5 Steps to Regain Your Peace and Reduce Roommate Conflict

Evelyn Long

Aug 26, 2022


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There are some advantages to living alone. However, many choose to live with a roommate to afford a better apartment or save money. While having a roommate provides plenty of benefits — rental assistance, shared housework and company — living in tight quarters may lead to unwarranted conflicts. Living together doesn’t mean roommates must become best friends — but it does require respectful communication, compromise and adhering to one another’s boundaries. Here are five steps to regain your peace and reduce roommate conflict.

1. Communicate Openly 

Every person is different and it’s normal to feel frustrated occasionally when you live with someone else. The question isn’t whether you’ll feel frustrated but rather how you’ll handle those feelings. Open communication is your best tool for navigating future conflict and ensuring your relationship with your roommate stays positive. 

If your roommate does something that makes you upset or uncomfortable, talk to them about it. It’s okay to ask for outside advice if you’re unsure how to handle confrontation. However, it’s not a good idea to excessively complain about your roommate before you talk to them directly. 

2. Address Problems Sooner Rather Than Later

About open communication. Bring up issues as they arise to prevent resentment and bitterness from forming. While discussing roommate problems and disagreements is hard, waiting may worsen the circumstances and complicate the living situation even more.

Conflict management deals with rifts in a healthier, timely manner. You may not always see eye to eye, so it’s crucial to let enough cool-down time pass but not too much time that tensions escalate and widen the divide. 

When you recognize a problem developing and get into the habit of addressing it early on, it’s more efficient for shared living than not saying anything at all.

3. Listen With Empathy

Try to think about your roommate’s point of view and ask questions instead of leaping to conclusions. Use “I” statements to let them know how you feel and present yourself as being on their team. Stay curious about their behavior so you can discover what the real problem is. Most of the time, you’ll find that it wasn’t personal. 

As an example, you may be upset because your roommate never cleans up after themselves. Talk about how that makes you feel and ask them what’s happening. Listen to what they say practice patience if they’re defensive at first. Show them that you care about them and try to compromise. 

4. Develop a Plan for Shared Living Space

Landlords often have roommates sign a joint lease to ensure all parties are equally responsible for following the apartment complex’s rules and regulations. However, a joint lease doesn’t cover the basics of sharing a living space with another person.

Ideally, you should develop a plan before a spat. However, some conflicts might reveal some changes to make to your living arrangements as roommates. Some of the items on the list may be the reason for your conflict. 

It’s wise to develop a plan and put it in writing. It’s a practical approach to protecting yourself and your personal belongings. While it may not hold legal value, a comprehensive plan informs you of your expectations for agreeable living conditions. Items a roommate agreement might include are:

  • Acceptable levels of messiness and cleaning schedules
  • Timely rent payments
  • Pet policies if your complex allows animals
  • Sleeping arrangements and rules for guests, visitors and significant others
  • Quiet hours

A roommate agreement can also cover the finer details of sharing living space, such as what temperature the thermostat should be on, rules for borrowing items and how much each roommate contributes to cover the costs of other essentials like groceries and utilities. 

5. Set Boundaries

After the conflict, have a conversation about boundaries. This is one of the most crucial steps to regain your peace. If you set boundaries, you’re more likely to live together successfully, since boundaries build respect, trust, and safety in relationships. You’ll learn to respect each other’s needs and find a middle ground for things you disagree on.

 Ask your new roommate about their pet peeves and share your own. Talk about your expectations for living together so you can avoid frustration later. Discuss how you’d like to handle conflict and your ideal living situation.

For example, your new roommate might want a quiet space to destress while you plan to use your shared living space to host friends as often as possible. Discussing boundaries sets a precedent for open, honest conversation. This tip is essentially about being intentional – the plan may change later, but at least you have a plan!

You can split the boundaries into two categories— hard or non-negotiables and soft or aspirational. Consider hard boundaries as needing immediate action with little to no compromise. For example, pay rent on time every month or always ask permission to use items that belong to your roommate. Another hard boundary can be to promise no large gatherings during the work week. 

On the flip side, soft boundaries are more flexible. This can be considering each other’s communication preferences or decorative tastes. A small apartment may not offer a lot of room for private conversations either. Agreeing to give each other much-needed space for personal calls and FaceTime — or quiet time in general — is essential.

Take the Initiative

When you live with roommates, conflict is inevitable. However, you can reduce stress and take the necessary steps to regain your peace by being intentional with this relationship. Don’t stew or worry about confrontation for weeks before you say something. Practice clear, kind communication and teach yourself to respond rather than react to your roommates. 

Some roommate situations are irretrievable. If you’re experiencing intense anxiety or fear for your safety, it’s time to find a new living situation. Don’t put the blame for a stressful roommate situation entirely on yourself – successful communication and compromise take two people. You can use this guide to improve your next roommate situation!

Originally posted 7/26/2023 – Updated 1/26/2024 

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