Troublesome Roommate

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My roommate has been exhibiting concerning behavior lately. He is a very private person, and it seems like he has a lot of social anxiety. I don’t know him any better now then when he moved in 7 months ago. Lately, my husband and I have noticed that he is vomiting a lot. Usually it starts around 9-10p, sometimes later, and will continue often throughout the night. I am concerned that he is either bulimic or alcoholic. He seems to binge on food, often making repeated trips to the kitchen, and hiding trash from junk food in his room. Sometimes though, it seems as if it is from drinking. I have found bottles in his room, he seems to stumble around, has mysterious dents and scratches that recently appeared on his car, etc. We are very concerned about his behavior, not to mention that it’s creating a disturbance at home and giving me anxiety at night.

Should we reach out to him, and try to discuss the problem? I subtly tried to acknowledge his problem before, and see if he would offer up any info. He became very awkward and uncomfortable, couldn’t make eye contact with me, and just said that he was okay and felt much better that day. It has happened so frequently now (usually at least 2-3 nights/week that we actually hear him vomiting, but I spend much of my time at home now with headphones or earplugs in), that it can’t just be coincidental.

What do we do? It is hard since we don’t have a very open relationship with him, and he doesn’t seem like he really likes to be around people. I have been rather passive aggressive towards him since he has developed these issues. He was already eating our food, his dog was having accidents in our house that my husband and I would have to clean up, he was/is trashing his room and bathroom (we own the house), and I was having to clean up after him constantly before the vomiting started (or at least before we noticed it).

I have written him notes before, and even gone into his room to throw away bottles/food trash, collect dirty dishes after he ignores my polite requests to not do these things. I realize that although he is not complying with my wishes, and we do own the home that he is renting a room in, that this is overstepping my boundaries, and is most likely worsening things. His difficult-to-deal-with behavior is making it hard to be empathetic/compassionate towards him, but I know that he is in distress, and I am really trying to extend kindness towards him. Do we talk to him out of concern, and try to intervene? Should we tell somebody else? Any advice would be appreciated.

Post-note: We already left him a note giving him 2 months notice to find another place. However, we didn’t make it personal or about his bad behavior; I listed other reasons that are valid, but not the whole truth. Now it seems like this 60 days can’t be over soon enough, and we still have about a month and a half left with him.

A: I appreciate your concerns but you are really overstepping boundaries. As a landlord, you have no right to go into his room or to try to control his behavior. On the other hand, he has no right to eat your food and to make messes he doesn’t clean up. This is a bad situation all around.

There is no one to “tell” when dealing with another adult except that person himself. You’ve already offered help verbally and in written notes. That’s all you can do as one adult to another. You’ve already said he is a private person. If he wanted your help, he would ask for it. If he welcomed your overtures, he would have engaged in a conversation once you opened up the topics. Since he didn’t before, I doubt very much he will now.

Getting passive-aggressive isn’t going to help him face his problems and will only make you feel bad about yourself. Keep this situation business-like, as you did with your notice. Mind your business. Stop intruding on his. The man is in some kind of pain but he isn’t asking you to be involved. It’s his pain to fix. Not yours. Meanwhile, do be clear that you will respect his room and that he needs to respect the rest of your home.

And next time you rent a room, get references and get to know the person first. Then make sure you have clear, mutually agreed upon standards for behavior for everyone. You might find the tips in this article helpful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 May 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Troublesome Roommate. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/17/troublesome-roommate/