Daniel and I have been friends for over 10 years. We met in high school, and even though I froze him out at first, I began to learn what a funny, thoughtful person he is. We managed to become best friends in our 20’s, despite the fact that I was in college and living in a different state most of the time. Over the years we always threw around the idea of living together, but nothing ever came of it. Until last December. We decided to take the plunge and actually become roommates mostly out of necessity – my brother and sister-in-law, whom I had been living with, were having a baby, and his sister was moving out, leaving an open room in his apartment. It’s pretty much a universal truth that living with another person can be tricky at times. Whether that person is family, friends, or a stranger, having to essentially share your life with someone else is intensely personal, and at times extremely difficult. Though we knew there was always the possibility that things might not work out, living with Daniel has been great so far. Over the past six months, we’ve managed to successfully navigate the delicate waters of being best friends and roommates.
Below are a few tips I’ve discovered along the way that have helped Daniel and I balance being good roommates while managing to keep our friendship intact.
Have A Frank Discussion About Your Living Habits
This should ideally be done before you move in together. Get to know each other’s routines and living habits (are they a neat freak, extremely messy, etc.) and decide if you’re compatible. Don’t spring anything major on each other after you’ve already moved in. Discuss not only living habits, but job and personal schedules as well. If you’re a light sleeper and your potential roommate works nights and will always be coming home late, maybe that’s not a good fit. If you work every weekend and they like to throw parties every weekend, that’s not good either. Based on what we knew about each other and how we viewed our past roommate situations, Daniel and I knew we would probably make good roommates, but it’s completely fine to realize that you won’t. Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you should live together, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Though intensely discussing bathroom habits isn’t really necessary unless you’re sharing a bathroom (thankfully Daniel and I are not), it’s still a good idea to have at least a basic discussion of possible bathroom and related issues. It also cuts the awkwardness a lot if you approach it with a sense of humor. It’s never a fun thing to discuss, but if you’re going to stink up the hallway from time to time with smelly poops, for example, it’s best to put that out in the open so it doesn’t come as a shock or create awkward tension. For women, it can also be good to talk about menstrual cycles and related symptoms. Daniel and I have discussed a variety of bathroom-related topics because we feel comfortable with each other in that regard, and it’s definitely proved to be beneficial to our living situation. Now, how in depth you decide to talk about this depends on the boundaries of your friendship, and even though it might be awkward, it’s probably one of the most important discussions you’ll have with your roommate.
Divide The Responsibilities
It’s always important to try to divide the responsibilities equally, or at least in a way that works for both of you. Same goes for buying supplies, common items, appliances, and similar items for the household. When Daniel and I go to Costco, we each pay for our own things, and divide the cost of the items we’ll both be using. There are definitely other ways to split costs, some people go 50/50 on everything, but we both feel comfortable paying for our own things and splitting the rest. We also always clean up after ourselves when cooking or doing things in the common areas. Sometimes if I’m cooking something for both of us, he’ll do the dishes after or he’ll help me prepare whatever I’m cooking (such as chopping onions… I hate chopping onions). There are always going to be things that need to be done around the house, such as taking out the trash, cleaning, and similar things, and doing your best to try to divide those responsibilities equally or in a way that works for both of you is always the best way to go in order to avoid possible tension.
Be Cognizant Of Each Other’s Jobs Stresses
Friends are great because you can vent to them about so many things, including your job. But those job stresses that you both carry? You’ll both be taking those home with you, and you’ll both have to deal with it. That’s why it’s so important to discuss them with each other, but also not burden each other with them. As your friend, your roommate can be your sounding board, but make sure it’s the appropriate time. Don’t just come home and immediately dump your frustrations on them. Always assess their day and how they’re feeling. Maybe they’ve had bad day at work too? Then decide if that’s the best time to talk to them or if it should wait. Since you’re friends, it’s not that they won’t want to hear about it and try to help or offer advice, but there’s a time and a place for everything. If they have ongoing issues at work, try to anticipate bad days, if you can, and be ready to offer a drink when they get home or give them space, as needed.
