How to build a healthy relationship with roomates(s)

For a majority of those living on campus, this is the first time sharing a space with others who are unrelated to us. It’s exciting to potentially meet your best friends, or potentially harrowing to not get along.

What I consider the roommate “honeymoon” phase is coming to an end. No longer is everyone going out and having fun, but everyone’s realizing each other’s flaws. 

Confrontation can be intimidating. But if you’re living with this person or people for the next eight months, there needs to be some boundaries. 

I have had my fair share of roommate disasters and successes. In order to maximize your quality of life, or even survive, here are my recommendations. 

  • Get to know your roommates schedules, and maximize alone time

If you are anything like me, I need to be alone for about an hour a day. Social activity is exhausting for me, and it’s nice to have a moment for yourself. I recommend asking your roommates their weekly schedules including class, work and any activities. You’re bound to find 30 solitary minutes. I would take the time to sleep, read or not wear pants. Your roommates probably want some alone time, too. 

  • For on-campus residents, be specific in you roommate agreement and have a copy

I know this is crazy but it’s evidence. The specifics can come in a clutch later on as proof. For example, anyone can misinterpret “clean up after yourself.” It can apply, or not apply, to anything including the ugly. The more accurate you can be in the agreement such as “clean up after making a meal, wash dishes regularly or no leaving food out for a long time.” 

In my experience, the absence of a roommate agreement can hurt, and when you have nothing to refer back to, it’s hard to establish boundaries. 

  • Communicate (but be specific)

Having your roommate’s numbers is easy, but speaking your feelings? Scary stuff. It’s awkward but necessary. I find that people are receptive to a reminder about leaving dirty dishes out or to put away something. 

What you don’t want is for frustrated feelings to get bubbled up and unleash at an inconvenient time. Timing is also crucial to productive communication. Right before bed might be problematic but together at dinner, nice. If you are all busy, designating a specific time to check in is also a good idea. 

  • Intentional interaction

If you are going to have any kind of relationship with your roommate, you should interact with them more than a one line, “have a good day.” Ease into it at a slow pace. Everyone opens up differently, don’t be worried about the absence of an instant connection. I find that having a five minute conversation about our days can bring a sense of closeness. 

There is a benefit to vaguely knowing about your roommate. I didn’t see mine for about a week to find out she moved out early. Avoid the element of surprise if possible. 

  • Make an effort

If you want more from your roommates, then hold oneself to the same standards. If you are annoyed that your roommate didn’t pick up their dishes, make sure that you are pulling your weight as well. Your roommate could potentially be nervous to confront the situation as well. 

Nice gestures also go a long way. Usually if you do something for the room, they’ll do something nice as well. 

You and your roommates don’t need to be best friends. It’s not realistic that the strangers you live with are compatible with you 100% of the time. However, living with people is a life skill. The next eight months should be memorable, for all the right reasons. 

Connect with Nadia Carolina Hernandez: @naddivz | [email protected]