Roommates: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t pay rent without ‘em. Bad roommate experiences run rampant in college, to the point that finding someone who hasn’t had an unsavory living situation at some time during their academic career is incredibly rare. Whenever that happens, it prompts most of us to turn to Facebook or Instagram and wish we could have one of those carefully curated Starbucks-sponsored roommate lovefests that some people seem to have been blessed with.
Because that’s the catch—if you don’t outright loathe your roommate, you must be best friends with them. You have matching Halloween costumes, you go to all the same parties, you have all the same friends, you probably even take some of the same classes. In short, you are “besties for life” and all of your social media shows it. But this conception leaves no room for a middle ground. There’s an expectation that you either have to spend every waking moment with your roommate, or be wistfully planning their murder.
“There’s something about sharing a space together for that amount of time that makes people feel like it’s necessary for you to have either a really positive friendship or a situation like ‘I hate your guts, this sucks, I want to leave,’” said Abigail Burns, a senior at UW-Madison.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if a middle ground of peaceful coexistence existed? Well good news folks: It does.
“I never became friends with one of my roommates, but we always just had this mutual respect for each other living in the same space,” Burns said. “It was just kinda nice to not have to constantly be making conversation with her or feeling like I have to hang out with her, but just, you know, living together.”
This happens to describe my current living situation with my roommate. We both have our own unique schedules, made possible by having our own bedrooms; she’s a morning person who gets up to exercise as I imagine the Marines do (much to my night owl envy), and I usually drag myself out of bed 10 minutes before I’m supposed to leave for class. We have our own eating habits and timetables, groups of friends and hobbies, but none of this has caused any problems.
In fact, quite the opposite. My roommate and I aren’t best friends nor are we strangers—instead, we are two people who happily and peacefully coexist. We will occasionally share a meal or rant about classes to each other, or most recently, marathon Disney’s Halloweentown movies together, and it’s an easy, relaxed thing. We’re also perfectly comfortable going the entire week only seeing each other in passing.
Because such a focus is placed on positive roommate relationships being exclusive to people who are best friends, many people don’t even recognize what a good thing they might already have going on. Having a roommate who you like but don’t have a Friends-worthy friendship with doesn’t mean you need to try to force a deeper friendship. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a low-key, minimalist friendship with your roommate. I’ve actually found that a more hands-off approach to living together tends to yield better results.
Burns agrees: “If you can find that sort of comfortable neutrality with another person, frickin’ own that sh*t. Live with that person for the rest of your life.”
Bottom line? Just find someone you can be comfortable both with and without, make sure you both have your own space and allow the coexistence to happen. Don’t think you need to fulfill the stereotype of either loving or loathing your roommate. I know I lucked out in finding such a wonderful, chill person to share an apartment with, and it’s definitely made my life a lot less stressful. After all, college roommates should not be a source of stress in your life (that honor goes to your abysmal time management skills, am I right?). So shake off those expectations and try your hand at some Zen coexistence. Who knows? You might even achieve some inner peace along the way.