Why 90% of Intentional Communities Fail
We believe that communities are the future of humanity. Living in small autonomous family-like groups that share resources, values, and who collaborate towards a shared vision. The prospect of living in an intentional community is increasingly appealing to many people, but it’s not always quite as rosy as you might first imagine.
There are many possible setbacks that can tear communities apart, and not surprisingly, most of those things are not so much practical, but interpersonal. In this article, I share with you why Intentional Communities fail, and the biggest challenges, that my partner and I have faced in the past years living in and visiting intentional communities.
These are things that everyone should be aware of before joining a community or before starting one! We share 3 of them in this post and the rest in our YouTube video, which you can watch here:
TRIGGERS (inability to self-reflect)
If you live with people, whether it’s your parents, your partner, or a community, you are bound to get triggered. That’s just part of life and a way that the universe brings unhealed wounds into our awareness. It’s really not possible to live with people and avoid getting triggered, so the best way to approach triggers is to see them as your teacher, stop avoiding conflict, and give up avoiding triggering anyone.
Triggers in and of themselves are not the problem. The problem arises when we are UNAWARE of what’s happening within us. When we are unable to hold space for our own pain and upset, we usually start blaming others for our feelings. Saying things like “You make me so angry when you do that!” or “It’s so selfish how he behaves.” is an indicator that we are not looking at our own upset objectively and instead shifting the responsibility onto someone else.
The key to overcoming this challenge is to learn to hold space for our own emotions. When we feel angry, we need to be able to ask ourselves, why am I really feeling angry and how this situation reminds me of my past? What we will find out is, that most of our pain has it’s roots in the past and the current situation is simply serving as a reminder for us to look within to heal this untended wound.
CONFLICTING & UNMET NEEDS
Many of us are attracted to community living because we are hoping to get our needs met. We might be seeking belonging, safety, contribution or deeper meaning. However, sometimes conflicting needs give rise to conflict situations where two people are trying to enforce their way.
Often in these situations the people involved might not even know what their needs are, they are simply fixated on a solution, such as “We must forbid volunteers from using our kitchen.” The needs behind such a strategy might be privacy and cleanliness.
So the key is really for everyone in the community to become aware of what their needs are and first and foremost communicate about their needs before even trying to find a solution. Once we know what our needs are, it’s essential that we express them, even though it might feel very vulnerable. We cannot get rid of our needs no matter what we do, and if we suppress them, we might start feeling resentful and acting passive-aggressively, which damages our relationships and creates a toxic living environment.
Expectations themselves are not bad, we all have them. However, what can create friction and toxicity in a community is unspoken expectations. We might expect that when we join a community our need for connection is automatically going to be fulfilled. If this need is not being met because the other members are mostly in partnerships and busy with their routine, we might feel disappointed and take it out on the community. Even something like expecting people to clean their dishes after cooking is and expection that should be communicated.
If you are thinking about joining a community, the best way to minimize disappointment and to find a truly good match is to become aware of your expectations. Ask yourself, what it is that I’m hoping to gain from living in a community? What needs am I hoping that the community fulfills for me? What do I imagine that my days in the community would look like? You really cannot communicate too much when it comes to expectations. So when finding people to live with, always talk about your expectations before moving in. Here are a few common unspoken expectations that community members may have that should be addressed:
- Expectation to feel belonging and intimacy
- Expectation that food & other resources would be shared
- Expectation to receive emotional support
- Expectation to be financially supported
- Expectation that members will contribute in a certain way
- Expectation of a certain level of cleanliness & order
- Expactation of shared responsibility over children
- Expectation that people follow a certain lifestyle (e.g. Healthy, no alcohol, free love etc)
- Expectation to be allowed to invite visitors & host parties
- Expectation for peace and quiet
These are the top challenges that we have faced, but of course, there are many more! If you are curious to learn about other potential challenges, watch our YouTube video where we share the 6 biggest challenges we have faced in community living. At the end of the video, we also share the key points that will help any community to thrive, and that you can use to make the best out of your community experience!
We also made a video about Why we choose to live in a community and why it might be for you too 😉 so check it out on our YouTube channel here
If you have any questions about community living don’t hesitate to write to us and we will try our best to answer you.
Ram and Miia