College: Balancing being a friend and being a roommate

Published: September 30, 2012 | Last Updated: October 28, 2012 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading

It’s normal for roommates to get on each other’s nerves every now and then. A reporter for recently asked me how she could carve out alone-time for herself and still remain close with her roommate—without hurting her feelings. This is how I responded:

Living with someone else can be tough—whether it’s a lover, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or a friend. Because of the limited space and opportunity for privacy, a cramped dorm room can be particularly challenging, especially if roommates haven’t shared their personal space with someone else before. So roomies need to be sensitive and somewhat flexible in making accommodations to one another.

Even though your roommate may get on your nerves at times (and vice versa), you can still preserve your close friendship if you are able to communicate tactfully. Hopefully, you’ll feel comfortable enough to discuss your need for boundaries, explaining that this is about you rather than about her, per se. This might include talking about your need to have alone time, to have quiet time, to have privacy, or to expand your circle of friends to include additional people besides her. You’ll also want to hear your roommate’s needs so you can be respectful of her as well.

If you’ve been living together for a while and your friend doesn’t adhere to boundaries that you’ve previously agreed upon, you may need to simply close the door to your room or wear headphones (even if you’re not listening to anything) to signal that you want to be alone. While you wouldn’t would to inadvertently hurt your friend’s feelings, you have no choice but to be honest about your need for “me time.”

Do you have any other advice on this topic?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a somewhat drastic suggestion and you’d have to be comfortable with it. But here it is: Just don’t engage with the roommate much, right from the get-go. Smile, be pleasant, but always “keep moving.” This will put up a boundary without stating it’s a boundary. Don’t engage in long chats, always be doing something while you are stuck talking with her in the room. Always be on the move: either in the middle of reading, listening to music, walking out the door, whatever. If you aren’t sitting there with a big wide “open for business” sign on your forehead that invites her to engage with you, you’ll give her the unspoken boundary that you are really just sharing a room with her; you’re not “roomies”; BFFs; etc. I think a lot of guys do this in dorms. Or they used to. Just keep it impersonal. I actually did that one time, with a roommate right out of college, who wanted a BFF and not just a rooomate Oh, the plans she had for us. And I just said from day one I was looking for a roommate only, not a gal pal. I worked two jobs, she loafed around while Dad paid the bills. So I was literally not there and when I was there, I wasn’t up for her fun and games. And she didn’t like it. But she didn’t cross my boundary. Now I’ve had other roommates where I did want to engage, did want a friendship, and when I had problems with them, we were able to talk it out and actually have remained friends years later. So, those are my two pennies worth. Hope some of it helps.

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