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Worst Roommate Ever: How to Get Along and Co-Exist

Many times, you don’t get to choose your roommate if you live in a dorm. While it’s possible to change rooms or request a new roommate, the process is difficult and can only be used if there’s a serious problem. So before you track down the RA and stir up a world of drama, try some of these tips to get along.

Clear The Air

The first step to getting along with your roommate is to clear the air and get all the past drama out of the way. This is best accomplished if you take the first step and begin with a peace offering. Whether it’s picking up their favorite take-away dinner or just sharing a bottle of wine, approach the discussion with an open mind and a smile on your face. Be prepared to take responsibility for anything you’ve done to make the problem worse – this isn’t an argument to be won, it’s a way to simply clear the air and start fresh.

You Don’t Have to Be BFFs

There’s always a vague notion that your college roommate will become your new Best Friend. The two of you will embark on this journey of personal, spiritual and intellectual growth, a bond will form and you’ll be developing a friendship that nurtures you for the rest of your life. While TV movies and sitcoms paint the picture, the reality is that most students go through at least one year of living with someone they simply cannot stand. Accept that you don’t have to like each other – you just have to live together.

Set Clear Boundaries

Once you’ve cleared the air and accepted that the two of you don’t need to become besties, you can lay down some clear boundaries. You can’t stand it when your roommate lets their dirty laundry pile up so high the place smells like a giant armpit and your epic World of Warcraft sessions drive them up the wall. So your roommate agrees to do laundry more often or get a hamper with an airtight lid and you’ll need to start using earphones and not shouting at the screen when you play. Be willing to compromise and be willing to get everything out in the open now. Don’t nitpick or try to force your roommate into conforming to everything you want without being willing to make some changes yourself. The goal is to find a compromise – a way for the two of you to share the same space, nothing more. Discuss the problems you’ve had as well as potential problems. Set up clear and definitive rules for

  • drinking or smoking in the room
  • having overnight guests
  • noise levels for music, TV, video games, etc
  • keeping the room clean

If the thought of discussing any of this makes you uncomfortable, just imagine how uncomfortable you’ll be when your roommate decides to play Rock Band at 3am.

Get Moving

One of the simplest ways to deal with not wanting to be around your roommate is, of course, to just not be home when they are. If possible, stagger your classes for the afternoon if theirs are in the morning. Work odd shifts, hang out with friends more often or just get out and have fun on campus. If you’re not naturally an active our outgoing person this may be difficult at first but spending less time in your room and more time outside will probably make your college experience better all around.

Consider it a Life Lesson

Getting along with people is something you’ll have to do for the rest of your life. While it’s unlikely that you’ll have to live with someone you don’t like once you’re out of college, learning how to deal with a difficult person without constant conflict is a skill that will serve you well for years to come. It’s also important to know when to cut your losses. If the problem you have with a roommate involves them bullying, harassing or otherwise directly interfering with your life then it’s time to move from diplomacy to decisive action. Never attempt to act on the issue yourself. Immediately enlist the help of your RA or other dorm administrator to handle it.

Typically problems with a roommate don’t escalate to that point and learning how to handle difficult people can be an invaluable skill in the future. Learning to deal with a difficult roommate in college can easily hone diplomatic skills that will allow you to withstand even the most irksome work colleague in the future. Dealing successfully with a difficult roommate is a lot like dealing with difficult family members – you don’t get to choose them but you do have to put up with them. Luckily for you, the time you’ll spend with a roommate will come to an end eventually but those bothersome family members will still turn up for Thanksgiving at Aunt Dora’s.

How have you solved roommate problems in the past? Share your advice!