The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Roommate falling out turned romance novel

Grace Thomas

Dear Bert,

My college best friend and roommate (who I deeply care about) and I recently had a major falling out. It’s made me realize I might have had stronger feelings for them than just friendship. Now I’m questioning the nature of those feelings – were they platonic love, romantic love, or something else entirely? How can I understand these emotions without relying on traditional heteronormative ideas of attraction and love?

Dear Conflicted Co-Habitant, 

I appreciate you writing in. This is certainly a confusing thing to be going through. There’s a bit to unpack here, so rather than give you a concrete course of action, I will give you my method of understanding and processing emotions, and hopefully, it’s something you can apply to your situation. On that note, my first piece of advice is to do what feels right to you! Intuition is a powerful thing, and with enough time, reflection, and processing, I trust you will find the best way to proceed. I will, however, provide some techniques that may help you get to the bottom of things. 

I first want to address the nature of your falling out. While an unfortunate thing to go through, it’s both common and healthy to go through fluctuations in emotional closeness with people. Relationships with everyone ebb and flow! I trust you know best how to reflect on whatever caused your falling out, but keep in mind I cannot fully speak to the nature of your relationship. Sometimes, conflicts like these can become permanent separations, which is a completely normal part of life, and not something you should stress over. As you say yourself, you care deeply for this individual, and if those feelings persist through whatever strain you are going through, then it is certainly a connection that means a lot to you. 

It is interesting to me that you mention that it was the falling out itself that made you realize you might have feelings for your roommate. Sometimes strong emotions can provoke other strong emotions! A fight, when handled healthily and well, can often build feelings of trust and respect. Those feelings can easily blossom into a genuine love for another person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having these feelings, and you are certainly normal and valid for feeling them. It’s quite easy to form a bond with someone you spend so much time with. This goes doubly since you are friends as well as roommates. 

This can make things more difficult when you two are on the outs, as physically and socially you may not be able to get the distance you need. So perhaps giving some time to yourself, where you can, is in order. It will provide a better atmosphere to understand exactly how you feel for someone if you aren’t pressured by their presence. We live in a very small world here at Bates! Sometimes it’s hard to find space from people you need distance from. If that is the case, I highly recommend you find a space on campus, be it alone or with others, that you feel like yourself. This will give you the setting you need to hopefully wrap your head around things. My recommendation for a good space is the OIE, or any of the spaces in Chase Hall for that matter, whether you need to have some time alone outside the dorm or a place for you and your friends to meet without the pressure of your roommate looming over you. 

Now, bear with me, as I attempt to give a very strange metaphor. Imagine, your emotions are like an avocado. On the outside, there are the squishy, tasty, and colorful bits: those are your feelings. Within the flesh of the avocado is the pit, that is, the solid material that the fruit grew out of. Those are judgments; a single idea that has caused the emotion to begin with. In other, more technical terms: emotions carry cognitive content. Within every avocado, there is a pit, and within every emotion, there is some sort of conclusion made. My point here is, that you want those core judgments that influence your feelings to be in accordance with reality. An avocado isn’t an avocado if the pit is bigger than the fruit.

You speak of this dilemma in the past tense. So perhaps you feel as though the situation has passed and things are set in stone? I ask you to question if that’s truly the case. The pit of your avocado may be saying “The friendship we had is over, my feelings about this don’t matter” but is that really what is happening? That’s something only you can answer. Nonetheless, you wrote to me, so it shows that you are curious about these feelings, even if you don’t think they are actionable in the future. 

If you are trying to assess this situation without relying on the norms of attraction and love, I think the avocado method (patent pending) is a perfect way to observe your emotions and take apart the biases and distortions that may exist within them. We can’t ignore that these societal pressures of heteronormativity influence how we perceive love and attraction, but we can try and identify where and how they skew our perceptions of reality.

To make sure I get my point across, I want to offer an example from my own life. Wise as I am, Bert doesn’t always get it right the first time around. I recently received a grade I was far from happy with on an assignment I felt I did quite well on. I was frustrated and upset. Once I had those feelings, I took a step back and looked for the pit of my avocado. I realized that I wasn’t upset about the grade as much as I was about the notion that my ideas and creativity in that assignment were not being acknowledged. I decided to sum that avocado pit up as a simple phrase “My ideas aren’t good enough.” But that wasn’t true! I had room to improve, but my ideas were not under attack. My judgment was not in line with reality. Instead, I decided to replace it with a more realistic and actionable judgment “My ideas are good, and I should work harder to express them.” 

To apply it to your situation more, let me ask some open-ended questions that may help you get started on the process of understanding your situation: 

  1. What is the judgment you are making about your and your roommate’s relationship? Does it reflect what is happening, and does it reflect the way in which you drifted apart? 
  2. What judgments have you made about yourself during this time? Are they accurate to who you are? 
  3. What judgments have you made about your roommate? Are they fair?
  4. Are those feelings of love you have still with you? Is the way your roommate is handling this difficult time in your friendship showing you something about how a possible relationship with them could be? 

As a final bit of advice, I do highly recommend you at least attempt to communicate with your roommate once you feel comfortable enough to do so. Sometimes all you need to do is have an honest, vulnerable conversation to rekindle what you once had. It’s helpful to do this sort of mental work first, so you can understand where you are coming from, and how you want to proceed.

I wish you the best of luck, 



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