Roommates need to be a good fit, especially if your schedules coincide and you will be spending an inordinate amount of time together. When you are residing with someone else, you have to expect some tension from time to time. I roomed with a good friend for a year. We were very compatible, but still got on each other’s nerves from time to time. When you are sharing living space, you need to be considerate of your roommate.

Keep it Simple – Room with other introverts. Things will naturally fall into place. The friend I roomed with was the epitome of an introvert, as I am. We got along well 99% of the time. Even the 1% of the time there was some tension or disagreement, it was quickly resolved. We gave each other space, there were no wild parties, no loud music at 3:00 AM after coming home drunk, and one kept quiet when the other had work to do. Cooperation, mutual respect, and ease were the norms.

If you are rooming with an Extravert (or two or more), here are some ideas to keep things running smoothly:

1. Have your own private place to go to when you need to recover.

Introverts are drained by interaction, and energized and recharged by solitude. You may need to have some private time after being at work all day. Unless you are both introverts who can comfortably sit in silence, interacting in a common area after dealing with people all day may be a bit much. Ideally your place is big enough where you are not literally roommates, but housemates. You should have your own space, which must be sacrosanct, and not entered by the other without permission, as well as common areas. Places to retreat to outside the home, e.g., cafes, or a library are also needed.

2. Keep your space and any common areas spotless.

This applies to roommates of all personality types. Common areas, such as the kitchen and bathroom should always be immaculate. The place where you prepare and store food must be very clean. As an avid foodie, I have had several bouts of food poisoning, and it is very unfun. I still vividly recall the aftermath of some bad chicken tenders from a long time ago. Then there was the bad Spanish rice. And the bad cheeseburger. The bathroom also must be kept at a high standard of hygiene, not in the typical condition of a public bathroom. You should not hesitate to eat off the toilet seat, and perform surgery on the kitchen table. I exaggerate slightly. Clean up after yourself, don’t leave messes for your roommate, and equally divide the household chores. Remember that after a short while, messes will smell. Even if the mess is on your side of the place, it will eventually permeate the air.

3. Don’t eat their food without permission.

This is primal. How many cavemen killed each other because someone went picking in their berry bush without permission? While we have a little more food available these days, it is still hardwired into us that taking someone else’s food is a big deal. You do not take someone’s sustenance without their invitation. Ask. When I had a roommate, a frequent refrain was “Hey man, can I have some of your ice cream, wings, crackers, beer”, whatever, and the answer was always yes. I can’t remember ever denying or being denied, especially because you only asked if there was an abundance of the desired food.

If it was too good to resist, e.g., Cheesecake covered with cherries, and you break rule three, replace it. One time my girlfriend left a container of apple pie filling in my fridge. I tried a spoonful, and it was so good the spoon lost control and I ate it all before I realized what happened. I guiltily confessed my crime and bought more apple pie filling as not to ruin the plan of baking a pie together. When it comes to food, keep your hands off, or take responsibility for your unauthorized acquisition.

4. Communicate.

This is a critical rule for relationships of all types, including roommates. Introverts excel at communication. Let your roommates know if they have said or done something hurtful. Speaking of which:

5. Be careful of the ball-busting.

Men talk to each other roughly. It is common; especially for young men to greet each other with terms of endearment such as you’re so ugly your face should be on an ad for contraceptives. Oh yeah? When I’m in bed with your mother she never complains about how I look. When men are not around, women talk to other women more crudely then men could imagine. Friends should be able to jab at each other, and laugh at themselves. You should not have to tiptoe around each other, and you are going to joke around, but know what is funny and what is not. A true friend, especially one you reside with, will know your weaknesses and sensitive spots; the seams in your armor. And they will conscientiously avoid them. You must reciprocate. Crude and rough talk is not necessarily insulting; it depends on the way it is delivered, the frequency, and the content. I did some proverbial house cleaning in my late twenties-early thirties, cutting off contact with three friends I had known for years, including one from child hood, and one from high school, because they could not abide by this rule. They were downright verbally abusive, and could not see the line where friends will bust on each other in a comradely way, vs. saying things that would just cut you to the core. You can’t repeatedly say the most hurtful things imaginable to someone who is supposed to be a friend, and think that it will not tatter your friendship.

Having a roommate is a great way to share the expenses for rent and utilities, and to have good company. Strive to be considerate to keep things working smoothly.

 

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice clinician
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology
Freelance Behavioral Science writer