It is probably safe to say the honeymoon is over. You have been living with your roommate for a few weeks now. By now, you should have a good understanding for each other’s preferred lifestyle. Everything from cleanliness to study habits to sleeping patterns have been discovered. It is after the first few weeks when roommates stop being polite and the “real” person comes out.
As mentioned in chapter two of The Freshman Survival Guide, “don’t be a doormat.” From the very beginning, you will need to be honest with the things that you do and do not like. The best thing you can do for your new living arrangement is to create a roommate contract. Many universities have forms available through your RA to help walk you through the process. The roommate contract allows you to talk about issues before they occur; like who will do the cleaning, what is considered clean, do you need prior approval to have guests, can you sleep with noise, etc. The agreement should be taken seriously and done as soon as possible. The agreement will help comfortably have tough conversations before an incident occurs. Even if your school does not have an official form, you can complete a roommate agreement on paper. Whatever method you use be sure to post it in the room to serve as a reminder to everyone.
Once you meet the “real” person, you may decide that the situation is not working out. Before you decide to bail on the situation there are a few questions you may want to consider. The first thing to consider- are my roommate rights being violated? Each resident has rights in their room. Without going into boring details the gist of roommate rights is that you have a right to be comfortable, respected and to have privacy in your room. If things are not going so smoothly you have to first ask am I violating my roommates rights or are my rights being violated. Answering this question will determine the severity of the roommate conflict. If rights are not being violated, it is probably a rather simple situation where you will need to compromise and meet in the middle. If rights are being violated, it is probably a more complex problem and you will need to discuss the issues with your RA during a roommate mediation.
The next thing you want to consider- are you being unreasonable with your request? Relationships are about compromise and realizing that someone does things differently than you may do things. It is reasonable to ask your roommate to discuss overnight guest prior to them staying, but it may not be reasonable to ask your roommate to never have guests in the room. It is reasonable to request that your roommate not disturb you while are studying, but it may be unreasonable if you do not reciprocate. It is reasonable to set up a cleaning schedule, but it may be unreasonable that you do not help purchase cleaning supplies. What seems reasonable to you may not be interpreted the same way by your roommate. You two will need to compromise and meet in the middle and find a solution that will work for both of you.
The next thing you want to consider- how do you want to handle conflict? This can also be addressed in your roommate agreement. Some roommates agree to talk about it, some choose to use notes, some choose to use a neutral party and use the RA. Figure out what works best for your situation. Make sure you know what is bothering you. Chapter two in the book offers different types of roommates and the “issues” they may bring to the table. Be sure you are clear in your own mind what the problem is, have examples, and also offer and be willing to listen to solutions. Chapter two also offers techniques for communicating positively; use “I” statements, positive reinforcement, and offer support. Keep in mind the RA is a source of support for the both of you. If you need a neutral third party, ask the RA to sit in and facilitate a mediation. The RA has been trained in this area and can offer insight into helping to resolve the situation.
The last thing to consider- did I do everything I could? After you have tried everything—an agreement, setting expectations, compromising, discussing differences, and an RA mediation, you may determine the living situation may not be the best and a move may be the best solution. It is possible that things just will not work and nothing you do or say will help. It is okay to move on after you have done all you can in the situation. Your RA can assist you in locating a new room. You want to make the moving out process and smooth as possible. You never want to burn bridges, it is a small world and you never know when you may come across that person or someone that knows that person in the future.
In the end, it did not work out and that is okay. It is important to remember to give it a chance. It may be awkward and require more attention at first, but as long as you develop and display a mutual respect for each other, you should be able to make it work for the short time you will be living together. When your relationship hits a little turbulence, do not run away, stick it out and do everything on your end to make it work. If you are experiencing a difficult situation with your roommate, feel free to email an Interactive RA at firstname.lastname@example.org.