My friend told me once that the best roommate she ever had insisted on them sitting down and literally writting through their whole life together before they moved in. There were such things as no TV or music after 11pm, or no dishes in the sink at 7 am, or no visitors overnight unless it is an emergency. While it sounds a little bit too extreme the “bill” they created has worked for them. Even now when they both moved on and each had a place of their own they are still friends and have nothing but good memories to share. Establishing the grounding rules and putting those in writing made them both more aware of their own actions and the effect those actions have on their relationship. Being self aware can improve your relationships with your roommates no matter what stage are you on right now.
Let’s imagine that you and your roommate hate each other at the moment. If you switch focus from your wreck of a roommate to how you feel, you will notice that you are not happy and would like to feel different. So your next action will be a conscious effort to improve your own well being rather than an impulsive response to your roommate’s provocation. If you truly concentrate on yourself feeling good instead of proving things to your roommate you will find a way to resolve the tension.
I noticed that my own roommate relationships are very much like a tennis match. Meaning that my roommate and I are keeping score of each others actions and respond to them accordingly. For example, I’m the one who cleans the place and takes out garbage. My roommate takes care of all the cleaning supplies such as dish soap, paper towels etc. Our responsibilities are equally important because providing the cleaning supplies doesn’t only mean paying for them but also fetching them home from Costco (being a New Yorker she doesn’t drive). The beauty of it is how effortlessly we handled a potentially dramatic situation. The apartment is clean we both contributed to it while each of us did it in the way that is most comfortable for ourselves, and we both feel respected and satisfied with each other.
This attitude has been helping us keep things smooth and friendly for almost 2 years now. The secret here is balance. No one is perfect and, being aware of it, we allow each other be ourselves as long as our bad things are balanced with “make ups”. So, if I eat my roommates french fries I’ll compensate by making breakfast for both of us and if she had her a/c on 24/7 the whole month resulting in an exorbitant electricity bill she will simply pay two thirds of this bill. We also give each other personal space and some “private time” in the apartment. Following our unwritten code we both try to spend some time during the week out of the apartment, and at least one weekend every few months away. We always let each other know how long we are going to be away and approximately what time we are going to be back in the apartment.
These little things have huge effect on our relationships making our living together more symbiotic than dramatic. Balancing our relationship became a useful habit that helps me a lot in my everyday life. I’ve learned to analyze each situation and controlling it by acting consciously rather than impulsively responding to actions of others.