new roommate is annoying - am I overreacting? tips?

Problem is, I saw some red flags of annoyance when she came to see the room, but I sort of felt sorry for her and we told her she could move in. (We sublet one room of our rented 3B/2BA house currently because we’re in a tight spot financially.) Here are her main malfunctions:

–before her computer was hooked up, we came home and she was using my husband’s laptop. She stopped immediately when we came home and said, “Oh sorry I just wanted to look up x.” We didn’t really say anything (our bad) and a couple days later she was using mine. I use it for work. I was quite annoyed and just sort of took it and moved it away from her. She could tell I was annoyed. I was afraid of what I’d say so I didn’t really say much. Incident #2 is really just as much our fault, as we were enablers by not cracking down on Incident #1.

–she gives unsolicited advice about stuff that has nothing to do with her. “You guys should move into that other room, you’d have more room.” “You guys should use Tupperware.” (We do, actually, so I’m not sure what that was about…) “Maybe you should use that other table for the fax machine because it’s more sturdy.”

–weird personal space violations. She just moved in. Comes up behind me and takes my hair in both her hands – my hair is down and long. “I can’t believe you can stand to have this hair down on your neck—” I shake her off and say, “I don’t like people touching my hair.” She drops it and says, “Yeah, me neither…” :confused: The other night, she’s about to go to bed. (She’s about 15 years older than my husband and not particularly attractive so I’m not worried she’s going to steal him or something, but…) She grabs my husband’s arm with both hands and says, “Are my hands cold?” I just looked at her and she looked sort of sheepish. He just looked at her too.

–My husband takes off his wedding ring a lot because it is uncomfortable (it is cheap and I think that’s why - obviously we need to get him a new one, but that’s not her business or the point). She asked about it when she saw it sitting on something the other day. I told her it doesn’t fit him well and is uncomfortable. Just now he’s sleeping in the recliner and she comes up and is holding it. “Is this his ring?” she says, with a scolding sort of expression and shake of her head as if to say, “He should be wearing it!” “Yes,” I say, “Where was it?” thinking that she found it on the floor or something so is doing him a favor so it doesn’t get lost. “Oh, on this,” and she gestures to a safe place - a high bookshelf/cordenza thing with a raised wood piece around it --it would not have fallen off. Wtf?? I say, “Please leave it where you found it.” I mean, what? Who is she, the ring police? Leave things alone if they don’t concern you! Argh, am I overreacting?

–Unnecessary conversation when I’m too busy. Tells me too much about her life. I don’t care that she got a jury summons, that the doctor that her other doctor told her to go to doesn’t take her insurance, or that her daughter’s boyfriend has anxiety. Comments on the glaringly obvious. “Laundry day,” she says as I’m sorting laundry. Asks what’s wrong with my son when he’s crying when I’m dealing with him. If I know, then just let me get whatever he needs without having to have an extra conversation about if and if I don’t know, then…

I’m thinking just a nice heart-to-heart talking about the above issues and see if things improve. Any tips on how to couch the conversation? I know I should have dealt with each of these when they arose. I’m not sure why I didn’t. I’m OK at confrontation or somewhat difficult conversations in a professional context, but it seems like at home I’ve been kind of a wimp. I don’t know…

Isn’t being in the company of annoying as fuck roommates part of the appeal of doing such things?

As for actually responding to your post, you already know what to do: Stop being a spineless doormat and put her in her place for fuck’s sake.

Mistake #1 was renting to someone you felt sorry for. That’s not a great motivation for renting to someone. Mistake #2 was not making the boundaries clear to her from Day One (and I’d say that’s her biggest problem - she’s not a boundary respecter). I think at this point you really need to have a conversation with her about her place in your household.

You’re over reacting about both of these things. What did you honestly expect, to share your home with someone and have them never show interest in what’s going on by expressing an opinion, or ever speak to you about trivial things?

Yeah, I know. I erased an even longer OP originally that explained part of it - 1) we just got rid of a college student roommate who had his own problems – (I liked the idea of a more mature roommate who would probably not need to be told that after you break a glass bottle that falls out of the refrigerator, you don’t wipe it up with one of my dish towels, throw everything away, and leave 10% of the glass on the floor), and she was nice enough, and 2) part of the reason I felt sorry for her was that I empathized – I lived in SF during dotcom craziness and had a terrible time finding a room – but anyway yes, you are correct. Ultimately I listened to the bleeding heart voice and not the sensible one.

Covered_In_Bees, I’m sure you meant well, or not, but I was really looking for something a little more constructive, akin to Elfkin’s post. I would like some perspective on which ones I should definitely mention and which I should let go. Like, does anyone think there is any nice way to ask her not to chitchat with me as much?

I’m not sure there is. I suppose you could try the passive-aggressive approach which wouldn’t be too mean or rude and just be incredibly busy any time she wants to chat…sort of like, “Oh, I’d love to discuss that but I really need to focus on <whatever you are doing> right now.” Or maybe tell her that you are too easily distracted for her to talk while you are doing something else. But to basically tell her to quit talking to you about trivial things (or topics you are uninterested in) I just don’t see anything “nice” that can be done.

It isn’t a nice way to do it, but maybe you could be frank (while also being polite) and tell her that you are renting the room out of financial necessity but really aren’t looking for a close friendship to develop and would prefer that she keeps to a more business-like relationship with you and your husband. That will most likely hurt her feelings no matter how you word it, but at least it would be quick and give her an opportunity to reassess her behavior (and quite possibly her living arrangements) and give her the power to change it before she completely grates your last nerve.

If you choose the latter, I would put it in terms of your problem, not hers though like, “I am not used to having a roommate and it makes me very uncomfortable…” or “I am not sure what is expected of me in this situation, but I would prefer…” Don’t come out with guns blazing, “You talk too much! I don’t want to hear about <your daughter’s boyfriend, your opinions>” etc.

Really though, if I were you and if having a roommate is important to you or your finances I would try to adapt as much as possible before deciding it is worth risking her leaving (unless that is what you really want) and possibly ending up with an even worse arrangement.

Disclaimer: I have never had a roommate and never lived with anyone but a significant other/husband that I chose to live with, so I am really talking out of my ass right now with no experience at all to back it up.

OK. Yeah, I think you’re right - there’s no real nice way to do it on the chitchat. So I think I’m not going to do it at this point. I think maybe if I were to get out in the open the things that I have a genuine beef about (using our laptops, etc.), she won’t get on my nerves as much. If I’m truly too busy to talk (she was talking to me the other day while I was working from home), I will say something and try to be a little more charitable about it when she’s talking to me otherwise. Thanks for the input.

A general talk with a long list of grievances probably won’t work very well. I’d concentrate on being very specific about your displeasure whenever she crosses boundaries.

And I agree with what others have said about chitchat … you can’t really complain about that without seeming petty. But using and moving things that don’t belong to her … you should communicate that that sort of thing is completely unacceptable on a case by case basis as it happens.


I’d suggest you stop now and get her to move out.

Neither one of you all sound like bad people. You’re just not right for each other personality wise. (Personally, I’d get along great with the room mate.)

And don’t fool yourself into thinking you can change somebody’s persona. It doesn’t work for SO’s and it sure as hell wont work with a room mate who you have no emotional investment in.

You can try using “I” statements. They consist of a statement of behaviour followed by how it makes you feel and why. They use neutral words and are not couched in accusatory terms They put the focus on you rather than her and allow her to change her behaviour while maintaining dignity, she sees that she’s doing it as favour to you.

Example: “When you touch my hair it makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m not used to personal contact.”

It sounds fluffy, but it does work when used appropriately. It is a good way of asserting yourself with out starting an argument or making the other person feel too bad. It tends to avoid the other person going on the defensive as it focuses on your needs rather than her actions.

If that doesn’t work, just tell her to piss off and leave you alone already ;).

“I feel____ when you ____ because ____”

“I feel like choking you when you use my computer without my permission, because you keep closing my documents without saving them.”

Some people are just grating on the nerves to be around, and there’s little to be done about that. Still, with computers, at least, there’s always password protection…

And the ring can be commonly left on top of a piece of paper saying “DO NOT TOUCH”?

Waxwinged example is how it’s supposed to go.

