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Advice: Living with roommates, handling conflict

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Life with roommates can be a challenging experience. Whether you’re living with an old friend or a complete stranger, you will likely come to know your roommates far more than you ever expected or wanted. 

That being said, a challenging experience can be a rewarding one. With the right amount of patience and understanding, you and your roommate can ensure your shared space remains a home, not a battlefield. 

This article will equip you with a few tools and tips to make your life as a cohabitant as peaceful as possible. 

Set realistic expectations

When two or more people come into contact with each other for extended periods, they are bound to differ on a few things. In the context of living with someone, these differences can apply to anything from cleanliness to noise levels.

It’s important to remember that not everyone has the same upbringing, and life experience can vary vastly from person to person, especially in a city as diverse as Houston. What one person finds dirty, another might find clean. Where one sees disrespect, another sees honesty, and on and on. 

Standards and expectations as they apply to home life are not one-shoe-fits-all, and it will take compromise on behalf of you and your roommates in order to find a middle ground that works for everyone. 

Agreeing to any sort of shared living situation comes with some strings attached, and one of those is accepting that you may have to adjust your standards slightly. However, it’s also important to set hard boundaries, which brings us to our next point.

Identify your boundaries and communicate them

We all have that one thing that really gets to us. That one thing that, for whatever reason, seems to bother you more than it bothers anyone else. Maybe it’s loud music, or perhaps it’s the weird slurping noise your roommate makes EVERY TIME he takes a sip of water. 

Whatever it might be, the key is to communicate it clearly. This could come in the form of a heads-up beforehand or politely informing them that it’s a pet peeve of yours the first time it occurs. 

The foundation of a positive home environment is clear, firmly established boundaries. Setting these may involve a bit of social legwork at first, and you must be prepared to confront your roommates with a direct but polite reminder. Passive-aggressive sticky notes don’t count. 

Limit these boundaries to a handful of things that bother you uniquely. Compromise is still a key factor here, and no one likes to room with someone who comes with a 60-page regulatory agreement. 

Be flexible

Life in a shared space makes for a much more dynamic experience than living alone, especially in college. Your roommates will likely introduce you to the friends they bring over, and vice versa. 

For some, this type of environment can be an adjustment, particularly for those who are used to having a calm environment at home. This might not be as unfamiliar for those who grew up with siblings or have lived in the dorms.  

Whatever the case, it’s essential to be flexible. Introduce yourself to your roommate’s friends, spend time in common areas and don’t be afraid to have a chat with your houseguests. Doing these things can create a welcoming atmosphere and foster an honest, friendly environment. 

Granted, no one wants to live in a perpetual house party. If your roommates constantly have people over, it’s also OK to tell them when you just want to be alone. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break every now and then.

Take care of yourself

While life as a college student is a game of give and take, it also hinges on you being sound of mind and body. With that in mind, taking inventory of your mental and physical health every now and then is crucial to your continued success. 

Students can easily lose track of their own needs while attending to the academic and social stresses of college life. Students often end up so focused on the next deadline or the next party that they forget that they have mental and emotional needs that must be accounted for. 

Spending time every few weeks to escape it all can help you unwind and provide perspective. This be as small as getting out of the house for a walk every few days, or spending a weekend with your parents. What matters is you get some time to yourself. 

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