It’s thaaaat time of year! No, not Christmas … I’m talking about an even more exciting time! On Nov. 1, the Office of Residence Life emailed a survey asking all on-campus residents to indicate their “housing plans” for Spring 2022. That’s right! It’s time to decide if you can live with your roommate for another 16 weeks!
Whether you’re friends with your roommate or not, we’re at that point in the semester where most students have felt at least some tension in their living situation. So, the million-dollar question is … Which problems can be solved with the help of some solid conflict-resolution strategies, and at what point are your differences irreconcilable?
Let’s start on the less extreme side of things — perhaps little issues are bothering you here and there, but it’s nothing extreme enough to set you on the search for a new place to sleep. Maybe your roommate leaves their dirty dishes around for days, stinking up your dorm? Maybe they talk on the phone with their significant other until 3 a.m. every night? Perhaps they ~gasp~ listen to country music WITHOUT headphones?
While these situations are certainly irritating, they likely aren’t cause for a dramatic breakup. Here are three questions to ask yourself before requesting a roomie divorce:
1). Have you told your roommate what’s bothering you? Sounds obvious, right? However, I’m always surprised by the amount of people I know who hate their roommates for reasons A through Z, NONE of which they have actually brought up with their roommate. Remember, they are a completely different person than you. They may genuinely have no idea their style is cramping yours.
Your roommate isn’t a mind-reader. It isn’t mean or unreasonable to express your feelings to them in a respectful way. You shouldn’t make any rash decisions until you’ve actually talked to your roomie about your concern.
2). Have you asked your RA? You’ve maybe already tried asking your roommate to stop dumping their coffee grounds in your wire-basket garbage can, but they keep doing it. It could be time to get some mediation going.
This could be as simple as asking your RA for advice on the situation, or possibly even asking them to help you facilitate a conversation or written agreement. Your RA (or another trusted upperclassman) is a great resource if you’re looking for a third party to help you sort things out.
3). Do you have a written roommate agreement? If you’re like me, the idea of “roommate contracts” sounded silly at first, but they really are helpful in identifying boundaries with your roommate. Maybe the smell of tuna makes you gag and they eat a tuna salad for lunch everyday in your room. Simply writing down and agreeing to the rule of “No tuna in the dorm” is an easy way to completely remove that tension.
Written agreements can also help prevent more complex issues. Maybe you never get alone time in your dorm because your roomie watches movies on their bed 24/7. You have a right to your space, and it isn’t unreasonable to request a written schedule of when each of you gets to have some alone time in the room. Having an established written contract or schedule can go a long way in stopping conflicts from happening in the first place.
So … when is it time to give up conflict resolution and request a move? The way I see it, there are three indicators that you’ve done all you can do to “make it work.” Firstly, if you’ve tried the above three things to resolve your issues and had no success, that means the two of you just aren’t compatible. It is okay to kindly request a move.
Secondly, if your roommate makes you feel scared, threatened, harassed, or uncomfortable, it is time for you to move. It is not normal for a roommate to make you feel anything more intense than “thoroughly irritated,” so do not hesitate to move if your feelings are anything more severe.
And lastly, it may be time to move if your roommate is blatantly disrespectful towards you, your space or your things. If you have caught them bad-mouthing you to their friends about issues that they REFUSE to talk about with you, you don’t have to entertain that drama. Also, it is not okay if they intentionally steal or damage your property — just because they like red Kool-Aid doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to continually use your wooden ottoman as a coaster and stain it.
No one said rooming with a random stranger would be easy, but as long as you stay patient and respectful and stick up for yourself when necessary, I have no doubt your dorm can be a peaceful place to live this spring!