The University community is invited to a campus forum on Monday, March 4, to learn about Universitywide diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) efforts. Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Mary Grace A. Almandrez will provide key updates about DEIA…
Supporting Student Wellness Series: Cultivating Comfortable Cohabitation
With the returning student room selection priority deadline, Thursday, March 16, and as incoming students await living assignments, the topic of cultivating comfortable cohabitation is buzzing. Navigating new living situations and roommates are pillars of the student experience.
Successful cohabitation includes adjusting to the living styles of others. At times, this may get complicated and can even impact personal wellness. The Barnes Center at The Arch Wellness Wheel’s dimensions of Environmental Wellness and Social Wellness play important roles that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not feeling at home may lead to feelings of stress and uncertainty, and could even impact academic performance.
“Roommates can provide protective and risk factors depending on the quality,” says Susanne Rios, LMFT, Barnes Center at The Arch staff therapist. “Higher levels of social support are associated with higher grade point averages, overall college retention, less conflict and psychological distress. As expected, frequent conflict is a predictor in overall stress.”
Establish Expectations Early
Each student journey is unique, often bringing differing living expectations. It then amplifies to a community level when navigating on- and off-campus living.
“Expectations and boundaries are best shared upfront, but in a learning environment, such as the shared living spaces throughout a college experience, we sometimes don’t learn where our boundaries are, or what they are, until a fracture has occurred,” says Rios.
Helping to empower all involved, the earlier roommates share what they are and are not comfortable with, the easier cohabiting likely will be.
According to Barnes Center marriage and family therapy trainee, Annemarie Sohn G’23, “Boundary making should not be an effort to ostracize or punish. Instead, healthy boundaries appear as an investment in maintaining mutual respect.”
Differences do not always forecast a doomed roommate relationship. “Despite having distinctive living styles, it is not impossible to still have a good, functioning relationship. Negotiating responsibilities and compromising may help mitigate frustrations around sharing a living space,” says Sohn.
Cohabitation Communication Is Key
Student Living staff frequently discover that roommate conflicts are often avoidable and a result of limited or no proactive or follow-up communication. Topics to discuss include but are not limited to guests, cleaning, sleeping expectations and more.
“The On-Campus Living Agreement and Off-Campus Housemate/Roommate Discussion Guide are incredibly helpful resources that students should complete proactively and should take seriously. They are tools that will be something they can come back to throughout the remainder of the year,” says Josh Stone, interim assistant director for staff selection and student leadership.
Navigating Uncomfortable Situations
Even if expectations are expressed early, the shuffle of daily life may bubble over into uncomfortable situations surrounding living spaces, noise and more, requiring additional communication.
Pending the existing roommate relationship and personal communication preferences, students may feel varying levels of comfort when it comes to addressing living situations that have become negative. The following may help.
- In-person and respectful conversations: “Have an open and respectful conversation acknowledging concerns and explore how to move forward harmoniously if wants, needs and boundaries are not being met,” Stone says. Avoid text messages, emails and/or physical notes.
- Expressing feelings and finding solutions: Sohn suggests using “I” statements to express feelings without making others feel attacked. “I feel [personal feeling(s)] when [specific situation] because [why the situation makes the personal feeling(s)]. So I am hoping to [solution]. Let me know if this is agreeable, if there are suggestions or if it’s preferred to create a solution together.”
- Seek campus support: The following resources may help mediate conversations, discover amicable solutions and ultimately grow relationships.
Through a student-focused lens of integrated health and wellness, this series explores a variety of Barnes Center at The Arch resources and services. In the pursuit of enhancing the student experience, topics empower faculty, staff, students, families and supporters as catalysts of health and wellness within their daily interactions.
Story by Student Experience communications intern Madison Manczko ’24, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications