Life with a roommate isn’t always rainbows and butterflies — even we’ll admit to that. But when you have to share a space with someone, it’s vital to find a way to get along. Even if that means looking past the stack of dirty dishes or overflowing garbage can. But when the little stuff becomes too much to handle for one party, it can create palpable tension that can quickly turn toxic.

Good communication is the key to a healthy roommate relationship, but if you’re getting bad vibes without a clear reason why, you might have a serious issue on your hands. We talked to an expert on common behaviors of a passive-aggressive roommate and how to deal if you’re living with one.

What is Passive Aggression?

Psychology professor and clinical psychologist Dr. William Dorfman defines passive-aggressive behavior as a dishonest expression of anger and hostility — an indirect expression of feelings people don’t want to confront. The most serious implication of this behavior is that doesn’t directly solve problems but rather expresses resentment and disapproval, making it difficult to deal with or improve a situation.

What are the Signs of a Passive-Aggressive Roommate?

Thirty-year-old blogger, Chloe, who prefers not to use her real name, knows what this feels like. She and a friend lived with a passive-aggressive roommate in a townhouse during her freshman year of college. She says their roommate regularly passive-aggressively found ways to be inconsiderate. Eventually, the situation escalated to the point they felt uncomfortable in their own home.

“He would leave messes, and we would have to clean up after him, but then he would complain about me to the third roommate or about her to me,” says. “It became very uncomfortable because we would end up just trying to avoid him to keep the peace. It was like the tension became our fourth roommate. It was this real thing that was always present. You aren’t home without comfort and feeling protected and safe. When that is stripped from you, you avoid home until it’s late. You have no peace, no comfort.”

While anyone can react to a difficult situation passive-aggressively, Dorfman says some consistent behaviors indicate it’s not someone simply blowing off steam.

“It’s inherently an interpersonal process and a personality trait. Sometimes, we even diagnose it in clinical psychology as a passive-aggressive personality disorder when it really characterizes a person, not just once in a while.”

To add, here are some common passive-aggressive behaviors that your roommate might exhibit along with strategies for dealing with them.

1. Procrastination on chores

No matter how many times you ask your roommate to do something, they’ll make excuses until it becomes obvious that they’re not happy. They might say they’re going to do the dishes after you ask, but it never happens. Repetitive procrastination is likely an indication of not wanting to do something.

Dorfman says,

“We all procrastinate, but when you procrastinate with someone else, it affects the other person’s rights and they’re left with the problem.”

2. Being forgetful and late

A passive-aggressive roommate consciously or unconsciously forgets what’s asked of them, or is constantly late. Lateness, according to Dorfman, is another way of saying “I’m going to take control of the situation.”

For example, you may ask your roommate to arrive home by a certain time so you can rest, but they’ll be late and say they forgot your request. Or they may forget that you asked them not to eat your food in the fridge. When your roommate makes it a habit to be inconsiderate, it can be a sure sign of passive aggressiveness.

3. Silent treatment

A passive-aggressive roommate may also shut down when faced with conflict. Instead of talking about the issue, they express neither hostility nor honesty. Rather than negotiating to solve an uncomfortable situation, they give you the silent treatment.

Not talking, Chloe says, was one of the main issues in her roommate relationship. Looking back now, she says she’s more aware of what to look for.

“The person will either say nothing was wrong or lash out. Either way, I would try to bring a peaceful and calm environment to whatever forum you decide to have and just keep having communication lines open.”

4. Actions don’t match the attitude

Perhaps the most toxic passive-aggressive behavior is acting one way and feeling another. They come across as being insincere or “fake nice”. For example, your roommate might ask you to “pick up” some toilet paper from the store, but it eventually becomes a routine. Dorfman likens the situation to someone stabbing you in the back while smiling to your face.

“Often people who are passive-aggressive have an obvious, gratuitous attitude toward you that is not consistent with the way they act,” Dorfman says. “If you’re smiling at someone and being very sweet and friendly, how can you be angry?”

5. Your roommate doesn’t have a good reason to be angry

Not every passive-aggressive roommate necessarily procrastinates or is stubborn and manipulative. The root of the behaviors of your roommate could also be that they don’t like being limited by others. Before jumping to conclusions, you should consider this first.

“If you’re not doing anything to instill or create any frustration or resentment, they don’t need to act in a passive-aggressive way,” Dorfman says. “It’s only when they’re called upon to do something or they’re not getting their way. Rather than address that they’re frustrated, they shut down and become stubborn, quiet, and withdrawn.

“They keep on saying, ‘I’m going to do it’ and ‘I’m sorry,’ and yet you continue to feel resentful about them. So, when your feelings don’t match up and you’re left confused about how you should deal with this person, that’s one indication that it’s not necessarily you. You’re getting mixed messages from this person.”

6. Backhanded compliments

Backhanded compliments are comments or expressions that seem positive at first, but it’s actually an insult. These are also known as “non-compliments” or “disguised insults” as backhanded compliments are usually indirect and subtle.

Some examples of backhanded compliments are:

  • When you get a new haircut and your roommate says, “your haircut makes your nose look smaller.”
  • You’re going out for the night and they say, “that’s a beautiful dress on you. I didn’t even realize it was you at first glance.”
  • When your roommate comments on how your room or personal space looks: “I wish I was as relaxed as you in this mess.”

7. Being sarcastic

Having a sarcastic roommate can be tiresome if it gets too much. It’s similar to backhanded compliments in a way that both are verbal and indirect, but sarcastic comments are a bit more upfront than backhanded compliments.

Plus, sarcasm is usually with irony or mockery that can be hurtful, especially with roommates.

8. Slamming doors intentionally

Another sign of having a passive-aggressive roommate is when they slam the doors to your apartment intentionally. For example, you had an argument, you told them off, or confronted them on something they did, then they suddenly leave the apartment then slam the door on their way out. It’s disrespectful and can disturb others living the apartment or even on the same floor, as the noise of the door slamming travels through the hallway.

How to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Roommate: Tips & Tricks

It’s normal to feel angry when dealing with the behaviors of a passive-aggressive roommate. But the thing to keep in mind with passive-aggressive roommates is, you can’t change them.

“[You] can get them to stop eating their food a lot easier than they can get them to become more open with their anger and more responsible with their feelings,” Dorfman says. “You deal with the specific situation, not with the personality.”

As per Dorfman, some solutions to dealing with a passive-aggressive roommate are:

  • Tell your roommate you’re frustrated, ask them what’s going on, and discuss your concerns with them. But you should also be prepared for them to get defensive and shut down. 
  • Talk to someone you trust who can see the situation objectively to get their perspective.
  • Try going to therapy or counseling to work things out if both are willing.

Ultimately, the solutions depend on how volatile the behaviors of your roommate are.

“Passive-aggressive style is on a continuum; it’s not all or nothing. Certain people are more passive-aggressive than others, so I wouldn’t count anyone out who has a particular difficulty with someone,” Dorfman says. “You have to make the effort to try to resolve the issues and call somebody on what’s going on.”

The Solution to Dealing with Passive-Aggressive Roommates

Finding new roommates may be the solution to dealing with a passive-aggressive roommate. By seeking out individuals who are more communicative and considerate, you can create a more positive and harmonious living environment. Don’t let one negative experience discourage you from finding roommates who will bring joy and positivity to your home.

Source: Roomi

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What are you waiting for? Take the leap and start the search for new, compatible roommates today!

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