RE: Not Enough Privacy in Cohousing?
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2006 12:18:36 -0800 (PST)
Hmmm. My experience differs with regards to people leaving cohousing due to
privacy constraints. Privacy can be defined in several ways. It can be
defined as the boundaries of what is not appropriate community discussion
topics. For example in many cohousing communities sexuality is a privacy
issue.  This issue has happened in my own community, and I have heard of it
in 3 others. Interestingly enough, in all cases that I know of, all the
people who left because their privacy boundaries were violated all involved
sexual or romantic relationships. Their issue appeared to be privacy around
their relationships, as my neighbor who left put it, "it was like every man
friend I brought home had to run this guantlet of gossip". She could not get
people to respect privacy boundaries and it damaged some of her early
forming relationships. Sort of like bringing a boyfriend home to the
scrutiny of a  large family. Some of her relationships had no interest in
this kind of interaction with a bunch of strangers. I heard of more than a
few angry exchanges where she confronted gossipers about her private
relationships. It finally caused her to move out of the community.  

In another case I was told about, there were differing sexual behaviors
which caused upset. The people who left felt it was nobody elses business,
it was a private matter but clearly the community did not respect sexuality
as private and  reacted in a negative enough way that the couple left. 

So it seems to me that social norms for privacy might include several
topics. As a group these norms might not apply, or they may by default be
honored. It can be useful to have some conversations about what is fair game
for group comments, and what kind of things might not be appropriate. People
move into community with the background of the social norms they came from.
This can be worth examining.

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Cohousing
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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