Dr. Romance:

More and more people are sharing quarters since the pandemic.  Being social distanced all alone is difficult, and financial problems are making roommates seem more desirable.  Here's how to set up a situation you'll be glad about.

The best way to have a good roommate situation is to talk about your arrangements in advance, including writing them down so they're clear. It's important to go into detail. Ask about cleanliness, tidiness, money, pets, plants, guests, kitchen sharing, everything -- and do it before you agree to be roommates.  

Do's and Don'ts for getting along with your roommate:

DO make written agreements in advance.  Talk about social distancing, whether or not it's OK to have friends over, how to make your "social bubbles" safe for everyone, and other rules like use of the kitchen and bathroom.

DON'T jump into a roommate situation too quickly. Get enough information first.

DO be warm and welcoming to your new roommate. He or she's as nervous about getting along with you as you may be about him or her.

DON'T be intrusive. Find out what your roommate’s privacy level is before you barge in.

DO offer your help, advice, etc.

DON'T insist your new roommate do it your way.

DO learn in advance about your new roommate’s tastes, likes and dislikes.

DON'T criticize if you disagree with what he or she likes, wears, or how she decorates.

DO tell your roommate what you like about his or her choices.

DON'T criticize, instead ask him or her to explain the things you don't understand.

DO allow some time for the two of you to get to know each other, and talk about how you want to do things, decorate, divide space, have friends in, play music, handle food and meals, etc.

DON'T panic if you don't get on famously right away.

DO try to understand roommate, but don't assume you know how he or she feels. Ask instead.

DON'T expect it to be like your own relationship with your siblings or best friend.

Remember, you are never in control of another person, even if it seems that you are, and that they wish you to be. You can’t control who you’ll meet, when or where you’ll meet them, how anyone else will feel, or what they’ll do.Self-control is the only real control you have. However, it is all the control you’ll need. By taking responsibility for your own actions, words, and reactions, you can greatly stack the odds in your own favor.

I think of responsibility as response-ability: the ability to respond to life, people and events. While you may not be responsible for most of what happens, you are completely responsible for your reaction to what is happening. For example, if you are out with a new person and that person acts in some rude, uncaring or unacceptable manner, You have the ability to respond in many ways. Whenever you’re in a difficult situation, you can react irresponsibly, getting defensive, angry or running away. Many people do this without thinking, and it makes the situation worse. The response-able person will consider his or her options. Think about what your responsibility is in this situation, and take charge of your words and actions.

If you respond thoughtfully and with integrity and honor, most other people will calm down and interact with you on that higher level. Being response-able means using all your self-control, skill and knowledge to take care of yourself, even when it’s difficult.Response-ability is the capacity to choose. Out of many possible responses, I can always choose the one I make. Response- ability is remembering to be in charge and make careful, thought-out choices.

For example, if your roommate is critical of you, there are a few things you can do to help the criticism "roll off your back."

First, use a sense of humor: if you can come up with a clever funny remark that diffuses the criticism, that is always the most effective way to disarm it.

Second, give an "adult time out" anytime your roommate is negative and critical: emotionally retreat into politeness. Be very pleasant, but distant -- say "Yes, please" "No, thank you" and respond politely to any request, but don't share any personal information. This usually causes a negative person to snap out of it. Third, ignore any negative thing that is said __ just treat it as if it didn't happen. In this way, you don't reward it, and the other person will eventually stop. I also use prayers and affirmations to help me let go of the negative thoughts. Sending a blessing to the critical person, that he or she be healed, can be very liberating. (Adapted From The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before Forty

The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40 k

For low-cost phone counseling, email me at tina@tinatessina.com

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.