflect on past experiences. In the case of roommate troubles, we can learn from two Saint Martin’s students about what not to do, as well as how to use the available resources here on campus. This is the story of how things went awry for two students here at Saint Martin’s while they were living together freshman year. Both parties in this situation want others to learn from their experience and know how to get help when needed. For privacy purposes, we have changed the names of the people involved.
Johnathan* and Christian* met during a campus tour in the spring of their senior year of high school. Christian was quiet and not sure how to deal with meeting so many unfamiliar people on the tour. Johnathan was clearly extroverted and not afraid to speak up about anything. They became friends by coincidence when Christian told a joke, and they instantly bonded over bursts of laughter. At the end of the tour, Johnathan suggested the idea of being roommates for their first year since they got along so well. They were both extremely nervous about getting a random person assigned to them in the fall, so they agreed to room together. They communicated back and forth over the course of the summer regarding room supplies and mutual interests and even participated in some occasional online gaming together. Things were looking up for the new school year, and both boys were excited to start college with a friend. During move-in and Incipio weekend, they were inseparable, and their first year was off to a great start. That weekend, they made every effort to be more social by attending all of the events together. One particular group of people became quite close with Johnathan and Christian—one of which Christian ended up dating, and which quickly became the conflict that ended their friendship.
Christian fell for a mutual friend of both boys, but was afraid to tell Johnathan who had recently declared his interest in the same girl. After two days of Christian and the girl dating in secret, he decided that it would be best if he told Johnathan, but was scared about how he would react. Sadly, his fears were confirmed- as soon as he confessed to his new relationship, his world blew up. Johnathan gave him the silent treatment for nearly two months straight. During this time, Christian made an extra effort to be civil and come to an agreement about the situation- wanting to remain friends but not wanting to give up his girlfriend in the process. Due to the added strain on their friendship, Christian was afraid to be in the room since the silence and increased tension were so menacing. Consequently, he spent all of his time away or in his girlfriend’s room and just went back to sleep. However, Johnathan made no effort to try to reconcile things with his roommate and former friend.
Christian was extremely nervous to go back after spring break and face the cold silence, but he did, hopeful that the conflict would be over, given the amount of time they had away from each other. That was not the case, however. When he got back to school, he was faced with much more than just extremely awkward silence. Johnathan began to treat Christian poorly, even to the point of verbally abusing him. Christian did not go to his RA, nor did he get help and advice from counseling or tell residence life staff what was going on with him. Instead, he kept it all bottled up and things seemed to keep getting worse.
We cannot say what would have happened, or what would have changed if Christian talked to someone. But he would have felt better about the whole situation and not had it carry with him throughout his time here at Saint Martin’s. He would have had someone that could listen to him and give advice when he needed it most and maybe, solved the whole situation.
Having a shared living space is hard, it requires a lot of give and take from all parties. It is especially hard the first semester of the first year. During freshman year, students are most likely sharing a room with someone that they have not met before, and there is always the possibility that the person who completed their housing form with similar answers is not the person that they seemed to be.
There are a few things you can do to minimize conflict. First, talk to your RA. This is the most important thing that you can do. RAs are truly there for you and want you to be the best you that you can be, so bite the bullet and just go ask for help. If for some reason, your RA is not doing or saying what you need, go higher up. Janie Sacco, Heather Nicole Saladino, and the other Housing and Residence Life staff want the best for you in this community, so do not be afraid to voice your concerns if you feel your RA is not willing to help resolve the conflict.
Second, keep in mind that there is always the possibility of switching rooms/roommates during the spring semester. But please try to work it out first and do everything in your power before deciding it is not the right fit. This requires communication between roommates, RAs and Residence Life staff, but it is for your benefit.
Third, talk to the wonderful ladies at the Counseling and Wellness Center. This service is paid for with your tuition money so use it to your advantage. This is a relaxing space where they are willing to hear what you have to say and provide options for you to change whatever it is that is going on in your life. The Counseling and Wellness Center is open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Call 360-412-6123 or visit the school website to schedule an appointment.
*names have been changed for privacy purposes