Roommates seem to be a deep and integral part of the typical college experience. Whether you’re in a dorm, or sharing a house or apartment, or even if you’re living at home—the people you share your living space with can truly affect your mental and emotional experiences while you’re a student. Sometimes our roommates are great and turn out to be lifelong friends. We all hear about people who have their freshman roommate as the maid of honor at their wedding because they bonded so deeply!
But what do you do when your roommate experience does not go that well? Maybe you had the worst luck and ended up with a real monster, or maybe it’s just a situation of personality incompatibility. Regardless, if you feel like your relationship with your roommate is starting to interfere with your mental health or your enjoyment of life, it can be important to take a few steps back and assess the situation.
Find the patterns.
Can you identify exactly what the issues of contention are with your roommate? If there seem to be a wide variety of issues, like she uses your toothpaste, forgets to lock the door, and has loud late-night parties when she knows you have a test the next day—you could probably distill this down to an issue with respect, or with boundaries. It always helps to be able to find the underlying issue in ongoing conflict.
Don’t accuse. Say how you feel.
This is probably something you were taught in Kindergarten, but tell the other person how their actions made you feel and the ways in which you were hurt. Rather than accusing them of something such as “you stole my pizza!” try saying “i felt sad and hungry without my pizza.” This is a way to help the other person understand how their actions have affected you.
Are you part of the problem?
You may not be part of the problem, but many arguments take two people to tango, so to speak. It’s a good idea to try to examine your disagreements with your roommate and see if there’s anything you could do to help defuse the situation. Sometimes this might mean using a different means of communication. If most of your fights are verbal, try putting requests in writing like on post-its or in texts and using smilies or other signs to indicate that you’re simply trying to communicate an issue you’re having and not start an all-out battle.
There may be nothing you can do to help fix the situation, however, in which case, one of you probably needs to move.
This doesn’t necessarily mean therapy. (Although, if one or both of you is up for it, that might be a great idea!) If you’re in a dormitory situation, talk to your RA or whoever is in a position of authority. They may have some conflict resolution steps you and your roommate can try or they may be able to help re-house one or both of you if there’s nothing that can be done to reduce the tensions between you.
If you’re not in a dorm and you’ve chosen to live with a roommate, things can be a bit trickier. If you’re both on the lease, it may be worth talking to your landlord to see if one of you could potentially be replaced by a new roommate.