Op-ed: Combating roommate resentment

In an effort to be bold going into college, I decided to ditch the Facebook groups and opt for a random roommate assignment for my first semester at Emerson. It was impossible for me to believe that connecting through social media would create a better living situation than being arbitrarily paired with someone.

Initially, my roommate and I got along well. Although she took the saying “loud and proud” to an unexplored level, I did my best to understand her. She was simply different than me, and our situation was in no way unlivable.

Because she grew up as an only child, she quickly became annoyed by our suite mates. She believed they would purposely ignore her requests for quiet time, fail to do their chores, and genuinely disliked her.

According to Psychology Today, humans possess the ability to feel both compassion and anger, and extreme versions of these emotions can reveal themselves in close quarters—that is to say, college dorms. Residing in close proximity with a handful of students rarely makes for a problem-free living environment, but the frustration that builds up in these living situations hinders us from living a healthy life and forming positive relationships.

I accepted my suite mate’s shortcomings as the expense of living with other people. What got on my nerves was my roommate’s inability to confront our suite mates with her issues, and I grew tired of hearing her complaints. When she sensed my irritation with her, she pulled away, blocked me on social media, and requested a meeting with our resident assistant on the premise that her living situation had become hostile.

My roommate stopped sleeping in our room and took refuge in her home a half-hour away. She started locking the door to our room at all times when before we had previously left it open. We wouldn’t talk—not even to greet each other or make small talk in the kitchenette. Before winter break, she emptied out her closet and drawers and left only her bedspread behind. Her appearances in the suite became unpredictable and sporadic.

Housing issues are not uncommon. In fact, in the meeting, our resident assistant said that tension within suites reaches its peak around the year’s halfway point.

She navigated an honest conversation about what all of us thought concerning our living situation. Near the end, however, she highlighted that the meeting would not solve all of our problems and that much of our resentment would linger after the meeting.

In the months following the meeting, I strongly held onto this resentment of which my resident assistant warned me. My roommate’s inability to amicably co-exist with me and our suite mates infuriated me and rendered my only personal space on campus miserable.

I know my problems with my roommate are not, and will never be, unique. There are presumably hundreds of students at Emerson facing comparable problems in their dorms and apartments. The breadth of this issue is why it is vital to understand the deterring effects of living with hatred.

I continued to accumulate these feelings because they allowed me to feel as if I had a kind of power over her. According to Psychology Today, the connection between resentment and strength is wired in people’s twisted psyche. This connection instigates an adrenaline rush that serves as positive reinforcement for person’s feelings and incentivizes the individual for feeling hateful.

My suite mates’ shared animosity toward her also nurtured my hostile attitude. An essay in the Journal of Hate Studies shows how groups tend to feed off each others’ anger. Although my suite was bitter below the surface, group mentality allowed these negative feelings to blossom as we continually talked to each other about the situation.

Eventually, everything my roommate did irritated me. When she was in the room, I disliked her for being there and, when she wasn’t, I didn’t understand why she couldn’t toughen up and make do in our dorm. The drawbacks of constant aversion began to outweigh the power it had previously given me.

About a week ago, I realized I could not continue to feel anxious in my own living space.

I don’t know if I have reached the point where I can forge a reconciliation with my roommate, but I do know I should not antagonize her. We are opposites, but for the benefit of my health and sanity, I decided to not to let our relationship bother me anymore.

Holding on to the kind of frustration I felt is scientifically proven to have mental and physical effects, according to John Hopkins Medicine. And finally letting go of these grudges allows for healthier relationships, improved mental health, and even lower blood pressure. A 2014 TED Talk even shows that this kind of stress increases the chance of death.

For the sake of our own health and that of others, we have to move away from these feelings of frustration in order to create and sustain positive relationships with the people in our lives—especially those we live with.

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