Hey there Captain-
My roommate-BFF has heard me have sex. Multiple times (to clarify: we have separate bedrooms in an apartment). I enjoy sex that sometimes involves some/copious spanking, slapping, or flogging, so I’m especially sensitive to the fact that some people just Don’t Want To Hear It. My two previous girlfriends were super aware of her disinterest in overhearing us, and the dudes I currently sleep with have been informed, and everybody kind of agrees, “well, yeah”. We (the sex havers) basically do one of three things: we have super quiet, no spanking/slapping/flogging sex; we wait till roommate goes to sleep; we do not have sex and/or go somewhere else (if an option, I’m usually at a partner’s place 50% of the sextime).
I could handle doing all three of these things in combo, but- the quiet sex sometimes doesn’t work, apparently, because my roommate will come tell me as I’m headed to the bathroom after a super quiet whispery sex session that she heard us. Which has resulted in me crying to my partner, who assures me I was very quiet indeed, and it feels silly writing it, but I’m crying because it’s just frustrating, to think you’re trying your best but you’re clearly not, cause sex noises. It’s also frustrating because we usually tend to try some quiet sex after waiting around for a bit to see if my roommate will go to bed.
Which is the other issue- I don’t think she sleeps? She has a very weird schedule of waking up/sleeping, and just finished school and doesn’t work, so is free to nap during the day. She finally saw a doctor and therapist in the past year, and is now on anxiety meds. Yay for her! I am really happy she is taking control of that stuff and doing good work towards getting better (having been hospitalized multiple times for depression/suicide and BPD, I empathize deeply). But her sleep schedule is still fucked. And as a result, I’m not getting fucked. It’s exhausting waiting around to see if she’ll fall asleep, deciding not to do the sex, and waking up to pee at 4am and seeing her sitting at her desk wide awake.
To be honest, writing it out makes me feel like this is such a silly problem. But it’s impacting a part of my intimate relations with people, which is a part I enjoy very much. The inverse of this problem has never happened in two years cohabiting – I go to bed between 11-11:30, take sleep meds that conk me out good, and use a sound machine. I’m tired (literally) of waiting up past my bedtime to see if my roommate maybe will fall asleep soonish and my partner and I can get down to business.
My question: am I way out of bounds to sit her down and say, “listen, I love you, but after 12am, any sex noises you hear from my room are not be reported on. After 12am is sex time. You can sex up your awesome boyfriend, I can sex up my partner du jour, whatever, but if you overhear something, you don’t gotta say something. Also please talk to your doctor about your wonky sleep schedule if it is not working for you.”? Or is this the worst idea?
-Sex (Not) Having Lady
Dear Sex (Not):
I think you are perfectly within bounds to say “Bedtime is/might be sex time. When my door is shut, please don’t comment on or inform me of what you hear from my room, thanks.” Keep it short and direct. Don’t bring up the sleep issues or health issues unless roommate mentions them. As long as you are being on the quiet side when you know she’s home, you’re setting a very reasonable boundary and the other stuff isn’t the issue.
If roommate mentions sleep issues, then you can say “I know your sleep schedule is wonky; I hope you and your doctor can work on that. I will do my best to keep it down when you’re home, but like I said, from now on, what happens in my room when the door is closed is my business. Please don’t comment on it.” It doesn’t sound to me like your nighttime sex is necessarily even waking her up, it sounds like she is upset that you are doing it when and where she *might* be able to hear it. I can’t tell if she’s telling you because she wants you to stop doing it at home at all, or she thinks she’s being considerate for your sake (like, if you knew she could hear it, you would be even quieter). So one other strategy, the next time she corners you on the way to the bathroom, is to ask: “When you tell me that, what is it that you want me to say or do?”
If everyone has separate sleeping spaces (so, apartment-mate/housemate, not literal ROOMmate), everything is consensual, and everyone is of age, for me a roommate’s closed bedroom door works like a magic seal of plausible deniability. If it requires earplugs, white noise machines, headphones, music or other filters or distractions to maintain the seal, by all means use them, but if you live in shared, communal housing with fellow adults, life will go better if everyone simply refuses to acknowledge or comment upon one another’s nighttime activities. You can certainly feel annoyed or amused or any which way you like about what you hear (I certainly laughed to myself when my former upstairs neighbors played Wicked Game every single time they got it on in the year + I lived there), but, you don’t say anything. Roommate’s Bedroom = Roommate’s Business.
Music To Make Your Second Baby By, apparently.
I don’t think the answer here is that you agree to stop having sex in your own house where you live. And if your roommate really can’t tune y’all out, then maybe the usefulness of the living situation has run its course and you should both look for more compatible housing when the lease is up.That said, I think there is room for negotiation not around whether you have sex in your room room but about how many/which nights are cool for overnight guests, period. I get tons of questions along the lines of “I signed up to live with my friend, not my friend and his/her partner, who is allllllllllllllways home, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.” For a visual aid, here is a clip (which has blurred/masked nudity and a song with lyrics but no audible profanity) from Broad City when one of the main characters comes home and finds out that her roommate’s boyfriend Bevers is not home for once in her life:
That dance is a dance of JOY, and among my friends, “Edge-of-Glorying” now describes “the feeling of joy from unexpectedly getting the house to oneself.”
You say that you spend 50% of your sexy times out of the apartment, which is considerate. Maybe you and your roommate can work out a more predictable schedule where you agree, for instance, that certain nights of the week will either be just you or when you’ll pitch an away game if you’re going to see your partner. If she knew that Monday-Wednesday would be free of sexy sounds or worrying about who needs to get into the shower at what time in the morning, she might relax a bit about the rest.
167 thoughts on “#695: My roommate always lets me know when she can hear me having sex.”
Are you 100% sure she’s not judging you for being bi and/or kinky and/or having more than one partner? This kind of smells of passive-agressive “I disapprove of the kind of sex you are having and don’t want to come across as judgmental therefore any time you have the sex I will find a way it’s a problem for me.” In which case, I think she is probably not the right roommate for you. 😦
It’s possible, but I see no reason for that to be a first assumption. I’m gay and I don’t like hearing my roommate’s sex noises. It doesn’t come with the territory.
Does it matter, honestly? The roommate can feel however they like about it — and from the letter, we have no basis to assume — but OP isn’t obligated to worry about it or even care. (So, so much easier said than done, I know, but why even entertain the thought if it’ll lead to further stress?) OP just needs the comments to stop and possibly work out a schedule where everyone is happy. Why worry about something that MIGHT be happening in roomie’s head, so long as OP is gettin’ the loving they need? They’re roommates, and their obligation to each other is to keep the living situation livable.
I know for a fact my roommate has Feelings about my atheism and homosexuality, but I’m not going to pay her any mind so long as she keeps her comments to herself. We each keep our eyes on our own paper, so to speak, and everyone is alive at the end of the day (definitely helps that I only have a month left of living with her!) It really minimizes my stress to remind myself that as long as she’s not threatening my safety, her judgmental attitude is not my problem.
Well, it reads to me like the LW has already tried to be considerate and their roommate just keeps moving the goalposts because her problem isn’t actually the noise at all, but the fact that sex is happening at all.
I agree it doesn’t matter if they can come to a mutual agreeable arrangement, but if roommate’s problem is that she’s homophobic/kinkphobic/polyphobic, then there’s just no point putting in tons of effort to find the right way/time/place to be allowed to have sex.
I had a housemate like this. The fact that I had sexy friends who might be around the house occasionally, or that i might mention that I slept with people who weren’t my partner was the Worst Thing Ever. It wasn’t the Worst Thing Ever when our other straight, monogamous housemate had sex.
I wasn’t obnoxious. I respected her not wanting to know about my sex life. But just mentioning in passing that had a date that night was too much for her.
And while she didn’t have a regular partner, she would have loud drunken hookup sex. It wasn’t often, but it happened. And I was adult enough to not hang out in the TV room which was right next to hers, and just put on some music in my own room. But that courtesy didn’t extend both ways.
So happy to not be living there any more.
I think this is a decent question for the LW to consider, if it hasn’t come to mind before.
(And yes, sometimes people forget about things like that. For example, I’m an autistic woman. I argue, I’m opinionated, I don’t temper my phrasings at all when in a debate. I say “this is my opinion and I’ve researched why I’m right.” I thought for the first 22 years of my life that the reason people didn’t like it was because of my autism and I was being socially rude or something. It only finally occurred to me this year, now that I’m 23, that it’s actually because I’m a woman speaking about her opinions the way a man probably would, since I picked up that pattern of speaking from my dad. After asking a couple friends, this was confirmed as the likely reason. So there’s that.)
Even if this isn’t something we readers can have much input on without knowing much about the housemate, it could be something worth considering for the LW.
The problem for the LW is that the roommate’s comments are weird and vague so I don’t think LW has enough information to know at the moment whether this is some sort of sex shaming thing or if it’s just a noise complaint. It shouldn’t have to be all on LW to do this but it doesn’t look like the roommate is going to grow up and actually explain what the problem is any time soon, so I think initiating a conversation with the roommate about why she’s commenting on sex is in order so the LW can know how to proceed.
I kind of wonder, also, how hard she is really trying not to hear. If she’s awake anyhow (and not trying to sleep) could she just turn on the TV or put on some headphones and listen to music? (I don’t see how you could be SO LOUD as to be overheard with headphones on! If you’re trying to be quiet, that is) 😉 And if she IS trying to sleep, could she try a sound machine or something? I think you sound like you’re being respectful of your housemate and maybe it’s time for her to put in a little effort, too.
Blaming the roommate for the fact that her ears and brain process sound is kind of unfair. It’s perfectly fair to hold her accountable for what she does about what she hears, but ears don’t have eyelids.
I say this as someone who has tried all of your proposed methods to filter out sounds I didn’t want to hear, and found none of them effective. Some people’s brains filter noise such that covering one sound with another doesn’t work (also, if I’m trying to read a book, I’m trying to read a book, not listen to music or watch TV; the noise from either one of which would prevent me from successfully reading a book. Ditto surfing the internet).
Living with other people means making compromises about the use of the space and respecting other people’s privacy, but expecting Roommate to just stop her ears from working isn’t realistic or fair.
I do think there’s a thing that can happen though, where because you’re annoyed by a sound you become hyper-sensitive to it and so basically listen EXTRA hard instead of trying to drown it out. I say this because I’ve done it– I hate hearing people having sex and it causes me anxiety, and I have caught myself being like “OK I’m trying X to drown out the awful sex sounds. . .but can I still hear them. . .CAN I STILL HEAR THEM?? YES I STILL HEAR THEM”.
Not to say that you’re doing this, but I think if it’s really the case that the LW is having sex as quietly as they possibly can, this might be happening and that’s what kenner82 is talking about.
Hi Annalee! Have you ever had to negotiate a situation like this with a housemate? What worked for you?
Yup, I’ve dealt with this a lot.
Before I get to things that have helped, two things that don’t:
1. Asking the other party to be quieter. When I lived at home after college, my brother liked to have friends over to play board games late on weeknights. There was never going to be a way for 6+ people to socialize with one another quietly enough that I couldn’t hear them. If LW is in a similar situation (in that Roommate’s actual problem is that the noise is really bugging her), then approaching it as a noise management problem may set both LW and Roommate up for failure. There simply may not be a noise level that is acceptable to both of them, even if both of them are fully committed to compromising as much as possible.
2. Earplugs. I sleep with earplugs in on a semi-regular basis (because I supervise teenagers at overnight sleepovers), but earplugs aren’t meant to be worn that way for extended periods of time. It hurts to lie on them, and if you wear them too much, they can damage your ear canal. I’d strongly recommend that anyone planning to wear earplugs on a nightly basis consult a doctor first.
Things that do help:
1. Being very clear about expected noise levels when entering into a housing arrangement. Generally, folks try to be cool and present the most accommodating versions of themselves to potential housemates, but if people’s needs around noise (or guests, or cleanliness, or hell, anything) are a dealbreaker, it’s better to be crystal-clear about that before signing a lease.
2. Not making judgments about what I’m hearing. If I have to talk to someone about noise, I try to keep it strictly about volume. Shaming someone for what kind of noise they’re making just derails the conversation and, frankly, butts in on their privacy. My favorite album ever would keep me just as awake as the sound of my flatmate mangling their guitar. If Roommate were writing instead of LW, I’d probably suggest she try keeping the conversation focused on what her actual problem is (and if her actual problem is that she is uncomfortable with sex noise but not other noise, then we’re back to your advice about the roommate relationship most likely having run its course–unless they’re willing to have a very frank conversation about who gets the apartment on what nights).
3. Scheduling, advanced notice, and flexibility. Explicit agreements about what noise levels are okay when, how much notice is expected for guests, etc are a big help–in the absence of an agreement, you’ll spend all your time arguing about whether this or that noise level is reasonable at this or that time.
4. Let the little things slide. I don’t get to terraform a shared apartment to my desired noise level at all times. If my roommate makes a concerted effort to maintain quiet hours when I need to sleep, then I can find somewhere else to read my book when they’re watching TV.
5. Not negotiating boundaries. I’m not going to have an “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” conversation with a housemate. My desired noise level is every bit as valid as theirs. This works in reverse, too, especially in cases like LW’s where Roommate is crossing the line by talking about LW’s sex life. Roommate does not get a vote in LW’s sex life any more than I get a vote in what kind of music a neighbor listens to.
