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Every february, there comes a time when we become acutely aware of the status of our relationships with others. We think about the moments we’ve shared, the jokes we’ve told, the quarrels we’ve fought, and we reach a pivotal moment when we must decide whether or not we want to take the next step or move on to a new chapter of our lives. I refer, of course, to the time of room draw sign-ups. As we draw closer and closer to the all-important deadline, all of the unspoken questions of the last months must be answered. Awkward conversations ensue that make the stammering confessions of Valentine’s Day look like idle chatter about the weather. Of these uncomfortable room draw situations, nothing is more painfully awkward than the roommate breakup. However, there is no need to fear: This guide will help you defuse that explosive situation with such skill that Kathryn Bigelow herself will want to make a movie about you.

To begin the process of parting ways with your roommate, you have to first break up with them in your mind. While this may seem obvious, it’s only too common for someone to convince themselves to overlook their roommate’s flaws when it comes time to sign up for room draw, if for no other reason than the fear of the unknown. Sure, your roommate may have a habit of screaming in his or her sleep, but at least you’ve grown accustomed to it. After months of gradually adjusting to all of the various quirks of your roommate, it can become difficult to imagine going through the process again with a new person. Before you can move on to a fresh start in the fall semester, you have to get rid of any unhealthy co-dependency you may have developed. The best way to do this is simply to remind yourself of all of the annoying things that your roommate does. At this point, some of you may be finding it difficult to find faults with your roommate, and this can signify one of two things. Either you have a perfectly happy relationship with your roommate, in which case you should heed the musical advice of our president and stay together, or, as is more likely, you’re simply not trying hard enough to dislike them. Maybe your roommate never sleeps, or maybe you have vastly different standards of cleanliness, or maybe your roommate labels everything in the room that belongs to him or her with personalized stickers, for example.  

Whatever the case may be, once you’ve convinced yourself of the necessity of the split, it’s time to figure out exactly how you’ll make it happen. If you’re fortunate in your domestic discord, then you can be assured that your roommate will be just as eager to part ways as you are. If that’s the case, then you can employ the often underrated elephant-in-the-room strategy, which entails simply ignoring the subject and entering separate draw groups without comment. This plan of inaction has the obvious advantage of avoiding the awkwardness of the breakup conversation entirely, but it is high-risk, high-reward. While you are congratulating yourself on having skirted the uncomfortable topic with the demureness befitting a Victorian courtier, there is always the possibility that you are creating a great deal of discomfort for your roommate. In the worst-case scenario, your roommate could hold on to the false belief that you’ll be rooming together next semester until the last minute. If this occurs, then you will have succeeded only in greatly increasing the uneasiness of the inevitable break-up conversation.  

For those situations in which you and your roommate are of different opinions about whether or not to group up for room draw, or when the former strategy has backfired, you must prepare a contingency plan for breaking the unfortunate news to your roommate. One way to do this is by employing the stampeding-elephant strategy, so named because it involves approaching the issue with the subtlety of a stampeding elephant. This approach entails simply telling your roommate that you want to discuss room draw and explaining in a rational way that you think it would be best if you found different groups for the next year. While this can certainly be effective, most people find it difficult to be so direct about the subject. If it were as easy to enact this plan as it is to write it, then this guide would hardly be necessary. As the existence of this guide attests, it is not nearly so easy, and there are numerous alternatives for the less brave to dump their roommates.

One such option, a favorite of those inclined to wacky sitcom-style shenanigans, is the classic no-actually-there-is-an-elephant-in-the-room-and-the-elephant-is-me strategy. As its name suggests, this involves accentuating the things that make rooming with you unpleasant. In the same way that you reminded yourself how incompatible you were with your roommate in the first step of this guide, you now remind your roommate of this incompatibility. For example, if you are disorganized, you can allow the disorder in your room to grow to unprecedented levels by completely submerging the furniture and floor in a shifting sea of clutter. If, on the other hand, you are extremely clean, you can begin to wear elbow-length rubber gloves around the room and adorn your hip with a belt loaded with an arsenal of disinfectants. This strategy has the obvious advantage of being incredibly fun, but it also carries several unfortunate drawbacks. Chief among them is the fact that if you would be willing to enact this strategy, you’re probably a pretty terrible roommate already. No, seriously, you probably don’t need to worry about convincing your roommate at all, which is cause for some degree of celebration.

If you are not obnoxious enough to try any of the above, you needn’t fear, as there is yet another strategy for severing ties with your roommate. In many ways, the relationship between two people forced to share the same crowded living space becomes similar to the dynamic between couples in romantic relationships. Extending the metaphor of the roommate break-up to the furthest extent, this final strategy involves treating the conversation with your roommate like an actual breakup. The we-need-to-talk-no-really-this-time-I-promise-it’s-not-about-elephants strategy is perhaps the nicest way to break it to your roommate. First, invite them to a nice meal, your treat, in a crowded, public area. After you have ordered food, casually steer the conversation to reminiscing about your time as roommates. Be sure to bring up how different it is from those first days you shared together and how it seems like the spark has gone. Working these and as many other cliches as possible into your speech, tell your roommate that while you’ll always cherish the time you had together, it’s time for you to explore other options. If you’ve done this properly, then your roommate will at this point either be amused by your clever appropriation of romance tropes or made slightly uncomfortable by the intensity of your speech, depending on your natural level of creepiness. Regardless, the style will have distracted them from the substance, and you will have successfully broken up with your roommate without causing anyone involved emotional distress.

Although there is no one best way to break up with your roommate, there are several tried and true techniques that can make the process simpler. With the strategies in this guide at your disposal, you’re now equipped to accomplish this in a number of ways, depending on your personal tastes and preferences. While you may be excited to try them all, please contain yourself and put your roommate through only one of the above plans, unless of course you are breaking up with a suite of people, in which case, knock yourself out.

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