Like many millennials, I’ve had a lot of roommates in my lifetime. The situations have ranged from living with one other person to living with eight roommates (boy, was that one an adventure) — but one of the things you learn when you live in a wide variety of situations is how to identify the signs your roommate is bringing you down. (Or, y’know, signs your roommates are bringing you down, plural; again, eight people. Eight.) The knowledge is useful, though; as they say, figuring out you’ve got a problem is the first step to fixing it.
The number of millennials living with roommates is on the rise — something which, honestly, shouldn’t be all that surprising: According to a 2015 study by Make Room, a campaign which aims to “end the rental housing crisis in America,” the number of people in the 25-to-34 year old demographic who live with roommates or housemates shot up a staggering 39 percent between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, the percentage was at 5.7, while in 2013, it was at 7.4.
And it’s no wonder; a huge amount of it has to do with money. According to a study from real estate site Trulia (via the Chicago Tribune), the average renter living in most major cities can save 13 percent of their paycheck just by living with roommates. In an economy that’s still struggling to recover from the 2008 recession, with wages stagnant, the cost of living rising, and student loans that need to be repaid, living with roommates just makes sense for most young people.
Alas, though, not all roommates are good roommates. And sometimes, it’s not even a matter of just being a “good” or “bad” roommate; it’s a matter of being compatible roommates. If any of the below sound like you and your roommate — or worse, if all of the below sound familiar — then you might be in a roommate relationship that just doesn’t work for you. But consider being able to identify this fact a good thing: Now that you know, you can start planning to change up your living situation. There's always a silver lining, right?
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Here are a few indications that you might want to look for a new roommate soon.
1. Being Home Stresses You Out
Emotional stress can rear its head “any time you have continuous situations that create fear, resentment, and anger regarding a violation of respect, wishes, and simple requests,” author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. Do you find that just being at home makes your shoulders come up around your ears — even if it’s for seemingly “silly” reasons, like constantly hearing the same song on repeat coming from your roommate’s room at all hours of the day and night or not wanting to get yelled at for not cleaning your dishes just the way your roommate prefers? Are you constantly trying to find reasons not to be home? Or do you feel like never leaving your room when you are home? It might be your roommate. Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle, "Often, when our relationship with our roommate is difficult we either dread being home and/or find ourselves looking for reasons not to leave our bedrooms."
All of this might be a sign that your living situation isn’t the best one for you. “Your home environment should be peaceful and without extended conflict,” says White.
2. Your Productivity Is Suffering
Research has found that in academic settings, having roommates with not-so-great habits — binge drinking, prioritizing playing video games over other necessities, etc. — correlates with a drop in your own GPA. This isn’t to say that drinking or playing video games are bad in and of themselves; many people enjoy both these things (myself included), or hang out around people who enjoy both these things, and function just fine. Additionally, no research (that I’ve found, at least) applies a similar concept to adults outside of school settings — that is, there doesn’t seem to be any research about whether having a bad roommate affects your productivity at work. It’s still worth paying attention to, though.
3. You’re Constantly Chasing After Your Roommate For The Rent Money They Owe You
Or money for utilities, or money for communal apartment staples (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, food if you share it, etc.), or anything else involving money that pays for stuff you both use. One solution to the problem? Get it in writing, ideally in advance. Says Alexis Nicole White, “Written agreements, notarized should be finalized prior to moving in to prevent arguments regarding financial matters.” She also recommends seeking out roommates that are “financially responsible and share similar beliefs regarding money matters.” Screen potential roommates carefully, whether they're people you've known for years or folks you've just met on Craigslist.
4. You Feel Run Down All The Time
Here’s a fascinating and somewhat horrifying piece of information: According to a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics in January of 2017, your health might be affected by your roommate’s very genes. The study found that in mice, the genes of cage mates significantly affected mouse health with regards to three different traits: Anxiety, immune system response, and rate of skin wound closure. The results haven’t been replicated with humans yet, but, as Vice Motherboard’s Jovana Drinjakovic put it, “It’s easy to imagine how a stressful social life might take its toll on health.”
