Sharing a home with another person is about as intimate as it gets. If you’ve ever lived with another person, you know that conflict sometimes arises—it’s natural and bound to happen at some point. There are steps you and your housemate can take, however, to reduce the likelihood of conflict arising between the two of you and lessen the severity of conflicts/misunderstandings when they do inevitably arise.
In this article:
- Common causes of conflict in a shared home
- Tips for preventing conflict with your housemate
- Topics to discuss with your housemate to prevent conflict
Common causes of conflict
The top three most common causes of conflict between housemates (and in most relationships) are:
- Lack of communication or miscommunication: The more you and your new housemate communicate up front, the easier it will be to navigate disagreements when they arise (and they naturally will). Feelings that you keep inside more often fester than disappear. When communication isn't present in a relationship, assumptions and blame tend to take its place. Proactive communication supports an environment of mutual understanding and respect.
- Procrastination/avoidance: It might be tempting to avoid big conversations because we equate staying silent with keeping the peace. However, addressing problems openly and early is an investment in the sustainability of your housemate relationship. Your needs cannot be met unless they are heard. Even hard conversations can be an opportunity to become closer!
- Lack of clear boundaries/expectations: There is no cut-and-dry rulebook for homesharing. Two housemates will inevitably have at least some differences in how they envision their shared home and relationship. Acknowledging preferences prior to move-in is the best way to manage expectations and avoid conflicts. The best predictor for a successful relationship is talking about problems before (or immediately when) they arise.
Tips for preventing conflict
Fortunately, there are three simple practices you can put in place to reduce the potential for conflict with your housemate. They are:
- Communicate expectations and boundaries. Develop a shared understanding of how you want your home to function. Cover the bases early on so you both feel good about the shared space you're creating. See below for some discussion topic ideas.
- Document those shared expectations and boundaries. Use a tool/template that makes you feel comfortable. We recommend our Nest Easy Homesharing Agreement™, which is legally binding like a lease but specifically designed for homesharing.
- Speak up. If something bothers you (dirty dishes left in the sink, thermostat settings, a granddaughter’s noise, etc.), speak up right away. Don’t let it become an internal conversation with yourself that spirals into a bigger issue.
When you speak up, you and your housemate can work together towards a solution. Odds are, the two of you will be able to find a solution—because you both want to have a comfortable home with each other.
Topics to discuss with your housemate to prevent conflict
Want to nip conflict and miscommunication in the bud before they happen? Here’s a list of topics to talk through with your housemate so you can address any discrepancies before they become problems.
- Space: What is space is shared? What is private?
- Communication: What is each housemate's communication preference? (Text, email, handwritten notes, phone calls, a knock on the door?)
- Interaction: How much interaction do you want on a daily basis? Are there times when you are more available for chatting than others? Are there times when you’d like to share space, but in silence? Does either of you work from home and need quiet during work hours? Come up with a plan for talking about these details ahead of time.
- Privacy: How will you communicate your needs regarding privacy? For example, "If my door is closed, please know that I’d like to be left alone," or, "If I send you a text it means I’m not in the mood for face-to-face contact but have something important to communicate." Or, the simple, “I just need some quiet time.”
- Cleaning: What level of tidiness and cleanliness in shared spaces is best for you and your housemate? Who is responsible for cleaning what? Will you rotate chores, hire a professional cleaner once a month, or each commit to keeping certain rooms clean? What day is trash day? Who takes out the trash?
- Kitchen etiquette: Do you want to share meals or food? If so, how will you negotiate groceries, cooking and cleaning up after a shared meal? (Note: If you're the one sharing your home, make sure to clear out some cabinet, shelf and fridge space for your new housemate. Be clear about which kitchen items you’re open to sharing, and which ones you’re not.
- Living room etiquette: When can the TV be on? Who controls the remote? What types of shows or movies are off-limits when the other person is in the room?
- Guests: Is it okay to invite people over? How will you communicate about guests? Is it important to ask before one of you returns home with a friend?
- Socializing: Do we want to build a community together? Do we plan to host dinner parties? Do we want to spend time together outside the home? What about FaceTime or video-conferencing considerations (using headphones instead of speakerphone, keeping doors closed, etc.)?
- Security: What’s important for each of us to feel safe in the home? Who else has a key the house? Do we lock the door every time we go in and out? What if the other person is home?
- Sleep: What are your sleep habits? On a typical day, what time to do you go to bed? What time do you get up? When are your household quiet hours?
- Rent: When is rent due? What forms of payment are acceptable? How should it be delivered? Having this conversation up front makes it less uncomfortable to address again later.
Finally, agree to have regular check-ins about how the arrangement is going and if your shared agreements need any adjusting or negotiation. Making feedback a household norm will help keep balance. Feedback helps us learn, grow, get to know one another better and become more comfortable in a shared home. Building the expectation for open communication into your housemate relationship will benefit it more than any other tactic.
For information and resources related to conflict resolution, see Resolving Conflict.
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