The joys and follies of living with roommates are many and varied. On one hand, you have things like cheaper rent, people to always hang out with, and new friendships that can last a lifetime. On the flipside, you may have to put up with things like less parking, less time to sleep in before work if you want to take a shower, and a daily morning obstacle course of your roommate’s passed-out friends from partying the night before. Whether for better or worse, many of us have to live with roommates at least once in our lifetime. In this article, I’m going to give you a set of guidelines that have helped me resolve issues that otherwise could have resulted in a huge headache for everybody involved.
Imagine something that your roommate does to annoy you. It might be something in the spectrum of forgetting to turn off the TV or rarely doing dishes. No matter what the issue is, the next time you get mad, rather than charging in and confronting them about it, I want you to stop and ask yourself the first of several questions:
Does it happen regularly? The answer to this may dictate the future of your relationship. If the answer is “no,” I suggest you drop the issue and give your roommate the benefit of the doubt that they made an honest mistake. If the answer is “yes,” then move on to the next question.
Is it something I can fix on my own? I find that, more often than not, the thing that is annoying you can be completely overcome by doing a little creative critical thinking. For example, if the house is messy, maybe you need to create a new system of cleaning or hire a once-a-month cleaning service. No matter what your problem is, put a bit of constructive thought into solving the problem. If after wracking your brain for a peaceful solution is unsuccessful, you may ask yourself the next question.
Am I willing to move out if this problem is not solved? The answer to this question puts the importance of your dilemma to the test. If you are not bothered enough by the situation dedicate the effort to finding a new home (while likely burn bridges in the process), you should probably take a deep breath and let it slide. If you find that the issue is so unbearable that you can’t possibly live with it any longer, move on to the next final question.
Will my roommate be open and receptive to a conversation or does he/she get defensive? Now, you are going to have to make a real judgment call. You must ask yourself if your roommate is someone who takes criticism easily and makes an honest effort to change, or if he/she is someone who will likely scoff in your direction and try to bother you even more or shut down and give you the silent treatment. The reason this step is so delicate is that people tend to attach to their behaviors: no matter how persuasive you are in telling them that their behavior may not be acceptable to everyone, they may take the constructive criticism with a dosage of contempt. Some people are good at brushing it off, while others may take it to heart, depending on how much they value the actions in question.
Discussing the Situation
If you decide that you cannot live with your roommate’s behavior but a discussion is not worth the risk, I suggest you begin looking for a new place to live and try to end things on a good note. However, if you can, try to approach your roommate politely and diplomatically so that you can work on solving your predicament together. Be prepared with a couple of solutions to suggest. If you and your roommate decide that you need some help selecting the appropriate solution, consider involving an impartial third party to help act as a mediator.
Living with people can strengthen relationships or break bonds, and the way that you approach the hurdles you encounter will impact the quality of your relationships for the rest of your life.
Photo by Sara Slattery