Whether in our youth, college, or adulthood, we’ve pretty much all had a roommate phase. Some cohabitating situations are a match made in heaven, whereas others are just… a match.
Whatever the case may be, once we meet that special someone, our lifelong significant other, we start musing about how glorious our new life will be with our spousal roommate — and how much easier living with someone must be when they are our life partner. But that’s not always the case. Once the excitement fades and the everyday motions set in, it can be easy to forget that to be a good spouse, we also have to be a good roommate.
In those moments when we can’t seem to click and everything somehow turns into a tiff, we get so caught up in wanting to win an argument that we don’t realize if we’re in the right… or if we’re actually being “the bad roommate.” (Or a little bit of both.)
So we thought we’d put together a refresher, a little “Roommate 201,” if you will. Here are five tips on how to make sure you’re being a good roomie to your partner.
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1. It’s good to have guidelines.
Nothing can make someone question their vows quicker than a dirty sink. And look — it’s normal! Life is busy, mess is inevitable, and it happens. The key is making sure that your domestic upkeep is a shared responsibility. To do that, you may need a little structure.
No one likes to be patronized about pulling their weight, and no one really likes to be the patronizer, so be proactive before the conflict hits. Make a cosigned chore chart or use an app like Homey to do it digitally and pain-free.
But also remember not to expect perfection. You would want to be given a little grace, so it’s important to give some away on your end, too.
Make the pathways of communication open, easy, and safe. Be honest about each of your preferred living styles, and keep each other updated as those preferences grow and shift.
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind or notice all the little passive-aggressive hints you’ve been leaving around the house. So much of your stress can be avoided by simply sitting down with a glass of wine and initiating a quick chat.
Once you both know the ins and outs of your individual wants and needs, you can better support each other’s weaknesses and fill in the gaps with your strengths.
3. Solve conflict quickly.
Conflict is going to happen, but it’s up to the two of you to decide how you will handle it. Nothing will cause your anxiety to skyrocket faster than ignoring a pain point and walking around upset and bitter.
Your home is supposed to be your safe space, not a place of hostility. Make it a point to have both of you commit to addressing issues as they happen. As you do, it will become second nature to solve them immediately.
Before you even get to that point, remember to role-play. Ask yourself, “How would that have made me feel?” Put yourself in their shoes and see if it sheds some light on their point of view. Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at just how effective it can be.
4. Make allowances for alone time.
You are living your entire life with this person, and you will be, presumably, for the many, many years to come. It’s OK (and perfectly normal) if you sometimes need a little breathing room. Any roommate needs some alone time here and there, after all!
Try to offer up that space before your spouse has to ask for it. If they’ve had a long work week and are feeling exhausted or overstimulated, grab the car and take yourself out for a long lunch so they can unwind at home for a bit. Take note of moments when they need a little downtime and be flexible in accommodating it.
5. Be considerate, be respectful, and listen.
All three of these are too good and too intertwined to just focus on one. Even though it can feel like the two of you don’t have any boundaries anymore, you do. You both have things you prefer a certain way and have possessions or ways of living that are special to you.
Even if you don’t understand why your husband treasures this T-shirt or why your wife needs uninterrupted quiet time in the morning, it is still your job to respect them. It’s also your job to honor what is important to them and be considerate.
And perhaps the best advice of all: Listen. It is incredible to see the miscommunications you can avoid, the conflicts you can solve, and the moments you can enrich by humbly and wholly listening to your partner. Give them your full attention and make them feel seen, known, and loved.
While there is no secret road map to being the perfect roommate for your spouse, there are things we can do to make sure we’re being the best partner we can be.
Give a few of these tips a try and see how it makes your roomie’s day! Don’t forget to share this list with your friends to help them out, too.
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