Something goes thump in the night
May 10, 2012 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Thin walls, noisy partner; help me be a better neighbor?

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in a two-story building with 10ish other units in it. Apparently, the walls and doors are paper thin as far as sound is concerned. This would be fine, as I am a pretty heavy sleeper, but I have a very... "expressive" (read: loud during sex) partner. I have read a few questions about the other side of this dispute (usually with music) but this time, I am the jerk. I do not want to be the jerk. Can't we all just get along?

Therein lies the rub:
-Two months ago, after a late night evening of "relations" the neighbor that I share a wall with came over to chat. I had never met him before, but he was very nice and pleasant and without mentioning anything specific, he said that the walls were thin and that he often has to get up early in the morning. I felt terrible! He almost certainly heard screaming, headboard banging, and and god knows what else at circa 1am on a weeknight.
-Within a week, I re-arranged my room to move my bed to another wall and instituted a no-sex-in-the-bedroom-at-night-on-weekdays rule. I have a corner unit (two walls to the outdoors, one wall to the neighbor, and one wall to the hallway) so I figured that doing it in the living room and putting my entire apartment between us and the neighbor wall would make weeknights doable.
-That went along fine until last night (circa 2am) when an angry guy (not the same guy as before I think) screamed from the hallway to "shut the f*ck up, close a window or something". So now it seems as though the front room doesn't work either (all the windows and doors were closed).

Additional issues:
-Partner in question doesn't get off work until 10pm, so she can't come over until 11pm or so (already getting close to the witching hour before she even walks in the door)
-Sometimes I play music to try and mask the noise, I am not sure if making more sound is good or bad.
-I think last night's complainer may have been a temporary guest of my across-the-hall neighbor (so he would have been in the front room of that unit, effectively as close to my front room as any other room in the building)

I want to be a better neighbor. No one deserves to feel caged and uncomfortable in the place where they live and sleep. Yet, I have already gone out of my way to compromise. Where is the middle ground? Have you been in this position before? Give me your thoughts...
-Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight (in the front room)? Is there a rule for weekends? This feels like a slippery slope. What is reasonable? How about mornings?
-How can I get/develop/intuit a schedule for when it is cool or not cool (in which room)?
-How can I let them know that I really do want to be a better neighbor?
-I have thought about giving people my phone number and asking them to call and hang up if there is an issue or putting out a little survey to get some indication of how bad it is and how I can best ameliorate the situation.
-I have tried the "be quiet" strategy and it works for a while, then fades off. The constant reminder is off-putting and distracting.
-A gag of some form might work (and she would probably be interested/accepting of that option) but it seems like a pretty extreme work around. Surely this probably has been resolved before without the use of a gag.
-I have thought about just giving them a slip of paper with the link to this post on it

The situation is annoying on both ends. What should I do? What has worked (on either side) for you in the past?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight (in the front room)? Is there a rule for weekends?

Yes, you're being unreasonable. Weekends are slightly better.

-A gag of some form might work (and she would probably be interested/accepting of that option) but it seems like a pretty extreme work around. Surely this probably has been resolved before without the use of a gag.

Honestly, I would just go with this. It requires the least amount of effort. You get to have sex whenever you want and your neighbors get to sleep.
posted by mleigh at 4:24 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Buy a gag.

Make a game of being quiet.

Have sex at midday.

Move.
posted by mollymayhem at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you live in an apartment with thin walls, in order to be a good neighbor you don't do loud things during normal sleeping hours... say 10-8 on weekdays, 11-9 on weekends. (maybe midnight, occasionally). That includes playing music, loud chatting and, yes, sex. There is no exception for sex. Playing music would feel very rude to me, like you were trying to make it worse on me because I complained, by doubling up the loud noises. They don't want your loud noises covered by other loud noises, they want your loud noises to stop. It is a trade off you make for living in an apartment building. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's sex, it has to do with the fact that you are making loud noises at 2 am, of COURSE that's not OK. It sucks that her job is late, but she needs to be quiet or you need to stop having sex during normal sleeping hours or you need to move.
posted by brainmouse at 4:26 PM on May 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


Have sex at your partner's place.

