Dorm rooms (and even apartments) can be pretty close quarters, and even roommates who start off close can wear on each other’s nerves. Sooner or later, one of you is going to get grumpy, irritated, or downright angry—and how you handle that could make or break your friendship.
I lived with my roommate, Karly* (*I changed her name here, obviously), all the way through our junior year of college. We got along pretty well for the most part, but from time to time we bugged each other. I wish I could say that everything worked out perfectly, but I didn’t exactly have the perfect roommate problem experience. Hopefully you can learn from what happened to me:
- Don’t Trash Talk Your Roommate
Karly didn’t really know how to cope when she was annoyed with me. Sometimes she would leave away messages on AIM about how I was bugging her. Other times she would have a gripe-fest about me on her blog, (which she linked to from her instant messaging profile so all our mutual friends could read it!). That was both embarrassing and hurtful. While I did my best to be a good roommate, I was always worried that I would accidentally do something that would end up on Karly’s blog for everyone to read.
- Don’t Avoid the Issue
Aside from telling other people how much I bugged her, Karly didn’t make much of an effort to fix the problem. Sometimes she sighed loudly or refused to talk to me. The one thing she never really did was mention any of this to me face to face. That made it really difficult for me to even approach the subject, because Karly was pretending there was no problem.
- Don’t be Accusing
I made every effort to be a good roommate, because I knew I had to get through a year with whomever I ended up with. Mostly Karly and I got along well—as evidenced by the fact that we lived together for 3 years—but we came from different backgrounds. The point is, your roommate probably isn’t trying to bug you, and accusations are more likely to make people defensive than to fix a problem. So be careful how you word the “can we fix this” conversation, and offer to be part of the solution. Instead of saying, “It is so obnoxious how you always have your stupid music on so loud. Would you cut it out?” you could try, “I think we both have a hard time studying with each others’ music on. Is it okay if we agree to wear headphones?”
Do you have any awkward roommate stories or tips about how you get along with your roomie? I’d love to hear them!
October 18th, 2007
Whether your new roommate is a friend from high school or a total stranger, you’ll probably find that living with someone is completely different from hanging out at night or on the weekends. Some roommates who start off well together end up not-so-friendly by the end of a year of living together, mostly because they don’t communicate well about what they want out of the living situation. If you want to keep (or start) a friendship with your roomie, it’s a good idea to get everything out on the table right from the beginning.
Setting Ground Rules
One thing that makes a big difference is talking to your roommate about “ground rules”—rules that you both agree to abide by.
It might sound like an awkward conversation, but it’s necessary for two reasons: First, you are both used to a certain lifestyle, so you will both have opinions about how your life goes (and your roommate will affect that). Second, you will want to set the rules before one of you does something that makes the other uncomfortable (or angry).
Keep in mind—this shouldn’t be an angry or accusatory conversation, just a calm discussion of what you are both okay with and what you would like to avoid.
When to Set the Rules
It’s best to set up the ground rules as early as possible, because they can act as a barrier against roommate problems.
You might even want to set rules before you even move in to your dorm room or apartment. If you don’t want to talk face-to-face, discussing rules beforehand is even better, because you can do it via IM, email, or over the phone.
What to Talk About
My roommate and I had rules about quite a few things—like giving each other advance notice if guests were going to crash on our floor. You don’t want to walk into your room and find a party raging on your last cramming night before a big final. Here are a few things you might want to talk about with your roommate:
- Overnight guests
- Guests of the opposite sex
- Cell phone use (hours, in the room or in the hall, etc.)
- Music (types, volume, headphones)
- TV use
- Study time
- Borrowing clothes & other belongings (DVDs, CDs, etc.)
- Sharing (or not sharing) food
- Alarm settings (how many times can you hit snooze?)
- Locking the door
- Using each other’s things (microwave, fridge, TV, computer, stereo, etc.)
Basic rule of thumb: if there is anything you are worried about, you should bring it up now. You’re a lot more likely to get into a screaming match if your roommate has already been doing something obnoxious for weeks.
September 10th, 2007