Like I said in a previous post, friendship is not guaranteed at cohousing. Of course everyone will be friendly and you’ll know each other’s name.
If It’s a small cohousing – like less than 13 units, I’ve heard that cliques can form. So you may feel like you are in the “in” crowd, or not. That’s why most cohousing go for about 25-30 units.
I personally wish I had known that before moving in. I heard the “fact” after the fact for me. Foundation of Intentional Communities has some wonderful resources and workshops on power dynamics so that’s one way to at least make sure everyone has equal say in running the place.
Friendship takes time. It also takes shared interests and personalities. I prefer my life now where I can choose who is my friend – instead of who just happens to live next door. Yes, we all had cohousing in common but that doesn’t mean we jelled in other areas. I also get to set when and where and how long I see my friends and can go home and just relax. I don’t have to worry about who is outside in the common areas and watching for landmines in those relationships. Plus, being your own land managers in cohousing means relationships can be strained over use and damage to garden equipment, taking up too much space in the storage area, etc.
A lot of parents think it’ll be great to not have to drive to a playdate. Like in a previous post, your child may not want to play with the kids in the neighborhood for whatever reason. And, please, if they say they don’t want to. Don’t make them. I know of some kids who are violent and the parent keeps pushing their young child to play with them because they are part of the cohousing community. They like other kids. Kids know. They don’t like to be hurt.
In the documentary/comedy show Adam Ruins Everything, he stated a statistic that we only make five close relationships in our lives. Sounds about right. Keep your friends close. It takes time to form a strong friendship. My bestie Kate and I had a hard time when we were both 23, over our choice in lovers, of course. It dawned on me that I had been her friend since we were both 7 and I didn’t want to ruin that so I let the lover go. (It’s more complicated in that, but the point is I chose her friendship and I am so glad I did).
Adam Conover (from the show) also says that one half of all friendship is not reciprocated. You think you are friends, but they don’t. Interesting. He also says that loneliness is as bad as heart disease in terms of health consequences. It is important to have friendships and family and healthy relationships. I just don’t think cohousing is the only answer, but any type of community can be. Cohousing is such a small percentage of the world that obviously, you need to find community and friends anywhere you can.
Who are your real friends? When things get tough, that’s when you see who they are. I”m amazed at who shows up. When my car deserted me in the middle of nowhere, a facebook friend who was a past coworker, got right on it contacting family in that area. For my birthday, she sent me a care package. She is the sweetest person and plans to visit me soon. Of course, moving to the beach has been a great way to visit with all of my pals. No one wanted to visit me when I was in cohousing or my past town, but the beach is different. She has shown herself to be interested in my life (she loves hearing about my adventures in the past and present) and as a caring person.
Other people reached out to me not only when my car died, but when I mentioned how hard things were going at cohouising. I was surprised at the support and shocked that some had similar situations with other types of groups of people (schools, churches, etc). The right people appear when you most need it. I have a friend who still laughs how we barely met and she helped me move so many boxes after my big break up.
If you can’t move into cohousing for whatever reason (not built yet, too expensive, etc) please don’t believe the hype that you’ll die lonely. My mother was never alone. Always had friends and church and book groups. Unitarian church. She’d haunt me if I let you believe she believed in God.
I thought this was a great way to be social. I didn’t want to have TV so I would be out with the cohousing neighbors. Many are busy. OUt at work and their lives so I actually liked the lock down of COVID when we were all together. Then, problems from always being together.
Since leaving I have made many new friends. Actors again in LA. A women’s book club. People at social events through meet-up. Zoom is a life saver. I’ve reconnected with my college friends. I like choosing my friends.
I did make a few friends, of course, at cohousing and some continue. I’ve also met people from other cohousing communities. I know one person who says they made friends and hates to leave them (she’s moving out). To me, they weren’t good friends. They let her be a scapegoat. They didn’t stand up when another community member was hurting her and her family. That’s not my definition of friendship and why I broke off with most of the people there who I thought were my friend. Another person who I thought we were becoming friends with, dropped me like a hot potato. Either because she disagreed so much with a choice I made or to make sure to stay a part of the”in” crowd that she literally needs to survive. Again, a true friend doesn’t drop you. They can need space and be angry, but open a door to discuss later when their anger calms down.
One last thought on friends:
In the article below, it talks about how friendship takes work. Losing a friend is heartbreaking. And, the average Amercian moves 11.7 times. Many move into cohousing wanting it to be their last home, but be prepared that circumstances can change. And cohousing communities will always change from move outs and death (sorry, but it will happen).