Almost everyone who shares living space with someone else must deal with conflicts from time to time. College roommates are no different. Even if you get along well with your roommate, you're bound to experience some irritation, annoyance or other symptoms of conflict because you are two different people who may have different backgrounds, interests or priorities. While conflict might be unavoidable, it doesn't have to destroy your well-being or your relationship with your roommate.
About Roommate Conflict
Roommate conflicts are inevitable, according to Boston College's Office of Resident Life. The very fact of sharing a living space might be enough to cause roommate conflict, especially if you are used to having your own space or enjoy privacy. College might be the first time you've ever had to share living quarters with someone else, and it's not always easy to adjust. Perhaps your roommate snores, stays up late when you want to sleep or sleeps when you want to stay up late. Maybe he invites guests over at all hours or tends to be noisy, while you prefer a quiet environment. Regardless of your specific issue, many problems simply come down to a lack of communication.
If you don't communicate with your roommate and clearly express your preferences or desires about issues that are important to you, there's no way she will ever know how you feel. You can huff about the things you don't like or use passive-aggressive techniques to indicate your displeasure, but these methods are ultimately counter-productive and will probably only lead to an escalation in tension and conflict. Talk to your roommate and let her know your feelings, likes and dislikes as early in your relationship as possible. If you do experience conflicts, approach her during a quiet moment when you can be alone for a decent period of time. Be clear and direct about your concerns and listen to and respect her feelings and concerns with an open, tolerant mind, as well.
Sometimes, the situation between you and your roommate can become so tense that you can't even stand to be in the same room or look at each other without fighting. In such cases, it can be helpful to enlist the help of a mediator. Many campus residential life offices offer mediation services for roommates who share dorm rooms on campus. Mediation is usually provided by a trained resident assistant and, in some cases, by the hall director. Roommates are encouraged to speak honestly, respectfully and directly with each other. The mediators can help resolve any conflicts that might arise during the discussion and help diffuse tension as you work through your frustrations with each other.
A helpful way to prevent conflict or future instances of conflict might be to develop a roommate contract. A roommate contract is a written document that both roommates discuss, agree upon and sign, preferably during the first week of cohabitation. The contract should cover as many potential areas of conflict as possible, says Jeanne Clark, residence hall director at Quinnipiac College. Some of the issues you may wish to discuss include study and sleep habits, preferences about having guests in the room, sharing specific items or room organization.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.