‘It’s not working out:’ How to tell someone you don’t want to live with them

The housing process is lengthy and time consuming, involving everything from determining where you live next year, to whom you live with. And perhaps one of the most difficult elements is breaking those roommate ties. When the clutter becomes too much, or the roommate you once loved turns into your worst nightmare, how do you tell someone you won’t be living with them next year?

In some cases, the conversation results in resentment towards a former roommate. Maria Kanner ’21* had a difficult time with her roommate freshman year.

“It was extremely uncomfortable,” she said.“I didn’t know when to come back to my room because I never knew who or what was transpiring in our room. I used to hang out in my friends dorm rooms as much as possible, and once or twice I even slept there too.”

After reaching out to Student Life, Kanner ultimately decided to avoid face-to-face confrontation, and instead texted her roommate after her frustration built.

“Later on in the week, I came back to our room and found that my personal items were trashed, broken or misplaced,” Kanner said. “I got extremely upset and then talked to my RA and she helped me get into contact with Student Life. Once I talked to my RA and Student Life, the process was moving fast. I am a wimp when it comes to confrontation. I ended up texting my former roommate to let her know I will be moving out. In the text I kept it short and not so sweet and told her I will be moving my items out as soon as possible.”
Some students having trouble with their roommate, or wishing to move out, use the Student Life Office to figure out how to break the news.

“What we suggest to students all the time if they’re unsure, is to go either to their RA or RD, or an upper class student they might know that already went through something like that and walk through the process, and walk through what that conversation might look like,” said Jeff Vincent, coordinator of Community Standards and Student Conduct and assistant dean of students. “Have a discussion in person. No one wants to get an email saying they don’t want to live with you next year, and then you still have to live with that person.”

Many St. Michael’s students share a similar story, including Kyra Smith*, who quickly realized she had to move away from her roommate.

“There was an incident where I borrowed something, and she freaked out,” said Smith. “She was so messy. Her side of the room would start inching towards mine and then my friends said ‘You’re not happy there,’ and they kind of just convinced me to move out.”

Former roommates Cameron Maher, ’21, and Matthew Riordan, ’21 had the “I don’t want to live with you” conversation this year. But, the two remain amicable.

“We kind of just saw it coming,” said Riordan. “We didn’t have any problems, we each wanted bigger spaces, and he found out there was an open spot in one of the suites, so we eventually talked about it and agreed on it.”

Having discussed the idea of moving out beforehand, Maher said that his roommate was on board with the idea as well.

“It varies for some people depending on the situation,” Maher said. “Whether you have big conflict, space, going to bed or how you want to keep the room, but for me and him it really wasn’t awkward. We’re still good friends to this day, we just both wanted our own living spaces.”

Talking to your roommate about moving out can be tricky, and Smith holds some regrets as to what she should have done differently in the process.

“I would have moved out earlier,” Smith said. “Get out as soon as you can, and don’t pretend that everything’s okay. Just avoid the awkwardness and get it done. You should talk it out. I didn’t do that, I think it would have been better if we just talked about it, and talked about how unhappy I was.”

Kanner offered some advice as to what she would have done differently, and what she believes would have saved herself the stress and awkwardness of the last-minute conversation.

“I would have talked to her in person about what happened to my personal items first,” Kanner said. “Depending on how that conversation went, I would have told her in person about how serious I was about moving out of the room.”

Maher said he believes that the best way to confront your roommate is to simply be honest and upfront, and the most important thing to keep in mind is that communication is key.

“If you’re planning on not living with your current roommate, communicate well, don’t just move out of the room,” Maher said. “Matt and I were so good in our situation because we communicated well with each other, and we were honest at the same time.”

*Name changed for anonymity