Book Excerpt: What Did You Expect?

What you can and can’t expect from your college roommate

bad college“I knew my roommate before we lived together. She seemed really nice, so I assumed we’d hang out together or talk. But it’s nothing like that. She’s a lot different than I thought she’d be. Now, we can barely stand to look at one another.”

-Jamie, age 18

Do you ever look at your roommate and wonder, “Who is this person?” “What am I doing here?” “How can I get out of this mess?” Whatever your situation, it’s probably not what you expected, especially if you’ve always had your own room and private bath and have never lived in such close quarters with anybody. It might have sounded cool to room with a foreign exchange student at first, until you realized you had nothing in common. Or maybe you played it safe and roomed with your best friend, but now you’re living with tape down the middle of the room. Maybe you agreed to share food only to find out your roomie never buys any!

When you expect one thing and get another, it can be a shock. It can also be disappointing because you were prepared mentally and emotionally for something else. Even the greatest of relationships have conflict. Expecting to have disagreements is a lot different than assuming you’ll never have a fight. The bigger the gap is between what you expected and the unpleasant reality of the situation, the higher your stress level. You can bridge that gap by learning to adapt your expectations. That doesn’t mean you have to lower all of your standards, but you may have to adjust a few.

So, what are reasonable roommate expectations, and what do you need to let go of? Check yourself against these lists to see where you may have to make some adjustments.

It’s OK to Expect.

  • Personal safety. You have the right to feel safe in your living space at all times.
  • Respectful communication. No shouting, name calling, or vicious e-mails.
  • Respect for your personal property. No using your things without your permission.
  • Rules that are made together. One person doesn’t get to decide all of them.
  • Conflict. Yes, expect it because it’s normal to have differences.
  • Compromise. Both of you will have to give up something at some point.

You Shouldn’t Expect That.

  • Your roommate will be your best friend. Some people end up being friends, but most just share a space, and that’s it.
  • Your roommate will keep you company. It’s easy to use a roommate as a social crutch when you’re lonely or bored. However, it’s not your roommate’s job to entertain or hang out with you.
  • You’ll have something in common with your roommate. You may be going to the same school, but everyone’s different.
  • Your roommate will listen to you and do what you want. We have no control over other people and their behavior.
  • You’ll always get along with your roommate. It’s impossible to agree with someone 100 percent of the time.
  • Your roommate must make all the changes because you’re “right.” Compromise means that both of you will need to adapt.

Realizing that you may be holding on to unreasonable expectations is the first step. Read on to learn exactly how to deal with reality, communicate with your roommate, and improve your situation.

(Reprinted by permission)

About Susan Fee

Copyright 2009, Susan Fee, M.Ed., L.P.C. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher; exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews. For more information visit her site.

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