Re: divorce in cohousing
From: Rick Gravrok (
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 10:06:34 -0800 (PST)
Oh my!

Based on the wisdom of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and the book;
"Getting To Yes", it is far better to focus on the behavior of a person,
and avoid focusing on the person as if the person is the problem. People
are not the problem, it's what we *do*, or don't *do*, say or don't say,
that are the problems. In fact, can we agree that in general people *are*good?

To put energy into addressing problem behavior is more likely to have
positive results than blaming a person. To say someone "*is* bad", to ban
someone from a community, to take sides, can easily be shaming and
counter-productive to respectful and healthy community living.

Let us remember, conflict is a normal part of life. And that sometimes when
conflict is avoided, that's when the violence occurs, e.g. as gossip,
holding grudges, passive-aggressive behavior, etc.

 In our community here in Minnesota (at Monterey Cohousing Community) in
the past we used the phrase: "When conflict is welcomed in the front door,
Violence is less likely to sneak in the back door". That philosophy - and
the cartoon someone drew to go with it - continues to work for me.

To address conflict/difficult behaviors respectfully, it is important to
have a clear process to support people to be accountable in a good way. In
a future email, I'll post a statement on accountability, but not here as
this is already getting long.

With all that being said, and with the general belief, that people
*are*good, as M. Scott Peck clarifies in his book The Road Less
Travelled (or
his followup book The Different Drum), there are some rare cases where
people are so damaged and/or damaging, that a community will need to ban
such a person to protect the community if all attempts to seek
resolution/support accountability fail.

Let's keep the (tough) love flowing,

Rick Gravrok

On Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM, Lyle Scheer <wonko [at]> 

> OK... first an admission.  I'm the half of a divorce in Ashland
> cohousing that I think triggered this discussion request from Doug.
> However... I agree with all Diana here said as well as what Cataya said
> in a previous email about a policy like this causing *more* stress in
> the situation.
> One of the trickiest parts in my personal divorce was around who stayed
> in co-housing... neither of us wanted to leave.  To have a policy that
> automatically forces one to leave just piles more stress on to the whole
> thing.
> To have an ex that is shunned by some portion of the community while
> living right next door is a terrible situation, confusing for the kids,
> and I would not wish it on anybody.
> - Lyle
> On 2/10/14, 7:03 PM, Diana Carroll wrote:
> > That sounds like a really, REALLY awful idea.  How do you think that is
> > going to insulate you from the impact of divorce?  I don't get that idea
> at
> > all.
> >
> > I don't know what privileges you are imagining "off-site members" have
> but
> > presumably the divorcing couple will continue to have whatever
> relationship
> > they will have, regardless of their official community status.  And if
> > there are children involved, then presumably it is in their best interest
> > for their parents to have the best possible relationship...why would you
> as
> > a community want to throw up barriers to that in any way?
> >
> > This proposal is also full of so many holes and assumptions.
> >
> > 1-why are you assuming one of the couple will move?  They may continue to
> > live together.
> >
> > 2-if they do move, why do you assume they will move offsite?  In our
> > community, we have had the sad fortune to have three divorces...and the
> > happy fortune that in all three cases, both spouses still live in the
> > community, and the children are able to have both parents living close to
> > one another and in a shared community.
> >
> > 3-if your group is an HOA, owners have legal rights, whether they live
> > there or not.  You can't kick a homeowner out of an HOA, and the
> individual
> > may choose to continue to be involved.
> >
> > 4-do you really think it serves anyone's interests for the community to
> be
> > sticking its collective nose into the family business during such a
> > difficult time?
> >
> > 5-who gets to decide on whether an "exception" is granted?  You really
> want
> > your group to have to vote on whether someone who used to be a part of
> the
> > community, and may still have close ties of friendship in the community,
> is
> > allowed to be a member?  I would feel terribly uncomfortable being asked
> to
> > take sides like that.
> >
> > This policy amounts to the community symbolically choosing to take sides
> > against the spouse who moves out.  That's just awful.
> >
> > Bottom line is that I don't think this ill-conceived mean-spirited policy
> > would do anything to diminish the hurt and anger that accompanies
> divorce,
> > or the fallout that would simply be salt in the wound of
> > someone who is going through a hard time by definition.
> >
> > Here at Mosaic Commons, we have a few non-resident/associate members, and
> > our policy is that we invite them to join by plenary decision. This is
> true
> > for people who used to be residents as well, whether their reason for
> > leaving was related to a change in relationship status or simply moving
> > out.  I can't imagine implementing a policy to preemptively block an
> entire
> > category of people from being able to join.
> >
> > Diana
> >
> > On Monday, February 10, 2014, Doug Huston <huston [at]>
> wrote:
> >
> >> At times I've read on this list serve how stressful break-ups/divorces
> >> have been on communities.
> >> In our community, we are considering the following proposal:
> >> When a couple breaks up, the person who moves out of the community is
> >> automatically no longer a member of the community.
> >> This means he/she cannot be an off-site member, a category which exist
> for
> >> some communities.
> >> This would be the default situation. Exceptions could be considered. If
> >> after one year the member who moved out wants to re-join, the group
> could
> >> choose to consider this - or not.
> >> The intention behind this is to insulate the community (to some extent)
> >> from the common challenges, stress, and tensions which usually accompany
> >> break-ups, and would likely be heightened if both parties remain
> formally
> >> involved in community activities.
> >> We are wondering what others in communities think, and if there are
> >> similar or related policies regarding break-ups elsewhere in cohousing.
> >> Thanks for your comments in advance.
> >>
> >> Doug Huston - Ashland (Oregon) Cohousing Community
> >> _________________________________________________________________
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> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
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> >
> >
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Rick Gravrok
St. Louis Park, MN

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