Dear Abe: Roommate Issues

Dear Abe:
My roommate and I have had a tense relationship. Their habits are incredibly annoying to me and make it hard for me to live in our room. How would you recommend fixing this problem so that we don’t end the year on a bad note?

Roommate dynamics can be difficult to manage for all of us. I would recommend you view your roommate somewhere between a misbehaving parrot and a spouse. You are partners in this relationship, but one of you is clearly more competent – the fact that you’re writing about this gets that question out of the way. In practice, this will mean using a reward-punishment system to achieve the behaviors you seek. When they leave their bed unmade, take off their bedsheets. If they do not empty their trash, empty it over their desk. This works best in conjunction with some kind of reward- the one I can best recommend is compliments. Respond to good behavior with affirmations such as “good job”, “you did it right this time”, “hm, well done”, or, my favorite: “that’s exactly what you would do in that position, isn’t it?”

These strategies should result in better habits for your roommate. There is much more to a good roommate than just avoiding annoyance; the best roommates share a bond which goes beyond mere toleration. One of the strongest bonding activities you can do is bed-watching. Nothing teaches you more about your roommate than standing over them at night watching them sleep, sometimes with a notebook to record their drowsy mutterings. When you know how your partner sleeps you know who they are. Another good way to get to know them better is by going through their closet or, if unlocked, their computer or phone files. Nothing reinforces a bond better than a shared secret, preferably one that they do not know is shared.

A final suggestion for reviving the dead corpse of a once-promising roommate partnership is through adding some other organism(s) to the mix. This can be a friend of yours, if you want to take the human route, or some sort of animal like a sick stray cat, dog, or swarm of angry locusts. This change in the dynamic can prompt conversations which you should have had earlier and lead to a much better understanding of each other’s desires.

If any of this sounds too difficult or annoying for you, then you might not be cut out for rooming with another person. Thankfully, Centre has plenty of other options for those who don’t seek to know another person inside and out. Legally, these include the single rooms offered by the college themselves. If paying the heightened cost (or introversion tax) doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other, less prominent, singles rooming options. My favorite free singles housing locations include the trees scattered throughout campus, a Young classroom, the tunnels under New Quad or, if you desire a more upscale location, the President’s attic. These are all free of charge, but some of them might require slightly more effort to get into because of the strong competition. The bids for President Milton’s attic usually start in the second week of July. If none of the on-campus housing options work, you can always google “Free singles near me” to find all of the nonaffiliated Danville housing possibilities.

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