Are you living with relatives? In a shared household?
People once lived mostly in tribal units. In her novel Reindeer Moon Elizabeth Marshall Thomas shows a tribal elder saying, “Give me two hands and I can get us through the winter.” He shows both hands twice, twenty. It took about twenty people to survive the winter.
So, how did we lately come to live in households of only one or two adults and their children. Tracing back the history of European arrival on the east coast of the United States, we find that even the early settlers lived in separate family units. When a young couple married, the community gathered to build them a house. They did not add wings to the parental home.
As a social worker, I have spent time in many homes and listened to grievances. As a friend, I have listened to my friends. It seems some of us are darned hard to live with. People dramatize anger, fear, grief, and discouragement. They throw these dramas straight at their mates and children and anyone handy. Who would stay?
And yet a group of peaceful hippies grew a village of multiple family homes and shared fortunes like ancient tribes.
What can we learn from this piece of history? To live successfully with even one other person requires restraint, patience, a willingness to listen and to speak one’s mind peacefully. More people require more restraint, more patience, and more communication. The tribe in Thomas’s story had all of these plus other needed qualities, such as competence and a high level of responsibility.
If you are living with others, whether by choice or because of economic duress, be sure to communicate levelly and plentifully. Assess your group for competence, for an ability to face a solve problems. And find a way to improve any of these skills as needed.
Let me know how you get along.