Is there a logical reason for closing window blinds in a condo?
July 30, 2020 9:07 AM   Subscribe

My partner insists on closing our living room’s window blinds at night because he dislikes that “people can see in.” We live in a high-rise condo, the only other people who can possibly see us are occupants of an adjacent luxury condo. Is there something I’m missing, should I be as bothered as he is?

I keep bickering with my partner over this seemingly small thing. I like to keep the blinds up In the living room because my house plants enjoy the really nice burst of morning light that comes in as the sun rises. My partner insists on closing them, and says he will open them again super early in the morning, but needs to have them shut at night. When I pressed him for reasons, he said it bothers him that “people can see in” and “we don’t need to have people looking at us 24 hours a day,” and “it drives him crazy.”

I find this reasoning hard to understand, as a) nobody cares what we are doing in here, we don’t do anything noteworthy, b) when it’s nighttime it’s dark throughout our condo anyway so what can they possibly see, and we aren’t even in the living room, we are in the bedroom where we have heavy curtains drawn shut so it’s dark enough that my partner can sleep, and c) he seems ok with having the blinds up during the day when we are actually up and about in the living room, doing stuff for people to see if they were so inclined.

I suspect this is about something else really - that he doesn’t like the morning light angling through the bedroom door but insists on sleeping with the bedroom door open, which is his own illogical fault. But is there something else I’m missing here? Is he the normal one and I’m the abnormal one for not caring about people looking into our condo at us? It may be worth noting he has always lived in houses before, with more privacy. And that I am the sole owner of the condo and lived here for many years before he moved in with me.
posted by keep it under cover to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's enough that your partner feels vulnerable and exposed. He's more important than house plants. It's not about normal vs abnormal. It's not about fault. Feelings are not illogical. It's not a property ownership issue and his need is not less because he moved in. There are some red flags here. It may be helpful to talk this over with a therapist or couples therapist.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2020 [57 favorites]

This sounds like personal preference, which isn't notoriously beholden to logic. You're not wrong to be unbothered and he's not wrong to be bothered.

Personally, I would always prefer not to be visible by neighbors, day or night. In the daytime there are enough compelling reasons to keep curtains open to override that preference - cats and plants like the sun! I like to see birds and greenery! - but at night the balance shifts toward my preference for dark, private, and cozy. (Still with a curtain gap for the cats to see out of. I'm not a monster.)

It seem weird and uncharitable to assume his motives aren't what he says they are, unless he's someone who's generally likely to obfuscate what he really wants. Unless that's the case, why not just assume he's telling you the truth? He likes the blinds down; you'd like them open for your plants. That's a difference of opinion you can negotiate, without having to dig into which of you is more rational. Sleep rituals are intense and personal and hard to change, and more important than plants getting the best sunlight.

If he actually does open the blinds again super early in the morning so your plants can be happy, then I don't see the problem. If he says he does but then sleeps in regularly, then other conversations/negotiations are in order. Maybe the plants would be fine if the blinds were closed partway, or only some of them were closed. Maybe there are different window treatments that would filter enough light for him to be comfortable but still give your plants the light they need. Maybe your plants can move to a different spot and get light later in the day.
posted by Stacey at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

I mean, there will never be an Always Objectively Correct Answer as to whether one should keep their blinds closed at night. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they need to feel safe, secure, and comfortable in their home. This is really about whether you care more about your partner feeling secure or your plants getting a bit of extra sunlight.
posted by neushoorn at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

When a window is open at night, it is hard to see who is looking at you because your own reflection will obfuscate what lies beyond the glass at a distance. The person looking from the great beyond however has a high contrast view compared to the surrounding darkness, and so it is a creepy situation to be wary of.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2020 [20 favorites]

It's not about who is most logically rationally right about their window covering preferences, that way lies madness and resentment. It's about who feels most strongly about the issue, and here it sounds like it's your spouse. If it's such a "seemingly small thing", why can't you let him have it?
posted by Freyja at 9:24 AM on July 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

30 years ago I lived in a corner unit on the 8th floor of a mid-rise residential building in Chicago—the outside walls were windows. There was another residential building across the narrow street. I can't tell you how many times we noticed someone standing in a lighted room, holding binoculars, looking at our building. God only knows what was going on in the dark units.