This is all assuming that Roommate’s problem is actually noise. As others have pointed out, her actual problem could be any number of things that are not her business, and if that’s the case, it’s a different conversation entirely.
in addition to earplugs, i use earmuffs occasionally when sound issues are really bothering me. this sort of thing:
(amazon thought i was into guns for a long time after i bought those! got interesting recommendations.)
ugh, sorry about huge pic. also, obv not helpful regularly–they’re uncomfortable used too much. but it helps me to have stuff to use occasionally when everything else is out of my control.
I shared a room on a work trip with a colleague who snored like, as another colleague described it, “a Harley made of chainsaws.” I tried the little foam earplugs. They worked great — blocked every noise except the tinnitus I can usually ignore. When that was the ONLY noise I heard, not so much. Threw them out a couple hours into not sleeping and just dealt with the snoring — which, it turned out, wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been told.
Oh my goodness word to all this, especially no 1. In fact, you sound like my ideal housemate!
Not the worst flatting situation I’ve ever been in, but my current housemates seemed very accommodating but vague when I interviewed for a place in the apartment, presenting a chilled out, ‘yeah, we’re considerate about noise but have guests over whenever’ attitude, but once I moved in started making passive aggressive comments about how noisy it was when previous housemate had used the shower (in the normal way, but next to housemate’s room), or acting weird and surprised to see someone even when I’ve cleared it with them to have a friend crash in the living room for a night. Same with partners. I checked it would be ok to have my partner stay over one or two nights a week and they said it was fine, but I sometimes feel an air of unspoken discomfort when it actually happens. They also bitch and moan about the music from one of the neighbouring apartments but don’t ever knock to ask them to keep it down. I want to be a good housemate to them but if they refuse to actually talk about it then I don’t know how to accommodate them beyond the general levels of consideration I’m already showing. I’ve asked them to let me know if there’s ever too much noise from my room (I’ve been on the other side of this equation too and know it can be anxiety inducing to talk about without an invitation) but they will never own it, so I just have to put up with passive aggressive weirdness and they have to put up with whatever it is that’s bothering them.
Adding on to what JA said, noise cancelling headphones are also awesome. Nice headphones for whatever music, TV-watching, or computer-doing you feel like, but on top of that they will drown out almost everything else, even when you’re not actually playing sound through them. My Dad got a heavily discounted Bose pair, and the only way to get his attention when he’s wearing them is to tap him on the shoulder.
Unlike earplugs/earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones don’t condemn you to existing in silence when distracting noises are happening. You can’t sleep in them comfortably, of course, but they work well if flatmate’s sexytimes/other noisy activities can be scheduled for early evening/weekend daytime, or another time when you’re awake and want to be working or chilling at home.
My experience with noise-canceling headphones is that they don’t work for me–they’ll filter out white noise, but I can still hear other noises clear as a bell.
But of course, your milage may vary–they clearly work for other commenters.
I’ve worn earplugs every night since moving to a noisy urban setting. One thing that I found to really help was to cut the earplugs shorter so they wouldn’t stick out of my ears and put pressure on them while laying down, and it doesn’t reduce their ability to lessen sound. I also found that not inserting them to maximum depth, especially while you’re getting used to them, really helps reduce ear pain. (If you were wearing them for a short time to protect your hearing in a steel mill or something you would definitely want to use them as directed.)
When this isn’t enough (*shakes fists at upstairs neighbors and their parties*), I have a pair of sleepphones and a cheap mp3 player with one track on it that plays 1 hour of thunderstorm noise on repeat.
I’m in the same boat as Annalee in terms of not being able to tune out unpleasant or distracting noises. For me, the solution is to work out a schedule with roommates so I can arrange to not be around during things that I would find disruptive. That does put the onus on me to leave the house during scheduled times, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal…. usually that just means going on a walk for an hour or meeting a friend for coffee, or staying a little late at work.
The big problem with this solution is when schedules don’t mesh. If their only available sexytime is at 2 in the morning and I have to be up for work at 6am, we may not be compatible roommates. That’s just life sometimes.
When I was in college, I had a summer sublet housemate who had sex so fucken loud it was outrageous. She and her sex partners would slam each other into the wall over and over and over screaming at the tops of their lungs and shaking the entire house for hours every day and night. So just to agree, there are definitely reasonable limits to “what goes on in housemate’s room during sexy times is no one’s business and plausible deniability must be maintained”.
Seconded, because earplugs really don’t work well, and blasting music into your earbuds really effing loud doesn’t always work (or it’s just irritating to have to listen to music at deafening levels). Oh yeah, and there’s the possibility that even if the LW is waiting until roomie is asleep to have sex, roomie is just simply woken up by squeaking bed noises or whatever. Sucks to be a light sleeper, but even if LW is trying to wait until the roomie is asleep, it may just not be working.
I used to go watch Sex and the City episodes and blast those while my last roommate had sex, though. That made it all the funier.
I was thinking when LW is deciding to have sexy times, LW puts LW’s sound/white noise machine outside LW’s door so if Roommate wants to borrow it, she can, after being told this item will be available and it henceforth appears as an unspoken implicit recommendation for use that This Is One Of Those Nights. Like a sock on the doorknob, but even more useful for the Roommate?
It also might be, as the captain suggests, time to get a different roomie who is selectively deaf as CA suggests or maybe one who decides sexy noises time is a contest!
I refer you all to the lovely anthem from Avenue Q, You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (You Tube etc watch?v=s5sgPK_Bm2g)
I wish everyone happy sleep and happy sexytime!
I want to second this — I have a friend for whom this worked very well! On the Nights In Question, a small bag would appear on the roommate’s doorknob containing earplugs and a chocolate bar. This was a polite, thoughtful way of flagging that Things Would Likely Occur and that the roommate could choose to do what she liked with that knowledge.
Sometimes you hear what’s happening. You can’t close your ears and you’re asleep and you hear things.
The roommate might be a jerk! She might hate that and how LW gets laid! We don’t know any of that though, we know that LW tries to have sex quietly and Roommate comments.
The issue is that LW hates the comments and wants them to stop and will accomodate Roommate if it’s reasonable.
So why Roommate hears things is probably immaterial. Let’s help the LW to be able to have fun sexy times in her own house.
Gah. How I hate any response to noise problems that boils down to ‘just ignore it’. If I could just ignore it I wouldn’t have a problem would I?! I have extremely sharp hearing – even with some degree of hearing loss – and this kind of situation leaves me rather helpless. Earplugs aren’t effective because they’re designed to block drone and therefore heighten variable noises like voices (besides, I need to hear my alarm go off); headphones start to hurt pretty quickly; a noise machine would drive me crazy because I hear phantom voices in white noise. Due to aforesaid hearing loss, I don’t want to drown out the noise by playing louder noises and endangering my hearing even more. These days I suck up the expense and live alone.
I acknowledge that LW is being unusually considerate in trying to be quiet. So many people think they have a right to be as noisy as they like during sex, or indeed at any time. I also think the flatmate is being unreasonable in expecting LW to be completely silent (does she expect silence in other activities too, or is it just sex?). But ‘listen to some music instead’ (what, at 4am?) isn’t a reasonable response either. Some people are good at tuning out unwanted noise, others aren’t.
I can’t tell from this question to what extent – if any – you have talked about this hearing-of-the-sex with your roommate. But let me turn this 90 degrees and ask…. is it possible that this waiting will they might be asleep making the problem worse? Maybe your apartment is built in a way that you’re never going to do anything that isn’t audible from the other bedroom. Is sextimes after bedtime maybe part of the problem? LIke, earlier in the evening your roommie would be reading in the living room and hear less? Is the noise low enough that it is ignorable by the conscious mind but their subconcious hears it and wakes them/keeps them up?
Maybe your timing choice, as nice as your intentions are, is making the problem more intrusive. I don’t see how you determine that at this point without a conversation with your roommie. You need to say “hey, I’m going to keep on with the sex-having and the reality is that having it where we’re super quiet and it’s less satisfying for me doesn’t seem to help from you hearing through the walls. So let’s talk about how we can make this less disturbing/awkward for everyone and then go buy you some earplugs.”
That’s a good point. Whether it actually adds to the problem or not, I feel that having to wait to have sex until the roommate is asleep is just not very sustainable as a solution. If LW needs to make such big adjustments and things still don’t work it’s probably best to change the living situation.
She also could be waiting up to see whether the sex sounds are going to prevent sleeping. As a light sleeper myself, I certainly preferred the times my housemate had a sexfriend over at, say 8 PM, than the times she tried to sneak one in at 1 or 2 in the morning, at which time all sounds are amplified due to the general quietness of surroundings. (But the 1 or 2 AM visits were not so regular a thing I needed to have a supes awk convo about “hey can you have sex at not-sleeptimes, I’ve got to be up at 6, thanks,” and instead just grinned and bore it.)
I also preferred when my awful upstairs neighbors had sex earlier in the evening. Sure, it was annoying to hear them screaming when I was watching tv or whatever, but that was way better than the screaming waking me up at 4am (as it did, repeatedly, before I left a totally passive-aggressive note on the front door of the building – not a recommended solution, but it did work…).
If someone waited with the making of noise until I was asleep, I would be so, so SO much more annoyed than if they merely made noise during awake-time and stopped at night. And the idea that someone waits until I think I’m safe and try to fall asleep and THEN wakes me up is opening a pit in my stomach right now, and our noisy downstairs neighbours have just moved out and we’re enjoying blissful peace.
(On another note, part of being sensitive to noise is that I usually have my music on fairly softly. This means that I find it difficult to cover loud noises up – some noise overpowers my music played as loud as I can bear it; and all earplugs do is muffle the sound and make it bearable; they don’t stop anything.)
That was my thought exactly. If roommate keeps bringing up the fact that she could hear sex happening, it’s very possible that she’s trying to say “you keep waking me up/preventing me from sleeping.”
In every communal living situation I’ve been in, it’s been understood that sex noises are going to happen, but making any loud or repetitive noise past bedtime is rude. I’ve also never lived in a place that was so well insulated that sex was completely silent from the next room over; I live in a solidly built apartment right now and I still overhear my neighbors having sex now and then.
I agree with this, I mean, obviously sometimes noise-at-0300 is going to happen, but it’s a long way from ideal. Of course the roommate in this situation may prefer it – you can’t really know unless you ask *them* what they would prefer. If what they would prefer is “no sex ever” then that’s totally unreasonable unless it was stated upfront, before you became roommates, but if what they would prefer is “please minimise noise after 2300” then that would seem more plausible (especially if LW would actually prefer getting to sleep at about that time).
Yeah, that was my thought too. I for sure prefer my super loud sexing neighbors bang during the day, when there’s traffic going by outside and I’m in the kitchen making cooking noises and I can legit put on some loud music or leave if I want to and I’m not trying to be quiet in bed, then at night when I’m trying to sleep and even the dripping faucet sounds loud because the decibel level of the world in general has fallen off. Quieter sex noises when I’m trying to sleep are a whole hell of a lot more frustrating than loud ones when I’m doing awake-things, because me sleeping requires a certain level of quiet and me painting or eating or sewing or doing my makeup does not.
Particularly for someone who has sleep problems.
I agree with this. I would far rather a roommate get down earlier in the evening, when if the noises bug me I can escape to a coffee shop or a movie, than in the middle of the night when there’s no escape, plus loss of sleep.
I was thinking the same exact thing. I’d rather be able to go into the living when I’d normally be up anyway and put a little more space between myself and the other bedrooms (and have some activity to take up my attention) than be woken up after I’ve gone to bed, and then try to go back to sleep while the noise that woke me up continues (ha-if it woke me up, I’m certainly not sleeping until the noise is gone), and when it’s the middle of the night, it’s not like there’s something else I can get up and do (or want to do-it’s much more obnoxious to have to get up and hang out in the living room when you want to be asleep than just relocate the activity you were actually doing).
So I’d second that late night sex is much more invasive to me personally than something during earlier hours.
Yes to this! It seems possible that your roommate is being unreasonable… and it’s possible your roommate is not having the real conversation with you–and that what’s actually going on may be that you’re waiting until she’s asleep to go at it. I live with a roommate who is…….. difficult and not a friend. She tends to go to bed super early, and my boyfriend and I always try to get sexytimes over with before she turns her lights out. It actually really stresses me out that we might wake her up. She, on the other hand, invariably chooses to have sex at 3AM, which invariably wakes me up. It’s exhausting and so frustrating and a thousand times worse than if I overheard her in the evening when I’m home but not trying to rest up.
My roommate likes to fall asleep on the living room furniture with the tv going so loudly that I can tell what program he’s watching from upstairs through my closed door whilst Netflix plays on my bedroom tv. So I’ve stopped worrying about sex noises. We try to be reasonably quiet when other people are home regardless, but since he made it clear that he doesn’t care about loud noises while he sleeps, I don’t feel particularly obligated to not have sex.
> waiting will they might be asleep making the problem worse?
Yes. I was in a situation once where my sleep schedule was not great (would go to bed anywhere between 9pm to 2am) but worked for my lifestyle & work schedule at the time. My roommate would yowl like an alleycat during sex, and on nights when they had their girlfriend over, I would wait to go sleep until they were done or until I was sure they weren’t getting it on. Because as irritating as listening to the song of the bedstead was when I was awake and trying to work, or read, or watch tv, or whatever, it was infinitely INFINITELY worse to be awoken from deep slumber by the unearthly banshee shrieking, because being *woken up* by sudden unexpected howling flooded my system with adrenaline. So I’d wait and wait and wait to go to sleep until I felt like I was safe and they couldn’t possibly still be up, and then BAM, screaming bloody murder, adrenaline surge that left me shaking and in tears, and me being completely unable to sleep for the entire rest of the night, leading to an even more fucked sleep schedule. I didn’t realize until six months into that roommate arrangement that my roomie had been deliberately waiting until I was asleep because for some reason they thought I was a “deep sleeper” and would be bothered less if they waited until I was asleep.
