Like most college students, I received my roommates through a random lottery system. Unlike most college students, I think I got pretty lucky with my draw. Being housed in a triple, I roomed with two wonderful and simply sane human beings who would ask before borrowing your stuff or bringing in other people to the dorm for whatever reason (get your mind out the gutter now). Sure, that may sound like a low bar, but once you start hearing about roommate horror stories from your friends, you’ll change your mind.
I couldn’t see any major conflict happening between any of us besides the occasional slight disagreement–nothing enough to make things awkward anyway. So, I thanked my lucky stars, and we went through the first few quarters without any trouble at all.
That is, until trouble finally came, and it came thanks to the one thing most fights are based on:
Miscommunication can sometimes be based on a mere trick of the ears where someone thinks you said something you didn’t. Or sometimes it can be based on situations where someone lacks a lot of important context and works their logic from there. In this case, our miscommunication fell on a fundamental difference in the way we think, which is one of the harder kinds of conflict to settle. And to define “we”, I just mean between me and one other roommate. Our entirely innocent third roomie just played moderator for the most part, bless her soul.
The gist of the incident went something like this:
I received an appointment for my first ever therapy session (about damn time!), and it had to be online. I preferred to do it in the dorms, since I’d be in close proximity to my bed and pillows in case I found myself getting a little teary (think Niagara Falls here) and wanted some comfort. Ideally, I wanted this session to be in complete privacy. So, I asked both my roomies: “Hey guys, I’m gonna have this therapy thing tomorrow from 12-2! Are you in the dorms during that time?”
Both confirmed that they’d be doing other things, and I thanked them and moved on with my night. The next day rolls around, and only one roommate remains in the dorm as my session is about to start. Typically, I absolutely HATE confrontation, so I try asking when she’ll be going to grab lunch soon. She replies that she’ll grab lunch in around ten minutes, then probably come back inside to eat it before heading off to class.
Hm. I look at the time: five minutes until the session begins (to be fair, I just came from class. Tight timing). I push a little harder, asking if she’s busy or doing something important at the time. She said no, just doing homework on her laptop.
Then I asked if she could possibly take it to the lounge instead (which our dorm is very conveniently right next to) for an hour or so, since my therapy session starts in like two minutes. From there, things go exactly the way I didn’t want them to, and she acts like she’s never heard this information before; calling me inconsiderate for kicking her out the room so abruptly, going back and forth until she slams her laptop and closet shut to storm off, the works. You know those shower moments when you think you’ll know exactly what to say or do to prevent or fix an argument?
No. No you don’t. You never do.
Too stunned and confused to say anything meaningful, the fight ended before I knew it, and now I’m trying to communicate with some poor sap on Zoom while failing (horribly) to not cry on the spot. Eventually, I told them to reschedule, and that was that. Hopping on over to my bed and pillow (which I predicted I would do! Just, not exactly for this reason), I tried to figure out what went wrong. I really, really didn’t want to get into a major fight with any roommate. I mean, who does? They’re your roommates. You can’t avoid them forever, and in a triple dorm, you sleep and work in the same room. Not to mention, this all went down during the first week of the quarter.
It always helps to have different perspectives.
I called a few friends (which, maybe I should’ve done after I ceased to be a sobbing mess, but ah well), and explained the entire context as clinically as I could. I gave my side of the story, and I tried to put myself in my roommate’s shoes, understanding that I would also be a little upset if a roomie told me of a scheduled session right as it started, since that’s what it must’ve looked like to her. In the end, however, everyone (including our third roomie) thought I wasn’t in the wrong, which did mountains to prevent me from going insane and gaslighting myself (I know I know… that therapy session was long overdue).
I managed to stave off paranoia, and pretty much just waited until I stopped hyperventilating (which is NOT the healthy thing to do by the way, do breathing exercises y’all), until both roommates came back to the dorm. First things first, we sat down and talked.
When a major miscommunication happens between you and anyone, the best course of action would be to try and communicate with them properly to undo all that.
Other tips that help your stance is: always assume that the other person might be having a bad day, explain things as objectively as possible and don’t come off as too accusatory while also being firm when you believe you’re in the right. What ended up happening is, my roommate turned out to be sleepy during the time I told everyone about my scheduled session, and misheard a few things. This much became crystal clear when she adamantly thought that when I said “therapy”, for some reason, it wasn’t going to be serious therapy.
Not to mention, during the day of the fight she just got her period (and while I don’t personally act too out of the ordinary when on my period, everyone is different and that’s normal) while growing stressed about internships. I already figured she might’ve already been pent up before our argument, but it’s also always good to confirm it.
One fundamental difference in thinking that made our post-fight talk a little rocky is how she thought I should’ve conducted the session elsewhere by reserving a study room beforehand. Whereas I believed the best place to conduct online therapy would be near my bed (or SOMEplace to dramatically flop over and rest).
Yet another difference is her believing that I should’ve been much more explicit (talking and acting very seriously) that I wanted the dorm to myself, alone. Whereas I thought that anyone would’ve inferred that from the way I asked it. For differences such as that, there isn’t much you can do to try and change the other person’s mind. If they trust their way of thinking as obviously correct, and the same goes for yourself, then the next thing to try would be to compromise and set promises for future actions.
In the end however, she did apologize for yelling, and I asked that we hug it out (we did. In fact, I recommend everyone to hug it out in the end). Now, all is well and thankfully not awkward. So, what’s the moral lesson here?
DON’T ask your roomies scheduling questions while they’re in bed.