The Dos & Don'ts for sleeping with your neighbor...
November 25, 2007 4:14 PM   Subscribe

So I've started sleeping with my neighbor...

I moved into our building a few months ago and was pleased to make instant friends with one of my neighbors. She's all around great and I was initially looking for only a close, neighborly friendship. Things started out innocently with some friendly hang-out sessions. At first it was just when we passed each other in the hall, then we made a point to hang out for drinks a few times. Finally we crossed the line between just flirty neighbors to a physical relationship.

This is all very new for us, so we haven't directly discussed this change yet. We've only been physical once so far, but it is becoming obvious that this may be a regular thing. (fingers-crossed) It wasn't an accidental hook-up, it was intentional and mutual. We're both straight forward people, so I'm sure we'll discuss the specifics soon and try to establish some ground rules or boundaries.

Additionally I truly like this person and I feel like we have a chance for the relationship to move beyond the physical into something romantic. This is a point where my apprehension is greatest. Dating her seriously would on one hand be wonderful, but on the other challenging in a way that a typical boyfriend-girlfriend relationship isn't (because we would practically be living together from the get-go.) Although she's wonderful, I think I'm going to resist the urge to move toward a romantic commitment for the time being and just enjoy the physical part.

Further complicating things is the fact that I do date other people and I'm concerned about protecting my privacy (and her feelings) in the event that I decide to see someone else more seriously. Likewise, I really don't want to know when she brings someone else home...

I realize that having a relationship with a neighbor can be very problematic. If things go bad then I still have to live down the hall from this person - possibly for many years to come. I want to avoid some of the pitfalls while either enjoying this physical connection we have, or ending it amicably. Lastly, I believe that it's not to late for us to pull back altogether without any hurt feelings, so if the advice which follows this AskMe is overwhelming negative I will certainly consider that course.

About us: we're both grown-ups, professionals, reasonably mature for our age, a good number of past relationships so we're not newbies to the relationship game. We're seemingly level headed and although I haven't talked with her directly about "what we're doing" I'm sure she is just as cautious as I am.

My question is: With the goal of plotting a happy ending for both of us what are some "best practices" I should keep in mind as this unfolds?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

I too did this, and it worked out reasonably well for a little while. You'll probably have to talk to her about her expectations and try and meet those seeing as how you seem up for all options. If her expectations are to remain casual, then lay down some ground rules for how to deal with the other dating other people. It can all work out as long as jealousy issues can be kept in check. But do expect for things to change the longer you hang out. You'll have to reassess frequently in order to not step on each other's toes.
Good luck.
posted by greta simone at 4:30 PM on November 25, 2007

If things go bad then I still have to live down the hall from this person - possibly for many years to come.

Sez who? Realizing that people can move away if it is a problem helps--people who live together do this all of the time in breakups.

Otherwise, be straight up about what is going on with her. Be honest and respectful. Don't bring the new squeeze over to her place to invite her, etc.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2007

You're going to know when she brings someone else home and she's going to know whey you bring someone else home. You have to be honest with yourselves about that. You don't, however, have to tell her everything you do with the other women. If you want a real, close relationship with her, bringing other women around is going to get messy. Always be honest about your feelings with her.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:35 PM on November 25, 2007

Unfortunately, one can't "plot" a happy ending. All you can do is be honest. You say you're "sure" she's just as cautious as you, but keep in mind that unless you a professional mind reader, you have no idea what she's thinking right now. She could be thinking, gee, I'm glad I have a fuck buddy in the building, or, gee, I'm so excited that this guy is looking like a good boyfriend prospect, or, gee, that guy smells. You should really sit down together and discuss the things you want now, before you sleep together again. If you're sleeping with someone you're scared to talk to about this, reconsider the sleeping together part.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:35 PM on November 25, 2007 [6 favorites]

Do make absolutely sure you're clear about other relationships! Been there with a neighbour, and there was a horrible scene when one of us found the other in bed with someone. This was after things had become emotional as well as sexual. Communication is crucial.
posted by fish tick at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2007

Further complicating things is the fact that I do date other people and I'm concerned about protecting my privacy (and her feelings) in the event that I decide to see someone else more seriously. Likewise, I really don't want to know when she brings someone else home...

