By The Editorial Board
To put it lightly, the expectations surrounding a roommate can be overwhelming. Does your roommate keep things clean? Will they put an empty milk carton back in the fridge? If the trash can is literally overflowing, will they take it out?
And on top of all those regular living situation stressors, will you be the best of friends? Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, the list of roommate qualifications is already lengthy enough and does not need to include “BFF.”
The pressure of being close friends with the people you live with in college is completely unnecessary. You don’t have to be a great friend to be a good roommate.
That being said, communicating and sustaining a healthy roommate relationship are a huge part of any living situation. Roommates should at least be acquaintances who are able to have conversations regarding boundaries and living expectations.
The importance of navigating roommate and interpersonal relationships was analyzed in a research paper from George Mason University. The paper said that from a nationwide survey of 31,500 students, 50.1% of women and 44.1% of men reported having “frequent” or “occasional” conflict with roommates.
“Given the multiple ways in which roommates can interact, it is not surprising that empirical evidence suggests these relationships can enhance or reduce mental health and adjustment to college,” the paper said.
With the extended amount of time and interactions roommates have together, adding an expectation of building a close friendship can make things even more difficult. Clear communication and boundary setting is vital in order to avoid the common conflicts. Necessary hard conversations with a roommate might be pushed aside if you want to preserve a potential friendship.
Being comfortable in your own home and being able to speak freely with a roommate is important, but you don’t have to do everything together. There’s a balance to everything, and there is no “perfect” household; your living situation can be whatever you want from it.
This isn’t to say to avoid relationships with roommates at all costs. If you end up being best friends, that’s a great plus. But instead of making that a top priority, aim for positive and clear communication first to avoid a negative situation.
Having close relationships outside of a roommate is healthy. A different group of friends that is separate from a roommate can be a really good thing; don’t be afraid to expand your circle of friends from the people you live with. Spending extended periods of time with anyone, while also trying to navigate the complexities of living with someone else, can make it hard to build a healthy friendship.
There’s no shame if you and your roommate aren’t two peas in a pod. Each roommate needs to have mutual respect and care for the other. Take care of your roommate, help out around the house and be clear about each other’s boundaries.
If you expect to be best friends with your roommate and to have a home that is totally smooth sailing, the harder conversations about boundaries and who is expected to do what might be more difficult. Expect a college living situation to have bumps in the road; it’s not going to be perfect, and your roommate might not be your twin flame.