Tips for Living Tolerably With a Roommate You Despise

Almost everyone who has lived in dorms for any length of time in college has a crazy roommate story to share. After all, bunking with a complete stranger is always a mixed bag. You could end up roommates with a person who will become your best friend for the next four years, or get stuck with the biggest jerk or slob on campus. The good news is there are ways you can live in a civil manner with a roommate you despise.

One of the best things you can do is keep the lines of communication open between you and your roommate. If they begin habitually doing something that drives you crazy, bring the matter up as soon as it begins being a problem for you. It is best to deal with things immediately rather than allowing the situation to worsen until nothing can be done, according to MIT’s Student Life Division. Be careful not to be antagonistic or overbearing when you address a problem, but keep your voice level and calmly explain to your roommate how his or her behavior is affecting you.

Whatever happens, do not get in the habit of leaving a note instead of talking to the person face to face. Not only does leaving a note indicate that you do not have the guts to address a matter, but your roommate will often feel like you don’t care enough to speak to them in person. Key things to discuss early on include sleeping habits, having friends/significant others over, items that can and cannot be shared, and matters of cleanliness, as these are common sources of contention.

If your roommate refuses to be considerate of your needs after you’ve spoken calmly to them about it, or reverts to their old bad habits after a week of "good behavior," it may be a good idea to speak to your resident advisor (RA) about the problem. RAs usually have at least some experience in resolving common problems that crop up between roommates and can often serve as a mediator if you and your roommate can’t stop arguing over things.

Try to keep any problems you are having with your roommate as close to the chest as possible. Many students go to their other friends for sympathy, but this often backfires. Word eventually gets around to your roommate that you’ve been talking behind his or her back, which only exacerbates the situation. Another response to avoid when you’re having roommate troubles is retaliation. For example, if you discover that your roommate has been wearing your clothing or eating your food without your permission, this does not entitle you to get back at them by doing the same thing.

Finally, if talking to your roommate and mediation by an RA does not seem to be working, you may be able to request a transfer to another room or residence. Take this option as a last resort. After all, it’s far better to learn to peaceably resolve the conflict.

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