Woe Is Me! “I Have a Passive Aggressive Roommate! What Do I Do?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My roommate keeps getting annoyed at me for some reason. It often feels like she’s fighting with me silently in her head, expecting me to just understand when she’s not on talking terms with me and for what reason. What do I do?”
– Home Passive-Aggressive Home
LG: OK full disclosure — I have your-roommate tendencies. (I’m not proud.) Sometimes, in my imagination, I escalate a minor annoyance to a full-fledged confrontation complete with dialogue. It’s a coping mechanism, I think, that helps me pick my battles; the little ones I fight in my head, because they’re not worth the time and effort of an actual argument, while the big ones I actually confront. It’s possible what you’re sensing from your roommate is her just not wanting to be around you because you’ve pissed her off for some reason.
That doesn’t necessarily mean she needs a confrontation, conversation, or apology from you; it may just mean she realizes what you’ve done is minor and not worth fighting about, but she needs time to shake off her annoyance. That said — if the silent treatment is extensive, or if she’s making passive-aggressive comments that lead you to suspect she’s not actually able to get over her annoyance, but rather letting it boil under the surface — definitely bring it up with her. You could start with “I sense I’ve done something to upset you. Could you please tell me what it is? I don’t want to hurt you and will try to change or compromise if I can.” Focusing on her feelings and offering a route to peaceful resolution might help a conflict-adverse person feel more comfortable bringing up whatever is bothering her — and help keep you from feeling resentfully clueless.
ADT: Here’s what you can do. Be hyper-empathetic and hyper-communicative simultaneously. If your roommate sees you talk about your smaller, pettier problems, she’ll realize that they really aren’t that big a deal — at least not big enough to self-catastrophize in your head. Tell her when you wish she’d put the toilet seat down, or not hoard the living room with her friends daily, but tell her kindly and apologetically. Come across as someone wanting her to feel comfortable, even though you’re asking for something she wouldn’t be okay with.
Slowly, she’ll catch on, learn that its okay to say these things aloud, and then start voicing her concerns too. And if it isn’t getting across, always make sure to verbally let her know that you’ll be more than happy to listen to her concerns and issues without taking objection to them. Once you hammer that in (metaphorically, please) – Ta-duhh!
SM: It’s natural for people who live together to get annoyed with each other at some or many points of time. Because we’re humans, we’re all annoying. They say we die alone because really, we don’t deserve other people or even ourselves because all of us suck. Okay, clearly I’m having a weird day. But, this happens so often with people who are passive-aggressive and non-confrontational — they get annoyed with something, and sometimes this is them trying to subtly tell you they’re annoyed, and at other times, this is them trying to hide their feelings, but failing at it. If your roommate is an amicable person to live with other than this one little thing, I suggest you bring it up with her the next time she does this — ask her very sweetly what’s up, and tell her that it bothers you when she’s upset and you don’t know why.
Tell her you want to try your best to be a good roommate and clear communication from her and your end is the only way to achieve harmonious co-habitation. I hope this helps? If she still doesn’t communicate clearly, you could do your bit by reflecting on the one major source of most roommate related conflict — chore division. Make sure that all the household work and supervision is not falling on her, and that you’re always doing your bit. That’s all you can do, really? If this still keeps happening and she makes you feel bad about yourself despite you bringing this up, it’s not on you. Then, you stop letting this affect you and work on an exit plan.
AM: This is a tricky situation, because you can’t even fight it as you would, had a partner been doing this. I think the best way is to sit her down, or maybe go out for a couple of drinks, and eventually, tell her what you’re feeling. It’ll just make life easier, tell her that you’d like to be told when she has a problem with something because it’s difficult for you to understand what’s going on in her head when it comes to you and your actions. You can expect her to do this much, because two people living under the same room should be communicating effectively.