Ask Ty...May 17 [The Roommate Question]

It must be Tuesday Monday, Middlespace Cadets, because I'm answering your questions
Q: Dear Ty,

My (recently acquired) roommate and I are having troubles. We are friends and recently got a place together and seem to be walking all over each other's boundaries without realizing it until it's too late and one of us gets angry with the other. We've had a few arguments that have approached the edge of not-so-nice. Could you please give me some advice on how to argue nicely without totally fucking up my friendship with my roommate?


Frustrated Friend in Harlem Hell

Ty: Good question and an even better observation, FF/HH. Yikes! I completely understand. For a variety of reasons we end up living with other humans. Family, college, relationships, marriage, roommate, assisted living. I've been in all of the above situations except for assisted living obviously (although I am now wearing reading glasses because when I have my contacts on I cannot really see tiny things up close like an old man, or, like the old man I'm becoming).

Some of these living situations work perfectly well from the beginning while other situations do not work at all, ever. Even the ones that work initially, may ultimately end up not working. But, FF/HH, be wary: living situations that begin shaky or are no longer working, rarely resolve harmoniously. Here's our problem and where we need to get to work.

"Work" is the word of the day.

I've entered into living situations with good friends as well. I remain friends with some of these people. Others? Not so friendly for a lifetime. If you're anything like me--OCD, quirky, moody, high expectations that others will read my mind--than a roommate arrangement may not be for you. But if you have any semblance of flexibility and understanding, then you may be able to salvage this one. Key number one is to know yourself. I mean really know yourself. Are you the type of person to live with other people? Me? I'm not but I've managed to do it. Marriage and children does adjust one's tolerances. If you truly believe you can do it, get to work. If you're not, start the unbuilding process (the end).

Here's where to begin on the salvage mission, should you decide to accept it: Run your household like a work project: management and administration. Leave little to chance. Living with someone is like work now. Conduct your first house meeting. Put all the cards on the table as your project startup. Talk it through. Plan. Schedule. Set weekly meetings to talk it through. Plan weekly friend dinners exclusive of your weekly house meetings. What do you talk about? As my old boss, mentor, and university housing guru Carol Harper would say, "get to the stuff and things." The stuff that is not working and the things you can do to fix them. Make contracts. Fuck, lighten the shit up and make a goddamn PowerPoint® deck. And agree to call bullshit when the bullshit enters the interactions.

Next, get over yourselves. Quit being so self-serious. Live with humor. Crack wise. As soon as everyone becomes so self-serious and protective the boundaries become thick and fixed. Yes, boundaries are important--limits and boundaries--but so is the occasional, humorous boundary trampling.

Give yourselves a deadline for determining whether the partnership is going to work. Three months? Six months? Check in and decide if you will continue. Negotiate this interval at your meeting. Acknowledge that the partnership is currently not working well and may not survive, FF/HH. Assess the long-term vulnerabilities to friendship.

Work. Cards. Table.

And, lastly--and I wish I could have done this in some situations--act like a damn adult; a professional with all kinds of intelligence. I usually ruin things when I get self-righteous and petulant. But, I suffer from a superiority complex and have impulses to do ridiculous things.

Just a guess,