3 Telltale Signs Your Roommate Could Be Toxic

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3 Telltale Signs Your Roommate Could Be Toxic

Lisa Wright · Sep 15, 2022
Young woman gets yelled at by her toxic roommate.

Having a roommate can be downright difficult. Even if it’s someone you’ve known for years, living with someone is different than being close friends or even general acquaintances – and when you cohabitate, you sometimes end up seeing the worst in people. That’s just human nature.

But how can you tell when your relationship with your roommate has turned toxic? Toxic relationships go above and beyond the normal human foibles, surpassing petty disagreements and normal flares in temper. Toxicity within a roommate relationship means boundaries are being crossed, whether they be emotional, psychological, or even physical. While you’re ultimately the best judge of what’s acceptable in your home, it’s important to pay attention to signs that your roommate is toxic, especially because recognizing said toxicity can help you address the situation in a healthy way, through forthright communication and honesty.

According to experts, these are some of the most telltale signs that you’re dealing with a potentially toxic roommate:

They’re Overly Needy

Even if your roommate is a friend, there are certain boundaries that need to be established once you begin to cohabitate. If you notice that your roommate is overly dependent on you for emotional or psychological support, constantly draining you for advice, companionship, or constantly taking up your time, it could be a signal your relationship is verging on toxic. Experts often refer to people like this as “emotional vampires” as they tend to suck everything out of their relationships with others, leaving the other person or people in their lives mentally (and even physically) exhausted.

The first thing to do in these situations is to set boundaries in your relationship with your roommate. After all, it’s possible their neediness has nothing to do with you, and an honest conversation may cause them to reevaluate their behavior.

They’re Passive Aggressive

Lapsing into passive aggressive behavior is easy to do in any relationship, as it’s not exactly easy to have difficult conversations with someone you care about (especially if you live with them and have to face them every day!). Still, having tough conversations with your roommate may be necessary from time to time. But how can you handle someone whose passive aggressiveness makes it hard — or even impossible — to address these issues?

The first step is recognizing your roomie’s passive aggressiveness as toxic, or going too far. The biggest indicator of this is not communicating openly, or using one’s feelings to make others feel bad, albeit in an indirect way. Again, in this situation honesty is the best policy. Confront your roommate and encourage a more open relationship by addressing issues directly (and kindly). With any luck, your roomie will recognize and reciprocate these more healthy ways to communicate.

They Don’t Respect Your Privacy/Boundaries

Toxic roommate pulls her roommate's hair in the middle of an altercation.

Just because you live with someone doesn’t mean that personal space and boundaries go out the window. Even if your roomie is your significant other, there are still certain physical, mental, and psychological boundaries that everyone needs. If your roomie can’t (or won’t) respect that, it’s a huge red flag that they may be toxic. This can be difficult to determine, as everyone has their own way of doing things, but if your roommate shares the details of your personal life with others (either online or in person), looks through your phone, computer, or other belongings, always has to be the center of attention, regardless of the situation, or actively tries to sabotage your other relationships, then their behavior is definitely toxic. It can be super tough to deal with these situations, especially if these boundaries weren’t especially established at the beginning of your relationship. Either way, there’s no time like the present to raise these important issues with your roommate, and if he or she still refuses to respect your privacy after you address your concerns, it may be time to look for another living situation.

Living with a roommate can be difficult, especially if you’ve never lived with someone before. Cohabitating can be a wake-up call that alerts you to every one of your roomie’s annoying little ticks, but there’s a big difference between someone simply getting on your nerves and someone that exhibits toxic personality traits. Remember, all of us can be difficult sometimes.

However, if your roomie is unwilling or unable to respect your boundaries or compromise even after you address your issues directly, it may be time to reevaluate your living situation. Your home is a place to feel calm and relaxed, not constantly stressed and on your guard. If your roommate doesn’t want to be flexible, honest, and respectful of both your space and your feelings, then they may not be the person you want to share your home with. The most important thing you can do is to make an effort to repair the situation and set up a healthy pattern of behavior, and if that doesn’t work, ask yourself: do I really want to share my home with this person? If the answer is no, it’s probably time to find yourself a new roomie.

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