Art by Emma Crees
Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
For many students, the beginning of the academic year marks the start of new roommate combinations.
Some students make the choice to live with friends they have made during their time in school. This can be a great arrangement for certain people who love the extra time with their friends outside of class.
For others, however, this can be more stressful than beneficial.
Often what students do not realize until they get to college is living with people is a very intimate experience. You see the idiosyncracies that make up a person: how they organize –– or don’t organize –– their side of the room, what time they go to bed, whether they prefer to shower in the morning or night and more. Cohabitation is an important skill for college students to learn, but it can sometimes be too taxing for a friendship.
I have found it is rare to have a friend that you can spend endless time with. Some friends are class friends or similar-hobby friends; some are going-out friends or workout buddies. Having something in common does not mean you and your friend will automatically be good roommates.
It takes a certain dynamic to live with a person and spend all day with them. In some cases, living with someone you do not see during the day can provide the necessary space to maintain a good relationship.
If you find that you are in a situation where your roommate/friend is a source of stress and this is causing tension in your friendship and living situation, here are some words of advice.
1. Needing space from people is normal.
It can feel uncomfortable to recognize that a relationship feels suffocating, especially when you know your friend has good intentions. However, sometimes there is a limit to how much time you can spend with someone before feeling emotionally drained.
If this is the case, create space for yourself. One way to effectively do this is to find activities to participate in outside of the dorm while you know your roommate is home.
Instead of being with your roommate all day, create a routine of working out while they are in the dorm between classes, or study in the library instead of in your room with them. Utilize the opportunity to take advantage of other activities and locations on campus that you may not have otherwise explored.
2. Prioritize communication.
One of the best and most effective ways to work through conflict is to clearly express your feelings to the other person. A surefire way to avoid defensiveness or further argument is to not express judgment but instead share your feelings and your feelings only.
An example of this would be: “Hey, I have early classes during the week, so when you stay up late on the phone with friends, it makes it challenging for me to get enough sleep. Maybe you could take your calls in the common room if they’re after 10 p.m.?”
This can prevent a situation in which your friend feels judged and instead help you focus on how the situation can be fixed. Assuming this is already a friend of yours, a conversation of this nature should be less intimidating because you know each other well enough to feel comfortable expressing your thoughts.
3. Utilize available resources.
If communication and the creation of new routines that take you out of the dorm do not aid the situation, it’s possible you may need to utilize your resident advisor (RA) or spiritual life advisor (SLA).
There is nothing wrong with needing to vent to someone about roommate issues, wanting a second opinion or bringing in a mediator. A major responsibility of an RA or SLA is to walk alongside students and help those who are living on campus with any problems that may arise. This absolutely includes roommate relationships.
If you find yourself in need of help, do not feel ashamed or guilty. Just because you are friends with your roommate does not mean the relationship will be conflict-free. Sometimes, two people are not meant to live together. That doesn’t mean you can’t be great friends or overcome this issue. It just means that not all friends can be roommates.
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