Living with strangers is one thing, but living with your best friends can get pretty tricky.
I live with two other girls. They also happen to be two of my closest friends. To be clear, I don’t to scare you away from living with friends. Living with my friends in my late teens and early twenties has been one of the most fulfilling and fun experiences of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a chance to adapt to adulthood—with all of its trials and tribulations—with someone you trust and feel comfortable around, and who’s also going through the exact same things.
However, while living with my friends, I’ve realized that it can also be difficult and a bit awkward at times. Imagine having to confront your friend about something they did in your home—which is also their home—that you didn’t appreciate? Yeah, it gets weird. Here are a few tips for getting around these awkward situations, and how to set boundaries that aren’t taken as personal attacks, but understood as necessary in order to function smoothly and happily in your shared space.
Respect the space as each of yours
It’s your house, but it’s also your roommates. Each of you deserve equal say in any and all matters, and everyone’s opinion is valid.
If something is bothering you, talk about it ASAP
One of the most beneficial things my friends and I do to ensure a positive relationship as roommates is immediately voicing when something is bothering us. We also begin important conversations by clearly stating that our criticisms are never personal and don’t reflect what we think about each other as people, or as friends. It’s strictly business.
Instead of letting your grievances bubble up inside you, tell your roommate that you’d prefer they don’t leave their dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher, or that they take their hair out of the drain after they shower, or that they not use your Tupperware without asking first. Whatever it is—no matter how small or silly it may seem—bring it up and talk about it. It shouldn’t be an argument and there should be a mutual understanding at the end of the discussion. And, vice versa, you should be able to respond in the same respectful manner whenever they have a little bone to pick with you. Like they say, communication is key.
Set boundaries when it comes to significant others
One of the biggest issues my roommates and I have had, of course, had to do with The Boyfriend. In our case, we are all straight women. Sometimes, you don’t want your roommate’s boyfriend over for the sixth night in a row, and that’s okay. I get it, us ladies just want to walk around pants-less sometimes and it can be annoying when you feel like you have to hold back in your own home.
This can be a difficult topic to bring up because you don’t want to keep your friend from seeing her boyfriend, and you definitely don’t want her to think you hate him—unless you do, but that’s a different situation. You both have to understand that you’re living in a shared space; someone constantly bringing another person into that space can feel almost violating, especially if you’ve already set boundaries and they’re being ignored. Make sure to be clear with your tolerance, and check in with each other from time to time. If there are specific days you would really appreciate to have to yourselves, talk about that. If needed, set some visiting hours—for instance, no partners past midnight during the work week, or partners can only spend the night on weekends.
Make time for each other
Another conundrum of living with your friends is feeling almost disconnected from them, even when they live right across the hall. This may sound weird, but as young adults, you’re all going to be busy. You might end up feeling some FOMO when you need to dedicate a Saturday night finishing a big assignment for school, or when you have to work a shift when your roommates are free. Even though you’re with each other all the time, you’re not always able to actually enjoy each other’s company, and that can be hard.
Try comparing schedules and section off specific times that you commit to each other. Go out for breakfast every Tuesday morning, if you can. Have a movie night every Thursday night. Shared activities can be anything that you all love to do, as long as you’re doing it together. This will reinforce your relationship as friends whenever the whole roommate gig starts to feel overwhelming.
Remember to enjoy it!
You’re young and you live with your besties! Don’t let all of the surrounding noise distract you from why you’re all friends in the first place. Enjoy the late-night conversations, laughing until you can’t breathe, and how you’ll always have someone else’s bed to jump into when you need to get something off of your chest. All in your own home, together. It’s such a comforting feeling. Just remember to respect your friends’ boundaries and count on that respect back.