Q: How do you ask your roommate to stay away from you while quarantined because of the coronavirus?
A: Because of this pandemic, social norms, routines and expectations have changed from what originally was agreed upon when you moved in together. For this reason, you need to add "process"-oriented conversations to your "content" conversations.
What, exactly, does that mean? "Content" refers to what is being talked about, and "process" means how you are talking about it. So, instead of just focusing on the changes in routines and schedules, talk about how these changes can be implemented.
I would hope the use of shared spaces (i.e., bathroom, kitchen, living room) is already respectful regardless of COVID-19, but some of the specifics of cleanliness might need to be discussed and renegotiated based on each roommate's comfort levels.
Finally, it is a common narrative that the increase in time together under one space leads to dysfunction. Instead of focusing on how to not drive each other crazy, I would encourage roommates to look for ways each of you can spark joy in the other. Knowing what we don't want from others does not always translate into what we do want.
CASEY GAMBONI, licensed therapist and faculty member at the Family Institute at Northwestern University
A: Sometimes, people differ on what precautions they're willing to take for their physical and mental health. I have two roommates, and the current situation has taken some adjustment. But we all realize that roommates, like it or not, are in this thing together, and it's best to air any issues before people become uncomfortable in their own living space.
It might not be fun; it might even be awkward. But you can't let things just be "business as usual," hoping that people agree with you on every boundary and guideline without any discussion. You are well within your rights to say, "We are in the middle of a pandemic, and however much I'd like to, I can no longer share space with you." There's nothing usual about the current state of affairs, which means that you don't have to apologize for insisting on new rules. Just don't be passive-aggressive — that just will end up opening a whole new can of worms.
SPENCER RYAN DIEDRICK, theater director and administrator