How to Handle Conflict With Your Roommate

Think you’ve got a horror story of a flatmate on your hands? Want to solve the conflict? Here’s our advice how to handle conflict with your roommate.

Girl in yellow jumper

So, there’s many benefits as to why you would live with a flatmate or group of mates. It’s definitely cheaper for students to live in shared accommodation as opposed to in a studio and it’s a great way to combat loneliness, especially if you’re an extrovert. In your head, an ideal world is envisioned – they don’t leave stacks of dirty plates, they have the same taste in TV shows and there’s zero annoying habits like eating loudly or leaving the lights on. You both have the same political and environmental views, you become best mates and do heaps together like checking out gigs and local restaurants. Sounds great, huh? Look, flatmates can lead to finding your forever soulmate in the form of a friend. But it can also take you down the painful path of living with someone you really don’t get on with.

Here’s the reality check. Flatmates are strangers and you won’t get to know them properly until you’re a couple months in. You have to be okay with the idea of having less control over your co-living spaces such as the kitchen, living room and bathrooms. Understand that you can’t always have things your way or determine what happens in a space and your roommate rules are based on compromise. You should know yourself pretty well by now. So if you consider yourself to be an introvert or one of those people that gets easily annoyed at things and loves personal space; save yourself the potential roommate drama and get a private room in purpose-built student accommodation.

If you want to give it a go we’re still backing you for it! It can be fun, but in case it’s not, here’s some tactics you can try if you just don’t get on.

Girl on a bench in front of city skyline

Don’t avoid them

Alright, alright, alright. The novelty’s worn off, you’ve been living together for a while now, it’s mid-semester exams and for the love of god you cannot stand your flatmate. Firstly, your feelings are valid. There is literally nothing worse than coming home after a stressful day of study to someone that hasn’t been considerate or nice to live with.

Maybe they’re starting to annoy you with their previously harmless bad habits.

The music blaring from their room is too loud.

Who is this random person that’s emerged from their room and is now taking a bite out of your box of Tim Tams?

Wait, is that your top that’s been missing for two weeks?

Look, everyone’s got their vices but there comes a time when the lines have been crossed and you need to sit down and just hash it out. At the start, you may try to avoid the problem completely. And we highly recommend against doing that. Yes, rooms are there for a reason and you can spend all your time in there avoiding them but that isn’t a long-term viable solution that fixes the root of the issue. At some point, you will have to talk to them and it’s best to just cut through the awkwardness and get straight to it.

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A list of pros and cons

Before having a discussion, take a seat when you’re feeling level-headed and grab a pen and paper. Now write a pros and cons list of your flatmate. Write all the good things they have done for you. Maybe you’re using their Netflix or they let you have some of the wine and beer they bring home without expecting anything in return. Then, write all the things that bother you such as eating your food or maybe they talk to you in a demeaning or patronising way. Then reassess. Is your dislike warranted enough to have a heated argument? End the lease early at a potential financial cost and move out? Why are they the wrong roommate for you? Are you just in an irritable mood or are the things they are saying and doing affecting you mentally? Are these facts or assumptions? 

If after this exercise, you decide that you still don’t feel that you and your flatmate can go on, it’s time to have a conversation about it.

Discussion time!

When you have a discussion with a flatmate that is going to involve quite a bit of criticising, it’s important that you don’t come across in an aggressive way and that you also raise good points about them as well. This way, they won’t feel attacked and it won’t escalate into a full-blown screaming match. Prepare questions to ask your roommate on why they do certain things and explain why that affects you negatively. The goal shouldn’t be to move out. Especially if this is one of the first conversations you’re having about things that bother you. Ultimately, you don’t want to cause any animosity. You want things to be amended so that you can keep living here as comfortably as you can. Because you could be stuck with them for a while.

And perhaps after voicing your concerns you’ll both realise there was a misunderstanding. Maybe they honestly had no idea and are apologetic. Perhaps there’s a good reason behind the bad habits they have but they’re willing to compromise. There can be a positive outcome to this and all it could take to fix this hump in the road is a conversation and an agreement between you. However, it can also make you realise that the person you’re staying with isn’t willing to see things from your point of view and make any changes. If that happens, it’s time to speak with your landlord.

two people sitting on a wall facing eachother

Talk to your landlord

You’ve got nothing to lose by chatting with your landlord and explaining your situation. They may be able to intervene or offer guidance on your options, but in most cases, you’re facing a hefty expense if you move out before your lease ends. As a student, this could be even more unrealistic because it is considered a last resort and the student housing accommodation may not have anywhere else to place you in that building. However, it’s still worth trying.

If all else fails, you’ve really got no choice but to learn to live with them. Search hard for redeeming qualities, they must exist – most people have them no matter how unbearable they may be. Try to find common ground. Even if it’s just one type of genre of music you like or a favourite takeaway option that will improve the situation. You can learn to appreciate your flatmate for who they are. But that doesn’t mean you must spend every minute with them.

If you have truly exhausted all options and aren’t able to remain civil, then just throw in the towel, cop the inconveniences and cut your losses. At the end of the day, you must put yourself first and there’s nothing wrong with leaving a toxic situation. No one is worth compromising your mental health for. So you shouldn’t dread and avoid going home when it’s supposed to be one of your happy places. Plus, you’ll be going through a lot in terms of stress whilst studying, there’s no need for it to be any harder! Be mindful, seek advice and trust your gut when it’s time to call it quits.

If you’ve got a housemate horror story or you’ve solved conflict with your roommate you’d love to share. Let us know! We’re all ears.