Sharing a house is a rite of passage, with many becoming infatuated with the idea after their first viewing of Friends. However, is living within the close confines of pizza box-hoarding students really all it’s cut out to be?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve quickly realised my rocky experience with housemates is not uncommon. My best friend, who we will call Louise, drew my attention to the prominence of bullying within student households.
Louise is studying in London and shares a flat with two other girls. She was recently told, by someone we will call Sophie, that her portions of the bills would be increased because she was having too many friends over to stay. She was not asked, she was told. She was told by her ‘friend’ who signed a contract, just like Louise, to pay for bills equally as specified at the beginning of the tenancy agreement. Furthermore, when Louise agreed to live with Sophie, regulations on sleepovers and family visitations were not discussed.
Louise feels intimidated, betrayed, and unsure how to react to such a demand. And so, she came to me for advice. This coercive behaviour is not uncommon. Assertions of power like these can materialise in decisions about heating, cleaning, and sharing each other’s food. But it is how we conduct ourselves when resolving these disagreements that is crucial.
Conflict with people we live with is inevitable. However, if someone is feeling threatened they should make other people aware of the position they are being put in. As the age-old saying goes, a worry shared is a worry halved. Perspective can also be incredibly powerful. If we are uncertain about our position as a victim, someone else’s objective reassurance can be reaffirming and empowering.
Bringing up an issue via a message can often allow you to put your thoughts down clearly and uninterrupted. Yet diplomacy is key. If you do choose to do this, try to withhold drama by antagonising the other person.
Ultimately, a conversation in person will have to happen. Make sure to keep calm and perhaps write down your thoughts beforehand so you know exactly how you feel and what you want to say. If you realise you are in the wrong in any way, don’t be afraid to admit fault. If you ever feel emotionally or physically threatened, it’s perfectly normal practice to alert your university or landlord. Bullying in your own home can be suffocating, but talking about it can relieve domestic anxiety.