Defining a Good Roommate

Sharing a common space harmoniously is crucial to a happy home life, so it counts to have positive relationships with those you live with. In my experience, I’ve had anywhere between one roommate to living 60 other girls at a time. Needless to say, I’ve picked up a lot of lessons about how to be and have good home partners.

Rule #1: Be kind, tolerant, and forgiving.

In the dorms, it’s a gamble on who your roommate is going to be. For some, it’s a match made in heaven. For me, the results had its ups and downs. My first roommate was very different from me, but that wasn’t necessarily a problem. Her side was covered with bright pink Hello Kitty decorations, while mine had more of a nature theme. The stark contrast in the tiniest dorms at the University of Oregon wasn’t the issue in my eyes, but I know that would have been for some of my peers.

Acceptance of others for who they are, even by celebrating their unique identities, is essential to healthy relationships. Everyone has their positive qualities and quirks, and while I couldn’t connect with her on a deeper level, I respected who she was. If I didn’t actively choose to be kind, I would have had a much harder time.

It didn’t help that she also snored so loudly people four doors down would ask us to be quieter. As a light sleeper, I couldn’t stay in that room past six weeks. However, instead of causing her and myself any frustrated emotions, I bought her Breathe Right nose strips in an effort to build a collaborative and supportive relationship. It’s important to be patient and caring with others to ensure you both enjoy the communal space.

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My single dorm at the end of freshman year

Rule #2: Reach out!

Humans flourish when they have a sense of community, and very few can deny that they want to feel connected with their closest peers. Knowing that everyone wants the same thing makes it easier to put aside pride and take initiative. I wouldn’t have met one of my best friends in the world had I not randomly struck up a conversation in the dorm halls. At least attempt to build that bridge from fellow tenant to friend– it can never hurt!

Rule #3: Remain true to yourself.

Your home is meant to be the place you can shed your layers from the outside world; a place you can be raw and honest with yourself. You should feel comfortable to take off your makeup and express your quirky mannerisms without filters. That’s how a home is meant to feel: safe. If you don’t feel comfortable to be yourself in your own house, then it’s not truly a home. Learn your own red flags on when you are sacrificing your identity and take the necessary steps to either adjust the situation or even find a better one entirely.

I best learned this when I lived in a sorority house with over 60 other young women. I was never meant to be in a sorority, based on my anti-conforming personality. While I’ll expand on this interesting experience in its own article (coming soon), I especially learned how pretending to be someone I wasn’t would be immeasurably more harmful to myself versus standing up for what I believe in. Even though I wasn’t popular for not subscribing to the Greek system’s ways, I wouldn’t take back anything. You only have yourself at the end of the day, and you deserve to live honestly.

Rule #4: Respect their boundaries just as much as your own limits.

In the same vein, when you share a space with someone, you do have to be mindful of your impact and recognize when it’s best to step back. Know your limits of what you’re willing to compromise, but simultaneously consider their needs. You can turn the volume lower when they have work early in the morning, can’t you?

On the other hand, it’s important to insist on fair pay on shared expenses. Be aware of the tango that you’re dancing in with another person: put your foot down when you need to, but give respect to your partner’s own moves. That harmonic relationship is how you get a good groove going.

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Part of my room junior year

Rule #5: Have a receptive and open mind.

Your roommates have to live with all your quirks– behaviors that you may not even be aware of– just as much as you live with theirs. You can always learn something from anyone, so it’s important to be open minded. Listen to your partners and recognize their needs out of the relationship and consider how you can best support them in your unique role.

Rule of Reciprocity:

These are founding guidelines about how to be a good roommate, but you should request these same qualities from those you live with. Set the standard at the beginning: have a conversation when you first start living together about what you expect from one another. Keep the lines of open communication accessible to return to as needed. If your roommate is not respecting your needs or boundaries the way you have, it is a healthy decision to spark a discussion about how to repair the relationship.

At the end of the day, your well-being is paramount, and it’s okay to leave a situation if it is not malleable. I’ve done it plenty of times, and have only recently found a roommate relationship I can positively vibe with. Don’t beat yourself up if your home life doesn’t feel the way it should. Take the initiative to make things better, as most appropriate, but don’t neglect to ask the same for your roommates.

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