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Roommate Issues – How to Fix the Problem and Mend the Relationship

Learning how to live in peace with your roommate can sometimes be a challenge–after all, each of you come from different backgrounds, you’ve had different life experiences, and more than likely your habits and daily lifestyle routines are different as well. With all of these variables in play, it’s not uncommon for conflicts and disagreements to arise, so it’s important to learn how to resolve roommate issues before they turn into a really ugly situation.

Even if you’ve already had a falling out with your roommate, nine times out of ten the situation is not beyond repair. Below are some practical steps you can take to help resolve conflict between you and your roommate and mend the relationship.

1. Clearly identify the problem. As the old saying goes, “Accurate diagnosis is half the cure.” Maybe your roommate constantly leaves their clothes on the bathroom floor. Maybe they’re too loud when you’re clearly studying. Maybe they “borrow” things from you without telling you, or perhaps they’re not respecting your personal boundaries in some other way.

Whatever it is, make sure that you clearly identify the issue (especially recurring problems), so that you can be clear in your communication of the problem.

2. Respectfully communicate the problem to your roommate. Ask them to take some time out to have a serious chat about the issues at hand. When you’re bringing up the problem, do your best to avoid any aggressive or accusatory tone, because that more than likely will cause them to get defensive or shut down completely. Just calmly explain your side of the issue, and point out to them that you’re simply sharing how things look from your end.

Also explain to them how what they’re doing makes you feel. For example, it may not be about the cost of taking your last cinnamon bun, it’s the fact that you feel like they’re not respecting you enough to even ask before they take your stuff.

Explain your side of the story, but at the same time let them know that you’re willing to see where you might be wrong. For example, you could say “This is how things are coming across to me; now let me know if I’m looking at it the wrong way, or if that’s not what you’re intending to do.” Be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time be clear about what you have a problem with.

3. Talk specifics about taking action to resolve the problem, and set expectations. Once you’ve had the “You’re always taking my stuff” conversation (or whatever the problem might be), both of you should take some time to talk through how you can resolve the issue by discussing what actions each of you can take to make the situation better. Have a meeting of the minds, set clear expectations, and hopefully each of you will stick to what you’ve said you’ll do.

4. Be willing to change and forgive. Living with a roommate is a time of significant learning and personal growth, and that includes learning how to be flexible and forgiving with new people and new situations. Keep in mind that your roommate may see the world a completely different way than you do, and while both of you should be willing to work towards a solution, it’s often unrealistic for both parties to expect to get everything they want, every time. Be willing to communicate about your differences, and be willing to compromise where appropriate in order to keep the peace.