Relationships are arguably the trickiest part of life. It’s hard enough to figure out who you are, let alone how you work with and complement another individual. If you add living in the same small apartment into the mix, the level of complexity only increases. Personalities can clash, bad habits can drive you up a wall and the integration of other friends and family could very well make you want to run for your life.
Yet as always, there’s the possible flip side. That’s what I’ve been fortunate enough to experience while living with my roommate and best friend, Aly. In any relationship – platonic, professional or romantic – there are little tendencies that either hurt the relationship or help make it work.
After living with Aly for over two years, I’ve come to learn what has made us work so well:
Above all else, be thoughtful
This is hands-down the most admirable quality I think a person can have. It shows that you care about someone other than yourself in the most endearing way. It can be as simple as saying Hey, thanks for taking out the trash. I really appreciate it, or picking up toilet paper when you’re out at Wegmans.
After my brother passed, Aly wrote a thoughtful note on our bathroom mirror every morning just so that I had something positive to wake up to. And I could never forget the tricky situation we found ourselves in the middle of when Aly’s car ran out of gas on the highway. Ha! That’s probably one of our funniest stories to date.
If any relationship is going to work, being thoughtful has to be mutual. I’m grateful I live with a best friend who has no problem being selfless.
In my book, a good friend is synonymous with a good listener. I can’t even count the amount of times Aly has listened to me say, I’m at such a crossroads, I don’t know which next step to take, or Well I obviously want to talk to him but i’m not going to because I don’t want to bother him, or Seriously I want a six pack but I just can’t stop eating Snickers and ice cream… do I look bigger than I did last year?!
I don’t know how she listens to me all of the time! But she does. And more importantly, she absorbs what I’m saying and offers me valuable insight that, more often than not, results in me saying, Yeah, you’re right. Where would I be without that? The answer is simple: out of my mind.
Let’s be honest, everyone needs their space sometimes. Being around other people 24/7 can be exhausting; it’s imperative to take time for ourselves in order to recharge and gain some peace of mind.
There are days Aly will walk into the apartment, unpack her groceries and go right to bed without saying a word. There are other days I’ll come home stressed, throw my sneakers on and go out for a run without saying a word to her, either.
We don’t get upset by it; we acknowledge it and know that when we’re done being upset, we’ll end up on the living room couch with a glass of wine venting to each other. Give people the space they need and they’ll come back closer than ever before.
Having common interests makes life just a little more convenient. However, it can’t be expected that you’ll always have the same favorite TV show, sports team, breakfast food and movie genre. That’s okay.
Aly and I both love the Yankees, mimosas for breakfast and romantic comedies. However, Aly likes watching the Disney Channel while I opt for the news; I play Frank Sinatra Pandora while she rocks out to Beyonce. We poke fun at one another for our differences, but we never use it in or rude or disrespectful way. You can’t change anyone other than yourself, so you may as well find a way to embrace the differences.
Who doesn’t love having their own personal cheerleader root them on 24/7? I often have some crazy ideas and extremely ambitious goals, but Aly is always encouraging me to go for it.
Coach a high school cheerleading team? Go for it. Take a job interview in NYC? Go for it. Travel 600 miles to pursue a worthwhile matter of the heart? Go for it. That extra push is usually just what I need and I’m so grateful that Aly gives that to me without hesitation.
The success of a happy, fulfilling relationship is so often dependent upon a delicate balance of tolerance and acceptance. The fact of the matter remains true across the board, though: when you find people that make that balancing act seem like a walk through the park, hold on tight and never be too timid to express your true gratitude. Thanks for being an incredible friend, Al.
Today also happens to be the day that Aly graduates from her second master’s program at Canisius College. Can you say smarty pants?!
I’ve seen her spend her entire weekend cranking out homework time and time again, pass out on the couch with her face in a text book, debate future possibilities for weeks-on-end, test her own curiosities and live out her passion for helping others through countless projects and volunteer opportunities. I can’t begin to express how proud I am of her. Selfishly, i’m also glad to have some more free time with my best friend now! Congrats, Al. You earned it.