You took great pains to select your roommate and now you are happily looking forward to your time together in your shared dorm room. But, relationships are not easy. There are things you can’t tell about a person on paper or by going out with them for a piece of pizza. If you live together day in and day out, through the stress of exams, failed love affairs and homesickness, you are likely to have some friction.
Perhaps his taste in music is not the same as yours.
Maybe she gets up early to exercise or study and disturbs your sleep. It may be difficult to talk about these small conflicts so early in a new relationship, but that is exactly the time you need to establish ground rules. If you wait to talk about issues until you are angry or frustrated, you are likely to fight about petty things instead of ironing out an agreement calmly and creating a win-win outcome.
First, you should consider the fact that you have a routine, established at home and growing out of years of familiarity and development. That routine includes people who know you well. They know what you like and don’t like, and when to talk to you and when to leave you alone. Your roommate doesn’t know those things about you and you don’t know those things about your roommate. You need time to learn about each other. You may never have had to share a room with someone else and negotiate the finer points of shared space and schedules.
Start your learning process by writing down the good things and the bad things about your roommate. Be sure you compliment your roommate on what they do well, and gently ask for changes to resolve the things that bother you. You don’t have to yell “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS” when your roommate comes in late and blasts the overhead light. Simply ask calmly “Could you please turn off the light. It is in my eyes”, and then roll over and wait. Unless your roomy is a real jerk, he/she will get the hint. It’s all in the approach!
Assume that your roommate is struggling too and that they MEAN to do the right thing. Don’t attribute any malice or spite to their actions. If your roommate blasts music or talks on the phone while studying, ask if they have always studied this way. If this is the way they learn best, and you have to negotiate a compromise, you might decide to study in the lounge, or to study at different times. You can do this with a little creative thought from both of you.
Don’t go into your dorm room believing that you and your roommate must be best friends. You may become good friends and you may not, but that is OK. The idea is to get along and to learn how to live with another person in close quarters. If your relationship blossoms into a true friendship, you are lucky!
Never assume that someone can read your mind. Make it clear what you like and don’t like but don’t be rude or angry about it. Instead of swearing at your roommate, just state simply that you would prefer they ask you before they borrow your sweatshirt or invite friends into the room to watch American Idol when you are trying to study.
Use humor to point out and resolve problems. Don’t accuse, yell or throw things. A silly comment or fun approach can take the edge off the discussion. Learn to negotiate win-win outcomes and to talk about the things that you like and don’t like. These new skills will serve you well in college and beyond!