Close Menu

Why High School Best Friends Have Roommate Problems in College

We’re over two months into the school year, and this is the time when roommate problems begin to surface – even if your roommate was your best friend in high school. As surprised as you may be that your best friend now feels like your worst enemy, you’ll be in for an even bigger jolt when you discover why this conflict is occurring and how it can be resolved.

Here’s a scene we see repeated, year after year: Best friends in high school, with much in common, go to the college and become roommates. It seems natural, right? Best friends in high school will be best friends in college.

Then disaster strikes. By the end of the first semester, they hate each other and are moving out.

How can this possibly happen to best friends?

The surprising truth is that how well you get along with a roommate has very little do to with being friends. It has to do with how you resolve conflict, specifically the conflicts that occur between roommates.

Living Together Makes Little Problems Big

Let’s face it: Living with someone isn’t easy. You’re sharing a tight space, and college can be a stressful situation. There are countless points of potential conflict:

How often should you clean the bathroom?

Can you watch TV while the other person is sleeping?

Should you have parties? How long should they last?

How do you want to decorate the apartment?

Do you like each other’s friends?

If you are feeling tension toward your roommate in these areas (or others), the longer you live together, the more irritated you will become. Why? Because you have no escape. If something is annoying you, it’s not like you can get up and leave and go home. You are home.

So why are things going horribly wrong?

Instead of Being Best Friends, Avoid Becoming Worse Enemies

Why is it best friends can’t be good roommates, but total strangers can?

We’ll give you the surprisingly simple secret: It’s because roommates that work well together can resolve conflict with each other.

That’s right. Most roommates mistakenly think that if they line up with someone that’s like-minded, who has the same interests, friends, etc., that no conflict would potentially arise. But conflict is inevitable. People are just too different for it not to occur.

The roommate problems begin because you don’t understand how to handle the conflict after it occurs. It’s why complete strangers make better roommates than long-standing friends: You may not be best buds, but you can resolve problems to avoid becoming big enemies.

Here’s are some examples of how poor conflict resolution can make a little problem even bigger:

Problems with Best Buddies:

Dylan and Tony were best friends throughout high school. Dylan was always the leader in high school. He was the class president and the QB of the football team. A real take-charge kind of guy, Dylan was never shy about voicing his opinions.

Tony is a bit more of a follower, who tends to be soft-spoken. He has always been content to be a supporter of Dylan and “take one for the team.”

When the two get to college, Dylan’s order-taking begins to wear on Tony. He tries to dictate which posters are cool (and not cool) for the room. He wants to have the final say on when to hold a party, and who should be invited.

Tony wants to stand up to Dylan, but it’s foreign ground for him. Silently, he fumes, and puts up with all semester. Eventually, it gets to be too much, and he decides to move out.

Why did it happen? Weren’t Dylan and Tony great pals? Sure they were. But the personality types didn’t allow them to resolve the issue.

If you download our Roommate Resolution Guide to Resolving Conflicts, you’ll see that Dylan is what we call a Competing Shark. He runs roughshod over people. He’s loud and used to getting his way – which he’s probably done to Tony all the years they’ve known each other.

Tony would be defined as an Avoiding Turtle. He hates conflict, and heads for the door at the first hint of it. He desperately needs a structured environment to resolve problems, which is why he and Dylan have survived as friends.

Whenever Tony has disagreed with Dylan, there has always been a coach, teacher or parent to initiate dialogue. If there is structure and a third-party to mediate, Tony feels comfortable voicing disapproval with Dylan’s ideas.

In college, without anyone to rein Dylan in, Tony has to vent his frustrations on his own. But he can’t, so rather than resolve the issue, he’s moving out.

What is Your Conflict Resolution Style?

Just because he’s adverse to conflict, there’s nothing wrong with Tony. He can voice his opinion if he has an established structure in place. If he had read our guide, he would have been more aware of his own conflict resolution style. Then he might have sought out a residence hall counselor to help work through the problem.

He also might have discovered that confrontation with Dylan isn’t a good option, because the guy hates to lose. Tony might have resolved the problem by creating a win-win situation – such as dividing the room in half for poster décor, and taking turns with the party invite lists.

Best friends in high school can learn how to become best roommates in college. Instead of focusing on why you’re friends, discover what is stopping you from resolving conflict. Download our guide to resolving roommate conflict for more information.

How to stop fighting with your roomie

Download Roommates Reunited: A Guide to Resolving Conflict

Get the guide