Not to mention how creepy it is to spy on another adult’s sleep schedule as LW is apparently doing to her roommate (and as your roommates were sort of doing with you). If roommate didn’t have sleep troubles before, she’s sure to have them now that her sleep patterns are apparently being “tracked” by a disgruntled LW.
I’ve lived with various roommates in tiny apartments, and I suffer from insomnia. While they’ll make the occasional offhand remark about how “yeah, you seem to have weird sleep habits,” nobody has ever made it their business to ACTIVELY TRACK when I sleep nor has anyone gotten bothered if they find me quietly awake at 4am. Anxiety or no anxiety, they respect me as an independent adult who’s allowed to set her own hours.
I don’t think it’s creepy and I don’t see anything written about LW actively tracking roommate’s sleep other than just normal paying attention? Which makes sense if she is trying not to disturb her? You can sleep whenever you want, but if you have expectations about how your roommates should behave when you are asleep vs. awake, it’s not fair to make them constantly guess which it is. If the roommate’s attitude was “my schedule is unusual but you don’t have to change your behavior or noise level around it” then it would maybe be creepy to pay so much attention? But it sounds like the roommate does care how the LW behaves at different times.
On a personal note, I shared a bedroom in college with a girl who slept until around 3 pm and got really upset when I made noise before she woke up “naturally”. I was constantly being scolded for normal things like getting ready for school or work, showering, or listening to music on my headphones, which was really super not okay for her to do. Yes, it woke her up which sucked for her but there was no reasonable solution that would not dramatically limit my ability to live in my own home. In a different situation, I had downstairs neighbors who would bang on my floor with brooms and repeatedly send security because of noise complaints. I was injured and had a huge inflatable brace on my foot…the “noise complaints” were things like me walking to the bathroom or making dinner. The security guard and neighbors knew all of this but continued to harass me until the boot was off (security guy was apologetic but the building had a policy to send them for every complaint). So it’s a tricky situation if you are someone who is really sensitive to sound or have weird hours because yeah that’s just how you are, but some expectations are not reasonable and it’s not right to police people over them.
I have some sympathy for your roommate, and some empathy for you. Like your roommate, I am SUPER easy to wake up. It does NOT work to “wait until I go to sleep”, as the effect is that talking/sex just keeps me from actually going to sleep or wakes me back up…which makes me grumpy and sleep-deprived. It does not matter how quiet my roommate thinks she is, or when talking/sex happens. I CAN STILL HEAR HER.
On the other hand, there’s no need for your roommate to be a jerk about this. It’s OK to tell her that you know she can hear you having sex, so she doesn’t need to update you after every session. You know you had sex, she knows you had sex, you know she knows you had sex….it’s time to end that conversation. Tell her that you’re going to have sex when you feel like it, but your sex life is not open for discussion.
Also, it might actually be BETTER and LESS DISRUPTIVE if you got started earlier (10 pm, not 4 am), especially if there is spanky stuff (the sound of which might be triggering for some people). If you’re having overnight visitors and/or in-apartment sex 4 days a week or fewer, I personally don’t feel that’s all that disruptive….that’s what people should expect when they hear “OK, I have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and they stay over sometimes”. Three or four days a week is NORMAL.
Her sleep schedule is likewise, not your business. I’m pretty sure she’s not staying up to annoy you, and if you can’t even tell until you leave your room, why do you care?
Just have sex when you want to (within reason…maybe not when she’s throwing a party or has her parents over), and try to get over the fact that she can hear you. If she has occasional special events she wants extra sleeptime for, she should let you know in advance or refrain from bitching about it after the fact (assuming that you’re being aware and sensitive…like cluing in that having sex past midnight on a night before her job interview/exam/etc. might disturb her rest). It is never OK for her to ask you to leave the apartment (it’s your home, after all), but it is reasonable for her to expect certain hours to be quiet a few days a week.
Please try to get past the idea that you have audio privacy. Your roommates/neighbors will ALWAYS hear you until you get into a house, anyway.
I think the Captain’s advice is spot-on here. Based on your letter, it does not seem like YOU are the one making this weird.
Yeah, uh, I’m one of those people who can’t cover up sounds (including my roommate’s BREATHING, for a time, in college) that keep me awake, and my ear canals are abnormally small and make earplugs uncomfortable. BUT I can’t imagine a situation in which I tell my housemates that I heard them having sex, like, for shits and giggles. No matter how distracted and annoyed I was. Especially if it wasn’t happening every day, which– based on LW’s comment about spending time at alternate locations– doesn’t sound like the case.
I *did* once tell my upstairs housemate that his phone vibrating wakes me up, but only so he could be more considerate about leaving it to go off every five minutes for an hour. Not so he could not have an alarm.
I’m the roommate in this situation (except my roommate is a male friend from undergrad and I’m a woman) , and I agree with what the Captain says. Between certain hours, I try to just ignore what’s happening. I’ve never brought it up with him, even though I probably should (I have no idea how to bring it up, anyway). When I tell you his girlfriend regularly wails so loud, they likely hear her in the hallway…that’s not an exaggeration. I had a friend from another part of the country drive 12 hours to see me, and they STILL didn’t tone it down while she was visiting.
In short, I wish I had a roommate like you; one who was considerate enough to attempt quiet sexytime. Kudos to you!
same, when i lived w/my BFF. i talked to her about morning shower-sex (no.), & generally asked her to keep it down when possible. after that, sometimes she was plenty loud, but it was more reasonable overall. i wanted her to have fun, she wanted me to be not so inconvenienced/uncomfortable. so we both adjusted.
Just wanted to mention that “Wicked Game” is the sex song in the movie Family Man as well.
I’m seconding this part very strongly
“When you tell me that, what is it that you want me to say or do?”
It is really not clear from what’s in the letter HOW she tells you. Is she annoyed, or is she just the kind of BFF who likes you and is interested in your life, like “I heard you got a new job” I heard you got som sex, yay you!”
So, yes, talk to her
This. Right now, all sorts of stuff could be going on. Roomie could be telling you this stuff intending to be helpful, or because she’s annoyed by the sexing, or because she’s judging you for your sex life and finds the noise complaint an easy way to express this, or because she deep down feels like you’re *not* trying to be quiet, or because she is incredibly socially awkward and someone hasn’t gotten that “I heard you having sex” isn’t appropriate casual flatmate conversation, or because she’s just completely thoughtlessly forgotten that you’re a person with equal right to use the space you share (I have had flatmates like this – nothing major, but generally around that time when things like my need to *use the toilet like a person with a bladder might need to do* became a reason for them to feel inconvenienced if it delayed their bath by all of 5 minutes. It happens, sadly.).
Talking points to consider:
Accepting that sex is a thing that is going to be happening sometimes, and accepting that although you will try to be accommodating you cannot promise you will always do things exactly as she wants, what sort of times would be the least bothersome/inconvenient for her for you to be doing it? What, exactly, would her ideal scenario look like to her regarding the amount of accommodation she expects you to make?
If she would prefer you to wait until she is asleep, point out that her sleep schedule means, as much as you try to accommodate this request, she’s essentially asking you to wait, hawk-like, listening at the door for her to go to bed, genitals primed. As such, this isn’t, I think at least, a workable schedule. On the understanding that she cannot provide any kind of predictable sleep schedule for you to work around, is it therefore reasonable for you to restrict sex activities to times when *most people* would be asleep?
If she doesn’t mind when you do it so long as she doesn’t hear it, might a bedroom door code be helpful? You could hang something on your door when you have someone over for sexytimes and your roomie, now aware that sex – and sex noises – might therefore be happening, can choose to put headphones on or go somewhere else or do any of the things people normally do when sharing a house with someone and not wanting to overhear them sexing. Or you could agree to having partners over on specific days of the week, so she can likewise make preparations to avoid overhearing it in advance.
Remember, a part of this whole accommodating each other thing, is her making sure you have access to some reasonable measure of privacy and space in which to have your sex. And visa versa – presumably if/when roomie has someone over, she would also make an effort to be quiet and you, in turn, would make an effort to either block out the noise or be absent from the space, and respect her privacy by refraining from commenting on it afterwards.
Oh god, you got told off for peeing?! My awful housemate once told me off for throwing up*, though, so maybe that’s less surprising than it should be.
*I mean, she was trying to sleep?! How dare I throw up in our bathroom, how inconsiderate of me.
Yeah, but it was less a telling-off and more a *But IIII need to use the bathroom now because of Thing I didn’t bother to tell you about!* situation. About everything. I’m cooking a meal for myself? But *she* wanted to cook! I am using the kitchen table to eat a food? But *she* wanted to pile all of her study books onto that table so she could pretend to study!
Granted, this was the same roommate who thought nothing of taking her knickers off while sat peeing at the toilet and then *leaving them, still with a stained, used sanitary pad glued to them, on the floor directly in front of the toilet while she went back to her room to, a far as we could tell, hoard crusty crockery*, so she might also have just been unreasonably selfish and thoughtless in general. But, to be fair, the other roomies had pretty much the same *annoyed at every reminder that they are living with other people* that she did when they’d encounter me or any other housemate in one of the shared spaces.
**TW: Eating disorders**
That one would actually really get to me. Years ago I lived with my best friend, who had an eating disorder, and he would wait until he thought everyone was asleep to go into the bathroom and throw up, most nights. My bedroom was next to the bathroom, so even if I was asleep I’d wake up, and lie there listening to him throw up, feeling all kinds of helpless and sad and worried.
So yeah, if I was woken up by someone I lived with throwing up, that’d make me feel pretty awful now. Ofc I wouldn’t respond by bitching my housemate out for having an uncontrollable bodily function. I might be grumpy and mopey though.
I wonder, too, which noises the roommate is hearing. Perhaps LW doesn’t know that the mattress goes squeak…squeak…squeaksqueaksqueak or that the headboard goes thump…thump…thumpthumpthump and there’s something that could be done to mitigate these noises.
This is a point to consider, but I don’t think it really changes the crux of the advice. Some noises amplify through floors in ways that are entirely unpredictable to the noise-makers. I once had a downstairs neighbor knock on the door behind which my roommate and I were quietly studying and ask us to be quieter because it sounded (apparently somewhat regularly) as though we were dribbling basketballs on the floor. To this day I have no idea what she heard, and thusly very little attempt was made to tone it down. It may not be possible to prevent a mattress from squeaking, is what I’m saying, and as barriers to consensual activity between adults, a squeaky mattress wears a little thin.
What I’m saying is that perhaps LW and their partners are working on the wrong things being quiet. It doesn’t do them any good to hold their breath or whatever if the problem is actually noisy furniture, and that’s a problem that can be dealt with.
This is a woman who openly engages in impact play – which IS inherently noisy, an important part of the scene for some. The LW has forgotten that she has equal rights, and I’d like to see her bring some of the moxie that gave her the courage to explore her sexuality with multiple partners to her BFF relationship. Sometimes you draw a line and say, ‘This subject is personal, and it is closed. There will be noise, it will remain as respectful of your space as possible, and again — will no longer require commentary on a date-by-date basis.’
What happened to greeting the morning-after housie with an awestruck expression? 🙂
Heh. This reminded me of the next-door flat where every day I’d hear one of the inhabitants come home, walk across their wooden floor in high heels (click, click), kick off their shoes (bonk, bonk) and then do something that sounded rather like dropping a wooden ball on said wooden floor. BONK, bonk, bonkbonkbonk. I spent months trying to figure out what the hell it was. Never succeeded.
“she’s essentially asking you to wait, hawk-like, listening at the door for her to go to bed, genitals primed”
Bwahahahah!! Well-said . . . and I have BEEN one of those people, waiting intently for toddler sleep-breathing to settle, so that I could go have sexyfuntimes in the other room!
The phrase “genitals primed” is going to be used in my household in very short order, needless to say! 😉
There is a third option that you honestly don’t seem to have considered which is this: Maybe you just aren’t as quiet as you think you’re being.
I’m not saying that to be mean or rude, just that I’ve been on your roommates side where one of my [now ex] roommates would regularly end up keeping me awake until 2-3 am because she was having some pretty damn loud sex – despite her claims that she was trying to be quite. Honestly, it would have been less of an issues except that it was happening regularly enough that it was leaving me exhausted from lack of sleep more often than I was fully awake [as a waitress that was seriously starting to impact my job performance and income from tips] – and our third roommate was the same way. Thing is, Loud Roommate always justified it as “But I’m trying to be quiet!”
So it might be something to consider, just in case that is the situation.
That said, I think that Captain is right that it might be time to start finding new living arrangements once this lease is up seeing as it seems like it’s not really working out for you two anymore.
considering lw mentioned freaking out about having been too loud and being reassured by their partner that it wasn’t the case, i think they considered it.
Considering the LW said they were literally crying out of frustration because they were trying so hard to be quiet, I’m… thinking that’s not an issue. They’re already trying as hard as they can. Maybe it’s still “loud” in any case, but I don’t see how “magically become able to be quieter” is helpful advice.
I don’t think the commenter was implying the OP should try harder. But if I’m the roommate who is not able to sleep because of the noises, “But I’m being so quiet!” is a totally useless thing to say to me. I’m still not getting the sleep I need. “I’m sorry, I can’t be any quieter. Let’s work out a schedule so you know when to expect my sweetie to be over and I know when you absolutely need quiet” is far more helpful.
