Boundary work with roommates can be difficult and maddening, especially if it's not translating or if one person is taking up more room than the other, and the exchanges aren't equal.
So then, when the boundaries have already been crossed, how do you re-assert them as painlessly as possible?
Redditor OBLGTRWY found himself at the mercy of this question with no idea of how to go forward.
He took to the popular subReddit "Am I The A**hole?" or "AITA" to get a read on how best to approach a difficult situation.
"Would I Be The A**hole] If I told my roommate her bathroom anxiety needs addressing as it has become an issue?"
The issue arose, as issues often do, between best friends.
"So I (24M[ale]) have been living with one of my best friends (25F[emale]) for a few months now. In general it has been great, we are both pretty tidy, considerate of noise usually and also about having guests over. I used to live with some real slobs so it's a really nice change."
"Just to preface, we've both realised we are spending a lot more on bills cause of quarantine and so agreed to try to cut down on our usage. This is especially important for me as I work and live on a stricter budget than her as she is unemployed but her family are well off and send her money every month, she is looking for work though but she's got an arts degree and for obvious reasons the job market isn't great at the moment."
However, some value systems don't line up, which is starting to cause a little bit of tension as it pertains to bills in the apartment.
"As people we are pretty different in some ways but it has never really been an issue. She's fairly old fashioned, believes guys should always pay for her dinner, she only goes out if she's got a full face of makeup, sticks her pinky out when she sips her drink etc."
"Anyway, she's also been taught this idea that women should just somehow be ashamed of bodily functions? Like she should somehow pretend a real lady never needs to 'drop the kids off at the pool.'"
Her anxiety over being heard in the bathroom is driving up the water bill.
"We talked about this once and I honestly don't care, I really don't wanna talk about what she gets up to in there anyway. What is becoming an issue is that for her to relax enough to 'take the Browns to the Super Bowl,' she has to leave the shower running and play music full blast on the off chance I may hear her so much as flush. This can go on for nearly half an hour til she is relaxed enough."
"I mean, this draws more attention to the fact more than anything else but she doesn't see it that way. It didn't bother me at first but an extra half an hour of hot water once or twice a day is adding up and also it has happened multiple times now that I've had to have cold showers because she's used up the hot water."
"I've mentioned it briefly before but she was mortified and shut it down hard, even after I made it clear there were no judgements."
So he is left with one simple question:
"WIBTA if I asked her to get help or mentioned it was an issue?"
Redditors decided where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
- YWBTA - You Would Be The A**hole
- YWNBTA - You Would Not Be The A**hole
All agreed our original poster, or OP, was trying to do the right thing.
"YWNBTA, but don't use the words 'get help.' I'd use an 'I feel' statement instead. If she's still adamant about using the shower the way she is, I'd make her pay the water bill entirely. She's using it the most and if it's that concerning to her, she can pay for it. You'd have to plan your day where you're showering early enough or late enough that she's asleep so you can get hot water, but at least she's paying for that water. If she refuses, I'd just find a new roommate (when you can) if it bothers you that much."~JenovaCelestia
"NTA, just try to nicely explain to her that the water is too much and ask if maybe she would rather only use the music if she is that uncomfortable, but just ask her nicely that the water is adding too much money to the bills each month."~Blackcatfrommars
"If it's got to the point where you're taking cold showers, you WNBTA. I don't think you can make her get help though. Your main option is laying down boundaries like not using the shower to cover the sound. Isn't the radio enough? Or maybe she could buy something else?"~vermicious_knid89
"NTA. Tell her to run cold water then."
"But honestly, yea she needs help but can't say it is your place to bring it up. You two are not a couple, just live together. Buy her some headphones. I can understand being unable to do the deed in public restrooms, but for gods sake, it's clearly obvious what she's doing when she turns on music that loud."~ChewMyFudge
Clearing that air (so to speak) is not OP's job—but Reddit agreed there are less expensive ways for his roommate to make herself feel more comfortable.
