It’s the start of a new school year. You’ve packed up the car, purchased your textbooks, and are ready for a year of fun. What’s better is that you’ve found your roommate (more like your life-twin), and you can’t wait to spend the year in a 10×12 cube with them. While some people pick roommates poorly, the two of you have a ton in common. You do all the same activities, have all the same friends, and have the same strange sense of humor. This should be perfect, right?
While it’s great to have some common ground with your roommate, living with your clone can cause a ton of problems.
The Chafing Roommate: When you spend too much time together.
Kelly*, a recent college grad, lived with her best friend Shay* during senior year. They had been best friends all four years of college. They shared the same officer position in the performing arts society, went to the same parties, and had similar friend groups. While Kelly loved Shay to death, all of the togetherness began to drive her insane. “By the end of senior year, when it got stressful, everything she did frustrated me because we were always together. It wasn’t anything in particular, she was the same person she had always been, but it was just so much that I couldn’t be around her anymore,” Kelly says
The solution to the chafing roommate:
If you’re spending way too much time with your roommate, the solution is simple: find some things to do alone. Maybe you’re in different majors and you decide to get Friday night drinks with your class friends. Maybe you have some friends from your freshman hall or your trip abroad who you need to catch up with. Instead of doing your work in your room, go to the library right after class. Make some roommate-free time, just for a breath of fresh air. How did Kelly get over this problem? “I was always very insistent that when I went to the gym it was ‘me’ time, and that gave us some time apart.”
The Competitive Roommate: When you are both trying for limited spots
Gina* and Ellen* seem like a random-roommate match made in heaven. They were both super excited to rush sororities in the fall. Ellen had connections and houses fighting over her, and Gina felt like the ugly stepsister. “I thought going through rush with someone by my side would make it better, but I just felt like I wasn’t good enough the whole time. She was really supportive of me, but it was hard for me to be excited about my few choices when she had everything she wanted.” Gina says.
The solution to the competitive roommate
It’s very hard to live with someone when you’re competing for the same things. I would highly suggest avoiding this type at all costs. If it’s not possible (i.e. random freshman roommates), just remember that you’re two separate people. Your roommate’s victories are theirs, and yours are yours.
Gina says, “Even though it was hard to see it at the time, Ellen and I were supposed to be in different sororities. It was hard to go through recruitment when I saw us as competing, but in hindsight I know that we both ended up where we belonged and were never competing at all. It would have been easier to go through if I had seen us as two different people.”
The Checkerboard Roommate: A Nice Balance
Personally, I live with a checkerboard roommate. While Jess and I are incredibly similar (same sense of humor, same habits, etc.), we have very distinct lives. We do similar activities (performing) but she does a capella and tech theatre, and I do Shakespeare theatre and improv. We understand each other’s lives and support each other, but we’re rarely competing for the same spots in anything. Most importantly (I think the reason we work so well) we have completely separate friend groups. We have lots of mutual friends, but we rarely go to the same parties on the weekends. We’re very compatible and similar, but we have enough differences and time apart that we work.
So when picking roommates, remember to consider the reality of living with a clone. Can you handle 24/7 togetherness? Are you going to be okay if your roommate makes club lacrosse and you don’t? Find the common ground for sure, but make sure that you’re two different people with two different lives.
* = Names have been changed to protect identities.