How to Deal With Having a Roommate

If you’re a university student, chances are you’ve had your fair share of experiences with a roommate. As a university student, I’m no different, and had to share a room for two years before finally getting my own. Prior to moving into campus accommodation, the thought of having a roommate was as scary as it was exciting. As much as having someone to talk to and navigate university life with seems ideal, sharing a space with someone, be it a friend or a stranger, can be daunting.

During my first year at university, I managed to establish a good rapport with my roommate. We weren’t exactly friends, but we did get along and that made the experience bearable. During my second year, I shared a room with a girl that I’d become friends with during my first year. It was smooth sailing at first, and sharing a room with a friend was enjoyable because we did a lot of things together. Fast forward to the end of the year: we were no longer friends, and no longer on speaking terms. Having had both good and bad experiences, and being the retrospective person I am, I think I’m in a good position to dish out some tips on dealing with roommates.

  • Communicate

Communication is vital in any kind of relationship, and the relationship you have with your roommate is no different. However, important to note is that as much as you can work on being a good communicator, you can’t control how good (or bad) a communicator your roommate is. I suppose you could cross your fingers and hope for a roommate who is adept at communicating, and see how that works out for you.

Apart from general communication, such as asking your roommate how their day was, at some point or another, you’ll have to bring up issues that may be difficult to talk about. If your roommate has certain bad habits that get to you, such as leaving dirty dishes in the sink or eating your food, you’ll need to bring it up at some point. Failure to do this could result in suppressed feelings that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your relationship with your roommate, and make your experience unbearable. At the same time, your roommate may be affected by some of your bad habits. The key is to be able to talk about what’s bothering you in a respectful and non-judgemental manner, and be willing to listen, understand and change your behaviour as well if need be.

For instance, if your roommate has a habit of leaving dirty dishes in the sink for long periods of time, a good way to bring that up would be: “Hey, I know that you get busy sometimes, but I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for so long. If you can’t wash them immediately, please stack them neatly on top of the counter instead.” This way, you’ve raised your issue in a respectful and non-judgemental manner, and have even offered a solution.

  • Lay out some ground rules

Tolerance is important when you have a roommate. You need to remember that you’re sharing a space with someone who has their own way of doing things. However, some things simply cannot be tolerated, which is why laying out some ground rules is advisable.

Once you’ve settled in and the introductions, if any, are out of the way, it’d be a good idea to sit down with your roommate and have a discussion about any rules that should be enforced. The key word here is discussion, because your roommate will also have some rules of her own.

You may want your roommate to talk to you first before hosting a party or get-together. You may want your roommate not to play music loudly while you’re sleeping or studying. You may opt out of sharing food and any household items. Whatever it may be, establishing some ground rules is a good way of avoiding any future disagreements over such issues.

  • Be kind and respectful

Kindness and respect go a long way. Would you get along with someone who chose to hurl all sorts of offensive words at you instead of resolving issues peacefully? Or someone who felt the need to belittle you and pass some snide remarks?

Sometimes, people just don’t hit it off and become good friends, and that could be the case with your roommate no matter how much you try to cultivate a good relationship. However, whatever reason may be behind it, make sure that it isn’t because you’re offending, and hurting your roommate’s feelings. Sometimes this is unintentional, such as taking out your frustrations on your roommate after a particularly stressful day. Once you’ve realised your mistake, or it’s been pointed out to you by your roommate, a heartfelt apology and a change in behaviour go a long way.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

If you’re on the receiving end of such comments, communication is key. Make sure your roommate knows and understands that they hurt/offended you. Maybe you won’t get an apology, but at least you’d have done your part. Sometimes it’s all about being headstrong, understanding that you can’t control people and situations, and not letting it get to you.

  • Tolerance

As I already briefly mentioned, tolerance is important. You have to remember that people are different, and have different ways of doing things. It’s also essential to remember that you are in a shared space, so it isn’t just about one person doing all the compromising. If your roommate’s way of doing things annoys you, but ultimately doesn’t affect you in any way, then let it go.

  • Take a breather

During my second year, my social life was, to a great extent, non-existent. Apart from hanging out with a few friends in between lectures, and some sporadic meet-ups out of campus, my life pretty much involved attending lectures, then going back to my room. This became depressing, especially since my relationship with my roommate/friend was deteriorating.

Photo by VisionPic .net on

When you’re sharing a space with someone, going out with other friends or even spending some time alone is important. No matter how much you adore and get along with your roommate, some time away from your shared space will definitely do you good.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s