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Setting Boundaries with Roommates in College

For the majority of college students, having a roommate is inevitable. No matter if this is your first experience living with a roommate or you’ve had roommates in the past, the idea of living with a new person can be both exciting and stressful. It offers you the opportunity to create lasting friendships and cultivate a sense of community in college. However, it’s natural to have concerns about getting along with your roommate or potential issues with living together. Whether you’re paired with a random roommate, an acquaintance, or friend, it can take time and effort to adjust to living with a new roommate. One of the most difficult aspects of having a roommate is setting boundaries. Boundary setting is important in any relationship; however, it is essential when you share a living space with someone else. This is a guide to effectively and respectfully setting boundaries with your roommate(s).

Avoid Making Assumptions.

Don’t assume that someone will know your boundaries or have the same boundaries as you. Your roommate may not know you prefer quiet hours after 10 PM or you don’t want to share food. Your roommate will also have boundaries that you don’t know about, so it’s important to communicate these boundaries with each other instead of making assumptions.

Practice Assertive Communication.

Assertive communication involves direct, honest communication of your needs, thoughts, and feelings. Your roommate can’t read your mind, so they won’t know your needs unless you communicate with them. By being assertive, you are respecting yourself, your roommate, and the relationship. Assertive communication is essential for your mental health and a healthy relationship with your roommate.

Find a Middle Ground.

Compromise is important for a harmonious relationship with roommates. It promotes open communication and fosters a sense of cooperation in your space. Finding a middle ground allows everyone to have their needs and preferences considered, creating a more balanced and fair living situation. It can also prevent tension, misunderstanding, and resentment from building with your roommate.

Periodic Check-ins.

Periodic check-ins are crucial for living with a roommate. Circumstances can change over time, so it’s important to revisit boundaries and be flexible. It can also provide you and your roommate space to discuss any issues and prevent resentment from building. It can be helpful to schedule check-ins with your roommate, so it can be a time you both are available and ready for the conversation.

Some Topics to Discuss with a New Roommate:

  • sharing food and household items

  • chores and cleaning

  • rules around guests and significant others

  • A/C and utility bills

  • decorating shared living space

  • pets

  • daily/class schedules

  • quiet hours

Overall, setting boundaries with roommates is crucial for a safe, harmonious living space. Some people feel afraid or uncomfortable expressing their needs and concerns out of fear of causing conflict with their roommate. However, it’s important to remember that setting boundaries improves relationships and fosters a sense of connection and understanding with the other person. By assertively communicating and finding a middle ground, you can help create a positive, respectful living environment.

As a therapist in Gainesville, FL, I work with many college and pre-professional students, and I understand how difficult it can be to be assertive and set boundaries with roommates. If you have difficulties setting boundaries and being assertive, you may benefit from seeking support from a licensed therapist in Gainesville, FL. I provide therapy to self-critical, anxious teens and adults who want to better understand themselves and live more fulfilling, present lives. (Click here to learn more about me!) If that sounds like you, feel free to fill out my contact form or call/text me at 352-649-3876 to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.

two people throwing a box and moving in

Written by Sasha Larson, LMHC


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