Don’t Ignore Each Other When Friends Are Over
First of all, it’s probably good to give your roommate a heads up if you’ll be having someone over, so they can prepare themselves accordingly. But once your friend comes over, it’s nice to try to include them in some way, if that’s what they want. At the very least, if your roommate is around, introduce them if the friend is someone they don’t already know. If you’re all in common areas, try to include them in your conversation. Though you don’t have to offer to include them in everything you’ll be doing with your friends, unless you want to, you should always acknowledge them instead of pretending like they aren’t there.
Schedule Time Together
This is probably the most important one. Just because you’re both in the house at the same time doesn’t mean you’re “hanging out.” In order to keep up our friendship, Daniel and I schedule activities with each other throughout the week. If our off days coincide, we’ll sometimes go to breakfast or lunch together. We like to take walks around the city at night and chat. We’ll schedule dinner nights at home when we’re both around. If I’m baking, I like to make sure he’s around so he can enjoy the treats when they’re fresh out of the oven. We also just make to do impromptu fun things like watch a movie or play video games together. Since we have the same taste in music, sometimes we’ll just sit around the living room or on our balcony and let our iPods play and sing songs together. It doesn’t have to be a formal event; the important thing is that we’re making time for each other. Whether scheduling time for specific activities or letting things happen organically when you’re both home, spending time together as friends, like you would if you weren’t living together, is one of the most important things about living with a friend, as well as being one of the greatest perks.
Don’t Take Living With Each Other For Granted
Related to the tip above, but it’s still worth mentioning. Though you might technically see each other everyday, don’t let that become your entire friendship. Don’t mistake casual roommate chit chat for actual conversations. Allow yourselves to have deep conversations from time to time. Be vulnerable with each other. Sometimes Daniel and I will have long talks about life in the middle of the night because in the moment it’s necessary. Don’t let living together define your friendship, instead allow it to strengthen and enhance it. Remember, they are your friend and also your roommate, not your roommate who happens to be your friend.
Space Is Key
Always give each other plenty of space. Hopefully you know each other well enough to know when that is, but also take cues from the way they’re acting. If you’re trying to engage and they’re giving short answers, it’s probably best to back off. Don’t try to force conversation or interaction if it’s not happening organically. Since you’re probably around each other a fair amount, don’t feel like you have to spend every free moment with each other. It’s not unheard of for Daniel and I to go a few days without seeing each other if our schedules don’t line up, and we both treasure that time to ourselves. And, at least for me, if it’s been a few days since I’ve seen him, I start to miss him, so I’m always happy when our schedules align again. Absence can make the heart grown fonder, and the same can be said for giving your roommate space.
You Don’t Need To Be “On” All The Time
Everyone has good days and bad days, and days where they’re feeling more sociable than others. Don’t make each other feel pressured to always be jovial and talkative. It’s fine for both of you to go straight to your rooms after work and have minimal interactions. Both Daniel and I work jobs where we have to interact with the public, and sometimes we don’t want to talk to anyone when we get home. It’s nothing personal, but sometimes we’re all talked out when we get off work. We’ve had many discussions with each other about how we’re happy that we don’t expect each other to be “on” all the time. Just like giving each other space, sometimes it’s best to just let each other be.
Be Open And Honest About Everything
This sounds simple, but it’s probably one of the hardest ones. Sure we’re all honest with our friends in theory, but the kind of honesty involved with being someone’s roommate is different. There’s always more of a possibility to hurt someone’s feelings or take something personally, even over something innocuous, so you have to tread carefully. But if you both acknowledge and agree to be honest about household matters and not take things personally when they aren’t, it’ll help make having those kind of talks easier. If you don’t want to share some of your food, say it. If their TV is too loud and keeping you awake, let them know. The only way people know not to do something is if you tell them. Always try to stick to facts and avoid judgments. Obviously this is all easier said than done, but if you start with a culture of openness and honesty, then the rest will come easier.
Hopefully these tips will help if you’re living with or considering living with a close friend. Just remember, the important thing is to always remember that you’re friends first and that you care about each other. Roommates come and go, but friends are forever.
Have any tips on living with a friend? Feel free to share those in the comments.