What to Do When You're Stuck with a Roommate You Tolerate, But Don't Love

You’ve probably fantasized more than once about what your future college roommate would be like. Maybe you’d move in and realize that you were both from the same town, wear the same size shoes and maintain a mutual love for late night television. Or perhaps they’d be enviously cultured and could give you the 411 on cooking and art, while still being-down-to-earth enough to compare high school crushes.

Though both of these scenarios may be a slight stretch, most people can’t deny dreaming up the ideal living situation for their first years of true independence. That said, you aren’t Cinderella and college roommates don’t always fit like glass slippers.

Now, it is certainly not to imply that the roommate horror story you might have heard is by any means a reflection on the typical experience. In fact, neither the tales of disasters or perfect-matches represent the majority experience, and the reality is that your feeling towards your future live-ins may be much like imperfect avocados and misinterpreted coffee orders– you tolerate them, but don’t love them.

Here are a few tips to help you co-exist with a roommate who isn’t your dream come true.

1. Stay positive and polite

Remember that you can totally be civil without being curt. If after the first week or so, you can sense that your roommate probably won’t be a future friend, pause and re-evaluate your situation. While a lack of compatibility may feel like a cause for panic and an indicator that your college social life is doomed, this is by no means the case.

At the beginning of college, everyone is posting or snapping about their new living situations, smiling alongside unfamiliar faces and glowing over the amazing time they are having at their new school. Just like most everything on social media, what pops up on your screen is rarely an accurate representation of reality. Resist the temptation to get jealous or feel insecure about the fact that you and your roommate aren’t exactly thick as thieves and focus instead on how exciting the months that lie ahead will be.

In short, don’t let a lack of roommate chemistry rain on your entire college parade.  

2. Try not to overreact about small things

Now that you’ve recognized your minimal compatibility, this is the most important thing to keep in mind: Do not start beef. You’ve undoubtedly dealt with unpleasant people or people you simply don’t vibe with in the past. We can surely all agree that keeping things as kind and courteous as possible when the school year starts is the best guarantee for preventing any meltdowns or pettiness down the road. Like any conflict resolution, the keys to successful negotiation is compromise and communication. Especially in close quarters, these two factors will be fundamental to making do with your living arrangement.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Friends After Freshman Year 

So, when confronted with a situation that you don’t enjoy, like your roommate crunching on a bag of chips at 1 a.m. while you're trying to get your beauty sleep, suppress your passive aggressive comment. The next day, bring up your gripe with her eating habits (as respectfully as possible), and see if you can’t establish some boundaries about late-night eating in the room. The same goes when it comes to cleaning or laundry, two other usual suspects that trigger roommate tensions. If her stuff is always drifting over into your side of the room, rather than letting the problem pile up, no pun intended, have a chat about boundaries. Are you both cool with having guests over late into the night? How do you feel about sharing snacks, dirty laundry on the floor, and keeping personal spaces neat and tidy?

This doesn’t have to be an interrogation, but these are the sorts of questions that you and your new roomie should be asking each other to prevent a major clash over suspicious spills and smells coming out of her mini-fridge or disagreements about the volume level of your music.

Obviously, you won’t be able to anticipate or prevent every potential disagreement, by opening up a dialogue right off the bat, you’ll at least be on the right track. It really just depends on what suits the both of you best, but the most essential thing is that the decisions you reach, whether they be about snacks, clothing, or anything in between, be mutual.

3. Branch out

Now that you’ve started to make the best of your roommate circumstances, it’s time to start looking for people that you actually like! College is all about finding your people, and if you don’t find it in the dorm, there are loads of other places to look. Be open to meeting new people in your classes, engage in discussion and, who knows, you may just find someone whose opinions align well with your own. Go to your school’s club fair in the fall and see what looks interesting. Chances are you will be able to find some commonality with the people who share your interests, be it your love for lacrosse or passion for classic cinema. Once you start connecting with more students around campus, you’ll start to feel more comfortable, more at home, and hopefully your roommate woes will stay on the back-burner.

Yes, there are definitely people who meet the Christina to their Meredith on move-in day in the fall. But, that isn’t everyone and, frankly, it is probably better that way. College is your time to explore. If you are glued to the side of a new roomie for the first three-weeks, you may miss out on a few things.

A good or bad roommate doesn’t dictate the course of the rest of your college career. So, keep on being your wonderful, charming self, and take your less than ideal roomie situation and turn it into a challenge, a challenge to become more independent, to advocate for yourself, in the dorm room and otherwise, and to take charge of forming your friendships.