Getting along with roommates: The basics
In our upcoming edition (#8! it’s coming for you—get excited!), NtRW interview victims Ashlee and Luke talk about their experiences dealing with difficult roommates. I wasn’t exactly BFFs with my roommate when I was in college either, so I know how tough it can be to live with someone whose every action seems designed to aggravate you. My roommate was the worst: she brought strangers into the room at bizarre hours (i.e. 3 am), took my clothes without asking, left peanut butter jars to roll around on the floor beside her bed, and played loud music when I was up late working on papers. I’m not saying I was a perfect roommate by any means, but I tried to respect her space and be as considerate as possible, two things she made no effort to do. The tension built and built and by the end of our two years living together, we weren’t speaking. I came to think of her as somewhat of an archnemesis—she was my Lex Luthor, my Green Goblin, my Catwoman (without the snazzy bodysuit). To help you avoid similar misery, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for maintaining good relations with your roommate…
- Set boundaries. Lay down ground rules from the very beginning to avoid future conflict. If you don’t want your roommate rifling through your desk to find a pen or borrowing your toothbrush, let him know from the start. Limits are good, so don’t be afraid to set them. That said, building a fence down the center of the room is probably a bit extreme.
- Be flexible. Chances are your roommate won’t have exactly the same habits or schedule as you do, so be prepared to make compromises. Being bullheaded about bed time, study time, noise issues, etc. will only serve to push you and your roommate further and further apart. To bridge the gap rather than broaden it, it’s best to accept that there will be differences and go about finding solutions with a spirit of cooperation and goodwill.
- Communicate. Instead of stewing in resentment, talk to your roommate about what’s bothering you. Don’t assume s/he can read your mind (unless you’re at a college for psychics, in which case I’m totally jealous). A lot of blow-out, knockdown & drag-out fights stem from simple misunderstandings, so it’s best to address any problems outright while they’re still small and manageable.
- Be friendly. There’s no rule that says you have to be friends with your roommate, but being friendly is a good way to keep things pleasant. At the very least, don’t glare at her when she comes into the room. Ignoring your roommate is a mistake, too, so say hi, chat about classes, be nice. It’s really not that hard to be moderately sociable.
You may not love the total stranger chosen by the mysterious roommate-matching overlords to share your inevitably teeny-tiny dorm room with you, but I hope these tips will help you survive your time together with only minimal physical//emotional trauma. And remember: if it gets really unbearable and you just can’t take the person any more, you can always seek outside intervention. Track down your dorm’s resident advisor so that s/he can help you figure out the situation and even find an alternative housing arrangement, if necessary.
Aurora C., editor & only mildly obnoxious roommate
P.S. If you want to read some truly terrifying stories from people about their worst roommate experiences, check out myveryworstroommate.com. Don’t let it scare you too much, though—some roommates are perfectly nice and normal people!