(As someone who tends towards very loud during sex, it is very possible for me to keep quiet if I try.)
posted by mollymayhem at 4:27 PM on May 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


"make a game of being quiet" - YES. I am kinda that girl (under preferable circumstances) and the first few times a partner pulled the "we have to be quiet" card, I was taken out of the moment.

But you get used to it, and as time goes on it becomes more of a feature, less of a bug.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2012


why can't you ask your partner to be (more) quiet?
posted by elle.jeezy at 4:30 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


How much of this is legitimate grunts of passion, and how much is play-acting?

Porn-style screaming? Every single time? Acting.

If this is really a problem ... heavy curtains and acoustic baffles.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:31 PM on May 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Tell your partner to turn it down a notch, it won't kill her -- no one has to be loud.
posted by thisjax at 4:32 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight (in the front room)?
Yes. It's noise. I bet if you look at your lease there's a section on quiet hours. Your noise is violating it.


Is there a rule for weekends? This feels like a slippery slope. What is reasonable? How about mornings?
Yes. It's noise. Keep it down after 1a on weekends.

-How can I get/develop/intuit a schedule for when it is cool or not cool (in which room)?
Look at your lease, or ask your building manager what the quiet hours are. They'll apply to EVERY ROOM in your apartment.

-How can I let them know that I really do want to be a better neighbor?
By making less noise.

-I have thought about giving people my phone number and asking them to call and hang up if there is an issue or putting out a little survey to get some indication of how bad it is and how I can best ameliorate the situation.
That's dumb. If I'm trying to sleep why would I want to call you? You already woke me up.

-I have tried the "be quiet" strategy and it works for a while, then fades off. The constant reminder is off-putting and distracting.
So's your noise when I'm trying to sleep.

-A gag of some form might work (and she would probably be interested/accepting of that option) but it seems like a pretty extreme work around. Surely this probably has been resolved before without the use of a gag.
Use a gag, or incorporate more tapestries/carpets into your decorating style.

-I have thought about just giving them a slip of paper with the link to this post on it
...How is that at all an effective problem solving solution?
posted by spunweb at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I play music to try and mask the noise, I am not sure if making more sound is good or bad.

Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight (in the front room)?


Noise is noise no matter what the source, and at 2am on a weeknight you are being a huge jerk. Huge. (Sorry.)
posted by elizardbits at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Go to Home Depot and get those big sheets of soundproofing board and cover that wall that is shared with the hallway. You can paint them or decorate them or put them behind huge bookcases or other pieces of furniture or drapes or whatever. Put one over the door. And get one of those rubber things that goes under the door to make a tight seal.

2 am on a weeknight isn't cool, especially if it happens on lots of weeknights. If I were your neighbor I would be lying there in bed super pissed and soothing myself back to sleep by thinking of plans for terrible revenge. Loud anything should stop at 9 or 10 on a weeknight, 12 or 1 on a weekend.
posted by cairdeas at 4:40 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's no "can't we all just get along" when one party is preventing the other from sleeping during normal sleeping hours by engaging in loud activities, whatever they may be.

You might not appreciate how big of a deal this is to your neighbors, since it seems you have a less usual sleep schedule. But it is a big deal to people who need that sleep in order to feel good the next day. And there's a good chance you're in violation of your lease. Leases typically include quiet hours because yes, being able to sleep is important to whether your apartment is great or a total nightmare.

You need to find some way to keep it quiet.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:47 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one HAS to be that loud during sex. (How many of us have younger siblings? How many of us heard them being conceived?) Ask your partner to keep it down, before you find your neighbours putting recordings of you online.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 4:50 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as a parent with an "expressive" partner, we've had to figure out ways to keep it quiet. Here are a few things that have worked for us.

