Whether you’re living with a best friend you’ve known all your life or trying to share a space with a total stranger, splitting a home or dorm can be an eye-opening experience. Often, fights can build up and eventually lead to one person splitting. But not all roommate relationships have to fail or turn into a nightmare. By following these five easy steps, you can stop a problem before it even begins.
Five Ways to Prevent Fights with Roommates
1. Divide and conquer.
One of the most common arguments is over chores. Whether you’re rooming together in a small space like a cell block sized dorm room or sharing a lofty apartment, messes add up. And a chaotic home can directly lead to chaotic relationships.
Instead of bickering over someone’s dirty dish habit or the wet towel on the bathroom floor, start your living situation off on the right foot by agreeing to “divide and conquer” the housework. Split the chores based on each others’ schedule and their strengths. If someone has classes in the afternoon and can only clean in the morning, it’s probably not best to put him or her in charge of the noisy vacuuming. Also, don’t rely on the roommate who has a dust allergy to be the best at dusting every week. Leave personal things like laundry and the making of beds to the individual roommate, but be sure that everyone agrees those things should be taken care of frequently.
Do you part and keep your dorm room organized. This way, your stuff won’t frequently cross over to his or her side of the room, and items won’t get intermingled.
2. Communicate regularly.
Often, our biggest fear is expressing to another person that we are unhappy with them. It is human nature, but the reluctance to communicate about tough issues can lead to major blow-ups down the road. Make a decision here and now that you will be open and honest with your roommate. That includes sharing what makes you happy and unhappy. If your roommate is someone you do not know or do not have a background with, take your fights in a neutral space like a cafeteria or a study room. And do not forget that communication shouldn’t be all negative. Start off by saying something complimentary, and then ease into the hard part without using “you” in an accusatory manner, this can keep the conversation light and non-confrontational.
Have more than one roommate? Set up weekly or monthly “meeting” times that are also in neutral spaces and have positive vibes. Try not to gang up on one another and step in if you feel one roommate is being bullied or pointed out. Instead, make the meeting an open space to share freely.
3. Decorate together.
When you spend a significant amount of time in an environment, you better like it! Work with your roommate to come up with decor theme that you two will both enjoy. While women may excel at fusing ideas together into one, cohesive concept, men might struggle a bit more; to get the ball rolling, check out our dorm room ideas for guys. Even if you two don’t have the same taste in posters and knickknacks, you two can make sure that colors don’t clash by buying similarly themed dorm bedding and more.
4. Set up expectations.
Have a grueling class schedule or uncomfortable with guests crashing? Your roommate needs to know that. Often, we forget that our roommates come from completely different backgrounds where expectations and comfort levels are totally different. What may be normal to one roommate may be foreign to the other.
If you expect your roommate to follow some of your guidelines, lay it out as soon as possible. Be open to hearing their side if they disagree. After each roommate(s) have expressed their opinions, bring in some compromises (such as allowing guests overnight if you are not there or it’s a person of the same sex).
5. Be flexible.
Life happens, and it often gets in the way of us being good roommates 24/7. This is especially true when a roommate has a nasty breakup or the other is suffering through a tough class. Things, like chores or following house rules, fall by the wayside.
It can be frustrating if your living situation suffers from one roommate’s inability to keep up. However, if your roommate is having a rough time, try to be understanding and flexible. Break the rules every once in a while if you feel that things will go back to normal when the situation is defused. And don’t forget to approach big problems with care and honesty instead of piling it on during your roommate’s time of need.
6. Follow the Golden Rule.
Most people have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This should be a motto for everyone’s life, but we often forget it when we’re dealing with a roommate. Before you throw stones or pick a fight, look around at your own situation. Are you respecting your roommate’s privacy? If you are angry over a roommate keeping you up at night, are you perhaps noisy in the morning or prone to playing loud music during the day? Try to look at yourself first before you ask others to change. By doing so, you may be solving a quarrel before it even begins.
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