How to Deal with Passive Aggressive Roommates

Having a roommate is a wonderful thing. The Friday nights in, playing video games after ditching that party neither of you cared about, cooking new meals together and blowing up the kitchen, being able to talk about your new annoying coworker that you had to pretend to like all day… but one day, things change. You don’t know what you did, and they suddenly won’t open up to you. Did you eat their leftovers? Did you leave the door unlocked? All of a sudden, they’re slamming their door, going out more, and saying nothing to you except the rare snide remark about the dishes.

I’m no stranger to passive aggressive roommates. At one point, I lived with three people. Four people in a room can be overwhelming (worse, we all shared one toilet, two showers, and two sinks). Any sign of a fight between at least two of us meant trouble. It took me a while to understand how to handle them. With that in mind, I give you: Five Reasons Your Roommate May be Acting Passive Aggressively and How to Deal With It.

1. Jealousy

I’ve always been a theatre nerd growing up, and my three roommates were, too. One of my roommates and I both wanted to be in the spring semester musical, Pippin. Right before auditions, however, she started ignoring me. I checked the cast list a few days later and couldn’t find her name anywhere, but I was tired of how she was treating me, so I ignored her back. When I finally asked her (because our other roommates were going to kill us from the tension) why she had been acting so strangely, I found out that out her grades had been dropping and our director said she couldn’t participate if she didn’t get at least a B in chemistry. My roommate admitted that she was jealous that I had no problem with my grades, and that I would at least be able to be in the musical.

Jealousy is a prime cause of passive aggressive behavior. I learned (after weeks of dealing with side comments about being “perfect” and a “teacher’s pet”) that it’s better to ask directly what is bothering your roommate. You can get to the core of the problem and offer some help. You become able to assure them of their good qualities, admit if you’ve ever been jealous of them and why, or just tell them that the jealousy makes you uncomfortable if you don’t think patting them on the back is fitting. There are other, more professional methods, like checking WikiHow.

2. Revenge

Maybe they hold onto grudges. In this case… just watch your back. Or get a new roommate.

3. You

Sometimes, it’s just you. It’s not fun to admit, but we all make mistakes. Maybe you forgot to do your part of the chores, didn’t pay your half of rent, kept your roommate up all night, whatever. You screwed up. There have been many times in which I realized (after being so sure that I was right and had cleaned up my mess before we had visitors): “Oh no. I have to tell them they were right.”

Sit your roommate down and genuinely apologize—give them the apology you would want if your places were swapped, even if it wrecks your dignity. “I’m sorry—I was wrong,” is often all a person wants to hear. And sometimes, you’ll just have to allow them to rub it in your face that they told you so. Also, while you have them around for a serious conversation, you may as well set some methods to avoid future fights, since being passive aggressive (even when it seems justified) is preeeeetty childish.

4. Them

On the other hand, maybe they just turned out to be a jerk. Some people enjoy making others miserable. They could have some serious childhood issues they need to work out. Still, they’re only human. It’s important to be willing to compromise, but in this case, you’re going to have to stand your ground and call them out. You may be really bad with confrontation, but in the end, it’s much preferable to have some peace in your apartment than angry texts blowing up your phone.

5. Bad Day

And finally, maybe you should just cut them some slack. We all go through some hard times,

Even if they’re really giving you problems, try to be the bigger person if you know they mean well. Sometimes people just can’t handle what life’s throwing at them. If you guys are close, it can be even harder not to flip out because you don’t understand how they’re acting. Don’t tell them to get over themselves, don’t play the blame game, and most certainly do not blow up at them. Let them calm down and confide in you, be there for them, and be patient.

There’s a single theme here: communication! It’s the best way to solve a problem and prevent others from happening. Neither you nor your roommate ever have to be passive aggressive to each other, because you both hold the key to the solution.

Now be an adult and communicate!