1. Mount the headboard to the wall, not the bed frame.
2. Ditch the squeaky box spring for a solid platform (even a sheet of plywood works).
3. Make a game of being quiet. A gag, a hand clamped over the mouth or even just massive exertion of willpower can make it interesting.
4. Take full advantage of the opportunities you have when you can let it rip (when you can do it earlier or on the weekend.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:00 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many of us heard them being conceived?

Was it really necessary to bring up that memory?

Seriously, you need to have a conversation with your partner. She needs to tone it down -- there are gags, you can put your hand over her mouth, she can pull a pillow over her face, or she can just get with the quiet gasping program instead of the loud moaning and screaming program. Responsive is good, annoying the neighbors is bad.

Long-term, you should move to a place with good sound insulation, but you probably know that already.
posted by Forktine at 5:01 PM on May 10, 2012


Gags can be okay but they can also trigger the "wtf is he doing to her in there!!! DANGER!" response because it sounds like someone is gagged. It's actually really tough to make someone totally muffled with a gag and allow them to breathe easily.

So, maybe quiet AND a gag as a reminder?
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:05 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The constant reminder is off-putting and distracting.

Tough noogies.

Ask your girlfriend to imagine how she'd feel if, for example, she had some super-important event to deal with (LSAT? Surgery? Job interview?), but had been awoken mid-sleep by someone getting their Dance Dance Revolution on in the early a.m hours. She has the option to dial the volume down, or you two can take the loud sex to her place; but your neighbors don't have the option to go find someplace quiet to sleep at 2 a.m.

Really, it's just common courtesy.
posted by quivering_fantods at 5:07 PM on May 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you and your partner are creating that much noise that you are disturbing multiple neighbors, either she needs to be quieter or you need a new venue. I'm not going to call you or answer a survey scaling how loud your noise is. The next time it happens, I'm probably calling the landlord. I've done this before. Sometimes later I'd be awakened by an errant scream or loud conversation, but there was a world of difference to me because they did sound like they were attempting to be considerate a majority of the time; screaming sex at 2am pretty much says the opposite.

I'm totally sympathetic to your wanting to be comfortable in your apartment, too, but there is really no part of "loud noises late night during the week" that says "good neighbor."
posted by sm1tten at 5:12 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, she needs to tone it down. So, when she starts ramping the volume up, say "not so loud, I have neighbors." The answer to "who cares" is "I do." If she doesn't care that YOU have a problem with waking the neighbors, you've got a bigger problem.

But if this is just a habit to break, you can make it worth her while. Reward her very, very nicely when she's good.
posted by desuetude at 5:33 PM on May 10, 2012


I'm a loud screamer in an apartment with thin walls, and here are a few things that have worked for us:

- Gagging does help, but I've found that a ball gag, let's say, doesn't actually block the noise as much as I'd hoped. But tape over my mouth works better - best is my face buried in a pillow or my partner putting his forearm or foot in my mouth to muffle the sound.

-If she is at all submissive, commanding her to be quiet can be very erotic instead of distracting.

-Try to save the hardest sex for the weekends - for example, my partner has learned that if he doesn't want the neighbors banging, he can't whip out the Hitachi and make me have multiple orgasms at one AM on a Tuesday night.

I feel your pain - good luck!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anonymous, just wanted to come in with the fact that different people are different. Some people can't actually orgasm unless they're being loud - it's a matter of release. There are a couple of people claiming that being loud = faking, and that she *could* be quiet if she really wanted to. While the second might be true, it's akin to saying that she could enjoy the sex less than she is....and why would you want that? :-)

That said, during the week, loud sex at 2am during the week is definitely a no-no in "good neighbor" territory. I think early morning sex would be better, or you could think about insulating the walls on your own.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Last night my neighbor was doing some kind of (IKEA style) construction beside our shared wall (as far from my bed as possible,) until about 1am, and I kind of wanted to hurt them way back at 10pm. If they do it a second time I'll call the landlord. Your neighbors shouldn't hear you on anything more than a very rare occasion after about 9pm on a weekday and midnight on a weekend night, or before 8am (any day.)

