The Boston College housing selection process is dreaded and despised across campus, largely due to the drama which results from it. Perfectly healthy relationships can become tinged with resentment or fall apart altogether amidst the stress of housing selection. But it is, after all, just a process, and it ends relatively quickly; its effect on people’s lives is largely due to the reactions and behaviors of the students involved. In a deeper sense, it serves as a scapegoat for the problems we create.
If we’re largely the ones to blame for our own misfortune within the housing process, then how do we treat this issue? What lies at the heart of our housing woes?
Some people claim that friends don’t always make the best roommates. It’s true: not all friendships can stand the test of living together. The housing selection process is hated because it brings unhealthy or unfavorable relationship dynamics to light. But arguably, the process should be appreciated for that very reason, since it helps us to diagnose friendships that aren’t secure enough to stand the test of a few stressful days. Friends who can’t communicate and who can’t remain considerate of each other during this process probably won’t make the best roommates. Without the fundamentals of respect and communication, the roommate relationship will suffer, regardless of how close the friends are.
We have all heard the basics of roommate communication ad nauseam: Be direct and express feelings or reactions immediately following an undesirable event so as to avoid mixed signals and passive aggression. While open conversation prevents misunderstandings, not everyone feels comfortable being direct; there are just some naturally passive roommates. Typically, people mix passivity with direct conflict resolution, even in the healthiest of roommate climates. This is why it’s important to remember that communication works both ways—expressing and listening. Contextualization can make a huge difference in interpreting conversation with a roommate. One example is the use of “I don’t care,” which can imply anything from nonchalance to frustration. The healthiness of a relationship cannot be sufficiently judged through words alone, so learning to read between the lines is crucial.
It’s impossible to understand what someone is trying to express all the time--and sometimes the guessing game can become nerve-wracking, particularly in the wake of a stressful negative event. But respect between roommates complements communication, the two together ensuring the relationship's health. It also means that, in the cases where understanding of one’s roommate lapses, the necessary boundaries are observed. Half the time, what seems like imminent drama or roommate issues aren't entirely related to the roommate; other stressors can cause tension. Making sure to give each other plenty of space and time unhindered by loud noise, conversation, and large numbers of visitors can prevent over-stimulation and emotional exhaustion, which can in turn make the difference between a tense room and a relaxed room. Direct communication doesn’t have to be the ever-observed standard (which is fortunate, because it won’t always be the standard), as long as boundaries are maintained and respected.
One reason why random roommates sometimes work out so well is because both parties enter the agreement unsure as to what the other individual needs in terms of boundaries and communication. In many cases, this means that both parties are extremely considerate of each other (though there are, of course, exceptions). Friends housing with each other often make inaccurate assumptions about each other, without properly considering how dynamics will change once the parties live in close quarters. When beginning the selection process, friends should be open about their boundaries and be prepared to “re-learn” each other within the context of housing. This will prevent the common confusion that results when friends experience conflicts as roommates.
Housing can be extremely stressful, particularly when it appears to undermine the health of close friendships. But the problems that arise during the housing selection process —and then again, during housing itself—are typically indicative of the health of the relationships involved. Regardless of whether roommates are close friends, acquaintances, or random roommates, respect and communication must be placed at the forefront to ensure domestic tranquility.