My then-husband shrugged off the possibility that they might be looking at us, but I closed the blinds in the evening.
posted by she's not there at 9:24 AM on July 30, 2020 [18 favorites]

Yes, it's far easier to see into your room at night than during the day, and you are far less likely to notice know who's looking. Most telescopes per capita are owned in the largest cities with the most light pollution. These people are not all looking at stars. Additionally, closing the blinds will be better for you heating/cooling energy usage.

As a plant ecologist, I can tell you that if your houseplants notice an hour's difference in when the blinds are opened in the morning, you have the wrong plants and/or wrong locations.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:32 AM on July 30, 2020 [38 favorites]

And that I am the sole owner of the condo and lived here for many years before he moved in with me.

This is as irrelevant as it is offensive. He's your partner. Is he your equal in the relationship? Or do you hold over him that you own the condo?
He said it bothers him and drives him crazy that the blinds are open at night. Believe him. Respect his wishes.
posted by bowmaniac at 9:36 AM on July 30, 2020 [27 favorites]

Ha, I moved into a cottage in the middle of the woods so no one would be able to look in my windows. Some of us are just weird that way. For your plants, is ther a way to position them at night between the shades and the window so they get the light?
posted by saucysault at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

It's a personal preference - you have yours and he has his. As long has he follows up on your requirements to open them early in the morning, then that's the compromise. If he doesn't meet his end of the deal then feel free to open them late at night if you are passing through.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2020

Telescopes and Malefactors.
posted by amtho at 9:40 AM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

the only other people who can possibly see us are occupants of an adjacent luxury condo

Which doesn't preclude said occupants from being creepers, just saying.
posted by blerghamot at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Is there a logical reason for closing window blinds when nobody can see in?

Well, I don't know if you'd consider my reason logical, but I close my blinds at night even though my windows are high enough on the walls that there is definitely nobody who can see in. I don't like the look of empty black windows, and my house feels cosier and more like a home with the blinds closed. (Also, I was brought up to draw the curtains when it got dark, to keep the heat in.)

But in any case... with your windows, it's not the case that nobody can see in. People in the other building can. I'd definitely be closing those blinds if I lived there.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:03 AM on July 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

I agree with those who say that your partner's sense of privacy and security should override your opinion that it's okay for people to see you at night since you "don't do anything noteworthy". As a logical (not emotional) solution, you might consider getting some sheer curtains that will allow in light but not allow people to see in.
posted by mezzanayne at 10:15 AM on July 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would start by letting him get up early and open the blinds. Is that not working? If he is forgetting to get up then maybe you can compromise on having one set partially open or something. I tend to agree with your way of looking at it, and maybe it can feel like you are being unreasonably bound by your partner's anxieties. Are there a lot of ways you must compromise for things that seem unreasonable to you? Some sessions with a couples counselor could help.
posted by JenMarie at 10:17 AM on July 30, 2020

I hate closing blinds ever, day or night. I hate feeling trapped in a box. I only close blinds or curtains if the sun is super strong in the summer and I'm trying to conserve power by not blasting the AC. That being said, my mom thinks I'm nuts and when I'm visiting will come in while I'm sleeping to close them, even though the window is two stories from the ground and doesn't look into any other homes. It's just what some people 'do'. Drive me nuts, but also whatever. Work it out. Could you put your plants on the floor and close the blinds partially so that the plants get light but no one is able to see your activity?

I think this is definitely a pick-your-battles situation and doesn't require therapy. (I personally don't believe that every small argument in a relationship requires the thousands of dollars and many hours to resolve in therapy, jeez)
posted by greta simone at 10:19 AM on July 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I am in the category of closing blinds bc they, whomever they are, can see in.

Why does he have to wait until the morning to open them? How about keeping them closed while you are up and about, but opening them as part of the shutdown of the condo at night just before bed. Turn on the dishwasher. Make sure the door is locked. Turn out the lights. Open the blinds in the living room. If you open the blinds right before bed, no one can see in when the lights are out and he does not have to worry about opening them in the morning in case he wants to sleep in.
posted by AugustWest at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

I like keeping the blinds open for my plants, but like your partner I am paranoid about someone looking in (even though I know that it is improbable due to the floor I live on and proximity of other buildings).

I solved this by putting a sheer curtain on the window, although I also considered a frosted window cling. This makes it impossible for anyone to see in, and allows the light to come through. I leave those blinds open all the time now, even if I'm walking around in a state of undress.
posted by rakaidan at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think this is lizardbrain stuff, so trying to apply logic and language to it is necessarily going to fail. Some people like vistas, other people like caves. Vista people feel best with the curtains open and air and light streaming into their vast, airy openplan homes where they can see for miles in every direction (shudder...). Cave people want to nestle inside cozily, sipping warm cocoa and coccooning happily with just their loved ones and the curtains clamped shut against whatever horrors lurk outside (ahhh...).
posted by Don Pepino at 10:29 AM on July 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

We live in a high-rise condo, the only other people who can possibly see us are occupants of an adjacent luxury condo. Is there something I’m missing

As a long time city apartment dweller in buildings of various heights with neighboring buildings of various heights and configurations, I will say that it is very hard to predict who can see into your place when. I have certainly gotten unexpected glimpses of neighbors from unexpected angles. To some extent that's just life in the city, you are on some level trusting your neighbors not to be creeps, but having blinds closed some or all the way is not at all uncommon. Your partner feeling this way is not "illogical." (I literally just got back from a walk around my current apartment/condo heavy neighborhood and AFAICT almost all of the window blinds were closed on any floor. Just as anecdata.)

having the blinds up during the day when we are actually up and about in the living room

I feel like you're actually not quite thinking through how light and vision work, and your partner is actually more "correct." See oceanjesse's comment about "contrast." At night when it's dark outside and you have lights on in your condo it's actually easier to see into your place, it's like you're on a stage. During the day, unless you've got some massively bright grow lights going, the inside of your condo is darker than the outside light, so from outside your place it's harder to see in unless someone is right up against the window. (Like, seriously, people having to press their face to a window and cup their hands around their face to cut the glare when trying to look into an unlit building during the day is, just, . . . it's a real thing, even if you haven't experienced it yourself you've seen it in movies and TV shows.)

Obviously we don't know the exact layout of your condo and your neighbors', maybe it is impossible for anyone to really see into your place day or night, but I'll Nth everyone else saying "illogical" is not the hill I would die on here, your partner has valid feelings and preferences, you need to work out a mutually acceptable compromise, not look for ways to win the argument by "proving" that they're wrong.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:29 AM on July 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Just to provide a counter example to your approach, I told my partner that I felt uncomfortable in his house at night with all the curtainless windows and he asked me to pick out curtains for him, then ordered and hung them. There was no discussion of who is right or wrong, logical or illogical. There was just consideration for my feelings and wanting me to feel at home there, for which I am grateful.
posted by HotToddy at 10:44 AM on July 30, 2020 [17 favorites]

I also go around at night closing all the curtains. There is no deeper reason other than I don't like to go to bed at night with the curtains open. Luckily, I'm almost always the last person to go to bed so I don't have to deal with my partner arguing with me over it. I feel weird and exposed and vulnerable having the curtains/blinds open when I'm asleep. It doesn't matter than I'm not doing anything interesting (I'm not), I'm fully clothed (I am), we have nothing of real value (we don't). It just creeps me out.
posted by Aquifer at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

