Living with someone should never be taken lightly. Kansas University faculty members Linda Marshall, assistant director of the Student Assistance Center, and Fred McElhenie, associate director of student housing, offered some advice about how to thoughtfully approach a living arrangement every step of the way.
Before you enter the situation:
Understand that living with someone is not easy. Be as tolerant as possible of others' differences.
Expect that there will be differences that will have to be negotiated.
Be open-minded. "Sometimes someone who is very different from you may turn out to be a great friend," Marshall said.
Don't live with your best friend. McElhenie said that he has seen many best friends destroy their relationships by living together. "The kind of friends you have in high school are not the kind of friends you have in college," he said.
From the very beginning:
Sit down together and talk about each other's expectations, preferences and eccentricities. Discuss important issues such as sleeping habits, how loud to play music and attitudes about sex and use of alcohol and drugs. Set ground rules before problems arise. "Those people who have done it find out it clears the air right off the bat," McElhenie said.
Continue to communicate; don't let things that bother you build up inside. Good communication at the beginning of the relationship will set the tone for how people will continue to communicate, McElhenie said.
Give the relationship time to work. McElhenie said that a high percentage of roommates who are absolute strangers become friends after about two weeks. "I've seen lots of people who have remained friends for a long time and their first impression was, I really don't like this person," he said.
Share responsibilities such as cleaning and taking out the trash.
Be courteous. Be sure both your needs and the needs of your roommate are respected.
Learn to give and take. Put your foot down about behavior you won't tolerate, but make allowances in other areas.
If a conflict arises:
Don't talk about it when you're angry. Sit down together and discuss agreements that would be acceptable for everyone involved. Approach the meeting with ideas about what will work.
Ask a neutral person to mediate. A person who does not favor any of the roommates involved can clarify issues and help you reach solutions or alternatives you may not have considered.
People who advertise for roommates should prepare a list of questions to ask the people who reply, Marshall said. "You have to identify those things that are important to you and ask a lot of questions," she said.
In the end, learning how to live with someone can be a great learning experience.
"I think you should try really hard to learn from the situation," Marshall said. "It's great preparation for marriage."