Although most colleges and universities go to great lengths to ensure that roommates are matched with like-minded individuals, it’s almost inevitable that conflict will arise between you and your roommate.
Even if you and your roommate are good friends, emotions can run high when you’re forced to share such a small space with someone who only a few short months ago was a complete stranger.
Part of living with a roommate, however, is learning how to get along with one another. Knowing how to deal with conflict and following the tips below for getting along with your roommate will not only improve life in the dorm – it will also make your entire semester more bearable.
Understand that you don’t have to be best friends.
One of the most common mistakes that college students make in evaluating their relationship with their roommate is to assume that all roommates become best friends. While this can and does happen, in the vast majority of cases, you and your roommate will not have a relationship as meaningful and life-changing as that. Just because you and your roommate aren’t each other’s best friends, however, doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good match for one another. In fact, having a roommate who’s just a friend or polite acquaintance is actually sometimes better than living with your best friend because it can:
- Save you from fighting with your best friend. (Unfortunately, sometimes moving in together can ruin a friendship.)
- Allow you some privacy. (Even best friends need their space every once in awhile.)
- Let you to stay focused on homework and studying when you need to. (Being productive while hanging out with your best friend can be very, very difficult.)
- Give you and your best friend more to talk about. (Living together, some people can run out of conversation topics pretty quickly.)
If you are one of the few students who develop a deep connection with your roommate, then be sure to nurture it. Just because you’re best friends doesn’t mean you can ignore each other’s boundaries and feelings on a roommates-only level.
Communicate openly (like adults), and establish guidelines.
When you first move in with your roommate, you’ll want to be as honest as possible. It will probably feel strange trying to get to know someone so quickly, but you’ll both be much happier for it in the long run. We’ve all heard the horror stories of two roommates who loathed each other and went out of their way to make the other’s lives miserable, but that doesn’t have to be you. Getting to know your roommate as soon as possible will help you to determine whether or not they’re a good fit. You don’t have to get too personal (by asking them about their religion, political orientation, and other facts that probably won’t affect your happiness as dormmates), but you should not shy away from those questions that you know could be “dealbreakers” for you.
If you know that you’ll be bothered by the idea of a stranger sleeping in your room, for example, ask your roommate about their feelings on bringing other people over to spend the night. If you can’t stand when people borrow your things without asking, then ask the other person to respect that. If you both enter the situation knowing each other’s boundaries and how best to respect those boundaries, then there’s less likelihood that one of you will accidentally cross some unknown line.
Hug it out.
This one’s pretty simple: Be forgiving. There’s no reason you have to actually physically “hug it out,” but you will need to learn how to let certain things go. Learn to compromise like mature young people, and you’ll both be much happier for it.
Don’t let issues accumulate.
That being said, there’s no possible way you could tell your roommate up front about all of the things that bother you. Not only would it probably make you sound like the most irritable person on earth, but on a more practical level, there will also be a number of things that you might not have even known were a problem – until your roommate did it. For example, perhaps you thought you were pretty generous in terms of sharing food. One day, though, you walk back to your dorm, intent on tearing into that last slice of leftover pizza, only to find that your roommate has eaten it for lunch.
In situations like this, it’s important to let your roommate know your feelings. Be as gentle as possible (After all, this probably wasn’t one of the guidelines you established in the beginning.), but let them know that it did bother you. Something like, “Hey, I know I said we could share food – and we can-, but do you think you could maybe give me a heads up before you finish off the very last of something?” is completely appropriate and should hopefully stop the situation from happening again.
Unless you know it will be a one-time-only type of annoyance, don’t simply hold onto your irritation. Doing so would be a sure recipe for an end-of-the-semester-blowup type of disaster because, as they say, it’s always the little things that drive us crazy. And in most cases, you shouldn’t simply vent your frustrations to a friend. The first person to hear about the problems you’ve been having with your roommate should almost always be your roommate themselves.
You and your roommate probably won’t get along 100% of the time, but if you communicate openly and honestly and enter your relationship with the proper expectations, you two can still have a great semester together as polite and respectful livingmates – and maybe even friends.