Your roommate(s) no longer washes their greasy, food-laden dishes. They’ve stopped asking you if they may have a few guests over and have started throwing wild parties. They eat your food and borrow your clothes without permission. And now they slam doors when they are upset. Yep, the honeymoon is over.
Living with other people, including friends, can be a very trying experience. You don’t have time for conflict because you have a social and academic life. Why can’t your roommates just live how you want to live and abide by all your rules, values and standards?
Life, unfortunately, doesn’t work this way. The Community Housing Office has firsthand experience with this type of issue — the majority of students that come to our office with housing problems are facing roommate issues.
Thinking about who you might live with next year? (Freshmen, we are looking at you.) Our best advice is to choose wisely and take your time. There is no rush to sign a contract in January, especially when some of you have only known your potential new “roomies” for less than a quarter. Historically, numerous students come to our office over the summer, before they have even moved in with their new roommates, to find a new place to live because they realize they made the wrong decision. CHO really believes (and has seen proven true) that if you choose roommates who match your lifestyle (cleanliness, financial stability, alcohol/drugs, noise, party behavior) rather than based on friendship alone, you have a better chance at a harmonious roommate experience.
Some of us hate conflict and will avoid it at all costs. Some of us are a little too turned on by conflict and can’t wait for a screaming match. Unfortunately, if conflict is not addressed quickly and appropriately, not only will the honeymoon period end, divorce proceedings and move-outs may start as well. Conflict with others is inevitable, but there are ways to help ease conflicts within your rental household (including residence halls and university apartments):
1. Set up weekly/monthly/quarterly meetings to set standards you all share and to talk about how things are going. Meetings should be a safe, supportive space for roommates/housemates to voice their concerns. One idea is to make the meeting fun by cooking dinner and eating together. CHO recommends that roommates fill out a Roommate Agreement form (available on our Web site) with each other so there is something in writing about your agreements on parking spots, overnight guests, cleanliness, bills and anything else that is important to the household. It isn’t too late to do this!
2. Create an environment of open communication. As many of you know, writing passive aggressive notes on whiteboards, IMing and texting do not work well when people are in conflict. Neither does holding in your annoyances and concerns. Those negative feelings will make you feel terrible and just end up exploding later. Simply put, talk to each other when you are noticing that “things don’t feel right.” Chances are your roommate(s) might feel the same way and will experience relief when you bring up the conflict early. If you are unsure of how to talk to your roommate about things that are bothering you, feel free to stop by the office so that we can help you develop some strategies.
3. Don’t hesitate. Mediate! CHO offers mediation services at no cost for all UCSB students, regardless of where you live. If efforts to resolve conflicts have not been successful and people need help communicating, our mediation services can help. The process is voluntary and confidential. E-mail us at email@example.com for more information about our mediation program.
So, what if you have tried and tried again to communicate with your roommate, you’ve consulted with a mediator and you’ve negotiated until you can no longer stand it? Sometimes moving out may be the best option for everyone involved. Moving out can even help save friendships. Come to our office on the third floor of the UCen, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 893-4371 to discuss methods for getting out of your lease and finding a replacement for yourself.
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