"People saying "tell her to run cold water" or no water at all??????? Literally the amount of water being wasted for no good reason, damn NTA but please get a machine or something because this water waste is concerning."~SwiftAlliegator
"I was raised in the same manner as the roommate. Women do not 'fart,' nor do we poop. I have the same problem being comfortable and relaxed enough to get it done when others are around. Just a few weeks ago, I left my own house (I live alone, boyfriend had stayed the night) 'to get Starbucks' just so I could go to the local grocery store and do my business. While traveling, my body refuses to poop. I've gone 8 days while camping."
"My suggestion would be to ask her if it would help if you went for a walk? She could say something like - hey can you go check on the neighbors cat. And you could give her some privacy."~f4llentides
"NAH. I have this exact same issue. I have to have the shower running. I don't think it's a mental health thing but more cultural. It's common where I grew up for women to pretend they aren't human. If I were rooming with someone and they brought this up, I would be MORE than happy to pay for the majority of the water bill and compromise by using cold water. I don't think you're going to be able to get her to stop because I know I wouldn't be able to, but you definitely shouldn't be taking cold showers or spending more money because of her problem. I'd just tell her that you're tight on cash and worried about the water bill, and she'll probably offer to pay for her habit."~babylyalka
"NTA, but I'm flabbergasted by the proportion of people that think running cold water is a good solution. It's so extremely wasteful. This would be an absolute dealbreaker for me."
"My country is currently going through a never seen before drought. It's so bad, that some cities ran through their water, meaning there was no running water for a day or two. And I'm talking about the mild climate of Western-Europe, not some 'remote, arid desert.' We went months without rain - and people still don't seem to get it. The water shortage is in my top three list of worldwide, immediate concerns. Running a shower to mask the sound of your bowel movements is inexcusable in my opinion."~joskelb
But OP's roommate has some difficult feelings that only delicacy will be able to begin to break down.
"I'm gonna say NAH. As someone who used to do this same thing, I'm not sure talking to her would make things better. I've personally always had this kind of anxiety, ever since I was potty trained as a kid, and it was never something I was taught. My fear is if you talk to her about running the water every time, she'll refuse to go unless she's alone in the house. As to why she runs hot water instead of cold water, she probably is hoping you'll think she takes multiple showers a day while listening to music instead of thinking she's in there on the toilet. If you'd like to go ahead and talk to her because of the bills, I'd maybe say 'hey, I notice you take a few showers a day and using the hot water is running up the bills,' and so on. This kind of anxiety isn't something I'd want to talk about or be approached about by a friend though."~ThatsJaicist
"NTA but I've known someone for who this was a real issue. Poor girl didn't poo properly for nearly the 2 years she was with her boyfriend as they more or less lived together. She physically couldn't relax enough and it was really hard on her emotionally. I know it seems super strange but after I watched her live through this I have sympathy for these people. Trust me when I say she probably wishes she didn't care. A white noise machine is your best bet! They're fairly inexpensive, too. Crank that up and it'll be fine as it won't use up too much electricity and should mute her plops."~whatsarigatoni
"NTA. She's not the a**hole for her issue (I've been there and it sucks) but she is for her method. Why is she using hot water instead of just cold? Not that wasting the water at all is good, but that would at least be a step up. Talk to her about it kindly. Maybe you can get a white noise machine or she can run the shower on cold and pay a bit more than half of the water bill."~GarlicBread_Genocide
"NTA. It's tough. As someone with IBS the noise can be EMBARRASSING, I get it I've been there (even now with my SO of 8 years). Just gotta time up those courtesy flushes. I would explain that the cover up is worse than the crime, play the radio but no more water. Show her the increased water bill, search for normal usage in the area for two, provide info on wasted water. If she continues with the shower running when as you so lovingly put it 'take the Browns to the superbowl,' she needs to pay more on the water bill."
"The Browns WILL win the superbowl in my lifetime and I cant wait to see this euphemism flushed right on down with all the non believers."~o_suspicioustaco
OP hopefully found the advice he was looking for from his Reddit cohort.
And hopefully OP's roommate can get on a healthier—or at least less expensive—path.
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