To avoid piling on: If you have money to throw at this, they make blinds hooked up to timers that can open and close whenever you want. Maybe get one and set it to open at dawn.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

Is it possible the real problem here is his preference for the bedroom door to be open? He's saying "privacy" when you suspect the real reason is "light bugs me, but I want the bedroom door open anyway" and that's why it's a little irritating - it may seem like his argument is disingenuous and he is just protecting his preference. So why does the bedroom door need to be open for him? Does it get stuffy in there? Is it hard to find the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Or is it also related to security/anxiety? The bedroom door seems like it may be either the right place to compromise, or the key to accepting his anxiety around the whole thing.

What about closing the blinds between sundown and bedtime, and then opening them just before you go to sleep and closing the bedroom door? That way nobody can see in while you two are up and around. But if he has a good reason for wanting the bedroom door open, and is honest about it, than maybe allowing him to open the blinds first thing if he gets up early enough for the plants to catch the morning light would be the best solution.
posted by hiker U. at 11:07 AM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

That this popular 'other people searched for' Google query exists should tell you something.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:20 AM on July 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like to close the bathroom door when I'm the only one home. Even, in fact, when my parter (the only other person with keys) is on another continent. She can't sleep unless the bedroom door is closed; even when there's no one else home.

As mentioned above sleep is one of those times when base parts of a persons brain makes decisions for them. Even if it's not rational (perhaps particularly when) safety is pretty paramount on any hierarchy of needs.
posted by mce at 12:23 PM on July 30, 2020

Or, if this is a situation that you're okay with throwing money at and you're up for a decor change, replace your blinds with cellular shades. Your plants will get the morning light they need, your living room won't be dark with the shades down, you'll be able to keep the bedroom door open without your partner being blinded by the light, your partner's sleep cycle will be more stable across seasons, and you'll have lots of privacy.

Is this answering the question you asked? No, but sometimes, rather than a compromise that makes one person a lot happier than the other, a solution that makes both people equally sort-of happy is in the best interest of your relationship. Getting good at identifying the latter before you go down the path of alienating each other with the former requires money, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy.
posted by blerghamot at 2:17 PM on July 30, 2020

I close the blinds at night and open them in the morning and find it a nice “hello, day” ritual. I don’t live in the city but when I worked downtown in office buildings across from hotels and condos, I saw some things I can’t unsee. Especially at night, as said above, if you look into a well lighted apartment with blinds open, you have a perfect clear view of everything happening in the whole apartment without even trying. I vote for close at night, open during day.
posted by freecellwizard at 4:00 PM on July 30, 2020

There was an article in the New Yorker some years ago about the sales of telescopes. Some people were using them to peer across Central Park from/to high-rise apartments.
posted by JimDe at 1:48 AM on July 31, 2020

I was at a party in a condo once where the host had a telescope. We instantly started looking in windows of nearby condos, no hesitation. We saw two people watching the same channel on TV in two different buildings and found that greatly entertaining.
posted by Dynex at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2020

A friend of mine once described being inside after dark with the curtains open as "being in a fishbowl." I have a very clear memory of being young and driving by someone's house when they hadn't closed the curtains one winter evening. It was a family house with regular activities going on, but I felt like I was spying because they couldn't see us. There's a real feeling of vulnerability for some of us when you know you are easily seen but can't see out (imagine being outside in the dark with a helicopter spotlight on you--that's how it feels).

I think your neighbors who are voyeurs would also prefer you close the curtains.

Are you all having other adjustments to living together? Good luck with all this.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:02 AM on July 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Others have covered the rights/wrongs of the issue but I just wanted to plug window film as a solution, if you don't mind not seeing out your windows when they're closed. Someone on here turned me onto this stuff and I got this stained glass one for my children's bedroom window, as it faces the street. It's beautiful and solves the privacy-with-light issue completely. There's also a more understated frosted version. It does block some UV though, I don't know what plants need, but I think that was covered above.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2020

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