While living alone is undoubtedly the preferred option, its most significant challenge is the cost of living that accompanies it. To tackle the affordability issue while saving money, people seek roommates who can help them split their rent and other recurring expenses. However, regardless of how thorough you may be in screening your potential roommate, you can never know how the person will turn out to be unless you share the same roof. You might end up with a roommate who doesn’t believe in the concept of boundaries, has unrealistic expectations from you but doesn’t believe in following them where you’re concerned, and never has the money to make payments. Of course, you always have the option of walking out, but that may not be possible immediately, so you’ll have to put in the time and effort to ensure that you can survive in a rented house you’re paying to live in. To help you put up with a roommate from hell if you can’t avoid living with one, we’ve compiled these 12 tips:
1. Carry out a background check
A landlord carries out a background check on potential tenants because they want to ensure the tenants have the strength of character and the financial means to live in a rental space without issues. Likewise, as a tenant, you need to do a proper background check on your prospective roommate to determine they are what they claim to be.
So, how exactly would you do that? The fact that we live in a social media age works in our favor in this case. Check out the social media profile of your shortlisted roommate. Browse through their profile to understand their persona, likes and dislikes, and living requirements. You may come across their employment details, which can tell you a lot about their job and income stability, especially if you find that they have a history of hopping from job to job. In turn, you’ll get an idea of how dependable they’re likely to be as a roommate.
Finally, if you’re lucky, you might find a few mutual friends you can connect with to extract a little more information on your roommate’s nature.
2. Have them answer many questions
Make a list of questions you’d like to ask your potential roommate and schedule a meeting somewhere outside, in a bar or coffee shop, and talk to them. While asking questions, make it sound like a normal conversation between two people who’re getting to know each other and not like an interrogation. The reason is obvious; you might scare them away!
Ask them questions on what work they do, what their interests are, what they do in their spare time, whether this is the first time they’re living with a roommate, what their expectations and preferences from you are, and others. Ensure that your questions are direct but not too intrusive so that you can find the answers you’re looking for.
3. Share your interests and lifestyle preferences
Meeting with your potential roommate can’t be a one-sided conversation where you ask all the questions, and they have to answer you. They might also be keen to know about your personality to determine if you’re compatible with them.
So, give them a chance to ask you questions, and if they’re hesitant, be proactive and share your responses with them. To give them an idea about who they’ll be sharing a roof with, tell them about your positive and negative habits, interests, and lifestyle requirements.
Most importantly, be sure to discuss common issues likely to come up while living together and agree on solutions to deal with them. Just as it’s vital to create trust, it’s equally critical to let them know what they can expect in a shared living situation and adjust accordingly.
4. Live with a roommate on a trial basis
If you’re still not entirely convinced about whether you should move in with the so-called potential roommate, talk to them and see if they’re willing to live with you for a little while. See how it goes before you decide to take the plunge.
Discuss the appropriate time you both are comfortable with and carry out the experiment. Eventually, you both will be able to figure out whether the other person is worth living with.
5. Come up with ground rules to set expectations
It makes sense to do whatever you want to if you’re living alone. But with someone else sharing the house, no matter how uncomfortable it is, both of you have to follow specific guidelines that work in your best interests.
Sit down and have a chat with your roommate and make a note of all the rules each of you needs to follow, whether it involves visitors, pets, rent and utilities, noise levels, food and groceries, and anything else you can think of. It will help set expectations you each may have while maintaining boundaries concerning behavior.
Incorporate the rules at the earliest and see if you’re both able to live in harmony.
6. Share concerns before things get worse
If you have issues with your roommate, but you’re unable to get yourself to talk to them, the only person getting affected is you. If you keep postponing a discussion with your roommate, some day the pent-up emotions are going to find a way out, and it might not be a pretty sight. Also, rather than resolving the problem, you’ll end up worsening it.
Approach them for a discussion and use more “I” statements to state how you feel about the situation and accompany it with a feasible solution that works for both of you. Why should you use “I” statements? Using “I” more often will prevent you from pointing fingers and placing the blame directly on your roommate, so they aren’t likely to get defensive. Use words that focus on the problem and not on the person doing it. If your roommate is sensible, they’ll own up to their errors and make amends.
