4 Ways to Learn How to Love Your Roommate
- Hope Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 10 Mar
No doubt, most single Christians will get a roommate at one point in their lives.
Whether they met a roommate in college or decided to stay with their best friend in a two-room apartment, we at one point will learn to share our space, share our maladaptive habits, and worst of all, share our food.
Although no single article can cover the depth of every roommate relationship, nor provide examples of how to deal with every conflict that will arise between two people living in a small space, this article will attempt to show some ways we can love our roommates, whilst maintaining healthy boundaries.
Whether our roommates are believers or not, here are some ways we can show them the love of Christ and not end up wanting to tear our hair in the process.
1. Establish Healthy Boundaries
Christians have a bad habit of being doormats. After all, Scripture calls us to have quiet and gentle spirits, so doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t address our friends when they leave trash all over the apartment or watch Netflix on high volume at three in the morning
As discussed in the article above, a quiet and gentle spirit is not the equivalent of a doormat (Matthew 5:39). In fact, verses that say we should “turn the other cheek” mean we shouldn’t agitate a fight or provoke someone to doing something more violent or extreme.
In other words, if a friend wrongs us in the apartment by not doing the dishes, we don’t get back at them by putting all the dishes in their room.
Boundaries are perfectly healthy and important in the lives of Christians.
Without boundaries we will do one or more of the following:
- Burnout in an attempt to fix the lines our roommates have overstepped. For instance, one of my roommates left her dishes in the sink and never cleaned them. I burned out by cleaning all of them myself instead of confronting her about messes.
- Resent our roommates for boundaries they crossed that we never established in the first place. So, we might harbor a dislike for them (Ephesians 4:26) for doing something they didn’t perceive as wrong in the first place.
- Become closed off to future roommates and opportunities to love another person who we live in close proximity with. As much as I love my roommates from college and beyond, I didn’t necessarily have the greatest of roommate experiences. Part of that was on me not establishing boundaries. Now I live by myself because I’m taking time to heal from some of those relationships. But if I had established boundaries sooner, I might be living with a roommate now.
Although there’s no cut and paste method to setting boundaries here are some ways you can do so with your roommate.
First, ask if you can have a conversation about boundaries. Find a time where you can both sit down. This is best established at the beginning of a roommate relationship, but you will discover different quirks in your roommate along the way that may provoke a conversation.
Second, ask them to point out areas which you need to improve. No one is perfect, and you might have some idiosyncrasies that might bother them that you didn’t realize.
Third, don’t be unreasonable in your expectations. There’s a fine line between wanting a roommate to work on a maladaptive habit and something that’s ingrained in their personality. For instance, maybe your roommate stays up later than you. You can ask them to keep the noise levels down, but you can’t get mad at them for staying up later. Or, as a personal example, my one roommate got ticked off at me because I was involved in a lot of community activities and she felt she didn’t see me often enough.
Fourth, listen to where they’re coming from. Some roommates may have had bad past roommate experiences or grew up in a bad living situation. Hearing where they came from can help you to see how certain habits developed and to offer grace.
Fifth, give them time to improve and gently point out if they cross boundaries you established. We all slip and forget (Romans 3:23). Have grace, patience, and always approach the issue with as much kindness as possible.
2. Focus on How Roomates Prepare Us for Future Roommate Relationships
By this, I’m not talking strictly about marriage, but marriage can apply here.
Odds are, one or more of your roommates will get married. By showing them the love of Christ through caring for them, encouraging them, and treating them how you wish to be treated can prepare them for expectations going into future roommate situations (Matthew 7:12).
Even if they don’t get married, you help to establish how another roommate should treat them. Go the extra mile in cleaning up your trash, asking them about their day at work, and showing them extra love when they have a bad day.
This will look different based on your roommate’s love language, communication style, and what they enjoy most.
For instance, my last roommate absolutely loved makeup, and had a love language of quality time. How I would extend love to her is talk with her as she put on makeup and go shopping with her when we had free time, even though I’m not a makeup person nor one who shops.
Show them extraordinary love. Otherwise, if we treat our roommates like garbage, they will believe they only deserve to be with garbage. This can devastatingly affect who they choose to date, marry, and room with in the future.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Autri Taheri
3. Find Time to Distance Yourselves from Them
Yes, you heard me right. Sometimes, to rekindle a friendship with a roommate, you might need a few hours or days apart from each other. One of the best ways to do this is find clubs, activites, and service groups that your roommate doesn’t participate in.
Even if you two are attached at the hip, certain quirks you adore about each other will turn into irritations later on.
After all, as roommates we see the worst sides of each other.
Sometimes distance may look like telling them, “Hey, I need to be alone for a couple of hours in my room/at the coffee shop.”
Establish early on that you need times to get away. Even Jesus retreated to be alone (Luke 5:16). Give yourself time to put some space between yourself and your roommate, and to spend time with God. So that he may renew your heart and mind and you can come back to the apartment fully recharged.
4. Pray for Them and Ask God to Show You Ways to Love Them
Nothing can show a roommate you care about them more than investing in their spiritual life. What makes my week most is when someone tells me they thought of me and prayed for me that week.
Although our roommates may not believe in Jesus, we can invest in their spiritual walk by doing the following
- Praying for them every day. No matter what they do that might anger us, we can lift them up to the Lord in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). After all, we all have bad days where we may act out against those we love or are closest to.
- Asking them how we can encourage them. This looks different for different people. Some people appreciate it when we send them funny memes. This may look like watching a funny movie together or getting out of the apartment because of cabin fever.
- Do acts of service. Maybe they had a bad day and the dishes piled in the sink seems daunting to them. Clean the dishes for them and ask how else you can help brighten their day.
You can likely create countless other ways to help your specific roommate. Ask God to show you how to care for them specifically.
Although we may not end up with our roommate for the rest of our lives (unless our roommate happens to be a future husband or wife), we will likely stay with them for at least twelve months, if not longer.
Instead of living under the same roof resenting each other from a lack of boundaries and communication, we can show each other Christ’s love, whilst finding ways to seek solitude and time away from our roommates.
Roommate relationships work a lot like marriages. If we care for the other person, and treat them how we want to be treated, we show them a great amount of dignity and care.
Plus, we can help each other learn what to look for in a future marriage relationship. If we treat our roommates well, they will have an expectation that their future spouse should also show them dignity, respect, and kindness.
On the flip side, if we do not care for our roommates, they will believe they either deserve to be alone or deserve a partner who does not treat them as well as they should.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Omar Lopez
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.