More and more universities offer coed housing, and high rent prices after college mean you may end up with an opposite-gender roommate. Living with a roommate is already tricky, but sharing space with someone of the opposite gender creates totally new issues, such as setting a dress code and handling a potential romantic interest between the two of you. With the right strategies, you can avoid awkwardness, conflict and miscommunication.
Hold the Sizzle
When friends of opposite genders are in close contact, a sexual spark is often ignited, psychologists warn. This doesn't mean you are going to have a sexual relationship or that either of you want a sexual relationship. It means you have experienced what psychologist Terri Apter calls a "revelation of possibility." Be aware of this and watch for anything — casual touching or flirty conversations — that create a slippery slope toward an unwanted sexual relationship. Think about whether you and your roommate would behave this way in public or in front of a romantic partner.
Soothe the Significant Other
Both you and your roommate may be OK with coed housing, but your significant other or your roommate's romantic partner may feel otherwise. How a significant other views the living arrangement, especially if he or she visits, plays a role in roommate satisfaction and conflict management. Arrange a group meeting. This can soothe the concerns of your romantic partners. Set boundaries about how often you both can bring home a romantic interest. Consider setting visitation hours.
Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to standards of clothing. If you share intimate living space with someone of the opposite gender, communicate clearly your expectations for clothing. For example, you may be OK with walking around in underwear, but your roommate may find that uncomfortable. Set expectations in the beginning to avoid hurt feelings or violations of privacy later.
Stop the Stereotypes
Gender and sexual roles are complex. Unless you decide otherwise, your opposite-gender friend is just a friend and roommate. Avoid growing emotionally dependent, as this creates conflict. Guard against expectations based on gender stereotypes. Don't expect gender-based contributions -- the woman cleaning the apartment or the man fixing the furniture. This can create unfair pressures in the relationship. Instead, approach household tasks or situations as with any other roommate. Communicate clearly what you both want so that you arrive at mutually agreeable solutions.
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- Psychology Today: Do Cross-Gender Friendships Always Have a Sexual Element?
- Psychology Today: How Men and Women Can Be True Friends
- University of Georgia Housing: Roommate Relationships
- Foster and Adoptive Youth Together: Getting and Keeping a Roommate
- Mag For Women: 12 Tips to Live With a Male Roommate
- Chicago Homescout Realty: Opposite Sex Roommates 101
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