I strongly suggest you move, and until then:
  • Go here and buy the things.
  • Make sure that anything you choose to engage in vigorous activities on is very much not in contact with any other thing that could make noise (couches bump into sofa tables, doors rattle, etc.,) even if that means putting thick towels in strange and aesthetically undesirable locations.
  • Go somewhere else to be vigorous.
You are already making your neighbors far more uncomfortable and involved in your private affairs than you have any right to - do not ask them to fill out a survey, give them literature, or beg them to give you a call.

If you want to know what kind of noise you're making and when, there are products that can help you. If your neighbor is an outstanding human being, he might be interested in becoming your ally in the effort to give your girlfriend scientific evidence about just how loud she's being. But, I bet you can make your point just as effectively by putting a sound level meter in the room furthest from your activities.

And make sure the walls in your next place are made with plaster. Or better yet, move to the country.
posted by SMPA at 5:43 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm assuming her place must not be an option, because that would be the most obvious solution. Do you have a car (or does she)? Maybe you could it there instead, if you have access to a secluded-enough parking spot, or tinted windows.
posted by désoeuvrée at 6:05 PM on May 10, 2012


There area sound-deadening drywall/gyproc products; they are essentially two thinner sheets of drywall with a (probably) silicon layer between them. It would cost little to have it installed over your existing shared wall. There are extender boxes for electrical fixtures. You won't be dealing with window frames. After finishing, it would be an imperceptible change to your house.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 6:13 PM on May 10, 2012


Make a game of being quiet.

If you're like me, this turns into a game of making it impossible for her to be quiet.

Yes, folks, some people are just loud and can't do a hell of a lot about it. The gag is the best solution. She gets the release of screaming into it, and both of you get to play the very slightly sadomasochistic shhh-game.
posted by cmoj at 6:13 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight ?

Yeah, sorry you totally are. I've not had screamer-midnight-neighbours, but a few years ago, I had an apartment of students living two floors above me, and they were UNBEARABLY loud at all hours of the weeknight morning.

I hated them so much. There is no hate like the hate you feel for someone that prevents sleep. You will get the cops called on you, or worse. It's just not cool, you can't put other people through that, and kudos to you for realising it. Take steps; take all the steps you can.
posted by smoke at 6:44 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you bring this up with your partner, what does she suggest as a solution? Does she have any ideas?

Two am on any night is unreasonable. And if she is one of those people who are "just loud", well, those people cannot have sex in apartment buildings with no sound insulation at 2am. Being naturally loud in bed doesn't give you the right to be a jerk. (I know you are trying not to be one, and that you thought you had a solution and, now that you find you don't have one, are looking for a new one.)
posted by jeather at 7:06 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


In certain positions, biting a pillow will help muffle the sound. In certain other positions, biting you will help. Yay!
posted by MetalFingerz at 7:27 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


-I have thought about giving people my phone number and asking them to call and hang up if there is an issue or putting out a little survey to get some indication of how bad it is and how I can best ameliorate the situation.

No. It's not your neighbor jobs to constantly police your behavior. You already know you have a problem, FIX IT. Living near people who make noise late at night with no respect for their sleeping neighbors can make a person CRAZY; you do not want such crazies as enemies. Trust me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:30 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Our apartment building's lease and house rules document (which tenants are required to read and initial each clause of before moving in) lay out the "quiet hours" for the building and say that interfering with other tenants' quiet enjoyment of their homes (or some wording like that) is grounds for eviction.

If you lived in my building, I would have written (not called) the landlord about you, long before now. I would probably have griped to the other neighbors on my hall as well and urged them to write (not call) the landlord about you.

Few things arouse deep, visceral rage like having one's sleep repeatedly disturbed by a noisy neighbor. You and your girlfriend seriously need to find a way to keep the noise down.
posted by Lexica at 7:44 PM on May 10, 2012


Am I being unreasonable in having loudish sex at 2am on a weeknight?

