Advice, Lifestyle

I’m fighting with my roommate — what do I do?

All friends have fights. It’s inevitable and natural — healthy even. But no matter how many times you’ve bickered with friends back home, fighting with your roommate is a whole other monster that no amount of high school drama can prepare you for.

The relationship between you and your roommate is completely different than one you share with any other friend. In most cases, you don’t truly know your roommate before you move in with them. And the prospect of having a built-in best friend the second you get to college is so appealing that we often force ourselves to form bonds with people we naturally would not have gotten along with. When thrown into the foreign environment that is college, we find ourselves looking for someone to lean on as we continue trying to make more friends, and oftentimes, our roommate is that person.

mannequin choking another
One mannequin choking another. Sharing a tight space with someone every day is likely to raise some issues – Eden shares advice on working through roommate disputes. COURTESY OF CHARL FOLSCHER VIA UNSPLASH

But sharing a space with someone is bound to lead to issues, especially in the stressful and confusing atmosphere of college. Maybe your roommate is too messy. Maybe they go to sleep at 4 a.m.. Maybe they play music out loud when getting ready in the morning. And when you bring it up, they get defensive, and you both start to raise your voices. What then?

1. Take some time to cool off. 

Go grab some food at the George Sherman Union or walk the Esplanade. Giving yourself some time to process your emotions not only allows you to organize your thoughts, but it helps you empathize with your roommate. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to understand how they interpreted your complaints. This time is crucial, especially if you are the type of person that gets super heated in arguments. After all, a screaming match won’t solve anything.

2. Remember your end goal. 

Before you address the conflict, you need to accept you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. It’s normal to get along with them solely on a surface level. Hence, your end goal isn’t necessarily to return to spending every free moment you have together, but to address issues that are adding unnecessary stress to you both. Remember: In an effective conversation, there is no room for pride. But that doesn’t mean you should apologize if you don’t mean it. Being insincere just because you don’t like confrontation is going to lead to a year of bickering and walking on eggshells in a room you want to call home. 

3. Communication is key.

The next step is to reach out to your roommate and sit down for a mature conversation. Communicating exactly how you feel is crucial here. Make sure you let them say their piece and listen to them the way you would expect them to listen to you. Let your emotions flow and get everything out in the open.

4. Set boundaries.

Let’s say you talked it out for hours, and you still disagree with each other. That’s okay. Your best bet is to leave the past in the past and set boundaries for the future. Agree on a set of rules — if you find that necessary. Perhaps simply a verbal agreement or understanding will suffice. The trick here is to think about compromise. If a solution is helping out one person and not the other, is it really a solution?

We’ve all had those petty fights in high school — with hushed whispers in the hallway, nasty glares and the “You can’t sit with us” lunchtime disputes. But we’re in college now, and it’s time to put that behind us. We are all here to redefine ourselves and make lifelong friends, so why waste time fighting if we don’t have to?

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