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Your Guide to Dormcest: Avoiding the Pitfalls, Scoring the Perks


Whether it’s the cute baseball player down the hall, the artsy English major one floor up or the lacrosse-penney-sporting-Natty-drinking bro just two doors down, let’s face it: your college dorm is teeming with hotties of every race, creed and fraternity.  Incoming freshmen get ready: living with guys is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.  But is it wise to tap into this veritable meat market knowing there’s a risk of bumping into a foiled hook-up every time you want to walk down the hall to take a shower?  Have no fear, darling co-eds.  Use these fixes for common dormcest “pitfalls” and you’ll be plunging headfirst into intra-dorm relationships before you can say, “Hey, I live on North Campus too!”

couple in bed looking away from each other

The Pitfall: Mismatched Expectations

It’s going to be tempting to jump into romance as soon as you get on campus and realize you have hot guys living next door.  Even the girl with the most self-control can have trouble resisting such romantic convenience.  But take it from Kelsey*, a collegiette who got involved with a guy in her dorm right off the bat, it’s better to wait.

“Right away I thought Tyler* was cute. After our first meeting, I started to see him all the time around the dorm. We ‘hung out’ quite a few times in the next couple of weeks, but it was nothing more than friends with benefits. One time, we were messing around and he wanted to have sex but I said no.  He understood, but after that incident we were completely awkward around each other.”

When a gal gets involved with a guy quickly, it can be difficult for both parties involved to know what the expectations for the hook-up are.  It’s especially important to get these straight with a guy in your dorm — the possibilities of after-hookup awkwardness are that much greater (think a 24/7 Walk of Shame). 

The fix?  Spend a couple weeks just getting to know the guys in your dorm before you take it to a physical level — you’ll have a better sense of what they’re looking for (and what you’re looking for too).  And hey, there is no crime in looking!

Related: How to Navigate Welcome Week Like a Pro

The Pitfall: He Sees You at Your Best . . . and Your Not-So-Best

You know the feeling you get when you decide you’re interested in a guy: you’re consumed by the constant compulsion to touch-up your lip gloss, you put your girlfriends on a 24 hour “crushwatch” (so you can look like you are NOT trying at all times) and you actually start waking up to shower before class.  While we’ve all succumbed to this Secret Girl Behavior (which we guess is no longer secret), living with the guy you’re interested in poses a whole new set of challenges.  Your same-dorm stud will without a doubt see you at least once in each of the following situations:

1. walking to the shower in your towel, acne medication (or worse) in hand,

2. coming upstairs to your room at 3 am with a huge pepperoni pizza and no visible friends to share it with, and

3. having a loud and embarrassing phone conversation with your mother in the stairwell (“MOM, I told you I do NOT EAT TUNA FISH!  STOP SENDING IT TO ME!”)

The fix?  Well, there really isn’t one.  Living in close proximity to the boy of your dreams means that he’ll get pretty comfortable with your less-than-perfect habits pretty quickly.  Learn to crack a joke when he catches you, and at least this way there are no surprises about you in store for him down the road.

The Pitfall: Non-Exclusivity and Shared Living Space

So you’ve started getting busy on a semi-regular basis with a hottie on your hall.  Congrats!  While a late-night rendezvous is much more convenient when only a few yards separate you from your boy-du-jour, there comes a time when you (or he) may long for a romance outside the dormitory walls.  So what do you do when your dormcestual dude catches you coming back with another guy?  Or you see him coming back with another girl?  Without the promise of exclusivity, these can be quite the sticky situations.

The fix?  If you see your guy bringing back another girl, you’ll want to quietly and calmly go back to your room, or better yet, a girlfriend’s room.  This is not the time for loud, confrontational displays a la The Bad Girls’ Club or one of the many iterations of Flavor of Love.  If in the morning you find that you are still disturbed by the thought of your non-exclusive guy with another girl, it may be time to grit your teeth and have the “talk."

Now if your guy sees you coming back with, well, another guy, be prepared for him to be upset.  Again, try to avoid any scenes.  You’re not technically in the wrong, so leave it up to him to say something later — but know that he may not have anything to say to you at all.  Remember that the proximity inherent in dormcest can be a cost as well as a benefit, since there’s really no avoiding each other.

The Pitfall: Keeping Dormcest Relationships Fresh

Real, exclusive, dormcest relationships can and do work.  But they require a bit of an extra effort to reach normalcy.  For example, it’s not normal to move in with a guy after dating for two weeks, but when you already essentially live together, it can be hard to find that separation you need in the early stages of the relationship.  Ava* reveals that her biggest problem with her boyfriend who lived in her dorm was that “we went from zero to living together in the span of about a week.”  Charlotte* echoes her sentiment: “Being in the same dorm meant the only time my boyfriend and I had to spend apart was when we had class.” 

It’s easy to get caught up in such a convenient romance, spending Friday nights cuddled up with your guy watching Friends reruns while your actual friends are out wondering if you’ve chosen to study abroad this semester without telling them. 

The fix? Make an effort to develop friends and interests that take you out of the dorm — that way if your romance ends, your life won’t!  Relationship expert Dr. Shoshanna advises against falling into “dead routines” in a relationship.  If every Saturday you and your guy spend the afternoon playing video games with his friends on his hall, eat dinner in your dorm’s attached dining hall and watch movies in your room at night, break out!  Take a walk around campus in the afternoon, try a new restaurant, go to a party you normally wouldn’t attend.  It will keep you and your romance fresh!

Related: A Freshman Girls Guide to College Dating

The Pitfall: Dormcest Doesn’t Last Forever

If your dormcestual relationship has an unhappy end, it can be tricky to navigate the post-breakup waters.  If you’re close to the end of the year, congrats!  You won’t have to awkwardly co-habitate much longer.  But if you’re not so lucky, seeing your ex-flame at (literally) every turn can really take a toll on your psyche.

The fix?  Throw yourself into activities outside the dorm.  Do the same things you would do at the end of any relationship, but especially try to put yourself into situations where you won’t be spending excessive amounts of time wallowing in your room, only to bump into your ex walking to the vending machines to get a soda when you venture out of your room sporting your rattiest sweatpants and mascara tears.  If you’ve really got to do the full-on waterworks, watch-The-Notebook-and-eat-a-pint-of-Ben-and-Jerry’s routine, consider moving the party to a girlfriend’s room in another dorm. Speaking with a friend earning their counseling degree might also be helpful. Above all, keep your head up, and know that there are infinitely more eligible bachelors outside your dorm than in it.

Now, perhaps you’re thinking, with all these pitfalls, why would I ever want to brave dormcest territory?  Girls, it really can be sweet, all risks aside.  Here are the top five perks of dormcest:

1. Your fingers will never freeze in sub-zero January temperatures on your way to see your boy-toy.

2. You probably have a lot of the same friends that live in your dorm, thus, making social plans together is easy.

3. Good day, bad day: He’s always going to be down the hall (or up the stairs).

4. If your man is of the Spencer Pratt variety, it’ll be much easier to keep tabs on him.  (But please don’t put up with these shenanigans in the first place.)

5. You’ll never have to do the Walk of Shame across campus.

*Names have been changed.

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