For some reason, a bunch of friends of mine have marriages in trouble at the moment. It's a little alarming to me. Even though my marriage feels very solid, it's hard sometimes to look around and see and hear all the talk about the impossibility of heterosexual monogamy and of the institution of marriage and not feel somewhat doomed. (I should say that although I am using the term "marriage," I am really thinking about long-term partnership of any kind.) Sandra Tsing Loh's piece about her divorce in the recent Atlantic drove this point home further for me.
And here is another way cohousing seems beneficial to me: cohousing can help us avoid so many of the pitfalls of modern marriage. Pitfalls like the isolation of living in the suburbs and waiting, alone and tired, for your partner to come home from work. The isolation of parenting solo. Cooking and eating and cleaning and gardening alone. Plus: the lack of models of good, long marriages. The lack of models of productive and compassionate communication.
I'm not naive. I know that living in intentional community does not solve all of life's problems, or guarantee a good relationship; in fact, living in community sometimes seems to facilitate "partner roulette." But when I think about it for myself, right now, I think that being around others who have good attitudes towards the work a long-term relationship, and focusing one's whole life on living better with others, seems like it would go a long way in keeping one's own relationship healthy and sustainable.
I found this quote on the subject:
"Cohousing takes a lot of pressure off the family. The modern family is over stressed-especially emotionally. A cohousing environment balances marriage and offers some relief to the emotional burdens on the modern family. Living in community provides an inherent support system. A mother with 2 children who desires a divorce must carefully consider the dramatic lifestyle consequences. Will it be too difficult to raise the children alone? Obviously, cohousing doesn't eliminate these problems, nor should it try to, but it does add to peoples independence. yet even though divorce might appear easier in cohousing, the statistics show that the divorce rate for people who live in cohousing is lower than for comparable segments of the general population."
--Niels Revsgaard, sociologist and member of Drejerban, from Cohousing-A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, 2nd Ed