Yes, if the walls are thin, it may not be anyone’s fault or anyone being unreasonable. It’s reasonable to want to be able to have sex in your own home, and also reasonable to want to be able to sleep in your own home. Maybe there’s a practical solution that would work tolerably well for both of them if they discussed it openly (quiet time after 11pm but earlier is fair game, or let people know ahead of time when guests will be over, or something else entirely), or maybe they just aren’t compatible roommates, if they have opposite needs. There doesn’t have to be a bad guy… They both need what they need.
“When you tell me that, what is it that you want me to say or do?”
SITUATION A is that your sex is an annoyance to her.
SITUATION B is your friend essentially will not be content until you stop having sex in your apartment.
If you’re in situation A, well, annoyances can be both mitigated and tolerated. Talk about it, figure out how to minimize the annoyance for her, agree that she can deal with whatever can’t reasonably be minimized, and Live Your Lives!
If you’re in situation B, it doesn’t matter which of you is being more reasonable. If hearing you having sex freaks her out, and you not having sex at home is not an option, then it isn’t a question of who’s right – it’s just an unsustainable situation.
Hmmm, I mostly but don’t completely agree here. I don’t think it’s unreasonable, if a roommate is having really really loud sex, to ask them to try and keep it down a bit– often they just aren’t aware of what can be heard and what can’t and will want to be quieter because being overheard is embarrassing. I think I would want to know,
As someone who really, really hates listening to the sound of other people having sex, I can empathize with her roommate although she is definitely out of line at this point; it sounds as if she is having anxiety about being able to hear the sex-sounds, and as a result is actively listening for them and so can hear even when they’re being really quiet, And that is out of line and unfair. But it sounds like the spanking/flogging stuff that was happening at first was probably super loud and worth mentioning.
I can also verify that it is not that rare for it to be impossible to drown out someone’s sex sounds with white noise, because there is a woman in a DIFFERENT BUILDING THAT MINE who has the loudest, most obviously fake orgasms I have ever heard for at least 45 minutes every day and nothing I do drowns her out.
There’s a difference, I think, between “please try to keep the volume down”– a thing I text my housemate frequently about the television just outside my bedroom– and “I can hear you having sex.” One is a request, which, although it may or may not be fully reasonable or actionable, lays out a problem and a potential solution. The other is a confession of experience which *implies* a problem, but which requires much more work on the hearer’s part to interpret and act upon. I can see why it would be very stressful to hear repeatedly.
I think the roommate is saying “keep the volume down?” I think the LW phrased it unclearly but I think the context of the roommate’s comments is most likely “please be quieter” and not just a general comment that they can hear the sex happening.
But, mostly I was responding to Captain Awkward’s statement that “if you live in shared, communal housing with fellow adults, life will go better if everyone simply refuses to acknowledge or comment upon one another’s nighttime activities.” I think it’s fair to comment when it’s legitimately way too loud.
Even asking “Hey, can you do a better job of keeping it down when you have night visitors? You’re not as quiet as you think you are” is reasonable, once in a while, if there is an ongoing problem.
“My roommate will come tell me as I’m headed to the bathroom after a super quiet whispery sex session that she heard us” = really fucking weird, IMHO. I don’t think the roommate IS actually ASKING the LW to keep it down, she’s just got mentionitis about it and maybe passively-aggressively hoping it will translate into a request. There are better ways to have this conversation.
I believe the LW is doing her best to be quiet, and that if you live with adults you sometimes just have to pretend not to hear certain stuff.
I agree! Roommate is definitely being weird and LW is the one in the right here. I was just reading your answer at first as “it’s not OK to ever bring up the topic of too-loud sex with roommates”, and disagreed in that respect.
Yes. In college I had to have a pretty uncomfortable conversation with a dorm roommate about maybe not having sexytimes *while I was in the room asleep*, because while I tend to be a heavy sleeper, I’m not THAT heavy a sleeper. I told him I’d much rather wake up, grab a book, and go read for an hour or so than have to lie there and pretend to be asleep or get up and leave in medias res. And it was fine and we didn’t have that problem again.
Last I checked they were still happily married, so clearly I didn’t inconvenience them too much. 🙂
This actually sends me in a slightly different direction, because of this very particular way of alerting LW:
Maybe Roommate thinks she’s doing LW a favor?
Maybe Roommate considers the noise embarrassing, rather than annoying, and this is the equivalent of “pssst, your fly’s open”?
I mean, bear in mind LW is apparently spending TONS of time in her room with a sexypartner making no sex noises whatsoever. Bear in mind that roommate is also LW’s BFF. Bear in mind that *nowhere*, as far as I can tell, has Roommate actually asked LW to not have sex or be more quiet – just “tells us she heard us”.
This might be a very forgiving interpretation, of course. It all circles back to the same basic “talk to her” advice.
I had a roomate many, many years ago who managed to have completely silent sex with her BF, and it was much creepier than occasional sex noises would have been. The noise isolation in the apartment was so bad that I could hear her TYPING, yet somehow or other they could disappear into her room for a completely noiseless half hour and come out all giggly and happy…I still don’t know how they did it or if it was some kind of fetish in its own right.
Oh, the BF was also there pretty much 24/7. I swear he spent more time in the apartment than I did. So that living situation went predictably south pretty fast.
Anyway LW, please do better than me and this chick did and set up some boundaries with your roommate before your home becomes completely toxic. It’s not unreasonable to have sex in your own home! You don’t have to be some kind of sex Houdini in order to do so! I think if you talk to her your roommate will chill out.
I had a roommate like that too! I’d hear a very loud zipper unzip, and then nothing. Which was good, because I didn’t want to hear anything. But how loud was that zipper that it was louder than everything else? She also borrowed clothes without asking, which was the main problem living with her…now I don’t even remember her name. It was a loooong time ago.
Hearing some sex noises is just to be expected when you share an apartment. With my various past roommates, I have always relied on the “magic seal of plausible deniability” (great phrase). The standards were not always the same though: With my last roommate, it turned out we both had really loud partners, so we sort of had a tacit agreement that even quite a lot of noise was still acceptable. It worked perfectly fine. With other roommates, I tried to keep things quieter because I didn’t hear as much noise from them. I wonder whether LW’s roommate just expects a level of quiet that’s impossible to achieve for LW while still allowing her to enjoy herself. If so, this will be hard to fix. Also, I’m kind of creeped out that the roommate will immediately corner LW and tell her she just heard her have sex. That seems a little intrusive and also unnecessary.
My brother, when living in a dormitory in university, had a kind of unofficial competition going on with his dormmates who could have sex the loudest. (The various partners were in on this.) That’s another way of resolving it, I suppose.
I totally agree with the Captain. I think that, honestly, most of your letter is good to know, but kind of irrelevant. You’re basically in a situation in which, even when you are being as quiet as you possibly can during sex, your roommate 1) can hear you and 2) complains that you were too loud. And to be honest, that’s kind of an unsustainable living situation for you, to be prohibited from having sex in your own apartment. So, like the Captain said, the question really is, “What do you expect me to say or do?”
There are plenty of solutions. It’s not clear how her being asleep really matters (like, when I could hear my roommate and her partner, I preferred to be able to hear them when I was awake? Because then they weren’t disturbing my sleep?), so unless she brings it up, I wouldn’t try to accommodate her. If, in answer to your question, she said, “I’d appreciate if it you waited till I was asleep,” then you can gently bring up your uncertainty.
But it really does sound like she’s probably just not okay hearing any noises that imply sex is happening, and she’s not willing to 1) pretend you’re not having sex, or 2) take steps herself to not hear you having sex. As for the latter, I recommend the DOHM sleep sound machine, which we use when we sleep (we can’t hear the people talking on the stoop while they smoke, or our upstairs neighbors clunking around at 2am) and when we want to watch Netflix in separate rooms (so I can’t hear the TV in the living room when I’m in the bedroom watching on my computer).
And yeah–if she’s not willing to stop bugging you about it, nor is she willing to take steps to drown out the noise on her end, then maybe don’t be roommates when the lease is up. Sorry.
Would that be the DOHM sleep machine by Marpac? Because I am badly in need of a white noise machine, because setting my neighbors on fire with my mind has not been successful.
Stick a Fresnel lens on your connecting wall, it might help with the mindfire thing.
(*definitely don’t stick a Fresnel lens on your wall, because if the sun catches it you might actually set it on fire.)
As a theatrical stage manager, I laughed at this comment!
(definitely do not stick a Fresnel lens on your wall though)
How about an elliptical reflector dish?
(Apologies if someone else posted this)
i use the LectroFan Fan Sound and White Noise Machine–more options than Marpac, love & highly recommend. can’t hear drunk college kids outside anymore (on st. pat’s day in chicago even! srsly, a miracle.), and it masks the intermittent whiiiiiny noise of my fridge.
Does she know her comments are driving you to tears? If she thinks she’s just griping about a minor annoyance (or offering congratulatory teasing) and doesn’t realize that as soon as you get back to your room you’re crying on your partner’s shoulder, it might be good to tell her that you’re feeling hurt. If she knows this is making you cry and she’s still doing it, you probably shouldn’t be roommates, because that’s horrible.
Ah, housemates. Ah, houses with thin walls. Joy of joys. Let us all pause to appreciate the joy of these things.
Yeah, what is up with your housemate?! My boyfriend lives in a house that appears to be made of paper and held together with duct tape and hope, and he has six housemates, so… I assume they have heard us having sex at some point? But they haven’t ever mentioned it, because the Seal Of Plausible Deniability is strong. It is the only way to live with housemates, I think!
I really want to know what her answer to the ‘why are you telling me this?’ question is, and I think it’d give you some important data. Like, maybe for Reasons she likes to be able to sleep on Thursday nights at no later than 1am, and your ‘50% at my place, 50% at yours’ schedule, while eminently reasonable, keeps ending with sex noises on Thursday nights. Maybe she’s just really weirded out by sex noises, and would prefer you never fuck? (if this is the case, I recommend new housemates) Maybe there’s a new ANTM on Fridays and you keep adding to the sound track? WHO KNOWS. Not you, because she’s not telling you!
I think having the awkward ‘so you keep commenting on my sex life, what is up with that’ conversation is probably a good idea. That said, you are being the Nicest and Most Reasonable of housemates here, so I can totally see this being just too much work. Leases end. Maybe yours should?
I have no advice, the whole conversation just reminded me of a song I like. I hope this is an acceptable tangential addition:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRJ48UvhISU – the neighbor song, or “I can hear my neighbors making love upstairs.”
Good song! Good band!
Oof. I’ve both been That Roommate who needs things quiet and have been the target of That Roommate. It was a hard lesson (and I lost a couple of friends) to learn that some friends shouldn’t be housemates. The LW absolutely has a right to enjoyment of their space. If it’s before 10 p.m., the other roommate doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. Plus it’s kind of creepy that the roommate comments on sex that happened when there isn’t sleeping going on. Like the first commenter, I’m getting a whiff of passive-aggressive disapproval, as well. A heart-to-heart talk may clear the air, and the roommate may not know how creepy/annoying she’s being.
That having been said, I know I need certain things in my living space, chief among these is a dark, quiet sleeping space. I’ve got kinky friends. While I love my friends, I know living with them wouldn’t be the greatest thing in the world, namely because I need quiet and they tend to be…not so quiet with the happy fun adult activities.
But I definitely feel for the LW. I’ve been in situations where I couldn’t so much as move, use the bathroom, or breathe after 9 p.m. without the dude downstairs pounding on our door, yelling that we deserved to be raped for all the noise we were making. (Yes, the cops got called.) I don’t think the housemate is even in the same ballpark as the dude downstairs, but it sounds like the LW is doing all the compromise, here.
LW: stupid question, but have you tried putting rugs down in your room? Those block a hell of a lot of noise, and if you’ve got hardwood floors, sound travels oddly, especially in poorly-constructed apartment buildings.
Yes to the passive aggressive disapproval. Before I entered only surround myself with sex positive happy land, I had a roommate straight up tell me that she judged my sex life. I mean at that point in my life I half believed that sex outside of relationships was bad, and my friends definitely did, so when I broke up with my boyfriend and started bringing guys home occasionally, On our way to a concert “I judge your sex life.” Just… depending on the subculture some people are really sex negative.
If you wanted to try one more thing, you could check to see if there is any space between your bed and the wall, especially if you have a headboard on it. They do make noise. and move it away from the wall.
I merely wish to state that if LW would be kind enough to box up some of that sex life and mail it over this way, I would be super-happy to bake a pan of killer butterscotch blondies and send them back as grateful payment.
Lol right? LMFAO, Mercutia, but that has TOTALLY been my thought this whole time. On the one hand I’m like, Damn LW, this sucks; on the other hand I’m like–Damn, LW, lucky you for all the sex! 😀
It honestly seems like the roommate is just trying to make the LW feel awkward. After all, there are so many ways to say “hey, keep it down after midnight, would you?” than “I CAN HEAR YOU HAVING SEX.”
I had some neighbors who had this kind of absurd hearing ability; they considered a normal person walking up the stairs to be RUNNING AND POUNDING UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS, and any chatting after 10 PM to be loud noisy parties. This was ridiculous, and unfortunately, the only way we solved it was by basically ignoring them and finally leaving. They would never be satisfied, ever. I worry the roommate is either having fun torturing the LW — what, she can hear whispered sex and can’t hear the sobbing that results from said conversations afterward? I doubt that — or is just so picky she needs her own house, unconnected to anyone else, and neighbors with no pets that make any sound. I have no idea how these people survive when apparently the sound of rushing breezes would probably keep them awake at 4 AM.
