Life is a game full of bold plots and key players who form and shape us into the leading men and women we were born to be. These supporting roles that set the stage are embodied in allies or antagonists. Whether you find yourself rooming with a best friend or mortal enemy during your college scenes, there are some key guidelines that will ensure you make it through the encounter, hopefully “no worse for wear”.
Whenever you are embarking on any new relationship, it is important to remember that relationships are a two way street. Like it or not, that lump on the couch or the girl grappling for the mirror is the newest relationship in your life. Another key to remember is that, no matter your perception, your co-resident is not a mutant (regardless of the odd smell that may emanate from the closet) and has the same rights as a human being that you do. As elementary as it may sound, the way to survive a college roommate experience is the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
As in any relationship, there is give and there is take. Many times, friction arises in shared living arrangements due to unmet expectations, unvoiced concerns, and unaddressed friction.
Expectations form the boundaries of how a relationship grows. When a relationship lives up to expectations one party may have, it is praised and appreciated. Like a sapling growing in line with a stabilizing stake, there is peace and all is right with the world. But dare to fall short and not grow in line with that helpful little stick, the relationship will be viewed as twisted, distorted, sub-par, and all around a failure. But when those expectations are never communicated, yet judgment is passed, it’s as if you stuck that stick in the ground next to the baby pine and didn’t explain what it was for. Simply placing the stake without binding the tree to it does nothing. Expectations that are not communicated are the same way.
How do you get around this? Talk. Whether you have just moved in together or have been dwelling together for some time, it is never to late to sit down and have a heart to heart. Get the expectations out in the open. If you are going to be feel tormented and frustrated because your roommate has an annoying habit of listening to Scremo full-blast at one a.m., let them know. Just stewing about it will only get you hot and bothered and will potentially send out vibes that will cause your roommate unexplained discomfort.
Part of a mixed household is compromise. Get together with your dorm-buddy. Before you connect, suggest you each write a list of expectations. Divide your list by ‘Niceities’ or ‘Wants’ and ‘Non-Negotiable’ or ‘Deal Breakers’. When you sit down for the first time, go over all of the lists. Find out what is important to them and let your roommate see what is make-or-break for you. By getting this out in the open, be able to come to some sort of win-win solution, where all those involved walk away feeling valued and respected. Set up a recurring time in which you and your roommate can connect and check the pulse of your domain. How are they doing as a person? How are their classes? Their family back home? During this time, address any concerns or friction you have been feeling and come to a compromise, rather than just letting frustration fester. Many times, mountains are made of the proverbial mole-hills. If you have a concern or issue, it is imperative that you respect your roommate enough to address it while it is still operable, rather than waiting for it to become life threatening. At the same time, you must be willing to be approached and hear their feedback as well.
Another contributor to an unsuccessful domestic atmosphere is a coexisting mentality. Existing is not living. Rocks exist, but they aren’t bothered and they don’t share joy with the bolder next to them. If you are looking to simply go about life near each other, there will always be friction as unattached worlds collide. Accept the simple fact that you live together and that your life will intersect. By doing this, you will find the place you hold in their life and the space you have for them.
My mother used to tell me people are not dolls. They don’t always do what you want and you can’t toss them when you are tired of them. Embrace co-habitation and toss the coexisting mentality. Community is key, and you can’t commune with something you refuse to embrace.
When conflict arises, as it will, keep this one final tip in mind. Your roommate is a person-they have ups and downs, just like you do. Regardless of their attitude, seek peace, show love, and do your best to bless. Honesty and taking the higher road will go a long way to ensuring you make it through the potential battle ground that is higher learning. The drama of life is one best performed by a strong company, and not as a monologue. It pays to remember that even the most dastardly of villains can be reformed given the right motivation by the closing curtain.