Dear Captain Awkward,
I recently moved in with two of my good friends from college. Two of us are attending the same graduate program in the fall, and the other is graduating next spring. The two guys I moved in with have been living together for the past three years, and since moving in several very awkward situations have developed.
One of the guys, lets call him Undergrad, has been treating me very differently since I moved in. I think he may be viewing me as an intruder into their relationship. He has been very passive aggressive and obviously trying to assert his authority over me and my other friend (Graduate student). This has escalated rapidly and frictions are developing between graduate student and undergrad student. Undergrad has taken to randomly walking in to Graduate’s room without permission, and refusing to leave. When Graduate asks him to do something he doesn’t wish to do, like leave his room, Undergrad either ignores him or gets angry. Now this is awkward enough, but I’ve been brought in to mediate these disputes. I have talked to undergrad, but he refuses to acknowledge my suggestions or give any confirmation. He won’t even assure Graduate and I that he’ll leave the room when Graduate asks.
Then last week things escalated even further. When Graduate yelled at him to leave his room Undergrad responded by attempting to choke him. I was forced to break it up. since then I have seen undergrad shove Graduate student aggressively. I have also talked to Graduate student and he says this has occurred before. Normally I would just kick Undergraduate out of the apartment, but we’re all supposed to be friends. The domestic abusive stuff is difficult to handle because we are all guys and are expected to handle this on our own. I really could use some advice.
Dear Abusive Relationship!
Yeah, I’m turning your question into an exclamation point.
You need to get this guy out of your living space and out of your lives before he seriously injures or kills one of you. If your fellow roommate won’t help you with this, get out of there yourself and let him know he can come sleep on your new couch where you will soon live. Resist anyone who tells you that it’s not that big a deal.
All I can offer are imperfect solutions – I hope the commenters can give you more.
But before you do anything, I think you should go visit the mental health office/student counseling services at your school tomorrow, and tell them what’s up with your roommate. They may be able to get you and your other roommate out of there and onto campus housing temporarily and help direct you to legal advice on breaking your lease or evicting him. They may be able to give you scripts for dealing with the roommate and some backup for when you need to take it to the cops. They may be able to direct you to emergency funds you can access. They may be able to help you guys coax him in for a visit. Ask them – you don’t want to start handling this without professionals at your back.
Also, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They know a lot more about this than me and might also be able to suggest resources. Do this AND talk to the school. You need all the backup you can get.
I highly recommend The Gift of Fear to you. Some things from the book I can think of off the top of my head:
- Give the guy a way to save face.
- Do not escalate, retaliate, threaten, or mock him.
- Treat him like you know he will do the right thing and that he has many alternatives open to him. Try to get him to talk to you. “We’re really concerned about this behavior – it’s not like you, and it’s really not okay? What’s going on? Can we help?”
Get any pets or valuables you like out of there. Lock your computer in your room when you’re gone. Ten years ago, I had a controlling roommate who wrote long incoherent counter notes berating me for my “faults” and worrying about our “friendship.” She threatened to move out in one of the notes, and I circled those words and wrote “How soon?” That’s when she began casually mentioning that she had a gun in her storage locker and then letting my cat “escape” into the snow. I stayed quiet, nodded and smiled at her, agreed with everything she said, saved up money, and waited until she left town on a vacation and moved, leaving her no forwarding contact info. Sometimes I run into people who know her who try to talk to me. I walk away from them very quickly. Would she have actually hurt me? Who cares. Not sticking around to find out.
So. Get a lock for your door and use it. If he puts his hands on either of you again, call the cops, and if he’s not removed from the house make sure you have a safe place to go. Also, this is not the time for pride: Don’t be afraid to ask your parents for emergency money if you need to get out of there in a hurry if things go to shit. Let them know what’s going on. Let your friends know. Make sure there is a place you can sleep if you need to. But most of all, get people at your school to take this seriously and have your back. Something very serious is going on inside this guy, and it’s not going to just go away on its own, and hopefully the school’s mental health services can reach out to him and get him some help before it gets worse.
Take care of yourself, and please, please let us know what happens. Readers, I could really use some backup here.