Yes. Absolutely. You are also breaking your lease by destroying your neighbors' right to the "quiet enjoyment of [the] premises".

If it were me, I would probably ask you to be quiet once, then do various inappropriate things like shutting off the electric power to your unit and (re-)locking the door to the utility room behind me the next couple times, then complaining to the landlord and/or police after that.

I'm not arguing that this would be an appropriate response, but it is reflective of the level of rage your actions are likely to engender in even relatively-reasonable neighbors.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:50 PM on May 10, 2012


I am someone who actually, kind of... umm... gets off hearing neighbors go at it, no matter what the time or volume level.

HOWEVER - I've learned through conversation and experience that I'm (in this regard at least) EXTREMELY rare - As sad as I might be personally that I don't live in your complex, I must echo others and say: If you can't be quiet, you must either A) have sex during the day when everyone's at work or school, or B) Find an alternate location.
posted by jalexei at 9:06 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Move the bed a couple of inches away from the wall - this will cut down on the noise from the headboard banging. Also, pad the headboard with something.

Get her to scream into a pillow.

Gags.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:00 PM on May 10, 2012


I'm loud, and it's not acting, it's just how I am - hell, I even talk louder than most people I know. (And I really wish jalexei was my neighbor too...)

We live in a standalone, detached house with it's own four walls. When I wasn't around one day, our next door neighbor, who we'd never met, complained to my boyfriend about all the loud sex - because it was embarrassing his wife!! (The neighbor specifically waited til I wasn't around because he didn't want to embarrass me). Considering the frequency and variety of what all they must have heard, we're lucky they didn't call the cops and report that women were being repeatedly killed next door. I'll admit we're still not perfect at this (I occasionally feel the need to yell "sorry, neighbor!" after sex even still), but I think it's improved - we haven't gotten any further complaints.

Some tips from experience:

My boyfriend wasn't embarrassed or defensive or horribly apologetic when discussing it. This is something you do like anything else, and you aren't keeping it private, so be reasonable, factual and direct. Apologize once, let them know you are or will be making changes, and do so. By the end of the conversation my boyfriend had the next door neighbor grinning and a lot more relaxed about discussing it when he realized it wasn't all weird and defensive and uncomfortable.

Get some of these. Get an inflatable butterfly gag (Google it, I'm at work and can't), but be careful with it.

And yeah, what everyone else said too - be more cognizant of timing, insulate the room with soft furnishings and wall coverings, put a firm hand over her mouth if you don't like the gag idea, play "be quiet or I won't let you come at all" games, etc. It can be done.
posted by thrasher at 11:17 AM on May 11, 2012


No one deserves to feel caged and uncomfortable in the place where they live and sleep.

You've gotten plenty of advice on how to shut up your partner, but no one has addressed this: you are feeling caged and uncomfortable in your OWN place, and its probably affecting your relationship with this girl. Really the only advice I can give is to move, because continuing to nag your partner about it or change her natural sexual habits will probably end the sex that you do have.

Do you think all this work to accommodate complete strangers is having an impact on your relationship with the person you have sex with?

You've tried changing rooms, rearranging furniture, etc.. the only things people suggest here are to change your partner. Yet every other AskMe tells you you can't change your partner. So I'd say either move out of this rinky dink apartment complex, or do what you want to do in your own home, and if the neighbors have an issue they can complain to your landlord. There may or may not be consequences.

Personally, my neighbors are inconsiderate A-holes, so if you think I'm being a dick, its because I accept a level of dickishness cuz everyone living around me are complete dicks. Its like a competition of who can dick the other over more... alittle sex noise would be nothing in my neighborhood.

I guess the point of this post is, you have to either change your living arrangement, or change your partner.... or continue as is and let the cards fall as they may. You won't make any friends with your neighbors but you'll also keep having wild sex with your partner.
posted by el_yucateco at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Abusive family found me by tracking my phone   |   I want this money to grow grOW GROW! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.