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Living in Harmony with Our Roommates
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Digital Only: Young Adults

Living in Harmony with Our Roommates

Living with roommates can be difficult. Here are some ways to help make it work.

young men in the kitchen

Photograph from Getty Images

Living with roommates can be challenging—you eat, sleep, study, and do many other important activities in shared living spaces—but the experience can help you grow as a disciple of Christ. Some roommates will become close friends, while others might remain acquaintances, but you don’t ever need to become enemies.

The Savior desires that we learn to live together in peace despite our differences. Our experiences living with different types of people may prepare us for our future eternal relationships. In the words of Paul, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [people], especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

There may be significant differences between you and your roommates, but these five tips can help you develop Christlike attributes that will help you learn to live together in peace.

1. Recognize That You Are Living in a Shared Space

In most shared living spaces, there are group and personal spaces. As an individual, you may choose how to use your personal space, but the use of shared areas, like the living room or kitchen, needs to be addressed by all roommates. Whether you coordinate by developing a chore chart or holding regular apartment meetings, make sure you don’t leave important issues to chance. Everyone needs to work together, no matter who’s been living there the longest or who’s the oldest.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “The single most important principle that should govern every home is to practice the Golden Rule—the Lord’s admonition that ‘all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12).”1

By working together on group issues, you can show that you respect one another, and you’ll be able to find solutions that work for everyone rather than just one person.

2. Look to Serve Your Roommates in Small and Simple Ways

In the scriptures, we learn that by “small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). This also applies to service. Our small acts of kindness may be just what our roommates need to get through tough times, and our actions can allow us to forge deeper relationships with one another. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.”2

When we serve our roommates in small and simple ways (like taking out the trash or turning down our music when a roommate asks us to), we also demonstrate our love and commitment to Christ. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The spiritual pattern of small and simple things bringing forth great things produces firmness and steadfastness, deepening devotion, and more complete conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.”3

3. Build Spiritual Habits with Roommates When Possible

While some of us may live with roommates of other faiths (or no faith at all), there may be ways we can introduce positive spiritual patterns in our households. For example, you can implement simple habits like praying over your food, choosing uplifting and spiritual music on the Sabbath, and serving your neighbors together. When we ask our roommates to participate in positive practices with us, we may strengthen our bonds and create a better atmosphere.

Implementing spiritual habits in our households will also prepare us to do so throughout our lives, and those habits will be a powerful force in drawing us to Jesus Christ. President Ballard said: “The Lord outlined simple, personal habits that keep us rooted, grounded, and connected to Him. Such habits, when done with full purpose of heart, real intent, and without hypocrisy and deception, allow us to be unwavering disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”4

4. Create Strong Communication Patterns

Make sure you communicate clearly and kindly with one another from the beginning rather than waiting until you’re ready to explode with frustration. You can either spend time up front establishing habits that will help you live together successfully or spend time later on trying to untangle misunderstandings.

President Ballard said, “Consider how the atmosphere in an apartment would change if roommates gathered regularly to pray, listen, discuss, and plan things together.”5 Praying with your roommates may not always be an option, but try to set up regular times to communicate about what’s going on in the apartment and any ongoing issues.

Before you meet to discuss any roommate issues you might be facing, take time to consider your personal boundaries, but also ponder if there are areas in which you’re willing to compromise. And when a boundary is crossed for the first time, gently but firmly address the issue. Don’t be afraid to approach your roommates with concerns and make adjustments as necessary.

Because we are each unique individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, we should expect that conflict may naturally arise, but we can implement strategies for conflict resolution to deal with our differences. In most cases, we can follow the Savior’s example of working out differences—in private and with kindness (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:88).

5. Seek Additional Help in Difficult Situations

Even after you create positive communication patterns and set healthy boundaries, you may need outside help. If you fear for your emotional, physical, or spiritual safety because of your roommates’ behavior, seek help before the situation becomes overwhelming. Many conflicts can be resolved more quickly and effectively if addressed early on and with skilled interventions by professionals such as therapists or mediators.

Regardless of how our living situations may change through the seasons, we can always follow the Savior’s example of showing love and patience toward those we live with. And as we follow Him, we will be able to create and maintain harmony with those in our homes.