Re: Developmental stages of cohousing
From: Michael Barrett (
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2011 09:24:45 -0700 (PDT)
I am surprised that this issue has only now appeared on this board. I have observed, with regret, declining participation in both the cohousing communities I have been priviliged to live in, and have speculated on whether it is possible to rekindle the social fires that exist in the brand new or building community. I am not optimistic. I feel it is something akin to love and marriage. In love one's life is changed. If marriage follows two lives are changed, hopefully and wonderfully. But a few years later, for most of us, the fires die down.

Perhaps cohousing is the same except that we fall in love with an idea, a practice and a whole bunch of people.

Following this analogy, there are marriage renewal movements which claim success. Perhaps problematically, "swinging" can provide a terrific boost to at least the sexual side of two (or more) partnerships or marriages. The cohousing conference is probably our best shot at a a renewal movement. I won't even speculate whether there is a cohousing equivalent to "swinging".

I see two significant positive influences on maintaining "community". One is a regular scheduled community shared meals program. The other is the presence in a community of the community organiser who, tirelessly and without tangible reward, keeps (in my experience) her finger on the pulse of needs and wishes and just never stops organizing "stuff".

Someone said to me that without constant pumping of the community (social) well, cohousing degenerates into conventional American society. I substantially agree. I have served my time trying to maintain and build community but am far from tireless, and I confess to a need for expressed appreciation, and eventually dropped off the relevant committee, and have confined much of my community activity to things that have less need for wide and enthusiastic community participation (like finance, and amending the bylaws).

Sadly the only other thing that I believe can bring a community together is disaster, or the real threat of truly imminent disaster. I believe the initial (and wonderful feel-so-good) bonds in a forming community are often largely forged in the fires of dispair and frustration at the intransigence at those who may not support, or more likely actively oppose, the forming community. If there is any bright side to the dark side, my hope is that when the oil (or water or food) stops flowing cohousing communities will rediscover community, as opposed to my morbid fear that in conventional America, families will reach for their guns.

But hopefully there are communities out there who have found an equilibrium where happiness and contentment reign supreme and frustration and discord is almost non existent, and is very effectively handled. Can we hear from you how you do it?

Michael - at Shadowlake Village - where we are enjoying unseasonable August cool and low humidity (only 76° at midday today) and the children are counting down the days till school starts. Being as they, of course, share the same attributes as the children from Lake Wobegon they can barely wait to get back. ( I find the term "kids" to be somewhat dismissive, and thus something I resist applying to ours)

----- Original Message ----- From: "Rod Lambert" <rod [at]>
To: <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 10:51 AM
Subject: [C-L]_ developmental stages of cohousing

What a great topic! Thanks Rebecca.

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