Real Life Lessons: Roommate Relations 101

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Back-to-school season is looming large, but for many college freshmen it's off to a brand new school and a brand new roommate, maybe for the very first time. My own college roommate (Hi, Sara!) showed up to our enthusiastically-named "garden level" (i.e., basement) dorm room with ankle weights (you know, jazzercise style, 20 years too late) and I knew that girl was tops. But no matter who you get (or get stuck with), remember these basic principles of roommate living and nip potential problems in the bud.

1. It's okay if your roommate is not your best friend — Even though every college movie you've ever seen portrays roommates as joined-at-the-hip BFFs, it might not work out that way and that's okay. Don't force it. As long as you can live in peace, count yourself lucky.

2. Have patience — Everyone deals with new situations in their own way. On the list of stressful life events, starting college is right up there. If you're finding it hard to connect to your roommate, keep in mind that what may come across as aloof or cold behavior could instead be shyness, loneliness or depression. A little patience and kindness will go a long way towards helping him/her come out that shell.

3. Respect the Room — It's easy to get carried away with late nights and hoards of friends, but you really need to show your roommate the same level of respect that you'd expect. The room is first and foremost for sleep and schoolwork, so don't make your roommate beg you for some peace and quiet. Anticipate those issues and move the party elsewhere.

4. Pick your battles — There's no sense in stirring up trouble for a one-time thing. Make sure that what you choose to address is something that is and will continue to be a real problem for you. And then simmer down and address it calmly and honestly.

5. Learn how to bounce back from awkwardness or a fight — If you've picked a battle and hashed it out then you need to let it go. Passive-aggressive or petty behavior is just not cool. If you don't like the outcome of your initial agreement, don't silently stew, work it out and move on.

Who else remembers college? What did you learn about roommate living? Spill!

(Image credits: Leela Cyd)

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Jennifer is the Assistant Editor at Apartment Therapy where she spends her days writing and thinking about decor, food and fashion in NYC. Not too shabby.

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