How to Genuinely Enjoy Your Roommate
Maybe you feel like you won the jackpot because you have such an amazing roommate! You laugh together, talk late into the night about stuff that really matters and see eye-to-eye about everything. On the other hand, it could be your roommate has turned out to be a challenge for you. You don’t have much in common and instead, have moments of tension or even outright conflict. How do you make the best of a less-than-desirable roommate situation? Is it possible to tolerate the roommate who has grown increasingly annoying? Is it even realistic to hope to build a friendship? Whether your connection with your roommate is solid or weak, you can always invest more relationally. Consider the following actions you can take today to grow rapport with your roommate:
Let Go of Grudges. It may seem obvious, but you can’t build rapport when you’re harboring unforgiveness. Search your heart and choose to let go if there is a “build up” of offense inside. Jesus talks about turning the other cheek, and the apostle Paul commands that we “bear with [put up with] and forgive whatever grievance [complaint] you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). Stuff is going to come up; it’s inevitable whenever sinners live together. Make a decision to absorb the frustration and overlook the affront. If an issue surfaces that is serious and causes ongoing damage to the relationship, do not be afraid of open communication and gracious evaluation that is humble and gentle. These conversations must happen with the goal of growth and a reconciled, strengthened relationship. Practice being a “good forgiver.” It’s a skill you will need over and over—in friendships, in marriage someday, and until you are old and grey. Though it’s hard to do, rejoice in the sanctifying “roommate rub” that forces you to grow in this area.
Focus on the Positive. All of us are a composite of strengths and weaknesses, a mixed bag of character flaws and virtues. When you live “up close and personal” with another human being it doesn’t take long to discover their defects. Whether it’s snoring, laughing too loudly or clipping their toenails in bed, everyone has their annoyances. Beware of developing myopic vision, focusing on the pet peeves that disturb you. When the majority of your attention turns to these few bad habits, your energy will literally get sapped away day by day. Instead, take time to notice and appreciate your roommate’s good traits, whether punctuality, cleanliness, spontaneity or a fun-loving spirit. Rehearse these often, both to yourself and publicly. Praise your roommate’s strong points to others (rather than put them down). Send them a text or leave a note on the bathroom mirror thanking them for being helpful or noting something you appreciate about their personality. The more you focus on what’s positive, the less time you’ll have to obsess about the less-desirable traits.
Choose to be a Blessing. Whether we feel loving feelings or not, we can always choose loving actions. The apostle Paul encourages us to “serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13) and Jesus himself tells us to go the extra mile (Matt. 5:41). This “above and beyond” service could include acts of kindness like doing the dishes (even those that aren’t yours) or taking out the trash. It could come as a demonstration of love like springing for coffee next time the two of you are studying, or surprising your roommate with their favorite candy or snack.
Give Space. Healthy relationships require balance. When it comes to your friendship with your roommate, check your expectations to make sure you’re not placing a burden on them they’re unable to perform. For example, your roommate does not need to fulfill the role of “BFF.” In fact, most of the time, this will not be the case. It is not necessary or healthy to spend all of your time together. Friendship doesn’t grow or flourish if either party is feeling smothered. So back off and give some healthy breathing room, remembering that too much of a good thing is rarely good. It’s normal and healthy for roommates to branch out and form other relationships.
Make a Deposit. At the same time, friendships that aren’t fostered cannot grow, so make sure you are spending time intentionally pouring into the relationship. Consider your friendship with your roommate as a bank account. Whenever there is tension or conflict, a withdrawal is made from your relational account. Conversely, when you serve one another, play together, make memories together or engage in meaningful conversation, a deposit is made. If there are more withdrawals than deposits, you will eventually end up overdrawn and relationally bankrupt. Maybe it’s time to focus on some consistent deposits. How about scheduling a weekly or bi-weekly roommate outing? Figure out some things you both enjoy doing and get some dates on the calendar. Go mini-golfing, take crazy pictures around campus, find a service project and sign up to minister together. Take turns celebrating one another’s birthdays. And don’t forget to make time for the spontaneous late-night pizza run or silly “hairbrush karaoke.” College is supposed to be a time for adventure and making memories. Why not include your roommate in yours? You never know…you may just be building into a potentially special, and even lifelong relationship!