Anyway, barring the LW just flipping said roomie the bird and finding another place to live, I think a stern word along the lines of “I’ll keep it down if you stop commenting every damn time I do a natural human behavior,” is all that can really happen here.
Yeah, I had that neighbor too. Our CATS walking around the apartment was too much noise for him, apparently, to say nothing of our then not-quite-two-year-old child. And he would express his disapproval by banging on his ceiling/our floor with a baseball bat and screaming detailed obscenities at us, usually directed at said child and said child’s paternity. And other stuff – 17 single-spaced pages in Word worth of incident logs over the course of the time this started to the time that we were finally able to close on our house and GTFO of that horrible situation.
Spouse has post-traumatic flashbacks of this guy screaming at us, sometimes, when there is a loud banging or stomping-type sound in the house. And this is almost eight years later.
His behavior is not justifiable, and I have no intention of doing so. However, it might not have been his hearing, so much as the construction of the dwelling. I once lived in both halves of a duplex as part of a large group of friends. We wanted to have a dwelling where we could all live, have our cats, but also have a cat-free zone for allergen purposes. We put the cats in the upstairs duplex, because layoutwise it made more sense. We were really surprised at how much our cats could sound like little elephants when we were downstairs. We knew our cats; they were not unreasonably noisy. But the sound transferred really surprisingly well and annoyingly. If it had been more of a problem, I suppose we could have tried buying thick rugs. But anyhow, the way a place is built strongly affects how noise is heard. Of course, if you really need quiet, then you probably need to try to find a dwelling that doesn’t do that kind of noise transfer, because you do need to put up with people making the normal noises of life.
Yep. I’ve rented far too many basement suites. I’ve been woken from sound sleeps by the click-click of dogs’ nails on hardwood floors in the middle of the night – a sound I probably wouldn’t even have heard if I was standing next to the dog. Sometimes the space between floors amplifies sound rather than deadens it. Happy kids running around and jumping up and down really can sound like herds of hippotami.
Not that I have ever banged on the ceiling with a bat or screamed obscenities because I’m not an asshat. I have had to ask my next door neighbour not to re-set her alarm in the morning on Friday mornings though; she’d spend the night at her boyfriend’s place and our bedrooms shared a wall. Pretty impossible to sleep in even a little when the neighbour’s alarm goes off and keeps going off all frigging day.
(Also pet peeve: roommates who keep hitting the snooze alarm.)
I lived in an apartment like that in a converted house; my basement efficiency was directly below somebody’s living room. My first upstairs neighbors had an active preschooler and a dog and worked opposite hours from me, but I always slept soundly because they were considerate; pitter-patter and clickety-click were the extent of the nighttime noise in the living room. Then they moved. The people who moved in celebrated their first afternoon by having extremely loud furniture-shifting sex directly overhead. Then it turned out that “for her mental health,” the wife “had to” watch Dragnet directly over my head at 10 p.m. every weeknight. When I plucked up the courage to timidly ask her to turn it down, she handed me a set of foam earplugs. I wrote a very polite letter explaining that my work was suffering and earplugs would make it impossible for me to hear my alarm, so could they please, please, pretty please, not blare the TV overhead at 10 p.m. on a weeknight? And also I could hear, ahem, everything they did overhead. The next night the TV was turned down. For five minutes. Then it was up higher.
Two weeks into the sleep deprivation, I finally lost it and banged on the ceiling with a broomstick. One time. The wife came roaring downstairs and screamed obscenities and pounded on my door for half an hour. I called my boyfriend to come get me and put my head down and sobbed. As I leaned on him on the way to his car, there she was, at her front door, smiling.
I paid the last month’s rent, but I didn’t sleep there again. Or see or talk to the neighbors. Anywhere in town. Ever.
Two months later the husband, an attorney, sent me a cease and desist letter.
Oh my god, Jenny, I am so so sorry they did that to you. That is like a case study of How Not To Be. What terrible people. I hope you’re in a much better living situation now.
@ Private Editor: It was years ago, when I was much less confident; these days I would’ve gone straight to the landlords, with whom I had a good relationship, and told them I was moving and precisely why, sex noises and all. I co-own the house I live in now and the worst of our neighbor trouble is the neighbor’s *(*&*&&((&& dog pooping on our lawn. (A fence is on the list. Wayyyyy down on the list. Thanks, Predatory Lenders’ Recession!)
Yeah, we were the downstairs neighbors in our last apartment, and were on reasonably friendly terms with the upstairs people, and knew them to be relatively quiet, sedate types. But I swear it sounded like they decided to rearrange their furniture at 3AM when I’m sure someone just got up to pee or something. And now as the small-bladdered upstairs tenant, I’m so glad that our downstairs neighbors have their bedrooms in the basement so we have a buffer zone (their “half” of the house is two levels, and the ground-floor bit is all living room and kitchen and things. Great setup for minimizing late-night annoyance.)
OTOH, my MIL kept thinking her neighbours were vastly oversensitive – her kids were fairly quiet and walked around the flat, rather than trampling like a herd of elephants.
Then she went downstairs for a cuppa and found that the complaint was justified; it just wasn’t possible for the kids to be quieter.
Then again, the recent downstairs kids sounded like an elephant herd, too; I had no idea that sound could travel upstairs like that. Puts a different spin on my childhood when I envied kids living on the ground floor for never having to worry about disturbing the neighbours.
My SO lived for a year in a crappily-built condo complex and we were convinced for the first nine months that the upstairs neighbors had a pair of pet elephants and that those elephants’ favorite hobby was bowling due to the level of noise. It was insane. STOMP STOMP CRASH at absurdly high volumes every afternoon and evening.
Then one day we had reason to go upstairs and they invited us in, and we discovered that they had… two shih tzus. Maybe 10 pounds each, of which 3 pounds was certainly hair. And the elephant-crashing was in fact the sound shih tzus make when they play, as heard through an incredibly poorly constructed sound-amplifying condo floor/ceiling.
There was also, in my apartment, that time the neighbor pushed his subwoofer up against the wall and made his bass louder in MY apartment than in his, which was luckily solved by a civil discussion and him moving it six inches out.
Now I’m imagining your neighbor suggesting, “Well then, why don’t we put the bass in your apartment…”
The wiring would have been very tricky, alas.
Really, though, none of one’s speaker system should be actually touching the wall. That is Doing It Wrong from a technical standpoint as well as a not-being-a-butthead-neighbor standpoint.
I hate houses like this! There really isn’t anything you can do, as far as I know, it’s all in how you negotiate it. My housemate lived below me and would constantly gripe at me for walking so loudly in my room. Apparently she was hearing loud bangs. I was mystified because I never wear shoes in my room and don’t run or jump or work out or drop things in there. I didn’t know what was going on until I was in the kitchen (below her room) and heard banging sounds as she was walking around. It was clear that the floors were just amplifying the smallest sounds. However she wouldn’t accept this fact and continued to pressure me to do some unspecified thing about it. In the end, tired of trying to make her see that the only thing I could actually do about it was stop walking on my own floor altogether, I told her that the subject was officially closed and asked her not to mention it again. But she did. A LOT. It got to the point where our housemate relationship was irreparably damaged.
I would try to have a conversation about this at a neutral time (i.e. when significant others aren’t over and no sex is imminent/has just occured and it’s not late at night). I’d lay out what you’re trying to do and also ask your roommate what her ideal situation looks like. For example, I’d pretty much always rather have a roommate have sex at a time I’m NOT trying to sleep, since then it’s not going to wake me up. So while you might think at “no sex before midnight” rule is preferred, maybe she’d actually prefer a “no sex after midnight” guideline? You guys also might be able to come to an agreement about something like playing music or putting on the TV during sex — my experience is that these things tend to drown things out enough IF you are making a reasonable effort to keep things down…that is, your roommate might think/know you’re having sex, but there’s more of a plausible deniability thing going on since the sound isn’t as obvious and hey, maybe it’s just the characters in the movie who are having sex! (This is another vote for earlier sex, since playing medium-loud music/TV is more reasonable at 9pm than at 2am.)
“So while you might think at “no sex before midnight” rule is preferred, maybe she’d actually prefer a “no sex after midnight” guideline?”
Unless it’s been discussed, I would have assumed that? When you’re sleeping is when you need quiet, surely? If I’m awake it might be embarassing but it isn’t making me exhausted the next day because I woke up in the middle of the night. Also if it’s during the day I can listen to something with earphones – if I’m trying to sleep that would just be even more noise and distraction keeping me awake. Though I do often sleep with a fan and/or earplugs, because I have thin walls and the stairs creak when the neighbours walk on them, or my other neighbours wake up at dawn and drag the recycling out (very large heavy container bouncing on the cement path that goes directly under my bedroom window), etc.
I also agree with asking her directly (in a calm moment) to be more explicit about why she’s telling you.
It’s possible she’s just imagining that SHE would be mortified to be overheard, and thinks she’d doing you a favour by letting you know.
It’s possible she’s annoyed at having what feels like a third, non-rent paying roommate. I wonder, were overnight guests discussed when you first moved in together? People can have very different ideas of what they feel like they signed up for, if it’s not explicitly talked about.
It’s possible she’s embarrassed rather than it being a question of actual volume (which there unfortunately isn’t all that much solution to).
Yeh, I find it odd that they’re waiting until the sound would be most disturbing to engage in an activity which makes noise. And I must admit – I have sleep problems, and if I was being woken on a regular basis I wouldn’t deal with it very well either.
LW, is the waiting till she goes to sleep thing done as part of an agreement with her?
I think that makes a lot of sense, but it also sounds like the roommate’s complaints aren’t happening on the occasions when they wait until she’s asleep — from the LW’s description, what’s happening a lot of the time is that they wait a while to see if she’ll go to sleep, give up on waiting and have super-quiet sex, and then get the “I could hear you” complaint. It’s certainly possible that she’s finding it more aggravating because it’s late at night (when she is, maybe, trying really hard to get relaxed and sleepy so she can get to bed?), but if the LW is hearing complaints when her roommate is awake at the start of sexytime, but not when she’s asleep at the start of sexytime, I think it makes a lot of sense that she’s responded by trying to make sure sexytime always starts after her roommate is asleep. So… long comment short, I think it still comes down to the problem that “I could hear you” is not enough information for the LW to act on — we can’t tell if roommate means “You’re waking/keeping me up, please don’t wait so late to have sex” or “It bothers me to hear you while I’m awake, please wait until even later” or what — and I second the recommendation of “When you tell me that, what do you want me to say or do about it?”
I agree there’s just not enough information to go on. I’m just not entirely without sympathy – sounds like roommate has quite a lot going on mental health wise, and a lack of sleep on top of that sucks. Time for an honest roomie talk.
Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
Look up “You can be as loud as the Hell you want” on YouTube. It’s from the musical Avenue Q. Then apply that to this situation.
Wow. Sex is private time. Sex is a normal thing for two consenting adults to do. I don’t want to know that you can hear me, especially if I’m already doing my best to be quiet. I’m not doing anything bad. Hearing each other have sex sometimes is a normal thing of having roommates.
Passive aggressive stuff like “hey, I could hear you guys just now” – does she say the same when you put on music? Does she say the same when you’re laughing or talking on the phone? Is it just the sex? Tell her that you’re already doing your share of being considerate by going to your partner’s place 50% of the time and by trying to be quiet. You can’t help that she’s hyper sensitive to these noises. You just don’t want to know any more. She needs to do what she needs to do to not be bothered by your sex noises – put on music or noise canceling headphones or white sound, watch tv, take her anti-anxiety meds (they often help you sleep), find some company of her own, whatever helps her. She is to stop telling you, and you can maybe do one or more of the following:
Tips: move your bed away from the wall, place some carpeting or something beneath it, have sex earlier in the evening if at all possible (waiting until she’s asleep when she has a bad sleep pattern and might be a light sleeper won’t do you any good – besides, earlier in the evening there’s more external noises like traffic or neighbours or tv/music), put on music when you’re having sex.
Have sex any way you like it. Reserve the loud sex for weekends, maybe.
LW, I think your roommate is violating the social contract like whoa. I am the kind of anal Type A roommate (why are the spoons in _that_ drawer?) that I recognize people do not enjoy and I have complained and been passive aggressive about many a thing (rightly and wrongly) but sex sounds behind closed doors are basically the roommate version of protected speech. You have a human right to make them and anyone who doesn’t want to hear them has a lot of avoidance options that do not include silencing or shaming you.
As commenters above mention, it’s hard to tell from your letter whether your roommate is being passive aggressive or thinks she is genuinely informing you of information you need, but it doesn’t matter. She needs to stop. I’m also a loud/kinky sex haver (doesn’t everyone want to be my roommate now?) and though I can’t say it’s never been mentioned by people I’ve lived with, my younger self was nowhere near as considerate as you are being and I still never got anything like the feedback you’re getting. The Captain offers a lot of good scripts here for how to deal with your roommate, but I am unsettled by how much guilt you seem to be feeling over this issue, which is unwarranted. So with all the powers vested in me as a member of the Awkward commetariate, I hereby decree: You are doing nothing wrong. No one should ever cry after sexytimes because a roommate (purposefully or unpurposefully) shamed them. You are not being weird or creating a problem. You are doing human things like a human does with a really impressive level of consideration for your roommate.
