Growing up, my family and I had a lot of family dinners, and a lot of times where we would spontaneously end up talking and laughing about random things for quite a while. Over the years, I grew to really appreciate these unplanned yack-sessions of ours.
So when I moved out to go to college and then moved to another state for career purposes afterwards, one of the things that was always hardest for me was that missing aspect of quality time.
Theoretically, having a close group of friends can help make up for what’s missing if you can’t have something like this with your family at the present. But in my experience, it’s not always easy to find a group of friends like that.
If you’re lucky, living with roommates can solve this problem. When you find a good little group of like-minded Catholic people to live with, they can become your family in a sense. But a fruitful dynamic like that doesn’t necessarily happen by itself.
My Accidental Bonding Experience
When I lived with roommates in grad school, we all talked initially about trying to have a roommate dinner together, like an intentional, purposeful night to spend time getting to know each other a little better.
It never happened.
Between searching for jobs, finding jobs with stupid schedules, and suddenly having a massive amount of work for our new classes, we roommates just never got around to it.
I ended up lucking out, though. Three of us shared several grueling classes together that helped us to bond in stress and mild misery. Even though I never got around to putting any effort into those friendships, I ended up with what was mostly a good living situation, complete with at least some of the same type of quality time I’d had in my home life.
But I have to think that it could have gone a lot differently. It seems that God pulled out of that situation for me what I needed for daily sanity, but it probably would have been even better if I’d have put forth some effort.
Don’t be like me. Put forth the effort to make your roommates into good friends and to make fulfilling quality time part of your home life.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Have a Roommate Dinner Together
Take a cue from what my roommates and I thought would be a good idea, except actually follow through.
Pull out your calendars and find a night that works for all of you. Delegate cooking duties and split the supply costs. Maybe even go shopping for supplies together if you’re really ambitious.
Don’t know how to cook very well? Try YouTube-ing something together and adding another dimension to the bonding experience as you try and probably fail at making something that looks super-easy on screen.
Then, once you’ve got your food, make the effort for some good, quality conversation over the meal. Try starting with getting to know each other’s backgrounds a bit better, and maybe move on to topics like current events, or even what your faith life or story is like.
If you’ don’t mind some disagreement, you might even venture into politics!
Get Competitive and Try a Game Night
Playing a game together is a great way to get to know each other’s personalities. Who’s super-competitive? Who’s easily distracted? Who uses smack talk to cover up how terrible they are at games?
And of course game nights are a great way to start conversations without as much pressure to fill silence with small talk. So this is a great option for introverts or anyone who might find a whole dinner with new roommates somewhat intimidating.
A Movie Night Can Have Bonding Aspects
As much as watching a movie together might seem like just mindless, non-bonding entertainment, I’ve found it to actually be quite the opposite.
Though you probably won’t be actively talking and getting to know each other in an obvious way while watching a movie, the activity is relaxing and can help you feel comfortable around each other. Provided it’s a good movie, you’re sharing emotions from the story you’re watching, which can actually be very bonding.
And then of course it’s even more of a bonding experience if you actively try to keep it from being mindless entertainment by discussing the story, and the quality of the movie: Why didn’t I see that twist coming? What is this supposed to mean? Why do I feel like this is really terrible?
Bonus tip: Find some great recommendations of things to watch on my personal blog Thorne in the Flesh!
A Workout Routine Can Serve as Ongoing Bonding
Any fitness devotees among you? Anyone wanting to get into shape in the near future?
All of us can probably benefit from more exercise in our lives, so a great idea for roommate bonding is to pick a program of workout to do together. Whether it’s running, cycling, aerobics videos online, or weight training, as long as you pick something to do together you’ll be able to spend recurring time with each other, while also improving your health.
Sounds like a win-win, if you ask me.
You Could Just Take Your Chances
Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up bonding with your roommates without even trying. It happened for me, so it could happen for you.
Or, your lack of effort to get to know each other could result in an alienating, lonely existence where your only consistent human interaction is with your social media “friends.” That doesn’t sound very fun to me.
If I had to do it again, I would put forth the effort to bond with my roommates, to make sure I was doing the most I could to make my roommate living situation as fruitful as it could be.