Admittedly, I don’t know how you’d screen potential roommates for this issue; there’s not really much anyone can do about their genes. Still, though. How weird is that?
5. You Don't Feel Free To Be Yourself At Home
While it's true that everyone has to make compromises and adjust certain behaviors when they live with other people, these compromises and adjustments should feel reasonable — not anxiety-creating. "It is important to notice if you feel like you are having to walk on eggshells or sensor yourself for fear of a lecture or ridicule from your roommate," says Richardson. After all, where else can we be ourselves but at home in our own spaces?
6. The Green-Eyed Monster Appears
Says White, “Many times, envy creates unnecessary tension that can spawn conflict” — which can be a problem regardless as to whether you’re the one who’s jealous of your roommate or whether your roommate seems like they might be jealous of you. It’s obviously OK to feel these feelings; however, if you’re having a hard time coping with them and it’s starting to manifest as resentment, then it might be worth reconsidering your roommate situation.
Also, remember that you and your roommate don’t need to share every piece of your lives. As White puts it, “Just because a person is your roommate doesn’t mean they have to be privy to your business” (and vice versa). If a distant yet cordial roommate relationship works best for you and the person or people you’re living with, that’s A-OK; you don’t have to be best friends to be good roommates.
7. You’re Not Sleeping Well
According to research, roommates can negatively affect our sleep habits, particularly if you happen to share a room with someone else: In a 2013 study published in Psychology Reports, disturbances in the room was the top reason 76 college students in the Midwest cited for not getting enough sleep. Notably, all of the study participants shared a dorm room with one other person.
Even if you have your own rooms, though — say, in a suite or apartment setup — it can be hard to adjust for multiple schedules. If one of you works the night shift and the other doesn’t, it means someone is almost always awake when the other is asleep — and sometimes, even the quietest roommate still isn’t quiet enough to make this setup work.
8. Your Personality Is Changing — And You’re Not Sure You Like It
As Sarah Sloat wrote at Inverse in 2015, “In particular relationships, people alter their personality according to circumstance” — including when it comes to living situations. She pointed to research by John Kurtz and colleagues of Villanova University to illustrate the point: According to Kurtz’s study, wrote Sloat, women are “much more likely to be flexible and change how they relate to their roommates than men” — so if you find your personality changing a little bit after you move in with someone new, it might be because you’re trying to figure out how to relate to them. And if you don’t really like the way you’re changing, it might be a sign that this roommate relationship might not work out.
9. Everything Annoys You. EVERYTHING.
The music your roommate likes sucks. Their taste in TV shows sucks. They’re too messy. They’re too neat. They’re always home. They’re never home. They keep using your stuff without asking, even though you’ve spoken to them about it a zillion times. If everything about the roommate situation you’re currently in annoys you, it’s time to consider getting out. Says Richardson, "When you find yourself angry about things that don’t normally bother you, it may be because you are frustrated with your roommate about something else."
What's more, it's probably not making for a great living situation for your roommate, either. In addition to the fact that you feel irritated all the time, they might also be picking up on it and have no idea what they did — or maybe they do know, but they don’t care enough to change it or they think it’s on you to deal with it. Either way, this is a big sign that the whole thing is getting toxic. It might not even be anyone’s fault; it might just be that you’re incompatible.
And that’s fine. All you have to do is make it to the end of the lease and find a new situation when it’s up — or, if you absolutely have to get out early, find someone to sublet your room if you’re legally allowed to do so or see whatever alternative solutions you can arrange in the meantime. Keep your butt covered, but do whatever you have to do to get yourself into a situation that works for you.
Psst! Download CNBC Make It x Bustle's roommate contract and never fight over things like whose turn it is to buy toilet paper ever again.