7. Pick your battles
You may find a number of things your roommate does annoying, but that doesn’t mean that you should create a fuss over everything. As bizarre as it might sound, it’s going to make things that much more difficult for you, not your roommate. So, the ideal thing to do is to drop it and move on.
If your roommate refuses to fork over an extra dollar for something you both have bought, pay it out of your pocket and settle the issue. Or, if they promised to wash those last few dishes so that you can use the kitchen but conveniently stepped out, take five and do them. In fact, you might even see them doing a double-take if you get a candy bar or a cup of coffee for them on days they seem too snappy or irritable.
8. Be flexible within limits
In continuation to the earlier point, sometimes it’s wise to be flexible to accommodate a situation your roommate might be struggling to handle. For instance, your roommate needs to rush to work because a last-minute meeting has been scheduled. They missed buying their groceries and don’t have anything to eat for breakfast. Offer them bread, milk, oats, or whatever you have from your stock so that they don’t go to work hungry.
At the same time, know where to draw the line so that you’re not taken for granted. If your roommate assumes you’ll be doing something for them because you did so in the past, remind them that what you did was a situational requirement. Request them assertively to stay within the boundaries set when you both started living together in the first place.
9. Be empathetic
If you expect your roommate to understand a problem you’re going through, don’t you think they’d expect the same from you if they have a bone to pick with you? Goes without saying!
When they set up some time with you to discuss a problem, think about it from their perspective and how you’d have reacted if it had happened to you. Empathy goes a long way in making you a kinder, more compassionate person.
In addition, when expecting a particular behavior or response from your roommate, take a minute to think about whether you exhibit the same set of behaviors. If you do, you’re good, but if you don’t, you might want to start practicing what you preach.
Finally, as part of being an empathetic person, take an extra step and ask them if you can help in any way. For all you know, they may be going through a crisis and venting out their emotions on you for lack of a better person to share them with. If you lend an ear, you help them and yourself too.
10. Consider alternatives if nothing works
Whether we find it fair or not, this might be a living situation that’s not meant to work, regardless of your efforts. If the living situation’s hampering your peace and sanity, you might want to seriously consider looking for another place to live in.
Don’t rush into things because you don’t want to make another decision you regret. Take your time, ask friends and coworkers for help, and you should be able to rid yourself of this mess in time. Be patient and do what works for you and your happiness.
11. Find a place for some alone time
Many times, no matter how much you convey your feelings to someone about what works for you and what doesn’t, you’ll find minimal or no change at all in their behavior. In such a situation, it’s best to change the way you perceive the problem and look for ways to deal with it so that it doesn’t cause you unnecessary stress.
Although you’ll eventually have to come back home, find another place like a library, cafe, gym, or a friend’s house, where you can spend a few hours now and then. A change of place can uplift you and make you more willing to look at the situation objectively.
12. Handle passive-aggressive behavior practically
If your roommate has a grudge against you but chooses to deal with it through passive-aggressive behavior, you’re not going to find a solution by doing the same, are you?. Why? Because if you do, you’ll end up making matters worse than before, which won’t serve you or your roommate well.
Then what? For starters, try to decode the message they’re trying to send you by understanding their body language, expressions, and gestures. Honestly, the ideal way to handle a passive-aggressive person is to be straightforward with them. Confront them and let them know that you believe you may have done something that hurt them and invite them to talk about it candidly. If you think you know what their issue is, share it with them. Once you do, they should be willing to warm up to you and open up about what’s bothering them. Work together to find a solution.
So, are you ready to get out there and live with a difficult roommate without going crazy? We believe you are! Relationship problems usually crop up because of a lack of communication or a delay in letting someone you live with know that certain actions and behaviors aren’t working for them. But if you’ve done your bit and there’s no observable change in them, keep telling yourself that nothing lasts forever, and neither will this situation and look for other ways to live your life as you see fit!