In the interest of good faith, which I am not sure your roommate deserves but let’s go with it, you could always offer to buy her a noise machine and/or noise canceling head phones but I really think that to the degree this is a “problem” it is one for which your roommate needs to find a solution, not you. A schedule would help, but at a certain point if you want to continue living with this person, you will need to be able to approach this issue in an unapologetic (on your side) and pragmatic (roommate’s side) way.
I am the type A anal roommate (STOP PUTTING THE MEASURING CUP THERE) with a mild sensory processing problem and that is why I have noise-canceling headphones even though they’re expensive and I don’t like them — I like them better than I like our one neighbor who likes to keep ALL his windows open and loves to play the guitar at night and only knows three chords, which for some reason my asshole brain has decided is literally the most important sound in the world and I may NOT learn to ignore it EVER. (Also marimbas? I hate marimbas.)
You can be as loud as the hell you want when you’re making love?
I had a roommate situation where a guy I had had a one-time makeout session with (unknown to my roommate at the time) got asked by my roommate to come fill in our empty 3rd bedroom. I had moved on to my now-husband by this point. Once at a party, he (drunkenly) informed me that he could hear us having sex “a lot” (even though I know for a fact we kept it way down when he was home), and that he was “really, really happy for [me]”. I was all, thanks? I guess?
Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I don’t like living with friends as roommates or having them as very close neighbours. If we don’t have a relationship where it would already feel normal for me to know when they’re having sex, with who, etc, then it would feel jarring and uncomfortable. Strangers or vague acquaintances, like my actual neighbours? Somehow because I don’t know them as well it doesn’t matter so much.
BTW, if she’s got insomnia I would have assumed noise at night would be worst of all?? Has she actually said that she’d prefer you wait until she’s asleep? Because there’s a reason noise bylaws always specify quiet times _after_ a certain time of night and _before_ a certain time in the morning – it’s far more common to be disturbed by noise when you’re trying to sleep than when you’re awake.
LW, this is a difficult situation for you, and I want to commend you for not being passive-aggressive or anything right back at the housemate. My suggestions for this, as someone with really intense hearing sometimes:
1) Is it possible to have sex mostly/primarily when the housemate is out? Or at your partner’s place?
2) Is it possible to try having sex during the day and not at night/after housemate has gone to bed?
3) If housemate keeps being weird (and housemate is currently being weird, definitely), it’s possible that a direct “What do you want me to do when you tell me you can hear me fucking? What are you trying to communicate? Because I’m definitely not picking up on your subtext.”
(One of my housemates last year only ever had sex when I was either listening to something/it was the afternoon or when I was out. It was really considerate, but obviously sometimes that’s not a workable solution.)
These steps all *seem* kind and reasonable, but the LW is already doing most of them and also if you are an adult and you have to plan every time you have sex in your own room around a fellow adult roommate then this is not the right roommate pairing for the long haul.
True! And your scripts also seem perfectly helpful.
ARGH. I’ve had this housemate. She would pretend to adhere to what The Other Alice calls “The Seal of Plausible Deniability” like a regular housemate-haver does and we even had a few conversations to the effect of, “yes, I can hear you having sex through that wall sometimes, but THAT’S LIFE, right?” And then she started bringing up sex noises to guilt me in unrelated conflicts. That shit was unfair
I have sympathy for people who just can’t sleep through other people’s noise, but honestly, the roommate’s super inconsistent schedule in this situation sounds extremely difficult to work around. And, yep, it’s time for a “what are you trying to tell me here?” conversation. But be prepared for this to be something she just enjoys holding over your head and complaining about. And, be prepared for this living situation to peter out. Best of luck to you, LW!
I’ve never had room mates post college, partly because I can’t stand noise (of any sort) when I’m trying to sleep. From what you say, your roommate bff is like me, and should live alone.
That being said, I’m with the Captain: ask her what she thinks you should do with the knowledge she heard you having sex.
From there the two of you can maybe work out a schedule? Or you can find out she hates the whispering? (That would make sense to me, usually whispering bothers me more than quiet voiced sound.) Or maybe it’s something none of us have thought of
I think you’ve been really considerate throughout this, and I want you to be able to have loud fun sexy times.
And maybe when the lease is up you can find a place for yourself. Living alone is really relaxing.
LW, I feel for you, I really do. I agree with pretty much everything the Captain and the Army have said, and especially this: “When you tell me that, what is it that you want me to say or do?” When you have this conversation, let her know that, while you understand that she apparently doesn’t want to hear you having sex, you not ever having sex at your apartment isn’t an option for solving this problem. Because you want to be able to cohabit peacefully, ask for concrete suggestions and negotiate certain boundaries that will make this living arrangement workable for both of you–at least until the lease is up. You will do your best to be a considerate roommate by doing A, B, and C; she in turn needs to hold up her end of the bargain by doing X, Y, and Z, and both of you will do your best on matters of L, M, N, O, and P.
Speaking from personal experience as the Roommate Who Doesn’t Want To Hear It, let me ask this question: Did she tell you that she’d rather you wait until she’s asleep before having sex? Or did you make that decision on your own? Because when I was the RWDWTHI and my roommate (who is also my sister, so I couldn’t just not ever see or speak to her again after moving out) was having loud sex, part of the problem was that she and her paramours were waking me up when I had to be at work the next day. Maybe your roommate is keeping such weird hours because she doesn’t want to be woken up by sex noises? And she’s frustrated because in her mind the internal monologue is going like this: “For fuck’s sake, I stayed up until FOUR A.M. so that LW and LW’s Partner could get busy, and they waited until FOUR FIFTEEN to have sex? I’m so mad right now!” and then she makes a passive aggressive comment at earliest opportunity. [Note: You are not a mind reader. If she’s doing this without discussing this strategy with you, it is not your fault that her plan is backfiring; if you’re doing your thing after she’s gone to sleep without discussing that strategy with her, that’s on you.]
From my own experience, here’s what worked: I laid out my needs, the accommodations I was willing to make, and the accommodations I needed in return, e.g. I need x hours of uninterrupted sleep; for REASONS, I wake up to any unexpected noises, so I need to know if you’re bringing someone home so that I can -expect- noises; if you give me prior warning that someone is coming over, I will do my best to block out any noises I hear, and I will not mention it the next day; Friday or Saturday nights, you can do what you want when you want; Sunday through Thursday the House Rules were in effect. My sister’s needs were that the fact of her sex life existing was not negotiable, she would text me before I went to sleep if she planned to bring someone home, and she would reserve the loudest sex for weekend nights when I didn’t have to wake up early and go to work the next morning. When House Rules were in effect, breaking them meant a forfeit of $20 per offense.
All of that being said: LW, you two may just have a fundamental incompatibility as roommates; you said yourself that you are very sensitive about the thought of People Don’t Want To Hear The Sex I Like To Have, and your bff may be one of those People Who Don’t Like To Hear Sex At All. If that’s the case, try to get through the remainder of the lease with as much grace and dignity as you can. Some people are better off as friends and not housemates, and there’s no shame in that.
sex sounds behind closed doors are basically the roommate version of protected speech
I’ve lived in numerous housing combinations and the ones I have had the most problems with were ones where people couldn’t get that sentence to gel. And we’re not talking full sex sounds, we’re talking “kissing someone for half an hour with door closed and music on” was getting commented on judgmentally.
Nesting fail, this was supposed to be a reply to the lovely emdashing
I’d be interested in hearing from people who have had their roommates confront them about their sexual noise levels. What approach was the least awkward/intrusive/creepy? Because the LW’s roommate obviously doesn’t have the right approach.
Establishing it upfront seems to help IME? With my current housemates, we have an agreement that a) only the people we’ve actually agreed to live with are going to live with us (no situation where a housemate’s partner is ALWAYS AROUND), b) sex noises should not be loud enough to prevent someone from going to sleep or wake someone up, c) no shower sex without then cleaning out the shower very thoroughly.
Basically, if it’s approached like any other normal housemate agreement upfront and there’s a matter-of-factness about the volume levels, it seems to come off as much less judgemental and creepy. Of course, not having brought it up at the beginning makes it harder to do this properly. It’s kind of amazing what can turn into drama if people get really defensive (my own current housemate drama has to do with the neat-freak housemate simultaneously insisting on other people cleaning more often and not doing her own cleaning chores…but that’s her issues.)
Like, I also have an agreement with my current housemates that there won’t be any obnoxious drunk people in our place, including the housemates themselves, but because it was very calm and matter-of-fact and it was explicitly not “alcohol is bad” but rather “drunk obnoxious people make the place feel unsafe and unwelcoming”.
I personally haven’t been confronted about sexual noise levels since my mom yelled at me for being too loud when masturbating when I was 12, and while that was kind of mortifying, it had more to do with being 12 than anything else.
If you’re going into a new roommate situation, establishing it upfront as a normal fact of life is the way to go–“We need to make sure the trash is out every Tuesday by 8AM, recycling goes in the blue bin, I leave early and get home late so I’ll take the rear space in the driveway, and we agree that we won’t have loud sex after 11:30pm on weekdays.”
If you’re in LW’s situation or similar and it wasn’t discussed at the beginning, you need to have the Sex Noises conversation separate from other roommate expectations. Don’t start a discussion or argument about all the things the roommate does that irritates you–this is not the way a conversation should go: “You never/always do this helpful/annoying thing (you never wipe down the counters after cooking/you always use the last of the toilet paper without replacing the roll) and you and your partner(s) sound like cats in heat going at it and I’m sick of it!” Calm discussion, of just this topic, when partners aren’t around has been the most effective way to deal with this for me. And hopefully it doesn’t get to this point, but if you read my reply above you’ll see that my last roommate and I had to establish a financial penalty to get each other to stop breaking the House Rules. It wasn’t the greatest situation to be in, and if we hadn’t been related it might have killed the relationship, but sometimes you have to put a price on having your boundaries respected.
I had one roommate, with whom I shared a wall, knock on the door and say that he could hear loud smacking sounds. Were we making those sounds? We said yes, in a no-nonsense way. He asked if we could stop at the moment, as he was trying to concentrate on work. We suggested picking it up again in half an hour. He said that would be fine. He went away again. We cuddled for half an hour or so, and then went back to making loud smacking noises.
Happily for me, but unfortunately for offering useful strategies, I had fairly reasonable roommates (at least, in that regard).
I remember a housemate who had his room on the first floor while mine was on the third and I could still hear him and his gf; which I let go unless it was an unreasonable hour as I was in my 4th year of university and needed my sleep. However, another housemate liked to have sex in the shower with her boyfriend; the bathroom wall was right next to my desk. Where I basically lived that year. I asked her to please keep the intimacies to her bedroom and that lasted for all of a week. The guy also would run down the stairs naked after these sessions which I unfortunately saw on 2 occasions. Luckily they broke up =/ But I sort of learned from this that it was as much me as them; I am very noise sensitive and prone to migraines so I learned that I really needed to live on my own. Plausible deniability only worked for me when I was migraine free; with a migraine every noise felt like being stabbed in the head.
The weird thin that sort of worked for working out problems (at least amongst the girls in the house, the guys were assholes) was having a noteboard/dry erase board on the fridge where we could leave messages; anything from “please stop taking my hot dogs” to “I have a big exam tomorrow and would appreciate some quiet tonight” to “I lost my front door key, can someone unlock the door for me around 7 so I can get in?” so that we were all aware of what was going on. And since we all spent considerable time in the kitchen, it was hard to have an excuse for not being aware. It was less awkward that some of the face to face confrontations and I ended up getting back a lot of borrowed items that way before I moved out. And it allowed you to be tactful while still direct. I don’t know how many roomies LW has but addressing it to the general you instead of a specific person seemed to take some of the sting out of it.
Hope things improve regardless.
Wow. Migraines. That’s me too. Thank you for explaining so clearly another reason that living alone was so necessary
Oh man LW, I’m so sorry, having people comment on sex noises is so uncomfortable and nerve wracking. One time (at least) my boyfriend’s roommate and his girlfriend were in his room and overheard us having sex and then the girlfriend told my boyfriend all about how she could hear it and what her thoughts on our sex life were. It was really fucking creepy and I was uncomfortable and worried about it for weeks. I can’t even imagine what constant little comments would be like. It’s just so invasive.
Definitely have the conversation with your roommate about expectations. I can’t blame her for finding it annoying or whatever if she’s trying to sleep, but she also can’t blame you for not knowing what the issue really was if she didn’t say! Also, if she won’t admit to having any sort of real problem with it (ex you ask if she’s having trouble sleeping because of it and she goes “Well, no but…”), then that is really an admission that she has an issue with you having sex where she may be aware of it. Which could be totally justified, but it’s still not anything you can bend anymore on, and she needs to understand that and understand that this could require you to have to move out.
Here are my suggestions for LW:
1. Move out, with boyfriend. Stuff like this was part of the catalyst that got myself and BF to move in together because our relationship had simply outgrown our living arrangements. And now we can have sex at any volume, anywhere at any time, and it’s the most brilliant thing ever.
2. Move out, without boyfriend. Look for a place that has bedrooms fairly far apart and/or a granny flat, hope that the next roommate has more regular sleeping hours or is away a lot in the evenings.
