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Feeling Poorly Equipped to Get Along With a Roommate?


A young person whose next school year will be spent at college or boarding school will probably have a roommate. That’s worth thinking about. Roommates will usually be total strangers to each other. Yet in a year together, they’ll see more of one another than some married couples do. So when roommates don’t get along, it can play a huge part in contributing to the unhappiness of both, just as a happy relationship can give both roommates a boost.

Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate—hmm. . . what roommate issue do you suppose Cohen had to deal with?—offers one valuable piece of advice by noting that a roommate doesn’t have to be a friend (Link). Although friendship can develop between roommates, counting on that to happen can lead to disappointment. Don’t assume it must, and try getting along with someone who’s just a roommate with the advice of EF International Language Centers, including (Link):

  • Agree to and follow guidelines about everyday basics like cleaning, air conditioning vs. heat, and noise levels
  • Discover that headphones = happiness, since the music you love might drive your roommate to commit murder
  • Make space for personal space, since even the most sociable roommate will crave privacy sometimes

A Missouri university has these recommendations (Link):

  • Ask questions to learn each other’s likes and dislikes
  • Discuss problems when they arise (asking dorm staff to mediate, if necessary), before they get worse and spin out of control

Notice that most of this advice is simply common sense—although common sense is less common than we’d like to think!
In fact, doing what is “simply common sense” can take a lot of practice. But practicing these ways to build a good relationship between roommates will eventually pay off by helping to improve other common relationships.