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Dear John: Make Love, Not Noise

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


What’s your problem? Write to John at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.

Dear John,

A couple of months ago we moved into a new apartment (me, my husband, and our young son), and we have an awkward problem with our neighbors in the apartment next to ours. We can hear them having sex. A lot. This can happen any time of the day or night, and it’s loud. Not the kind of thing you can ignore or that you have to be completely silent to hear. We were already embarrassed once when one of our parents was visiting for the first time. We changed rooms and put some music on, but I’m looking for a more permanent solution. We don’t know them at all, but they’re a young couple (no surprise) and have seemed nice when our paths have briefly crossed. I don’t want to make this a big deal, but I don’t want to just live with it either, and I just don’t know the best way to go about it without embarrassing them. Any suggestions?


Glad For Them, Not For Us

Dear Glad For Them,

The fact that you’re being disturbed by the sounds of enthusiastic sex makes this problem seem more delicate and complicated than it really is. Boil it down: your new neighbors are making too much noise and it’s disruptive to you and probably to other neighbors as well. It doesn’t really matter what the source of the noise is – I’d do the same thing I’d do if the TV were too loud. (Well, maybe I’d wait until the sounds have subsided for a while.) Knock on the door, nicely ask if you can speak to them a minute, acknowledge it’s an awkward conversation to have, but for the sake of their own privacy, they should know that it’s very easy to hear them when they’re being intimate, and you would really appreciate it if they could be a little more discreet. Try to separate the nature of the noise from the disturbance it’s causing you. And my TV example may not be so far off: I once had a friend who thought she had the same problem you do. It turned out to be porn movies on a television.

Dear John,

Almost thirty years ago, my husband had an affair. I was heartbroken when I found out about it, but I loved him and believed he loved me and I worked very, very hard to regain my trust in him. I hope you understand what I mean when I say he was not the “affair” type, and I have never regretted for a moment that we didn’t give up on our marriage. He’s a good man who did one bad thing. It sounds a bit clichéd, but I think in many ways we emerged from the ordeal closer and better partners.

I rarely even think about this period in our lives, so I was quite surprised when my husband told me he had learned the woman he had an affair with (an acquaintance of mine at the time whom he hasn’t had any contact with since then) is seriously ill, probably doesn’t have much longer, and that he would like to visit her before her condition makes that an impossibility. (He learned about her health issues from a friend and has no idea if she would even welcome a visit from him.) I asked him why he would want to do such a thing and he can’t really give me a satisfactory answer beyond saying I don’t have anything to fear, she was a friend once, and he wants to say goodbye. And I just don’t know how to react this. It goes without saying this is not about any worry that any of the old spark between them remains; I feel more blindsided and confused than anything, and it has dredged up some old feelings, as you might imagine. I told him I was not keen on the idea but that I would give it some thought, but obviously, time is of the essence. What do you think? Is this something I should just go along with if I only have vague, mild misgivings? Why would he even want to do this?



Dear Surprised,

The fact that your husband discussed this with you instead of just contacting her without your knowledge shows that he doesn’t have some ulterior motive. You should give him your blessing – I suspect that if they end up seeing each other, all that will happen is a very sick woman will spend a badly needed pleasant hour or two catching up with someone she once knew. That would be a gracious gift for you to give them both.

Why might he want to do this? That’s hard for me to speculate on, but perhaps this has rattled him more than he will admit, not because he harbors any feelings for her, but because her illness is a stark reminder of his own mortality. You didn’t find his answer satisfying, but there may be no more to it than he said: she was a friend once, and he wants to say goodbye.

Dear John,

A relative who shall remain nameless gave our son a toy gun for Christmas. Yes, it’s obviously a toy, not a realistic-looking replica or anything, but a gun is a gun as far as my husband and I are concerned. And we had no idea this was what they were giving him – they know we never would have gone for that, so they didn’t say anything, just went ahead and did it anyway. (Not completely out of character for this particular relative.) We know how to deal with the real culprits here and have done so, but my question is, how do we handle this issue with our son? I don’t want to raise a boy who thinks that violence is ever okay, but how do I explain taking away a present that he was so delighted to get?


Zero Tolerance

Dear Zero Tolerance,

The best way to explain something like this to a kid is to be clear, to the point, and to give no indication that further discussion will change anything. Take the gun and explain to him that you and your husband do not think guns are suitable toys for kids because the only purpose of a gun in real life is to hurt a person or animal (or however you want to express it.) Convey this with some finality so he doesn’t get the impression that a campaign of pleading on his part may get him his gun back. Then wrap up your conversation by reassuring him that this is simply a family rule, not some kind of punishment, so you will be happy to substitute an appropriate gift of his choosing for the gun that you’re taking away.


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