3. Put some music on while you’re doin it.
4. Talk to housemate and make some sort of agreement – I’m with the Cap that it would be justifiable to say “after 11 please be in your room” (I read this letter as: she can only hear the sounds from the living room but not her bedroom, but this wouldn’t work if that’s not the case)
5. Make a more explicit arrangement about when she can and can’t expect love-time sounds – “I will be at BF’s house Mon – Wed, and BF will be over Fri & Sat and we may do the sexy things while he’s here so expect that to happen, but I can promise you five days of the week will be sexy-sound-free for you”. That way you get to get busy up to five times a week, and housemate has some certainty about it which might take away some of the upset for her. But that doesn’t work unless you absolutely stick to it and in my experience those agreements don’t work because people prefer to just live their lives and strict sex-schedules are usually the first to fly out the window.
I’m not under the impression from the letter that there is a “boyfriend” of sufficient standing to merit cohabitation, but items 4 and 5 have a real basis. Being clear and consistent about expectations and reality is the only way this living arrangement has a shot of working out.
Okay, so I’m one of those people who really loves to make noise. I am also one of those people who doesn’t like hearing other people’s noises. So I’ve viewed this from both sides. Also, I live in an apartment by myself, however it is old and the walls and floors are… thin. And I live in a building that happens to have a lot of kids in it. Personally, I just feel like it’s more polite *not* to make the strangers around me have to make up reasons to little Jimmy why the lady next door keeps screaming Jesus’ name in conjunction with someone else’s.
From the side of listener: I have learned more about some of my neighbors than I really wanted to know (such as “the girl on the floor below me sounds like a Canada goose when she comes”). I don’t *enjoy* hearing them, but I’m a grownup, and unless the noise is excessive, I just ignore it as best I can. After all, they’re having fun with each other. I’d rather hear that than domestic abuse, right? And if I want to tune it out I have a laptop in my room – I turn on some music or a movie just loud enough to cover up any awkward noises from beyond the boundaries of my place. I mean the sound clearly isn’t going to bother them, so it’s all good. For the record, I have never lived near anybody who has been too noisy because of sex. Because of mental issues or because of a sudden urge to learn six musical instruments all within one week, yes. Because of couples fighting and because of dogs, but never because of sex. So there’s that.
From the side of the noisemaker: This has also taught me how to be discreet in my own love life – if I know I’m going to be making noise, I plan accordingly. A little noise? Any time of day or night is good, and I turn on a fan or heater for the white noise. Do I want to make noise and not worry about who’s hearing it? I choose a time of day when playing a movie or music loud enough to cover any noise I make isn’t going to bother anyone. And if I once in awhile realize I’m about to make more noise than I want during a late-night session, well, that’s why I keep that emergency small pillow close at hand – I just shove my head in it and go nuts. Because really, although I prefer not to listen to the noises of others, I *love* making noise myself.
Did I mention that my dream is to own a house – a *house*, not a condo or an apartment or a duplex or whatever – with a lot of land around it? I mean, for other reasons, but “be as loud as you want” certainly is high on the list.
Not exactly the same situation, but when the wolf started staying over, my oldest told me early on that they could hear us during the sexytimes. It wasn’t keeping them from sleeping, it was just the sort of thing a kid doesn’t want to hear. While I was sympathetic, (memories of hearing noises my own mother would make,) I certainly wasn’t going to stop having sex and I knew it would be impossible to be completely silent.
So I told my child flat out, “We’ll try to keep the overt noise level down and buy you some earplugs. In return, if you’re awake and can’t help hearing us, we won’t complain if you turn your music up to drown us out.”
Granted, a minor child doesn’t have much choice, but they felt heard and we weren’t subjected to passive-aggressive eye-rolling or snarky comments and everyone was more-or-less happy with the solution.
I think the important thing there is something that is translatable to LW’s situation. You had a conversation where you explicitly laid out the options. Your child got to air their grievance and you acknowledged its legitimacy without compromising on your needs, but proposed a compromise which may not have left everyone completely happy, but did leave them addressed.
The problem with LW’s roommate is that Roommate isn’t expressing clearly what Roommate wants out of the situation. Whereas you, Eureka, were the parent of a minor child, and therefore expect to be doing more than 50% of the work of communication and boundary-setting, LW is dealing (at least nominally) with an adult and equal, which makes it a lot harder for LW to respond appropriately to Roommate’s inappropriately vague commentary.
Just a caveat to Cap’s awesome advice: if there is a child in the house, please redouble efforts to get the white noise machine working. I had to ask a similar question of an housemate who felt herself SUPER LIBERATED AND SEX POSITIVE by shrieking at the top of her operatically-trained lungs while my eight-year-old was spending the summer with me. She was briefly at me miffed at the idea that maybe I should handle my child’s sex education at a pace more governed by her own curiosity, but fortunately the RA walked into the living room as we had that conversation, and GLORIOUSLY snarked, “Roommate, honey, if we can tell you’re faking it from outside the house, maybe one of you two should be working on your technique.” I literally sent a bouquet of roses.
I mean, this is obviously NOT what LW is doing, but just saying: if there’s a kid there, maybe think a little harder about work-arounds.
oH MY GOD THAT’S A BEAUTIFUL STORY
Also yeah definitely be polite about other people’s children. @___@ like wtf
What creeps me out about this letter is that the Roommate, not the LW, is the one forcing unwanted intimacy here. Because that’s the problem with overhearing sex noises, right? You’re being forced into a level of intimacy you didn’t want. But in this case, the Roommate is the one who keeps inserting herself into the situation with those repeated reminders. (and those reminders are also iMMEDIATE?? WHY IS IT IMMEDIATE? IS SHE LURKING OUTSIDE TO POUNCE? she is WAY TOO INVESTED.)
LW, what I’m saying is, YOU’RE NOT THE ONE WHO MADE THIS WEIRD. Your roommate is the one who made this weird. I think you are well within your rights to do a Return to Sender on the weird, here. I think all of the Captain’s advice is A+, especially the bit about setting the boundary. You are entitled to that boundary! You are entitled to live in a space where you do things that people do in their homes without being CHRONICALLY SHAMED FOR DOING THOSE THINGS. If your roommate actually wants you to Do an Action, your roommate can use her words and ask you to do whatever it is she wants you to do. The constant shaming and hinting and highlighting of your sexy times is really fucking invasive and passive-aggressive, and, to be honest, it’s pretty controlling. You do not need to put up with that! I recommend keeping all of this in the back of your mind if you become tempted to explain yourself or apologize a lot when talking to the roommate. You have rights, LW!
(Aside: I say all this as a chronic anxious insomniac with a terrible sleep schedule who can hear most things in the apt upstairs AND the one next door. I would never in my life consider mentioning it to the friend next door every time I heard sex, because THAT WOULD BE WEIRD.)
Right, as an anxiety-haver (with sensory processing stuff and who is certifiably terrible at sleeping) the LAST thing I want to do is force a conversation about someone else’s sex noises. Particularly if my problem is that I feel uncomfortable listening to it, my gut reaction (not necessarily the best response long term…) is to IGNORE and just be GLAD WHEN IT IS OVER.
Of course, I have no idea whether Roommate tried that tactic before reaching some breaking point or another, and has now lost all context for how big a problem the noises are or are not, which might be part of the problem, actually…
The primary issue here seems to be one of communication. What does the flatmate mean when they say “I could hear you”?
Do they mean “I could hear you because I was listening really hard and it’s been a dry patch for me and I’m really feeling envious right now so I want to make you feel as miserable as I do!”? Do they mean “Umm, were you aware your bedroom door isn’t as soundproof as you thought it was?”. Do they mean “Would it be possible for you to put down a rug or something, or put a towel over the headboard so your bed doesn’t make such a racket?”. Do they mean “Damnit, it’s three AM, I’m trying to sleep but I can’t sleep and the insomnia is making me hyper-aware of every single noise in the place; I can even hear my own hair growing! and I’m irritable as all hell as a result!”. Do they mean “Is this guy going to be putting some money toward the rent and utilities given he’s here so often?” There’s a lot of possible meanings they could be conveying. It is up to them to clarify what they’re trying to get across with their comments.
I agree you’re on the right track with saying “okay, here’s the bargain: between time A and time B (eg 10pm and 6am) I will try and keep the noise coming from my room right down to a minimum, so everyone can sleep. However, between Time B and time A, anything goes. Any complaints about the content of the noise during those hours will be treated to the raised eyebrow”. (Set time A and time B to correspond with your own sleep cycle, if possible – make this as easy for yourself as you can). Be clear the only part of the whole thing which is negotiable are the starting and ending hours for the quiet time.
If her complaint is essentially that there’s any noise at all, she’s on a hiding to nothing. You’re in an apartment building, which means you’re sharing space with other people, and that space is going to have a certain amount of noise, even at 3am on a snowy Sunday morning. If the complaint is about noise at unexpected times and places, well, accommodations can be made (see above). If the complaint is about certain pitches and frequencies, again, making accommodations and set times for performance might be a way to work around things. If the complaint is largely that you’re having sex at all, again, this is a person on a hiding to nothing, and a person who should be looking for a different flat mate when the lease expires.
LW, I don’t have anything particularly proactive to add, but I think you are in the right here and your roommate coming up to you almost immediately after you’ve had sex and telling you that she heard you sounds super, super creepy. Honestly, my first thought when I read that was that she gets off on listening to you guys and is being massively skeevy about it, but maybe she’s being passive-aggressive or just bad at social skills with this. In any case, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong here. You should be able to have sex in your own goddamn apartment.
Oh, ugh, I really feel for the LW– I lived in this kinda situation for ages.
My roommate had two boyfriends, one who was over every weekend for years, and then she started dating our other roommate. And regardless of who it was with, she always had super audible to the point of awkwardness sex. None of us cared, really.
Yet, the minute I started dating my partner, OMG such a BIG DEAL. To the point where I left my room to shower at like 2 am and her and her boyfriend started making fun of us for having sex. Yeaaaaaah. Nope.
Sometimes, you just have to make steps towards finding a new space, if that’s possible, because honestly one cannot be perpetually celibate if one doesn’t want to, hey?
I don’t have fantastic advice for what to do next, but I think I have good advice for what to do if your housemate becomes ridiculously pissy and uncooperative about the whole thing. If, after trying to talk to them, they continue to mention to you every time you have sex, you can reply, “I know I had sex, it was great!” And walk away.
Then again, I’m a bit more comfortable with confrontation than most people, but maybe daydreaming about replying in such a sassy way and then bouncing will make you feel better.
To be honest, it seems as if your roommate does not want you to have sex anytime she is awake, yet, it seems as if she awake all the time on her erratic sleep schedule. I have sleep problems too, but I never expected roommates to wait for me to fall asleep to have sex as that is unpredictable and would be unfair of me. If I am up at 3am and hear them since I don’t feel tired, that’s my problem, not theirs.
I’ve been in the roommate’s situation when I was a lot younger and bad at using my words. My other roommate and I went into Slightly Noisy Bedtime Roommate’s bedroom when she was out and put some rolled-up fabric between the bed and the wall to stop it banging so loudly. It did work but these days I wouldn’t go into someone’s space like that without telling them.
I feel she’s not right to complain, especially not when you’re making an effort to be quiet. I’ve heard people many times, starting with my parents, and while I don’t like it much I’ve never felt moved to complain about or comment on it, just accepted it as part of life. Perhaps a high noise level is cause for complaint, but it sounds as if you might be reserving this for the 50% at other venues.
As someone who has lived with her best friend for the past…what, six years, now? Her best friend who has very loud, enthusiastic sex with his girlfriends…often in the middle of the day (they have weird schedules)…yeah, your roommate is being out of line, and my I suggest she picks up some nice padded earphones (not even the fancy-pants noise-cancelling type, just some with a bit of padding) and plugs into a white noise website. I like the .wav file of the USS Enterprise engines with random beeping etc, but there’s some nice rain sites, coffee shop noises, etc that she can easily find. Music, if it doesn’t bother her. And eventually…just getting the hell over it.
I’ve talked about it a few times with my friend and his girlfriend (and his ex in the past). Especially early on, because I hadn’t known sex was being had until I hear banging and screaming, and THAT was a really freaky thing to suddenly hear. They know they can be heard if they’re very loud. I know they know (his girlfriend once told me that she’ll stop in the middle and say, “Wait, wait! Thathat!” because she remembered that she wanted to be quiet for my sake, to which I responded, it is ABSOLUTELY OKAY if you do not think about me or say my name while you are having sex with my best friend).
At any rate, we had the conversation because we’re close, and because they were being really unreasonably loud very very often. So they know, I know, and nobody cares, because they are two grown adults. And maybe I make it a point to be somewhere else for Valentine’s, anniversaries, etc.
(I will confess to trolling my also-loud neighbors the other day, after they’d been going at it a while. I cranked up my speakers, pointed them at the shared wall, and started blaring the theme song to “Tailspin.” It stopped. But that was also partial vengeance for the guy who keeps practicing bass guitar at 4am.)
It’s easy to say Roommate needs to just get the hell over it, but while it may be validating for LW to hear, it doesn’t provide much practical help. Even the best advice, when offered that way, is probably going to set Roommate on the defensive. I’d still recommend sticking with “what do you want me to do/say?” and wait for Roommate to open the dialogue. Then, if the conversation goes well and is about both their respective needs vs. the present realities, it may become appropriate for LW to recommend various solutions.
Validation is not a minor thing nor is it impractical. The LW deserves it and, given the description of crying and upset, it sounds like LW needs it. No one should have to negotiate any complicated/messy issue without the sense that their own feelings are justified and important. The idea that a productive conversation could even take place with LW feeling so guilty and upset seems implausible to me. And I don’t think anyone is saying the roommate needs to “get the hell over it,” but rather that the LW should stop taking this on as a problem only the LW can solve.
