Roommate Rules and Etiquette
College Roommate Advice and Tips for Moving Back In With Mom and Dad
Dear April Masini,
I'm going to have a roommate in September, and I'm anxious about the living arrangements. Do you have any tips for me on how to handle living with someone?
Signed, Roommate Candidate"
April Masini's Advice :
This is the season when lots of people are shacking up - and I don't mean in the romantic sense. It's the start of the new school year, and college dorms are filling up. Some roommates will have known each other, and some won't. Having a roommate is an inevitable rite of passage like first dates, first pedicures, and buying your first sofa. So let go of any cases of the nerves you've got jittering around and embrace this time in your life.
College Roommate Advice
- Welcome them. If you're starting college and have just been assigned a new roommate for September, write him or her a brief note - that doesn't spill your guts, but offers a written handshake in advance by way of a note. Just say something like, just got my roommate assignment in the mail, and it's you. Looking forward to a fun semester together. Call if you'd like, otherwise, I'll see on the first day of school. This is not the time to pour out your life story in a single spaced four-page letter that includes photos of you and your ex-boyfriends, your family, and your cat. You also don't want to go into all your food allergies or the horrible hacking cough that's taken you forever to get over. The idea is to keep it light and stress-free.
- Respect space. When you get there, and you realize that it's not a mistake - your room assignment is NOT the school broom closet, but an average sized dorm room, keep what space you have separated. It's better if you can co-exist rather than immediately start sharing everything from shoes to wall space. Keep your posters on your side of the room, and don't hog the closet. Don't blare music or start burning incense. Manners will get you a long way. If, down the line, you want to co-mingle your space, do so then, but start out respectful of space.
- Expectations. Your roommate does not have to be your best friend to be a great roommate. If you're lucky, you'll have a roommate who respects your space, doesn't snore, and keeps the room as clean as you do.
It's great to invite your roommate to eat meals with you, but try eating with your own friends or by yourself now and then. Independence is great and a good practice to set up for starters. If you do become best friends, great. But if not, you still have a great roommate.
Suddenly Single Roommate Advice
Eighteen year olds aren't the only ones cohabitating these days. The trend that divorce has created is a slew of suddenly single and back on the market roommates. After being off the dating market for five to ten years and more, many divorced singles don't want to live alone or else can't afford it, and are enjoying the comfort of roommies. In addition, some parents who have kids - especially men who have only weekend custody of their kids - will take on roommates and even bring their kids in for the weekend.
Some rules that will make life easier for newly divorced roommates are:
- Keep your retro-single-dom to yourself.
Newly divorced folk are often at different stages of healing. Some want to let their hair down for the first time in a decade or more and experience the freedom of the dating world on full blast and fast track. But not everyone feels that way. Some people want to just be alone and be quiet and try to figure out what went wrong - internally. If you're a bookworm, therapy intensive healer and you're living with Mr. Saturday Night, be prepared for differences and give each other space and schedules. If one of you is having a lot of sex, try to have the sex at your date's house or a hotel instead of yours and your roommate's house when possible. If you are having it at your house, have it in your room (with the door shut and locked), not common space. Encourage your sleepover dates not to embarrass your roommate in common space in the morning. Don't throw wild drinking and dancing parties at yours and your roommates' place. Get a room in a restaurant or a bar. And leave a good tip.
- Take care of yourself.
It's easy when you're going through a transition to act out your feelings on anyone who's close by and available. That would be your roommate. Exercise, get out of the house and take up new hobbies and make friends, and seek medical or professional help if you're crying a lot or sleeping a lot or experiencing changes in weight. Your roommate is not your doctor, and if he or she is a doctor, they're not yours. When you share space, your health does become an influence on your roommate, and it does affect their own feelings and demeanor.
- Be kind.
Nothing makes a roommate nicer to live with than the occasional kind gesture. Pick up a burger for your roommate now and then. Do their dishes once in a while. Give them a little gift - whether it's cookies or nice soap or a plant. It's easy and it's kind.
Advice for Moving In With Mom and Dad
And then there are those people who move back in with their parents. Some of these people are simply magnanimous, being there to take care of an ailing, aging parent. And in between are the reasons that include being between jobs, getting ”hit” with a bad divorce, and other temporary reasons for shacking up with mom and pop.
Regardless, you have to live your own life -- and respect your family’s life.
Nobody wants to have sex with you in your parents’ house while your parents are there, and if you share a house with your parents, any chance of a real grown up relationship with regular sex -- is going to involve parents in the house. A bigger sexual turn off is hard to imagine for most women. So -- don’t have sex while your parents are home -- out of respect for them and your girlfriend or boyfriend. Have sex at your honey’s house or go to a hotel. Read my book, Romantic Date Ideas, for some good ideas to have fun with your significant other--outside of your parent's house.
If money is an issue, make sure that you’re chipping in by contributing to groceries, rent, household expenses -- or in some way so that your parents don’t feel taken advantage of. Believe me -- housing children in their 30s and 40s is not part of anyone’s expectations when they get pregnant and have children.
Food and Common Living Space. Be generous when you can be so that when you’re in a crabby mood, you’ve made a deposit to your co-habitation karma bank! If you cook well, cook meals when you can. If you shop well, stock up on foods the family - or certain family members like -- when you can. Get a television in your own room so you’re not hogging the family TV. Same with the computer, the daily newspaper and any other shared items or spaces.