A couple in their 50s have just moved in next door – and they are driving me mad. They have really noisy sex and it’s waking me up in the night and I lie there fuming. I want to post a letter through their door to tell them to be considerate and I would never behave in this way, but my lovely husband says that would be rude. I just think it’s beyond the pale.
– Sleepless in London
t sounds to us like you’re not sure what is making you angrier: the noise or the sex. Sleep is precious… so natural, yet so elusive. We are constantly making sacrifices to the sleep gods in the hope that there will be a solid eight hours in our futures. In our dreams. And noise, when it whistles into our homes, is such an unwelcome invader. Let’s face it, unless you have a specific proclivity, listening to other people having sex is never particularly edifying. And it is awkward to raise the subject – it’s a manners minefield.
Emilie once went away to a wedding with her small baby in tow – staying in a ye olde Tudor inn. The couple next door started the first night by having unbelievably noisy drunken and seemingly endless sex. Already deranged and sleep deprived, Emilie – a chronic people-pleaser with a horror of confrontation – caught up with them at breakfast and, baby strapped to her chest, told them that the walls were very thin and that she could hear “everything”.
She told herself at the time that it was because she would want to know if the entire floor could hear her having sex, as well as the fact that it disrupted her sleep. Anyway the woman took umbrage and pointedly ignored her for the rest of the weekend, bad-mouthing her and calling her a prude who was only concerned with her pathetic beauty sleep. Emilie is still traumatised. But that was a weekend. This is your life, Sleepless, and they will keep on having their fun until you snap. And, when you snap, everything will come out wrong.
Remember that they almost certainly have no clue about the soundtrack they are providing. When we are in our houses and have a shouting match, smash a plate or dance late and loud in the kitchen, we assume it is private. We generally have no idea that any of it leaks out for people to judge.
So perhaps write a note and deliver it. Something like: “I am delighted you are having such a lovely time and are so happy. I just wanted to let you know that we can hear everything – but please keep having a brilliant time. I just know that I would want to know.” You could even chuck in a bottle of wine to show generosity of spirit rather than censorship or disapproval.
Easy. Unless (we are only going to say this once and then we need never speak of it again) the reason why you are furious is that it is shining a light on how you feel about your own sex life. Sorry. Annoyingly, things that make us fume have triggered something within us – touched a nerve.
Their sex life is not your sex life, which doesn’t make it obscene or wrong. Even though we’d rather not hear, it’s nice to know that people are out there in the world having a lovely time. Unless, of course, we are not happy ourselves. Emilie is naturally non-confrontational. And when she thinks back to that wedding, she wonders whether she overrode that and found herself moved to complain because the couple next door were free, while she was a new mother and a little bit lost. Their wild abandon reminded her that she had made a different bed and was lying in it, panicked, vulnerable – and sleepless.
If you think this might be true, then you absolutely should still write the note and leave the champagne, but also use it as an opportunity to take a little look at whether you are missing something for yourself. Is this mere noise nuisance or a sign that you are craving a little wild abandon? And if so… it’s a sign. Time to grab it with both hands, Sleepless. Give them a run for their money…
More from the Midults:
What readers advised in response to last week's problem: My doctor refuses to believe I'm menopausal at 47 – and keeps giving me antidepressants
@Pam Smith: 'Tell your GP you want a menopause specialist referral then go on the balance app and show him the current NICE guidelines that your GP must follow. If he refuses either ask for a second opinion or, if necessary, point out that his failing to follow those guidelines may result in having to contact the GMC. Bet you'll get a referral then!'
@LizHarrison: Make an appointment with a female doctor. I took evening primrose capsules. Someone suggested ST John's Wort but it's very strong stuff I wouldn't touch it. Apparently particularly dangerous if you are prone to headaches. So I stuck one leg out of the bed at night (a friend's advice) put a notebook at the side of the bed for after midnight lightbulb moments ref work, the hamster was a godsend as I could pootle in there watch her on her wheel and offer her a treat. If you cannot sleep sip a small glass of water, watch a little TV for a few minutes. You will in due course find that after a day's work and looking after everyone at home, when you sit down you nod-off for half an hour anyway.'