We all have stories about nightmare roommates. You might like to think that, once you’re beyond your college days, anyone you share an apartment with will be a fully mature adult with no problem understanding a chore wheel (seriously, it’s not that hard). But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some of us get lucky with roommates we share everything with: clothes, meals, Netflix passwords, million dollar ideas. Others get mad when their roommate accidentally uses their favorite coffee cup. (If even your S.O. can make you super mad, anyone can.) When your living situation sucks, that tension can bleed into everything else in your life, but breaking a lease and starting fresh isn’t always an option. So while you’re stuck with them, here are five ways to keep the peace without being a doormat.
1. Don’t be passive aggressive. If you never established clear rules about chores or using each other’s stuff when you first moved in, don’t assume “they should just know.” It’s not fair if everything’s falling on you, but it’s also not fair for you to noisily slam a mop around the kitchen until they offer to help. If there’s an issue, address it directly (and in person — not through a strongly worded Post-It note or text).
2. Choose your battles. Things like not paying bills on time, letting an S.O. basically move in (or actually move in) without discussing it, not locking the front door or throwing loud parties on weeknights are all major issues you should bring up immediately. Approach the discussion by explaining how it’s affecting you or making you feel. But disagreeing with the way they load the dishwasher… maybe let that one go. If you feel yourself about to blow up over something that might be small, pause and ask yourself if you can be flexible about it, and if it’s worth the battle.
3. Schedule a “State of the Roomies” meeting. Instead of springing a complaint on your roommate when you’re in the height of a “the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes again” rage, take time to collect your thoughts and schedule a specific time when you’re both available to check in. Go over any concerns calmly and respectfully — don’t lay into them with blame or accusations. Explain how the situation makes you feel, or why it’s a safety or sanitary issue. You can also come prepared with some ideas for solutions, and use that time to establish (or re-establish) some household rules you can both commit to.
4. Hear them out. There might be things you do that your roommate doesn’t love, either. If you’re going to ask them to make adjustments, you should be open to what they need too. Approach any meetings as a discussion, rather than your one-woman show on all the ways they suck to share a space with. If you don’t understand something they’re saying, acknowledge their feelings but ask non-judgmental questions to clarify.
5. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t go into any discussion assuming they knew what they did wrong all along. If they give you an explanation or tell you it was all just a miscommunication, take them at their word. Then forgive them, and let it go. If you tell yourself they must be lying or just keep harping on the same issue even though they’ve already apologized, you’ll never get over it, and they’ll start to resent you. You don’t need to keep repeating your point… until maybe they bring the party home at 3am again.
Have you ever had to stop yourself from blowing up at a roommate? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)