3 Tips for a More Peaceful Roommate Relationship

Living with a roommate can be great!

It can help take off the financial pressure of handling everything on your own, and it can be fun (if you get along). But when two people, no matter how friendly and compatible they are, start living together, there can be a pretty big learning curve. 

What if they have a totally different expectation of how roommates should live together than you do? Or if they do something to upset you? What if, no matter how much you personally get along, your living styles just seem to clash?

How can you come together and make your home a safe and relaxing space for both of you? While part of it is simply finding a roommate who is compatible with you, there are ways you can go about brokering peace with a roommate who’s lifestyle clashes with yours: 

Establishing Boundaries

Before moving in with someone else, you should have a general idea of what type of home environment works best for you. Think back to previous living situations. What worked? What didn’t? 

Think about what’s important to you at home. Do you need lots of personal space? Do you have expectations for how chores will work? What are your feelings on overnight guests? Can you share each other’s groceries? Is your bedroom off limits? 

Keep these boundaries in mind as you look for a roommate.  

Communicating Boundaries

Boundaries are hugely important in any relationship, but it can be tricky to figure out how to make them clear to someone you live with. Establishing exactly what your boundaries are is only the first step. Your roommate is not a mind reader, and subtle hints aren’t enough to communicate your needs clearly.  

What not to do: 

Don’t just send them a text that says “House Rules” and then lists out how you want your home to be, without ever consulting them. 

A better approach: 

Prioritize time for you and your roommate to come together and talk about expectations and boundaries. Make a list of your hard boundaries–things you are absolutely not willing to compromise on–and a list of things you would prefer but that have some wiggle room. 

Right when you move in, say something like: “Hey! I’m so excited to be living here, and you seem like a great roommate. I think it’s important we start off on the right foot. Can we set aside a night to talk about house rules and personal boundaries?” 

You can make regular roommate meetings part of your schedule–especially as you’re first living together. Get together now and then, have a cup of coffee and mention what’s working well about living together, and what still needs work. 

Then, if a boundary is crossed, it will probably be time for a difficult conversation. 

Having Hard Conversations with Your Roommate

Living with someone, whether you’re close friends, friendly acquaintances, or something else entirely requires the same intentional care as any other relationship. This means, at some point you will have to have some sort of difficult conversation (probably more than once!). 

There are a lot of ways to approach difficult conversations with roommates. (Unsure how to get started? Check out our guide Should I Text It or Say It In Person?) What is important is that you take time to think of exactly what you want to discuss and make sure it’s an open space for both of you. 

Having difficult conversations with a roommate will probably feel uncomfortable–that’s okay! But keep in mind that you are roommates–you’re sharing a home that you both want to be comfortable and happy in. And the only way to do that is to make it clear what will make you feel comfortable and happy and open the conversation up for them to do the same. 

What not to do: 

Texting your roommate out of the blue with a laundry list of things you’re upset about and demanding an apology is probably not going to get you anywhere. Likely, it will just upset them. 

When you don’t give the other person in the conversation the opportunity to understand where your feelings are coming from, you aren’t actually giving them all the information they need. If all they know is that you’ve sent them an angry text, how will either of you know that the core problem has truly been addressed? What’s not to say it will all happen again? 

A better approach: 

If you still feel the urge to write out that angry text, do it. But don’t send it. Let yourself get it all out–sometimes we need that release before we’re able to approach something calmly. When it’s all written out, go back and delete the whole thing. 

Replace it with something simpler that allows them to engage in the conversation. Say something like, “Hey I’ve been thinking a lot about X. I have some roommate concerns about it, can we find a time to chat?” 

Telling them what you want to talk about will help them feel less blindsided, and give them a chance to figure out their own needs and priorities around the issue to discuss with you as well. It also lets them know in a clear and calm manner that things need to change, but it doesn’t place blame or point fingers. 

Remember that likely your roommate is not setting out to upset you with their behavior. You are two different people who have your own specific needs and preferences. And when two people with different needs and preferences come together, it can create conflict. When having those difficult conversations remember you’re trying to find a middle ground where both of your needs are met and you are able to compromise so that you are both comfortable in your home.