Finding the ideal roommate can be challenging, regardless of any differences. There are many reasons that some matches produce lifelong friendships while others lead to strife and dejection. Living with friends or a love interest has its own share of demands and expected compromises, but moving in with a stranger often can try the limits of our patience and flexibility.
Some roommates have conflicting priorities, and some of these differences may be destined to cause grief. For instance, if one person likes to party into the wee hours of the morning while the other values sleep in order to function well during the day, there may indeed be problems. Here are some other possible combinations that could be headed for doom: a smoker and a nonsmoker, a drinker and a teetotaler, a slob and a neat-freak, a religious zealot and an atheist, a free-love supporter and an abstinence advocate, a couch potato and a marathon runner, a shopaholic and a minimalist.
Sharing our quarters with our polar opposite is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. It is possible for people with contrary views to get along well, assuming both are broadminded and willing to make concessions. All the same, when perspectives are directly tied to a deeper set of values or beliefs, such as those that involve a life philosophy, ethical obligation, or spiritual allegiance, we can grow resentful. Usually those close to us don't intend to be disrespectful, but sometimes it can seem that way when they don't subscribe to our value system. As much as we might claim it doesn't faze us, few individuals are unaffected when their principles or standards are ignored, violated, or defied.
Here are some areas of concern that could strain the relationship of a vegan and a meat-eating roommate, along with some possible solutions. Some vegans don't want their food to come in contact with animal products, so you might want to partition the refrigerator and freezer so each of you have your own designated space. There are legitimate health concerns for vegans regarding bacterial cross-contamination from animal products. Therefore, if you have a dishwasher, you might want to make sure you have dishwasher-safe cutting boards, utensils, and appliances. Most vegans don't want to clean up after a roommate's meat meal, so you each should arrange to wash your own cookware and soiled dishes immediately after using them. Most vegans prefer not to use pots and pans that also are used to cook meat and other animal products. Consequently, having separate cookware may be a necessity. If the odor of meat bothers the vegan roommate, you may need to invest in a good kitchen fan, consent to purchase only precooked meats, offer to prepare meats that don't have a strong smell, or agree to cook meat only when your roommate is out of the apartment.
In addition to food concerns, vegans also avoid using personal-care and household products that are tested on animals or that contain animal products. Therefore, vegan roommates may want to stock the apartment with cruelty-free supplies. Vegans also don't wear animal-based clothing or shoes, so check with your prospective roomie beforehand to find out whether your leather jacket or gloves, silk blouses, down pillow, or wool sweaters are going to cause an uproar.
Compromise goes both ways, of course, and vegans who choose to live with meat eaters need to be aware that they, too, must make concessions. It is essential that all concerns and misgivings are aired prior to signing a lease and that there is a clear understanding of the arrangements. To prevent any confusion, you might want to draw up a simple letter of agreement that you each can sign. That way you both will know in advance the parameters that will be in place once you move in together.
Sharing living quarters with people who are different from us has the potential to be a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow, and test our adaptability. As long as any potential obstacles are aired openly and with mutual consideration, tolerance, and respect, such a living arrangement could be the learning experience of a lifetime.