To all the members of the class of 2016 who are busily picking out posters for their freshman dorms, congratulations. But also, just as loudly and forcefully as the congratulations -- I'm sorry. I'm sorry because for many of you this is your first time living with a roommate (or two, or three). I'm especially sorry if you're an only child, and you've had to share Oreos, much less a bedroom.
If you think about it, having a college roommate is a lot like getting married. You and your roommate are stuck with each other -- for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until summer vacation parts you. Except in reality having a college roommate is much worse than getting married -- because instead of living with your soul mate, you're stuck with someone who shares your core values of "neat," "non-smoker," and "night owl."
That's not to say that you and your freshman roommate can't become great friends -- I lived with my freshman roommate for all four years of college, and I still answer her phone calls sometimes. But just like any relationship, it takes hard work and TLC to foster friendship with your roomie. Here's a list of five relationship clichés that can help you keep the romance alive in your 20-square-foot dorm room.
1) Take things slow: You just met your roommate, and you think she/he's pretty cool. You've already started to imagine the parties you could throw, the embarrassing antics you'll get into, and the late night talks you'll have. Pump the breaks -- take some time to get to know your roommate before you buy a friendship bracelet. It's pretty easy to live with someone you aren't close friends with. It's not so easy to realize in October that you don't have anything in common with your roomie and have to stop a budding friendship.
2) Healthy relationships are built on give and take: You like the Shins and he likes Taylor Swift. You like to spend the wee hours of the morning doing homework but she scheduled all her classes for 8:00 a.m. You really don't like her friends, or he likes yours a little too much. Chances are you and your roommate will disagree on something, and the answer is simple: compromise. Don't like your roommate's friends? Make the dorm room a quiet work space and take your social activities elsewhere. Late night worker? Study at the library or in the common room. Music woes? Headphones. Find a common solution, even if it means changing your priorities.
3) The key to a strong relationship is not to be fearful of conflict: Here's a hint: constantly avoiding the room or giving your roommate the silent treatment is not a sly way to indicate you're annoyed. Just buck up and tell your roommate that he need to clean his side of the room, or that she should have given a warning before bringing a friend back to the dorm. They're not going to guess, and you're just going to get annoyed when it happens again.
4) Keep the physical intimacy alive: I'm not suggesting you hook up with your roommate -- I repeat, that would not be a good idea. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't hang out. Even if you and your roommate don't have a lasting bond, spending some time outside the dorm room can help alleviate the pressure that builds up within those four tiny walls. Run to CVS at the same time, set up a lunch date between your weirdly spaced Thursday classes, study on the same floor of the library -- even a small amount of time can make your relationship easier.
5) No one person can meet all of our needs: Ok, so it's January and you LOVE your roommate. You have nicknames and a secret handshake. You purchased matching Snuggies online. Your mom would be so proud -- but don't stop making other friends. There's a slew of people at college, and there might be someone across campus who is just as awesome as your roommate. Maybe they'll even help you build that blanket fort you've always dreamed about.