Umm...she might very well want to know that you are planning this, and might not be at all interested in bringing other people home herself (not to mention dating someone who is bringing other people home). I'm not sure this is really just a matter of your privacy definitely need to communicate with her explicitly about these issues.
posted by advil at 5:08 PM on November 25, 2007

Go forth boldly and with no regrets. If either of you decides to see someone later, well, that's later. Handle things with foresight and compassion and you'll do well.

failing that, does your complex have a back stairwell?
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:19 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

i would have this conversation before you sleep together again. it'll minimize the drama, and if the situation is a dealbreaker for her, then she can more easily chalk it up as a mistake and move on.

what you might do, the next time you go over, is to lightheartedly suggest that you come up with a code to let the other person know you've brought someone else home (like hanging a tie on the doorknob or whatever).

if she's got an ounce of maturity, she'll either go along with it and actually help you guys come up with a useful code, or laugh it off and then call it an early night (which is a pretty good indication that the conjugal visits have come to an end).
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:20 PM on November 25, 2007

Further complicating things is the fact that I do date other people and I'm concerned about protecting my privacy (and her feelings) in the event that I decide to see someone else more seriously. Likewise, I really don't want to know when she brings someone else home...

Yeah, nthing the suggestion to inform her about this. You may want to have a real discussion and set some boundaries. Otherwise, one of you is likely to get hurt.

I also think you may be overthinking the neighbor thing. In this day and age, neighbors aren't such a big deal. If I don't get along with mine, odds are I'll hardly see them. Heck, most people don't even know their neighbors.
posted by melissam at 5:20 PM on November 25, 2007

I also think you may be overthinking the neighbor thing.

Yeah. You are not living together - if you're on good terms, you have easy access, and if things go south, it's really not so hard to avoid one another. Worst you'll have to deal with is a few minutes here or there. It could be uncomfortable if you don't make your thoughts clear ahead of time, but even then it's unlikely to really be that complicated.

A friend of mine had an off/on fuck buddy set up with a neighbor in her building for a few years. I think they may have given a relationship between them a shot briefly, but it didn't last, and the casual "plan B" type of affair was more fitting for them, so they had to keep one another abreast of their respective personal lives so that they knew when the other was available (or would no longer be, ie, when one of them had a date, when there was a second date, when it looked like it could be going somewhere, etc).
posted by mdn at 6:02 PM on November 25, 2007

End it now, be honest and tell her your apprehensions and that you value her more as a friend then as a warm body (phrase it better then that).

Don't shit where you eat.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2007

Don't shit where you eat.

I don't think this is the same poster, BobbyDigital. But to belabor the point, if you or your neighbor are of the maturity level where the expression "Don't shit where you eat" fills you with philosophical insight, it might be good advice. I think you have to treat this as any other relationship where the potential for blowback is very high because you will (potentially) be seeing a lot of each other post-breakup.
posted by onalark at 6:26 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is how I met my wife. We were living in the same apartment building when we met. We started dating and soon traded in our studio apts for a single one bedroom. We've been married 13 years.

If you are OK with seeing her exclusively it can work. If you want to date her and others, it will probably be a hassle.

Also, if you date her exclusively, it will get like living together rather quickly. It worked for me and Mrs., but YMMV.
posted by Argyle at 8:52 PM on November 25, 2007

Lots and lots of communication. Tons. That's the only way this will work out without a big shitfest at the end.

I would sit down and talk with her about her expectations because like ThePinkSuperhero said, you have no idea what her expectations are unless they've been voiced. You're just assuming that she's on the same page as you.

You're both going to have to put some jealousy issues away and be mature about it if you both decide to see other people as well. Whether you work on a 'code' or just walk into the building with another girl on your arm, the two of you 'will' know when some other person is there. It's silly to think you can just ignore that part and pretend the two of you aren't seeing other people. But you can be mature about it and not throw it in each other's face exactly what went on that night.

I'm currently "seeing" someone in a physical sense who is also seeing someone else who isn't quite his girlfriend but it's pretty close. I had to spend a night with the two of them together and attempt to diffuse awkwardness all evening. So your situation is definitely doable.

Just talk to her excessively and see where she thinks it's going and what she's okay with and what she's not okay with.
posted by purelibertine at 10:10 PM on November 25, 2007

Be honest, be open, and be consistent. It's not relationships with your neighbor that can be trouble if you are not these things; it is relationships period that can be trouble.

Make no assumptions, make your intentions and desires clear, and you'll be fine. Oh, and if she's not doing the same, pay attention enough to notice it and act accordingly.
posted by davejay at 12:22 AM on November 26, 2007

Nthing the advice of TPS. And. If you talk and she's okay with the way things will be (not dating exclusively but friends with benefits), be aware of any evidence over time that indicates that she is NOT okay with it.

Some people will enter into this situation saying, "Yeah, sure. Sounds great!" when they are thinking, "Well, when he/she gets to know me, he/she won't want to see anyone else."

If there is a point where she starts acting jealous in any way, please do not ignore it while telling yourself, "Well, we had a conversation and she knows the score." Address it immediately and openly. Revisit the original conversation. Feelings change.
posted by jeanmari at 5:34 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

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