Is Sharing A House Going To Destroy My Family?

Well, that depends. But it certainly doesn't have to.

After reading my description of sharing a house with another family, which focused almost solely on the positives, many people responded with concerns. A lot of these concerns are understandable, and I want to take some time to respond, and open things up for a little more discussion here.

One of the more sensational objections to shared housing was the possibility of encouraging yourself/your spouse to have an affair (due to such close contact with an adult of the opposite sex).

Let's talk about marital unfaithfulness. Some people suggested that living with family would diminish this concern, others felt that it was just as likely to happen with in-laws as with completely unrelated individuals. It was also noted that having a single person live with a family (as opposed to two couples) would reduce the likelihood of this happening. I guess I tend to think that there's a lot (like way way way) more to it than that. And that details like single, married, in the family or not in the family, living together or not living together, working together or not working together, don't have nearly as much influence on the situation as the health of the original marital relationship itself.

Now, this is deep water here, and I'm no expert. I don't have any personal experience with cheating or being cheated on - in dating, marriage, or otherwise. But it really seems to me that if someone is in a healthy, fulfilling, honest and open relationship with their spouse, it would take a lot to tempt them toward unfaithfulness. Again, that's just my youthful inexperience speaking, and that said, there is definitely a place for boundaries and caution.

Ultimately, in choosing how and where to live, I would rely on common sense and prayerful wisdom to steer you away from situations that would, for you, be potentially damaging or tempting. For one, in your initial thoughtful determination to pursue a situation of shared living, I would expect (and strongly encourage) you to include an honest review of your family dynamics and relational health, and a thorough examination of the way that adding more people to the mix will affect those things - people in general, and specifically the people you're considering moving in with.

From another angle, I'd like to argue that living with someone in such close proximity is more likely to bring out their worst traits than to make them more attractive. :-) I do understand that being daily confronted with someone you 'can't have' might lead to temptation for some people. But it also seems like people who are drawn into illicit relationships enjoy the aspects of adventure, escape, glamour, and becoming someone different in that person's presence. When you live with people in a family environment, relationships are as real and mundane as they come.

Just to get really personal for a minute here, my brother-in-law essentially hated my guts for a brief period a while back - he thought I spent too much time on the computer and slept in too late, among other things. I in turn have felt plenty of resentment and frustration toward him at other times - regarding dishes that were left out, him wanting the thermostat too low, etc. (Things that would surely never happen with, say, Johnny Depp.) Now, thankfully, we have worked through the things that have come up so far, we have fun together, and genuinely do appreciate one another most of the time. But at least in our case, even though Tim is not an unattractive man, seeing Tim and Sara's relationship (which is good and healthy) has made me more grateful for Jesse, rather than restless or dissatisfied. Seeing how Tim and Sara work really well together as a couple because of who they are reinforces the idea that Jesse and I are good for one another, because of who we are.

So, bringing it all back around, what do you think? Where do affairs come from? Is shared housing dangerous in this regard? What are some good boundaries and precautions?


StephanieNeier said…
I think you are right on! The health of the marriage is ultimately the root. I believe living with family does cut down on the risk but Satan is always tempting. My husband and I have no fears of this but did discuss it prior to moving in with my sister. He just decided that he would not be home alone with my sister. If I needed to be gone for a day when he was home, he would go visit family. Luckily, both our husbands have jobs during the day and are home in the evening so we are not usually left alone with the other spouse.

By the way, dishes and thermostat are our issues too :) So glad to have found your blog. I know this is the beginning of a wonderful journey. Thank You!
Rachel said…
I have been reading about this today. My husband and I do not co-house with anyone but coming from a preacher/missionary backgroud we do have ppl in our house frequently. One thing (as stated above) that does help is NEVER be alone with the person of opposite sex(that your not married to haha). Also you hit it when you said that your relationship is key. If you constantly work on uplifting, praising, and ultimitely focusing on your spouse then the likelyhood of cheating is diminished. Everyone is susceptable to sin, but all sins start in the heart. So that being said..if you are close to God then this won't happen. It is only when we allow sin in our life that this would happen. Adultery always takes forthought, so just share your every thought and potential temptaion with your spouse. I say potential because you may not think anything of certain temptation (a simple joke or whistle, etc) but as soon as you share it with a spouse it takes away the temptaion. If you don't they can lead to secrets and fantasy. Sounds silly to some but those are just my thought.

Thank you for being honest on your site. This is not for everyone and those who do need to be fully aware of pro's and cons.
good luck and God bless to you and yours
Alexis said…
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stephanie and Rachel.
Annamarie said…
This is a most interesting and honest discussion of sharing housing. In my book,Sharing Housing: A Guidebook to Finding and Sharing Housemates which I'll get published in the next two months I talk about the incest taboo. People you share a house with should be under that taboo. I would also think that though there might be temptation, God gave us brains and the ability to choose right from wrong. And the ability to see consequences. Congrats on learning to live with your brother-in-law. In some ways I think it is harder to live with family than with strangers. With strangers you can (and should) agree to house rules ahead of time. With family we have a harder time making sure everyone is comfortable with how the house is used. Some other thoughts on my site:
Alexis said…
Thanks Annamarie, I hadn't seen your site before - what a great resource! I'm glad to have found it.

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