I have heard many cohousers compare cohousing to marriage. It is true!
Like marriage, no one can explain to you what it is really like. They also don’t tend to. It depends on each couple anyhow and there are over 100 cohousing places up and running in the USA, and each would have a different vibe.
Marriage takes work. Nurturing. Same with community building.
Marriage takes adjustment. In college, I was a DJ on the bluegrass/folk hour of the radio. Many locals would call in for a song called “You ain’t the kind of woman I wanted, but your the kind of woman I want.” As a feminist I was offended and the callers knew I’d play a rebuttal so I’d put on “Custom Made Woman Blues” by Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens.
Cut to years later when I was married and I got it. It wasn’t necessarily about a woman or a wife but that disillusionment and bait and switch. Everyone is under their best behavior when you are dating. The brain also only focuses on the positive aspects of the beloved until about nine months into the relationship. Then, you see more and more of the real person. It doesn’t have to be bad, but takes adjustment at least.
Same with cohousing. You won’t know everyone and the whole place’s vibe for awhile. I suggest renting for a year before buying in, if possible. In one community that I know, many people are cutting and running before a year is up. Hopefully, that will change and they will figure out how to form a community where everyone wants to stay.
No one can fulfill all your needs. We hear that a lot – your marriage partner can’t be your everything. Same with cohousing. The people there are people and they can’t be the only thing in your life. Many believe they will have friends in cohousing but I heard one prominent person in cohousing say that is not a guarantee. Keep your relationships on the outside too. And have activities, interests, and maybe a career outside of the cohousing buildings.
Marriage is a long-term commitment. You are forming a relationship with these people. You will be living with these people (of course, with a lot of privacy but you’ll still see them a lot and share some spaces).
Divorce – leaving cohousing is a lot like divorce. The separation may come suddenly without much notice. Some people say they don’t believe in divorce but that doesn’t help if your partner wants to divorce you. The community might turn their back on you and make you feel unwanted (that’s not suppose to happen but it does). Or situations can happen and the relationship ends in a few months – I’ve seen that with relationships – a few things happen and it all falls apart.
You may get to keep custody of some people and some pets but otherwise may need to say goodbye to others. You will probably have to sell a house. And you will have to move and find a different lifestyle.
So, just like in marriage. Date a lot. Figure out what you want and don’t want. And best of luck. I’ll make the toast for you on the special day.