Back to school

I read another cohousing article recently where one woman mentioned she had a friend who lived in a retirement community. She pointed out how much this friend hated it there and felt like they returned to high school with the cliques and exclusion at the place, being around people you had nothing in common with, and having to suffer three meals a day with these people.

My reaction is that they assume that won’t happen in cohousing.  I’m pretty sure the article was about a forming community since an established one may know better.

After about six months of moving into my new cohousing (most moved in that same year), I wondered why I was feeling like I wasn’t in the” in” crowd.  I even wondered why we had an in crowd which seemed to hold all the power and run things at the place (maybe because they moved in first?)  I had spent four happy years at a Quaker college. I was used to consensus and community.   I don’t remember cliques there or feeling out of it. It wasn’t perfect, there were conflicts. I was part of the group of students who ran the radio station. One time we had to come to a consensus on what to do about a theft.  And, when one student who shaved his head became the station manager, my friend couldn’t stand him so much that he put his name and face on his racquetball and took out his anger on it each time he played.  So, I was jarred by the opposite feeling at cohousing. I thought I’d flourish again and enjoy creating things again like in college (one group of us started our own theater program there).

Then, when everything hit the fan for me, I had just had a milestone birthday. So, when a neighbor told me of the rumors another main character in the conflict was spreading, I joked, “I wanted to be young again, but not middle school!”

I couldn’t believe how others were listening to the false narrative and not even talking to me, at all.  The mediator encouraged us to reach out to others even if we may not agree, since that is what community is. The fact that it wasn’t happening made me realize that it was not a community.

There was also pressure for everyone to agree to one side of the story.  The consensus was I had made a horrible mistake and would never be forgiven.  Even with the mediator there, the discussion was “Shame on you.”

It reminded me of middle school when a bunch of girls decided they wouldn’t be my friend unless I admit that I like Larry. I was confused. I didn’t like Larry, not like that. I think he may have liked me. Yet, I saw the writing on the wall and wanted to stay in this popular crowd so I lied and said I liked Larry.  All was smooth sailing until summer break and then I never remember speaking to any of them again (Larry even switched schools).

Being in cohousing in that conflict was the same pressure. Admit that you feel how we think you feel. I always apologized and did feel terrible that others were hurt and misunderstood my motives. I thought once I shared my story, everyone would see my motives were to help in a horrible situation and come together as a community to make it better. But, some got so mixed up they thought the situation was normal and we couldn’t even agree what is is.

I even said to the mediator that it was feeling cult-like. They brushed me off. They love intentional communities so much that they are blind to the groupthink too.

So, keep dreaming of cohousing you subjects of articles. Some are doing amazing. But some are worse than high school – they are middle school!

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, control and decision making in cohousing, group think and cults, psychopathy, narcissicism, and personality disorders in cohousing, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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