The Dark Side of Cohousing

It happened again. I read an article where cohousing is the fix to everything. No more loneliness. No more children without play dates. Sounds like cohousing cures everything, maybe even cancer!

What people don’t think is what if the opposite happens?  I too went in expectating all the great things I’d been told. But there is nothing worse than loneliness in cohousing.

What if the children form a pack? And they learn their worst habits from each other? And when you ask some parents to please help teach their children from beating up your own children, they do nothing? If you ask parents to please teach their children not to say rude, teasing things to adults and children and nothing?  What if the children are physically hurting each other? with weapons? Or worse?

What if the community decides to scapegoat you and shun you? What if no one cares that you are sneaking out the back and closing all your window shades for the first time? No one checks in except the two times you reached out that it’s gotten so bad that you contemplated suicide.  What if the mediator lets the whole community continue to blame you and not deal with the real issue of children’s behavior? What if the mediator calls you poisonous and puts it on their very popular blog?

That’s why I like to give balance. I always wanted to share what it was like and didn’t expect it to get so bad. I thought a few bumps. When I left I thought they’d all be happy and deal with the problems. Nope. Instead, four other households are leaving. (and one left pointing out the issue that led to the big blow up) So, I’m not the only one who found cohousing can have more negative than positive.

Diana Leafe Christian says some cohousing have the flu. Someone asked me the other day if I’d go back once my coho got over their flu? There are a few people I like and didn’t throw me under the bus but all those who did the shunning or just stood there even when they privately told me they were ok with my decisions to deal with the serious issues?  I realized as it was going on that if people show you who they really are, believe them. I gave them a few chances, even two more times with the mediator but it was the same story – stone walling, gas lighting, lashing out at me when the issue is still dangling there.  So, as a group, they are cold and I heard the word “cruel” used for two issues, not just this one. 

I don’t think I could trust them again as a group and too many individuals showed that they aren’t mature enough for real community yet.  Maybe if it all turns over and we have a completely different group of people which is starting. Yet one reason I wanted to be there at the start was to set the culture so I fear it’s too late – the aloft, toxic environment will be there awhile.

I think it’s a hard no. I get anxious even thinking of the times I do need to go back on the property. I still have one plant left but it’s doing well and I have a bad track record with greenery. I was hoping to learn from the experts there but didn’t and funny enough, my friends here at the new place are also plant killers.

I have to be honest, no. I won’t even get involved with anything. If they want me to be the bad guy and only person to see the cracks in the sidewalk – it’s over. Any changes or money issues, I’ll just pass on to my renters and keep empowering them to get involved like other renters are (some are super popular because they moved in without knowing me at all but making sure everyone knew they hated me too).

So, there it is. The dark side.  That’s why I”m sour on cohousing. It has so many good intentions people, but like anything, it can become toxic. Or even worse, a cult.

 I would love to know what readers think I did that was so bad that a whole cohousing community could hate them.

cult information (instead of a leader, it could be the group or main clique):

https://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2006/10/17/the-good-and-the-bad-of-cohousing/

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
This entry was posted in bad behavior and bullies of any age, group think and cults, lonliness or not, other blogs and websites, parenting, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Dark Side of Cohousing

  1. zevpaiss says:

    So Expsteacher,
    I am very sorry that you had such a shitty experience in the year you lived in cohousing. I will be the first to say that it is not for everyone and not everyone who lives in a cohousing community are good communitarians. But that being said, my experience over the past 24 years of living in cohousing and the experience of the vast majority of people living in cohousing has for the most part been positive. It is not a panacea and does not solve all the worlds problems. What I am curious to hear is why after living in cohousing for a year you now spend time sharing your cautions instead of moving forward to explore what make you happy and satisfied?

    • expsteacher says:

      Good question. I like to write and want to heal. I also don’t want others to go in and be hurt like I was. I started the blog to share good, bad, ugly while living there. Now I hope others can see the spectrum and try to avoid what happened where I lived. But, honestly, I am trying to write a lot now and get it out of my system and then I’ll blog more about the beach and my life today.

      • Flower says:

        I like to write too and find it healing. I feel you are being authentic talking about your poor experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is not a sign that you are not “moving forward” or that you are stuck, unless you feel that you are. A sign of “moving forward” is not about squelching your lived experience or squashing the expression of your feelings. One day you may feel differently and that is your call. Didn’t you learn in cohousing about suppressing your emotions purportedly for group cohesion?

        I’ve given this a lot of thought because of how people responded to me incessantly negating my feelings as “too sensitive” or trying to silence my expression of my feelings. The consequence is that I avoid groups for a reason. I don’t want to live a lie for the alleged “sake of others”, which is a huge contributing reason as to why groups don’t appeal to me. I don’t care to sacrifice myself or compromise my health and wellbeing. I believe that you can live a purposeful life on your own terms

  2. zevpaiss says:

    I am happy to share my experiences as well. It is not all positive but like you said it is best if it gives those thinking about this way of living a realistic set of expectations.

  3. Sally Anne says:

    I have to agree with you. Cohousing is dominated by a ruling nazi-like clique and unless agree with them you will be shunned. It’s a nightmare. It’s a myth that it’s consensus driven.

    • CJ says:

      Thank you so much for reading my blog. All the blogs I can find are just rainbows and sunshine! I don’t want people to buy in (or rent) and find their place a nightmare like I did. Please, keep reading and commenting and share your experience.

  4. Flower says:

    I looked up Diana Leafe Christian. Apparently she’s written several books. I always peruse the critique section as I find them more interesting and revelatory than the glowing reviews, although you have to wade through a bunch of poorly written critiques. The first thing that caught my eye was this, “She has said that living in an intentional community “is the longest, most expensive, personal growth workshop you will ever take.” This is a huge red flag–at least for me.

    Also she lived in Northern Calif and grew up in LA and her bio states that during the 1970s and 80s she also wrote for “New Age” magazines. I was born and raised in California and exposed to the “New Age” mindset, so those are other huge red flags.

    A critique of the book wrote, “Useful but only for a certain type of community” It went on to state, “However, it reads only for a very specific type of person. Very yuppie is the best way to describe it. Also for groups only attempting to form a highly exclusionary commune (think about 10 to 20 people at the most). It’s not really good advice for people who don’t come from a well off base (who can’t ask friends and family for loans of $20,000 plus or who have no substantial debt from the get go). It encourages kicking out people who are too different from the initial niche group, which while in some cases may help prevent disaster in other examples it just seemed exclusionary of anyone who isn’t extroverted and neurotypical. I also question the “green” advice the book gives since many of these communities wanted to grow far beyond what the land they owned can actually self sustain. I also don’t see much help in the advice that complex projects require ample planning and structure.”

    There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that. This type of housing is targeted towards certain types of people and I’m not one of them. At least there wasn’t incessant references to “free babysitting” in “puff pieces” which was refreshing. Still it’s not for me.

  5. CJ says:

    The costs alone keep many out of cohousing. I found one that had affordable units but then I think he clash of class values may have come into play. For some ecovillages and communes they have more say in who can join and they can kick them out.

Leave a Reply to expsteacher Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s