Does she take the hint after a negative interaction happens - did she stop using your computers as soon as she saw that you were annoyed? If not, it doesn’t seem to me that she’s going to be able to modify her behavior enough after you confront her. Also, do you get the impression that she’s clueless about personal space, or is she invading your personal space willfully out of a sense of asserting herself or something like that? Knowing something is wrong or unwanted and doing it anyway is a whole 'nother level of creepy, and if she’s doing that you may want to find a new roommate now rather than giving her more opportunities to do this kind of stuff again, which she probably will if she has that kind of personality.

Based on your description of how things have gone with the first two roommates, it sounds like you don’t want a roommate at all, and I don’t blame you. But is seems that this is making you oversensitive to things, even simple conversation. Could you rent the room to another college student and give him/her no kitchen privileges and limited access to the rest of the house? It might be worth accepting the person’s immaturity and occasional visitors in exchange for a lesser overall impact on your family’s living space.

I think the difference is between being a “roommate” and “renting a room”. For most roommates, there’s a certain amount of sharing lives. If she’s just “renting a room”, that seems to me to signify less communal interaction. Of course, these differences could be all in my head.

The point is, what she’s doing is making her unacceptable to you as a tenant. I would make a list of the things you expect, and ask her to read it and sign it. If you expect her to buy her own food, clear a shelf in the refrigerator for her. Spell everything out. I’m sure that (computer usage aside), she probably thinks she’s being friendly.

She can’t know she’s not meeting your expectations if you don’t tell her what they are.


Let me be the first to say that if anyone can use a laptop that you or your husband leave out, then it is not secure enough. Especially one used for work…there are plenty of things on there that you woudl not want her getting ahold of, even if it’s just a client or co-worker’s phone number. Those things need to, at the very least, boot up to a password-protected screen so that an unathorized casual user can get no further.

I would focus on the boundary-breaking items, loosely grouped into Touching My Things and Touching Me & Husband, and let the boring chatter go. Personally I would not hint and be passive-aggressive. She’s already shown she can’t understand normal social cues and norms (because, as far as I have observed, there are VERY few people who welcome strangers touching them without permission and toying with their jewelry and electronics) so getting even more oblique is not going to help.

Be direct – “I’m sorry if I was unclear but I cannot permit you to use our laptops, ever, without our express permission.” “I apologize if I gave you the wrong idea but when you touch my hair it is very upsetting to me. Please stop.” I’m a cold hearted snake like this but I really wouldn’t give a shit if her feelings were hurt. She can get over it and abide by completely standard rules for sharing space – or leave. I have lived with MANY roommates and would never have dreamed of using their computer, commenting on their lifestyle, or touching them, or their spouse or boyfriend.

Some people think roommates should be bestest pals. It strikes me that she is trying to drum up some intimacy in your relationship in a very awkward, ham handed way. Maybe in order to fit her concept of “roomies” or maybe because she’s lonely and you’re right there. It’s good to have compassion for that, but having compassion doesn’t mean you just let the other person act however they want.

I also see a difference between renting a room and being roommates. Roommates have common goals and such, renting a room is, “You take care of your room only.” Of course that’s just me.

The only thing about the OP I would find wrong is comptuer use. I would NEVER use a person’s computer without asking first. That’s just common sense.

The other things are just habit she probably has. Some people are touchy feel-ey type people and you need to tell these people, STOP IT.

To you they are malfunctions. She probably sees herself as friendly and helpful.

The main problem is that you didn’t make it clear that you were only looking to let a bedroom and bathroom in exchange for money, and that you weren’t at all interested in sharing lives, opinions, conversations, etc with someone. Just co-exist, no mingling.

You have to tell her this now.

I agree with this - I think you’re having a personality conflict here as well as whatever else is going on. I’ve rented rooms before, and I would never have done any of the things she’s done - I’m very respectful of other people’s possessions and boundaries (and expect the same in return). You need a tenant like me, not like the one you currently have. Or maybe a flight attendant who is never home. :slight_smile:

For crying in the beer, put different passwords on both computers and don’t tell your renter what they are. And don’t write them down on anything. And don’t be clever and use each other’s names, or the same word backwords, or ‘password’ or anything else cute.

And then if you do banking online or anything with your credit card number stored on your machine - change those passwords. Think seriously about requesting new credit card numbers.

And whatever it is you do for work, consider what, if anything, would be necessary to lock down.

None of this means I think your renter is thief. She’s probably not. As far as you know.