How to Cultivate a Healthy Roommate Relationship

By Brittany Loeffler


Living with a roommate can be challenging, especially if you find out your personalities don’t exactly mesh. Having a healthy roommate relationship is essential for harmonious living and a good year. It’s important to remember that a roommate relationship is different than a friendship. When you live with someone, you see their routine, way of life, and really get to know them as a person. Whether you and your roommate get along or not, there are a few things you can do to cultivate a healthy roommate relationship.



Have a Roommate Agreement

In the first few weeks of your lease, start cultivating a healthy roommate relationship by writing up a roommate agreement. This agreement will set expectations and ground rules for you both to follow diligently.

There are a few things your roommate agreement should include. The first should be your names and the address where you live. Next, write out all the expectations and rules you would like to enforce. This may be quiet hours, the number of people allowed to sleep over, or chore assignments.

Think of a roommate agreement as a legal document. If one of you breaches the contract, there should be a certain consequence. For example, you have to pay $5 towards rent or do a certain chore that week.


Keep the Common Areas Clean

The number one conflict between roommates is keeping the apartment clean. To maintain a healthy roommate relationship, try to keep the common areas clean. Feel free to keep your private bedroom as messy as you’d like, but if you share a space with other people, take the time to clean up your mess.

This includes the kitchen. Set a certain amount of time that dirty dishes can sit in the sink with your roommate. If possible, clean up your dirty dishes quickly to keep that healthy roommate relationship.


Respect Each Other

The biggest aspect to cultivating a healthy roommate relationship is to respect each other. This means respect your roommate as a person, respect their belongings, and respect anyone who they bring into the apartment. Don’t touch their things without asking or eat their food. When you show your roommate respect, they will most likely show you respect too.

Not only should you respect your roommate to have a healthy roommate relationship, but you should respect the home you live in as well. If something is broken, fix it. If there is a mess, clean it.


Ask Before Taking or Using

Living with a roommate can be a lot of fun, especially when they own cool gadgets or buy the most delicious food. If you have a healthy roommate relationship, they are probably more than happy to share their things with you. However, it’s important to ask your roommate to take or use something that belongs to them. It’s a form of showing respect to your roommate. It shows your roommate that you don’t feel entitled to their belongings just because you live in the same house.


Be Courteous

Being respectful and being courteous are two different things. To be courteous means to keep your roommate in mind when making plans or doing something around the house. For example, if you are planning on hosting a birthday party, the courteous thing to do is talk to your roommate about hosting the party. This doesn’t mean that you have to ask permission. It means that you will give your roommate a heads up that you are planning to have a party and making sure the day you chose works with their schedule and yours.



Respect Their Privacy and Space

When you live with a roommate and you really enjoy hanging out with them, it can be difficult to create boundaries when it comes to privacy and respecting your roommate’s space. Having a healthy roommate relationship means understanding that just because you live together, doesn’t mean you will spend all of your time together. If your roommate’s door is closed during the day, don’t go knocking all the time to hang out with them. Respect their privacy.

Also, never go into your roommate’s bedroom or through their things without asking. That is a definite invasion of privacy.


Make a Meal Together

Hang out with your roommate once a week or once a month. Life can get hectic and you can get busy, but it’s important to make time to hang out with your roommate and catch up with each other. When you live with someone who is super busy, it can feel that they don’t like you or want to hang out with you. Most of the time this isn’t the case. Try to plan time to catch up with each other hang out every so often so you cultivate a healthy roommate relationship.


Assign Chores

Once again, cleaning is one of the top things roommates argue about. So, nip the issue in the bud when you first move in together. Set chore assignments for each other to take care of the apartment. This can be listed on a sheet that hangs on the fridge or written in your roommate agreement. Either way, this assignment of chores will resolve any issues when it comes to cleaning because you are held responsible and so is your roommate for doing their assigned chore.


Acknowledge Your Roommate

There are times where you are stuck with a bad roommate. This situation can go one of two ways. You can both make each other miserable or you can play nice. One way of having a healthy roommate relationship is to acknowledge your roommate. This means greeting them when they walk into the room or saying goodnight before you go to bed. It’s making small talk with them about their day or paying attention to what is happening in their life.


Nobody likes to feel unwelcomed. So, make sure you acknowledge your roommate when they walk into the room.


