Teen Talk

College roommate’s sleeping around causes a restive situation

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: I just finished my first year of college and I’m home for the summer. It pretty much went off without a blip, except when it comes to my future roommate.

This girl was one of the first friends I made at college. At first we were really hitting it off, we had similar interests, she was easygoing. As I got to know her more, I realized she had quite a list of issues. Before anything really blew up, in foolish excitement, I signed a lease with her as well as three other girls for an apartment next school year.

As the year went on, I noticed things about her that made me uneasy. She constantly would have one-night stands with people in our friend circle, making for very awkward dynamics. She would talk about sex way too openly to the point where the people around her, including myself, would get uncomfortable. She even went as far as to seduce our other roommate’s cousin. Eventually she got this boyfriend who didn’t treat her right. She was in total denial of how much he lacked respect for her. She would inappropriately sleep with someone one night and then feel totally crappy about herself for weeks after.

It’s clear she has a serious lack of self-respect and very little confidence. But after watching her repeat this cycle all year, I also began to think she might have a sort of sex addiction. I openly expressed to her on three separate occasions, on how her doing these things is usually at the expense (embarrassment and comfort) of her friends and how letting a guy get to know you first is generally a better route to go. She would always apologize and genuinely express that she wanted to no longer do these things. I honestly felt bad for her and wanted to help her. After I would talk to her, she would chill out for a few weeks, but she would always go back to her old habits.

The final straw for me was she was trying to get back into her ex-boyfriend’s life, he basically said conditionally yes, only if they could sleep with me. Instead of being upset at him, she had the audacity to ask me about it. He also contacted me. I blocked him, and cut down my social media contact with her and tried to separate myself from her as a “friend.” I was totally disgusted that she was so desperate to not stand up to him. I told her I’m OK with being civil, but I’m doing my own thing next year. I suggested she do the same. I think I’ve set about as clear boundaries as one can.

I decided this was going to be an uncomfortable living situation and I met with the three other roommates and relayed this to them. They totally agreed with me, and we tried to find another roommate to replace her before we told her. The way the lease worked out and people we contacted, we could never find another place for her to go and someone willing to take her place, so we never told her.

I feel like I’m going to be uncomfortable going into my living room, or cooking in the kitchen because I don’t want to talk to her. She doesn’t really have any other friends, because she spent all year focusing on boys, and she isn’t social enough to make many more without the help of a social group like us. My question to you is, how should I handle living with her next year? How can I separate myself from her as a “friend” without being cruel? How can I better deal living with someone who has behavior like that, and doesn’t regard others’ boundaries?

Someone Awkwardly Trapped

DEAR TRAPPED: A major part of the college experience is being thrown in with a complete stranger and forced to live with them, adapt to them, communicate with them and somehow learn to get along without killing one another. Living with someone who leads such a profoundly different lifestyle than yours is challenging, but it forces you to face the reality of the world. The question your situation begs, though, is how do you make the next year go by with the least amount of conflict, awkwardness and discomfort?

As simple and elementary as this may seem, your best bet is to lay out a roommate contract for the upcoming school year. All parties need to sign it and agree to follow the house rules so everyone feels comfortable and relaxed in your apartment. Be as specific and detailed as possible, even if it makes her upset. Set up limits on things like how many nights a week it is OK to have guests sleeping over and other things that you may be concerned about. Lay out the consequences as well. If one does not follow the house contract, they will be asked to find somewhere else to live and be given a 30-day notice to move out.

Be prepared for her to react with anger because her behavior is being called out. People who feel shame related to their choices often become defensive when their actions are called out. They know they aren’t doing the right thing, but they don’t have the inner strength to change their behavior without professional help and working on their deep issues that cause the behaviors.

Reach out to her as a concerned friend and encourage her to seek counseling. Send her a text now and state your concerns based on all that transpired last school year. Suggest she seek counseling over the summer to work on herself and how she allows other people to treat her. See how she replies to this. If she rebuffs your advice, gets angry and doesn’t get help, keep your distance from her. Be polite, cordial and view her as a roommate, not a friend. Hold firm to the contract and your personal boundaries. Your goal should be to coexist, not build a lifelong friendship.

If she takes your advice, seeks counseling, starts to work on herself and wants to make positive changes, be a supportive and loving friend. Perhaps she hasn’t had anyone in her life call out her behavior in a caring way that helps her see her value and worth. Let her know most universities have on-campus counseling centers she can utilize. Offer to help her, as long as she is helping herself first.

She sounds like a very emotionally broken person. You are correct that she lacks self-respect and self-confidence. For that, I have empathy for her but also huge concerns for how she will move forward in life. She sounds emotionally stuck and lacks the ability to love herself. Model self-respect to her and continue to live your life with morals and values. Don’t ride a high horse around her, just be yourself. Hopefully she will see the choices you and your other roommates make and the positive people you attract and begin to make changes in how she lives her life.