Whether you are living with people you barely know or your best friends, having roommates can bring about amazing experiences. It can also have a lot of challenges as well. Some say that you don’t really get to know someone until you actually live with them. I personally find that to be true. If you decide to live with people whom you have been friends with for years, you may later realize that you weren’t meant to live together. And that is completely okay! While you should not expect the worst, do not also expect to have the perfect living experience.
When it comes to living with random people or friends, it is important to communicate and establish boundaries. It can be much more difficult with people you don't know well. Here are some tips to help you avoid or combat some of the challenges that can come with having roommates in college:
Reach out to them via text or social media beforehand and get to know one another. Once the ice is broken, it will be much easier to develop a connection.
Communication is key! It is important to have conversations about what you like and dislike, who owns what, who is bringing what - such as food items and appliances, if you or someone has dietary restrictions (especially if you want to cook for one another and/or have different dietary lifestyle), if you are going to have guests over often, if you are or are not okay with having guests or partners around often or after a certain time, if you stay up late or go to bed early. Even something as small as discussing your basic interests, like your favorite shows, can make a difference in the way you and your roommate open up to one another in other respects as well.
And once you start living together, these types of conversations need to continue. Set up a group chat and have weekly meetings, or use it to communicate when necessary and check up on one another. You might come across issues with your roommate’s music being too loud, he/she might want to throw a party despite you not being okay with it or they might not clean up after themselves. If you are not comfortable with something or if you feel as though your boundaries are being overstepped, do not hesitate to sit down with your roommates and establish or reiterate your boundaries! Being assertive can be difficult for some, especially depending on your personality and/or the situation, or the type of people you have to communicate with. However, as long as you are respectful and create a positive mindset in hopes that you will have a productive conversation, relieving the tension and discomfort will make you feel happy and relieved that you were open and honest. Still consider the best way to approach difficult conversations, specifically what works best for you, who you are communicating with and your situation. Write down and read what you want to say beforehand. Maybe ask someone for advice on how to go about it. There are many ways to go about this.
At the same time, consider how you are as a roommate. Just as your roommates need to respect you and your boundaries, be mindful of doing the same for them as well. Make sure you are open about communicating and letting them know that if there is an issue, they can easily talk to you and vice versa. It can be difficult to not take certain issues and conversations personally. Remind yourself that how you live, which may not be fitting for everyone, is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Everyone is different and that is okay.
Compromise. While it may be difficult to open up to your roommate(s) and be confident and assertive in establishing and reiterating your personal boundaries, or you may not have had the strongest relationship with them, as long as there is respect, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and open-mindedness involved on both ends, you can actually learn plenty about how to compromise with different types of people as well as about yourself and your personal boundaries. This can be very beneficial especially if you want to live with another roommate(s) or a partner in the future. Also remember that not everything will go completely your way. That is impossible when living with other people. But among certain differences in lifestyle, boundaries, privacy, you can easily find common ground depending on the situation. If your music is too loud for your roommate but you want to blast noise, buy headphones. If your roommate goes to bed earlier, be attentive when it comes to how much noise you or others are making during that time. Compromise requires some sacrifice, which is a completely normal and important part of having a healthy relationship with your roommate(s).
Feel free to reach out to us at Bodhi Counseling for support and guidance on how to enhance your communication skills for a happy and healthy roommate experience!