If you’ve never had to deal with this situation, consider yourself blessed. I’ve been there, and if you’ve stumbled onto this blog, chances are you’re dealing with it too. Whether you’re in college dealing with a mandatory roommate, you’ve roomed up with someone to save a little cash, or even worse, you’re helping out an ungrateful family member, having a bad roommate can be incredibly stressful. Here are a few tips for getting your roommate to respect your boundaries.
1. Nip it in the Bud
This is the best advice for stopping a full-blown roommate rebellion before it starts. If you don’t address the problem immediately, you’ll start to build resentment. Also, your roommate may not know that they’re bothering you (there may be cultural differences or they may have been brought up differently).
If you live with more than one roommate in a more spacious apartment home, call an apartment meeting. Your other roommates may feel the same about the actions of your disrespectful roommate. If it’s just the two of you, ask him to have a talk and respectfully outline your issues. You can even set boundaries before you move in together, like no smoking or no parties, avoiding conflicts entirely.
2. Communicate Effectively
No, this doesn’t mean put a sign up above the sink that says “DO YOUR DAMN DISHES.” This means speaking directly, looking your roommate in the eyes, and respectfully discussing your gripes. Let them know what’s bothering you, and if they’re not complete jerks, they’ll understand your concern and do something about it. If they continue, a few calm reminders are fine. If it continues and they completely disregard your requests continually, then you may need to start changing your tone and tactics.
This also applies to boundaries. If your roommate doesn’t know that the bananas on the counter are off-limits, but you’re stewing every time they eat one, it’s going to cause a blowup. Set boundaries by letting them know that you’ll be glad to pick them up bananas next time you’re out as long as they don’t mind footing the bill.
3. Get to Know One Another
If your roommate is a stranger who you are living with out of financial necessity, you may not have a lot in common and it can be awkward living together. However, if you offer to take your roommate out for coffee or dinner, you might begin to bond and tensions around the house might start to fade away.
4. Stay Strict with Finances
If you pay for utilities in your new apartment, make sure that you are both aware of who pays what. I always kept a white-board with bills on it so that each roommate could update the bill and mark who had or hadn’t paid. Money can cause problems quickly, so make sure your system allows for communication and transparency.
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