Roommates: How to Avoid Drama | My Move

Roommates: How to Avoid Drama

Author: Brooke Lenzi

Considering a new roommate? We've all heard horror stories about "the roommate from hell"—the one whose cat shed all over the house, cooked big meals and let dishes fester for days, never paid rent on time. Sometimes we're tempted to room with friends, then learn that the reason the friendship worked is that we didn't have to experience their bad habits first-hand.

Whether your roommate is an old friend or stranger you met online, use these tactics of screening and choosing roommates and preventing drama to live together happily, and even build or maintain a friendship.

1. Be Choosey

Take the first step in avoiding roommate drama by being thorough during the roommate selection process. Have coffee, run errands or go to the movies with roommate candidates you're meeting for the first time. Try to hang out at least three times so that you can get to know their different moods, and so that they can get to know yours.

Be aware of any red flags, and pay close attention to how they interact with other people when you're out. If a potential roommate gets annoyed or short tempered with a waiter or parking attendant, then you know he or she may have the same attitude at home. Make a list of your roommate criteria and don't budge.

George Fox University's " How to Choose a Roommate" describes a four-step strategy that includes being observant and thoughtful, speaking to others, narrowing down candidates and how to make the "ask" when you've chosen a candidate. It also contains a list of questions and considerations about goals, preferences and habits and emotional style—better to review this list before you choose a roommate so that you really know what you're in for.

2. Be Honest

Before you move in with your new roommate, whether she's a friend or you just met, be open and honest about your lifestyle tendencies. If you're a night owl and sleep till noon, tell her. If you aren't the best at washing your dishes right after using them, be clear that you mean to clean them promptly. Also open up the discussion to allow your potential roommate to be honest about her routines. This will help eliminate roommate drama down the road.

3. Don't Let Issues Fester

As soon as you feel a conflict brewing, voice your concern. Communicate. A lot of conflicts tend to be based on misunderstandings; before you let an issue fester and multiply, bring it up and talk it out. Issues won't go away if you fail to discuss them; take the responsibility of making peace so that they don't resurface down the road.

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, suggests in her blog, The Friendship Factor, that roommates "meet weekly for about 15 minutes to discuss any housing issues that arise and to figure out how you will share responsibilities for cleaning, respecting each other's privacy, etc." With open communication, roommate drama can be avoided.

4. When It's Time to Say Goodbye…Say Goodbye

People often remain in doomed living situations long after they should. If you and your roommate aren't a good fit, start making arrangements to move out on your own or to find a new roommate. Even better if your roommate was originally a friend—the distance and relief of everyday pressures to get along may help rekindle your friendship.