Communication Is Key

This can’t be stressed enough. When something is bothering you, express it to your roommate. Don’t hold it in and be angry about it. Talk to your roommate about your issue and see how you can both resolve it. It can be as simple as ringing out the sponge after they wash their dishes. Or it can be as big as their significant other sleeping over all the time.


No matter how big or small the issue is, address it in a calm manner as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more it will bother you and the angrier you will get about it.


Don’t Lend Your Roommate Money

Relationships get messy when it comes to money. Oftentimes one roommate will buy cleaning supplies for the house or a piece of furniture. It’s important to split any housing expenses with your roommates or else they may feel that they can take advantage of you and your money.


When looking for a roommate, you want to find someone who is in a similar financial situation as you are. This will take the stress off of making sure your roommate pays rent each month and can afford to split necessary expenses with you like utilities or cleaning supplies.

Whatever you do, do not offer to cover your roommate’s rent one month. You may never see that money again.


Don’t Be Passive Aggressive

Whatever you do, don’t be passive aggressive towards your roommate. It doesn’t get you anywhere. It only makes you and your roommate miserable. Instead of being passive aggressive, communicate what your problem is with your roommate. Sometimes your roommate may not even realize you are being passive aggressive! The best way to solve any problem is to be straightforward with your roommate and address an issue you have.


Be Adaptable

It may take a few weeks to adapt to living with a new roommate. You need time to get to know each other and their living habits. To cultivate a healthy roommate relationship, it’s important to be adaptable. If your roommate wakes up at 6 o’clock in the morning, then maybe you should start getting up early too. Keep an open mind about changing how you live so you and your roommate’s living habits complement each other. Who knows, you may adapt your lifestyle into a better one than before!


Go Out Together

Get out of the house with your roommate and go do something fun together. Just because you live together doesn’t mean you can’t go out together and make some memories. Maybe it’s an event on campus you’re both interested in or a movie you both want to see. This will give you a chance to get to know your roommate more and see them in another setting other than your apartment.


When you make memories and share experiences with someone, it allows you to grow closer to that person and form a healthy roommate relationship.



Be Open to New Things

We spoke about being adaptable, now it’s time to be open to trying new things. You won’t grow as a person unless you get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Who better to try new things with than your roommate? Maybe your roommate is vegetarian. You see the delicious food they cook and the veggie burgers they eat. So, why not try to be a vegetarian for a week or two? You may like it so much that you adopt the same lifestyle. When you try something that your roommate introduced you to, it shows them that you are interested in getting to know them and doing things with them, which helps to cultivate a healthy roommate relationship.


Don’t Expect to be Best Friends

Just because you live together doesn’t mean you will be best friends. If it happens that you really enjoy spending time together and like the same things and have mutual friends, then maybe you’ll become best friends. Don’t go into your lease with the expectation that you and your roommate will be best friends and hang out all the time. It doesn’t always work out that way.


What you should expect is to have a respectful and healthy relationship with you roommate where you are both considerate of each other and responsible for taking care of the apartment.


Be Patient

Patience will get you very far in life, especially when it comes to living with a roommate. If your roommate takes a while to do their dishes or puts the dishes away in the wrong cabinet, don’t get upset over it. Be patient with them. It isn’t worth sweating the small stuff. Focus on the bigger picture and leave your anger for when something really bad happens.


Learn to Share

Go back to the kindergarten mindset where you learn how to share. When you share things with your roommate, like movies, music, clothes, or games, it can feel like your belongings just doubled. It’s fun to share with your roommate! However, if you do borrow something from your roommate, make sure you ask for their permission and you return it in the same condition you borrowed it.


Have Fun!

Have fun cultivating a healthy roommate relationship! It doesn’t have to be all about walking on eggshells making sure you clean up the common area or tiptoe around your roommate. Hang out with them. Joke around with them. Dance around the kitchen in your pajamas on a Saturday morning while cooking pancakes. The most important thing about cultivating a healthy roommate relationship is to be open with each other and have fun with each other.


Cultivating a Healthy Roommate Relationship

Having a healthy roommate relationship doesn’t necessarily mean you are best friends with your roommate. It means that you both respect each other and each other’s belongings. It means that you are considerate and courteous when it comes to hosting people in the house or doing something that directly affects your roommate. It means hanging out every so often and talking together about what’s going on in your life. The most important thing when it comes to having a healthy roommate relationship is communicating openly and effectively with your roommate.


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