Then Jack Happened


Dear Jack,

I am having problems with my roommate. We didn’t know each other when I moved and, at first, things were going well. But now I have a situation that I don’t know how to get out of. I think the primary problem is my roommate is attracted to me. Over the first few months we’d go out and things would be fine, fun even, but I noticed that if I went out with a guy she would get super protective of me, text me all the time, become very demanding and angry if I didn’t spend time with her and on and on. She asks that I cook for her and in the instances that I refuse, she gets mad at me and gives me a hard time and has screamed at me. I do not like confrontation and to avoid her tantrums I just usually do what she asks. Things have recently gotten worse after I started going out with one guy more seriously and she bought me some lingerie for Christmas. I have been able to deal with a good bit of this, but now I am kind of stuck. I can’t move out right away because of the expense, but now I feel as if I am always walking on eggshells. What should I do?

Time to plan an exit strategy. Your roommate’s boundary and control problems aren’t going away so, since you are stuck for now, you have to curtail her behaviors until you can leave.

None of this is your fault, her poor behavior is on her, however, you need to stop appeasing her.  It is perfectly normal to shy away from confrontation, most normal people do, but there is a difference between unnecessary conflict and sticking up for yourself when it is necessary and you are able. If you aren’t comfortable in your home, some change is necessary. That doesn’t mean you need to start a fist fight, but some active boundary-drawing is called for. She wants a friend and a paramour, you want a life and roommate. Up to now, you’ve let her run roughshod, and it’s time for a change.

It’s difficult to establish good behavior after bad. I let my dog on the couch one time, after a friendly scotch or two, and next thing I know I am fighting him for weeks.  Dogs aren’t people, but people, like puppers, get used to discretions and it’s tough to reign them in. (I’ve heard this is also true of children)  So, how to change her behaviors? My initial thought is to stop communicating with her, ignore her, and just write rent checks until you go but that’s pie in the sky thinking. Given your proximity, a bit of tact is necessary. Be pleasant, be polite, but do your cooking when she is away. Don’t respond timely to her texts, but respond, until you don’t. Hang out in your room more. Slowly back her down over a couple of weeks as you gradually change what ‘normal’ is. Save your money and get the hell out of there.

I’m not telling you to kowtow to her bad behavior. We’re just trying to prevent a situation from going from bad to worse. And if she does get worse, anger, rage, screaming, or even physical violence, you need to get outside help. She’s more or less a stranger and you don’t know what she is capable of. Your emotional and physical safety is paramount and any indications of threatening behavior needs to be dealt with by a quick call to the authorities.

Look Del Ray, we will move in together, get our own Single White Female thing going, I’ll promise not to steal your underwear, so long as you promise to keep sending your troubles to