So you’re stuck coliving in the pandemic with a roommate you don’t particularly like. You have likely arrived here looking for an exit strategy from your shared apartment. Maybe a search for new apartments with roommates has already begun. Or perhaps you are at your wits’ end and are now looking to escape to the depths of the Amazon forest to hide from all your problems.
Before the pandemic that shook our lives up, coliving in shared apartments was the trend of the decade. According to research by the Urban Institutes Housing Finance Policy Center, only 1 in every 3 millennials under 25 reported actually owning a home in 2018.
This statistic is a drastic shift from previous generations, with the total percentage of homeowners close to 8-9% less overall. It indicated a shift in the way younger folks are housing themselves.
Even before the pandemic, millennials’ wallets had been shrinking. This prompted people to hunt for apartments with roommates that fit a budget as well as social needs.
When you consider large cities like New York, close to 40% of people live in shared apartments with roommates. But what if your roommate is a demon who has made your shared apartment your own personal hell?
We have all been here before, pandemic or not. Uncomfortable situations with your roommate can vary all the way from messy shared living spaces, piles of dirty dishes, to even interpersonal conflict. Whatever the trouble, it can be hard to survive in shared living spaces if you don’t like the people you are cohabitating with.
Moving out is often an easy and clear option, but even that has gotten trickier with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have lost employment or are generally struggling with finances, making our options limited.
If you must live on (if only to avoid moving back home to your parents), read on for some quick survival tips to keep you afloat from insanity in your coliving space.
1. Avoid angrily calling out your coliving partner, even if you’re mentally writing their eulogy
Did you know that the United States’ military during World War II paired submarine teammates based on how well they could support each other psychologically? It’s because confined coliving is actually the ultimate test of compatibility.
So imagine your shared apartment as the battleground and your roommate and yourself as the submarine mates. To make coliving easier, try to hold out on your anger over small issues that might come up. If something really ticks you off, imagine your words as a wartime headline in newspapers the next day.
Do you want the news to read, “Roommate chews off coliving partner’s head because they forgot to replace the toilet paper roll?” If that’s not the case, hold off for a bit. Take a deep breath and address the issue when you feel calmer.
According to Peter Coleman, a Social Psychologist at Columbia, we need three positive encounters to every stinging remark that we make to maintain peace between both parties. So if you let that snarky remark pass off, you may need three ways to make up for the negative energy. Also, negative encounters in shared living spaces are remembered much more deeply.
2. Bring out the chalk, and draw a boundary in your shared apartment!
Boundaries are everything when coliving in apartments with roommates. These boundaries have been blurred even more due to the amount of unstructured time we spend in our shared apartments.
If both you and your roommate use the living room at the same time, clashes are possible. Maybe a high-powered pilates class doesn’t go well in the background while you’re trying to concentrate on a physics lecture.
When physical space is limited, create structured time within your shared living spaces. If you and your coliving partner both wish to use a shared space, creating equal time blocks for use can help add a sense of separation and relief.
Vary where you and your roommate are during different points in the day to avoid any clashes.
3. Bonding through activities in your apartments with roommates
Okay, so we previously established that your roommate is the cousin of the Devil himself. If you think there is still room to make amends in this coliving partnership, try to do low-pressure activities together that you both can reap the benefits of together.
Examples include doing puzzles, painting, or even something simple like cooking a meal together. The pandemic may have forced the two of you into a shared living space together, but there are plenty of indoor activities to indulge in to create positive memories.
USA Today even created a list of 100 things to do while stuck in quarantine. You’re welcome.
4. Have a clear set of quarantine rules for shared living spaces
Go back to the rulebook of coliving in shared apartments with roommates. A clear-cut and honest conversation about who does the chores, who gets the couch, and for how long always helps. Especially in the pandemic, you should have clear rules about who gets to come over into your shared living spaces.
You can even get together and write out the rules on a whiteboard and have it displayed like a constitution of your shared apartment.
5. Hide under the covers or behind a plant in your shared apartment
When all else fails, hide under your covers if you absolutely wish to limit interaction with your coliving partner. You can simply act as if you’re asleep when you both are in the same shared living space in your home. Just pop on some earphones and breeze through TikTok videos to avoid social interaction altogether.
6. Seek legal support for help with the coliving struggle
Sometimes we know when the final straw has dropped, and you cannot put up with your roommate’s antics anymore. On a more serious note, inappropriate behavior when coliving in a shared apartment is simply unacceptable.
In the early throes of the pandemic, a friend of mine faced a similar unfavorable situation with their coliving partner. This roommate accused my friend of “being romantically interested” in his same-sex roommate, eventually getting him evicted. The situation turned serious- the landlord of the shared apartment refused to return the security deposit. This came as a shock to my friend, who was accused unfairly by his roommate.
He took the time to find out about his rights as a tenant and ultimately filed a legal complaint against the landlord in question. If you think you are in serious danger or trapped in an uncomfortable situation, there are resources that can help.
- The Anti-Violence Project has a 24-hour English/Spanish hotline for L.G.B.T.Q.+ people experiencing abuse or hate-based violence at 212-714-1141.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available around the clock and in more than 200 languages at 1-800-799-SAFE, or you can talk to an advocate here or text LOVEIS to 22522.
- For immediate dangers, call 911. Information source: NY Times.
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