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By Emily Roseman, Alumna of American University
Perhaps one of life’s most fascinating experiments is the advent of communal living. Ah, roommates; the greatest test of one’s wherewithal and well, temperaments. Whether it’s your freshman year of college or your attempt to save a couple pennies on your post-grad rent, roommates can be the most epic sleep over or the most passive aggressive tit-for-tat.
So you and your roomie are not on the best of terms? Rather than lashing out in a all out war, take it simple and talk!
You’d be surprised that many arguments and conflicts stem from simple miscommunication. While you may perceive a problem in the house or apartment, your roommate may see it with a totally different set of eyes. Get back into the grade school swing of things and use words like “I feel” or “I would like” instead of “you did this” or “don’t do that.”
Starting off your initial conversation with your troubled roomie with calm, more neutral language puts them at ease and is far less accusatory. I like to embrace the full-blown psychiatrist method by saying how I feel and posing the question, “How does that make you feel?” This allows them to put their feelings on the table and could open up a brand new outlook on the issue.
Always end your conversations on a positive note. While every conflict may not end with you laughing it off or braiding each other’s hair, try to close the confrontation with positive outlooks and mutual understanding. “I didn’t see it like that,” or “I understand where you are coming from,” are both positive and very respectful ways of letting go and making your roomie feel like they were truly heard.
Leave Outside Parties at the Door
Trying to keep other parties out of your roommate drama is easier said than done. While your first inclination may be to run to your boyfriend or girlfriend or just a group of open ears, try to keep your problems within your living arrangements. While venting to friends are one thing, letting their own opinions get the best of your living arrangements can get ugly and blow out of proportions.
Many problems between roommates can correlate to new people or outside parties coming into the living mix. A serious relationship may cause unwanted tension in the house and can stew issues like equal shares of rent, food consumption and the ever-awkward sleepover arrangements.
If you and your roomie are having trouble at home, let your friends or significant others know you need to spend some quality TLC alone. Pumping the brakes on having guests over at all hours gives your roommate space to breathe and a moment to remember just what brought you two together!
Conflicts throughout history and around the globe have often times been steeled by accords or agreements. While you and your roommate are not necessarily drawing up land borders or debating the future of world peace, making a physical and agreed upon “roomie contract” is a great tool to get your existing issues in writing and out in the open.
Look at your contract as just that; an agreed upon list of do’s and don’ts as well as an opportunity to share what one roommate expects of the other.
Try simple rules to live by that don’t ask too much of your roomie, such as keeping the living space clean, respecting hours of quiet time for sleep and work, creating a sharing policy for food and rent and a mutual understanding on visitors allowed and length of stay.
Keep to Yourself
So your roommate isn’t feeling the contact idea or talking just made it worse? While throwing in the towel can seem defeatist, I offer you the best advice from my family I was ever given at college: “A dorm or an apartment is just where you lay your head at night.” No one expects you and your roommate to be BFF’s or lifelong sisters, so if problems arise and don’t seem to want to go away, just lay low and keep to yourself.
Some may be luckier than others when it comes to hitting the roomie jackpot, but for those who try their hardest at the congenial efforts and are only met with strife, never feel ashamed for walking away.
I admit it, I am a terrible person to live with! I have some pretty outlandish habits and will not shy away from telling you exactly how I feel about you eating the food I slave over!
I will always awe in jealousy of those girls who paint each other’s nails or besties who squeal over online shopping deals, but when push comes to shove, living with a roommate is nothing but a test of wills … or great prep for a future in International Conflict Mediation.