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Roommate Relationships Explored

If you haven’t lived with a roommate before, one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of the relationship is the subtle layer of tension that seems to coat each and every roommate relationship. You aren’t strangers - you eat, sleep, and breathe each other - but you usually aren’t friends either. Sometimes this layer of tension is very thin and you and your roommate are able to develop a friendship despite your numerous differences. Other times, the layer of tension that exists is thick and noticed within 24 hours of being introduced to your new companion. As time passes you will either gain or lose confidence in your roommate and as you do the boundaries of your relationship will become increasingly clear.

We all know that some people are more flexible than others. When you live with someone, it doesn’t take very long to find out just how flexible—or stubborn—they really are. To mitigate the risk of discovering that your roommate is truly unwilling to compromise, create ground rules at the very beginning of your relationship so that you can head off conflicts before they start. This will help you avoid stepping on each other’s toes more times than you have to.

Here are some important topics to discuss when you meet your roommate

  • Sleep habits.

    You are a night owl and your roommate is a less than welcome ray of light breaking through your curtain each morning. Differences in sleeping habits can be difficult to adjust to during the first couple weeks with your new roomie. If you like to stay up late and your roommate wakes up early, use common courtesy while she is sleeping. Not only will this help you get along better and show your respect for the other person, but your roommate will typically reciprocate this courtesy when it’s your turn to sleep. Ask your roommate if there is anything specific that keeps her awake, like the television, radio or lights and adjust your behavior accordingly.
  • Pet peeves.

    Discuss pet peeves right off the bat. When your roommate claims that she is actually "very laid back," don’t assume that this is true. Everyone is bothered by something and if you don’t find it out during this conversation, you will most certainly find it out later. Little things—like not replacing the roll of toilet paper or leaving the napkin holder empty—become a much bigger deal when they occur repeatedly over several months. Try to be observant of your own behavior so that you can catch habits like this before your roommate has a conniption fit.
  • House guests.

    Some people are not comfortable with house guests. Period. While having a friend or two over during the week should not stir up any problems with your roommate, having 5, 10 or 20 friends over even once a week can be overwhelming to your housing companion. This issue is easier to deal with if you share an apartment rather than a dorm room, but it is still important to come to an agreement that satisfies each roommate. Merging what are very likely two extremely different lifestyles can be very difficult; in fact, it is arguably the greatest challenge of living with another student in college.
  • Cleaning.

    Whose job is it to clean the toilet? Well, if you don’t discuss it with your roommate assume that it is your job. When you are living in close quarters with another person, sharing either a bedroom or an apartment, you will find that everything gets dirty very quickly. From kitchen dishes to mud puddles in front of the door; everyday dirt collects quickly, and if no one is willing to keep up with the everyday chores the quarters of your dorm will resemble a cave before you know it. Agree from the get go that each roommate will be responsible for the messes he creates and then divvy up weekly chores like sweeping, cleaning the bathroom and dusting.

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