Validation is absolutely important, and I hope the LW finds enough of it here to proceed with the knowledge that LW’s needs are worthy of being met with equal respect as Roommate’s. But the comment I replied to, above, *did* suggest that Roommate needs to just get over it, and while that’s certainly an understandable position on one level, it’s LW, not Roommate, who has asked what to do to address this situation in LW’s home, and so approaches that focus on changing Roommate’s behavior are going to be problematic. Unprompted suggestions of noise machines, earplugs, etc. might not be well-received, and may extend the (utterly false, as we know) perception that LW feels this is Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys. It won’t help restore communication between them, and in the interest of lowering LW’s stress level, restoring communication is probably the best bet.
Okay, then, sorry. What I meant to say, since Cap covered all the advice angles, was another voice chiming in to the tune of LW’s roommate is totally out of line and is being gross and rude. So LW does not think that her desire to not have her roommate constantly comment on the sex she has is an unreasonable one.
While I said, “my suggestion” there was some facetiousness that I hope most people picked up in the phrasing. I am not outright suggesting that LW tells roommate these things in exactly that manner. I’m just feeling a little incredulous that a grown person who has chosen to room with other grown people is being so rude. It’s one thing to be uncomfortable with sex and sexy-times happening–*I’M* uncomfortable with it a lot of the time. But that doesn’t even seem like what’s happening here. It just feels like the roommate being weird and rude.
I’m not sure if this will nest properly, but here goes: I understood your comment’s moments of facetiousness, ThatHat. I think we’re just misfiring with cruelmistress here and mostly mean the same thing, but are disagreeing about the method of the message rather than the content. I don’t think offering a noise machine or headphones in response to repeated “I can hear you” comments would count as “unprompted,” nor would they suggest to me that the LW is abdicating responsibility, but either way, yes, an open dialogue does sound like it would make the LW happier than any other outcome. I don’t think there’s any way to fix this problem without Roommate changing her behavior somewhat (ideally she would at the very least stop the “I can hear you” comments) and I think that it’s more than okay for LW to ask for that, but it would need to be a delicate request. I think the Captain has provided lovely scripts for exactly that. LW wants to not feel crappy but she doesn’t want to make her roommate feel crappy either.
That said, since LW is the one who wrote into the blog and the one we know to be experiencing serious emotional upset, I’m good with emphasizing the total acceptableness of her desires and behaviors as described above. This isn’t a math problem. These two people’s needs don’t need to be assessed by us or the LW as 100% “equal.” In actuality, LW should prioritize their own needs over roommate’s in the interest of their own mental health and happiness. That’s not the same thing as disregarding Roommate’s needs, but I think it’s more than okay for LW to say (however delicately couched): “Something here has to give. I’m not going to stop having sex, but I need you to stop telling me you can hear it all the time. How do you want to proceed?” I’m deeply uncomfortable with the idea that because the LW is the one who wrote in, it’s entirely the LW’s responsibility to fix the problem and that there shouldn’t be any requests made of Roommate. That’s untenable. LW has already tried everything they can think of to solve this problem on their end. And, tbh, it doesn’t sound like these two aren’t communicating (i.e. nothing needs to be restored), but rather that they aren’t communicating well, so I don’t think LW needs to grovel in order for Roommate to engage. LW just needs help asking for what they need and that’s always always easier to do when one is confident that what one needs is a reasonable/acceptable thing. For the record, LW, it is.
*I tried to use plural pronouns here because I realized I wasn’t entirely sure of LW’s gender/sex. Apologies for any grammatical awkwardness.
This might be obvious, but perhaps LW and her roommate aren’t the best sharers of space and one of them should consider moving out. It’s good to have someone who has the same views on cleanliness and bill payment, etc., but wanting to have uninhibited sex is a great reason to live by yourself (though there will always be neighbors). If the walls in this apartment are paper thin and LW’s roommate really doesn’t want to hear sex, this sounds like a baseline incompatibility–either the apartment or the roommate should change. I can see some of the suggestions made by CA and others might work in the short term, but a plan to move out within 6 months might be in order.
I agree with this. Someone mentioned upthread that LW seems to have really intense feelings of guilt with regard to this issue, that this really goes beyond the usual roomie conflict feelings. Also, her roommate regularly makes her cry (whether or not it’s intentional, that by itself is a good reason to move out)! I suspect all of this is related them also being BFFs and the relationship being too burdened by now. I think LW currently can’t quite see how high her stress level is and wants to be really loyal to her BFF. Planning the end of the co-habitation situation now could be a good idea to reduce stress and avoid a huge fight.
You put it very well. Roommates should not be making each other cry.
Violating the roommate social contract like whoa. Seriously.
I think the Captain’s scripts are excellent, and that talking to her to find out what she means is key, cause otherwise all you’ve got to go on is vaguely passive-aggressive (?) comments.
In terms of hearing people you don’t want to hear going at it… In short: my parents slept with their door open (so as to catch my sister when she was gonna sleepwalk away), their room was right below mine, my mom was a screamer, and there was no insulation in the ceiling/floor between our rooms. So, I’ve been in the shoes of someone who Doesn’t Want To Hear It, right? Solution: ear plugs, music, and, when all else fails, a knock on the wall and a “I’ve got an exam in the morning, and it’s 2am. You’ve got 5 more minutes and then I need to sleep!!” (Actual story, mom was embarrassed for 2 days and then laughed about it). Like, adults have sex, it happens, it’s natural and normal and ffs get on with life, who has time for passive-aggressive bs.
On the flip side, when I had a roommate, she’d actually complain about hearing sex noises (and we WERE being as quiet as we could and not doing kink while she was in the house!!). But, in this situation: my room was half the living room (curtain divide), so I couldn’t even close the door, and she insisted on sleeping with her door open. So. Not having sex was not an option, being quieter wasn’t possible, and in that case she could either close her bedroom door, listen to music, or move out. (Spoiler: she complained until the be was no longer around, and I moved out as soon as I could afford my own apt with an actual bedroom door.)
I’m a big fan of direct and clear communication when it comes to expectations of shared space, because everyone is entitled to live in that space, and you can’t divine what someone else’s expectations are, y’know? But you need to know them if you want to make sure that you’re compatible to keep living together.
I really feel for the LW. It sucks that this shitty situation is going on when it’s not just your roommate, but also your BFF. I can feel my heart rate rising and feelings of panic as I am reading some of these stories and imagining what it would be like to have roommates again. OMFG no THANK you. It is so painful and in some ways, at least for me, utterly panic-inducing to have roommate problems. Even “just” growing up with a family who fights a lot–it’s scary, at least emotionally, to live in these kinds of circumstances!
The only good roommate situations I have had (and I have had a few, so I shouldn’t make roomming with someone seem like it’s ALWAYS hell), were actually with people who became very good friends of mine. We had very similar personalities, styles (as in, lifestyles), beliefs, and methods of communication. I can imagine a couple of people with whom I would gladly room–but they don’t live or work near me, nor do I know if they would reciprocate these feelings.
I sometimes worry because it is usually so much more expensive to live alone than with a roommate–I know that I am paying twice as much to live in my studio than I was with a roommate just a few months ago–but it got to the point where my sense of emotional safety was so fucked that I preferred to dish out the hundreds of dollars more to be alone, rather than get a cheaper deal but suffer the ongoing diffuse traumas of living with someone who was either outwardly mean and creepy toward me, or acted like I was a ghost. (Ugh, I’m shivering with the (not so recent) memories.)
So while moving out is an option, LW, I totally empathize with your desire to heal things with the person who is ALSO your BFF! I hope for both of your sakes that when you talk to her using the Captain’s script and some of the other advice in here that you have a catharsis of understanding, realizing the error of (her) ways (in passive aggression and/or creepy observation), laughing, and working out a system that benefits you both.
Totally agree with everything the Captain said about the roommate’s comments being weirdly intrusive and how to address those.
As an aside, I’m wondering if your apartment has weird acoustics. I once lived in a house where you could barely hear noise in one room if it was from the room next door, but there was a heating vent that connected it with an upstairs bathroom that acted like an intercom between the two spaces. You could hear a whisper between those two rooms if the vent was open. If you want to try to mitigate the sound issues more effectively (separate from the creepy boundary issues), maybe check to see if there is a vent piping sound to her room or investigate something like moving your bed to the other side of the room and/or hanging something soft on the wall closest to roomie’s bedrom.
I can sympathize with the roommate. I once had a room that was wall-to-wall with the room of one flatmate. Of course I never mentioned anything but I am pretty sure that the slapping noises I heard were caused by sexytimes … and of course I would never have mentioned it, because awkward, but really, some loud music in the room the sex is had in would work wonders. At least, that way, a flatmate could complain about the music, and everyone’s face would be saved.
Plausible deniability. I prefer it to be as plausible as humanly possible. “Dear roommate, I want to hear loud music in the next few hours. You aren’t going to sleep, are you? Nice, you can hear your own music in the meantime!”
I do have a lot of sympathy for the roommate. I live in a very thin-walled apartment and the first year I moved in I had a neighbour who would set his alarm for dawn and was such a heavy sleeper it usually took 40 minutes of blaring before he woke up and turned it off. And it was loud enough in my apartment that even with earplugs in, it woke me every time (the beeping in my apartment was significantly louder than my own alarm clock, actually). And every few minutes again BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. And again. It felt really really hellish to be dragged out of sleep hours before I meant to get up, and prevented from going back to sleep… If roommate has sleeping problems already, and mental health problems, noise at unexpected times may just feel to her like more than she can handle.
But even if that’s the case (and it might not be – she might just find it embarassing or be being judgemental), LW can’t be expected to live like this either. She can’t give up such an important part of her personal relationships, or spend all her time avoiding her own apartment, or spend the time she wants to be immersed in her experience being anxious and self-consciousabout every noise she makes. That sounds aweful, too.
Long story short, I feel bad for both of them and hope they can either work out a compromise where both actually feel comfortable, or find new living arrangements, and hopefully salvage their friendship (and both their peace of mind).
That’s funny, I don’t remember having you as a roommate…
I also lived downstairs from Doesn’t Hear His Alarm Oh Wait He Shut It Off No Sorry Hit The Snooze Repeat Ad Nauseam Guy for a couple of years. Sadly, he was also 8 AM On Saturday Is Totally Time For Bass Practice With An Amp Guy. I really hope that someday he learns the second line to “Smoke on the Water,” but as much time as it took him to learn the first, I’m not optimistic.
The only time he apologized for the noise was when he was moving out. Oddly, that was the only time I *didn’t* mind it so much.
omg you lived upstairs from my ex-husband!
I think the LW wants to try extra hard to salvage the situation because of the close friendship, but if your roommate is popping out of her room to intercept you after every single time you have sex, no matter how quiet you were or tried to be, I am not sure it’s salvageable. Sometimes your BFF is just not meant to be your roommate, too. (I learned this one the hard way. My best roommate ever was a girl I found on Craigslist.) Definitely try the talk, but if the response is more of the same, you need to find a way to (kindly) split up housekeeping, and this is OK and does not mean the friendship can’t be saved.
Two things nobody has directly said yet:
1. Waiting for someone to do a thing with no defined end-point can be tense-making if you’re actively waiting for them to get on and do it. Waiting for them to go to sleep, waiting for them to leave the house, whatever.
2. Finding out that somebody is actively waiting for you to do that thing you were vaguely heading towards is also tense-making and can stress a person out to the point of delaying them in doing that thing.
Lots of previous commenters have established that waiting for her to go to sleep isn’t working for either of you. That seems to be trying to manage her like you’d manage a child and it’s making both of you really tense.
I think the commenter who talked about hyper-sensitivity to sounds that annoy you was spot-on. The meaning and context of a noise is way more important than the decibel level. Example: when my neighbour’s dog started barking because he was frightened by very loud drilling noise from a nearby house, other neighbours complained about the dog but not the drilling. Because loud home improvements = fine but dogs: not fine.
If the noise of housemate’s sexytimes is dreaded and expected but unpredictable and makes the housemate feel powerless and angry, it’s going to become part of a narrative in her head which makes it a way worse noise than the equivalent decibel level of birds tweeting or something. I think the LW is going the right way with the 50/50 rule. Making it more predictable and sticking to agreements might help too because she won’t have that helpless feeling you get when you’re sleep-deprived and stressed out and don’t know when the noise is going to start up again. If it doesn’t work, I’m joining the huge numbers of people who’ve said “don’t share a flat with this person once your lease is up”.
I am so very glad I don’t have this problem. My roommate and I live in a situation where we’re just gonna have to hear each other have sex and we’ve dealt with it by embracing it. “I heard you having sex last night! Sounded like fun!”
I think it’s quite reasonable to keep it down while others are sleeping. But that doesn’t seem to be what Roommate wants — Roommate wants to make sure she never hears OP have sex, ever. And I don’t think that’s reasonable, especially since Roommate doesn’t seem to be taking steps to protect herself from hearing what she doesn’t want to hear.
Here’s something that is reasonable, though: “Hey, Roommate, I’m having a friend over at Time on Day and we’re planning on having some pretty loud funtime. I’m letting you know so you can run errands or rock out to some loud music or whatever while that’s going on. Thanks!”
You’re not asking permission, but be polite and give her as much notice as possible so she can plan around it with minimal inconvenience.
Right now, OP is doing everything to accommodate Roommate’s demands. These demands are made difficult by the fact that roommate keeps odd hours and doesn’t work. If Roommate hates sex noises so much, she should be the one accommodating OP at least some of the time.
And yeah, this living situation is probably untenable and should end soon.
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