Exhausted

Friday, September 20, 2013

Question

Dear Patrick:

             I thought I had found a really great roommate. I met her at work—we are both employed by the same large legal firm. She is financially stable and didn't object to feeding my cat when I went out of town to see my family. It never occurred to me to ask more detailed questions about her private life before I let her move in.

            The problem is that she has a boyfriend and he is loud. She doesn't exactly whisper either. To put it bluntly, she moans and groans like a bad actress in a horror movie. I know way too much about their love life. They apparently enjoy a lot of games in the bedroom. I don't care too much that she likes to get spanked. She assures me that everything is consensual. I just don't want to be kept awake until 2 a.m. She says the lack of sound proofing in the apartment is not her problem. She adds that I am being uptight and “judgmental” about her sexuality.

            I want to ask her to move out, but she made me feel like I was being a terrible person when I just asked her to be less noisy. If I do tell her to move out, she will be pissed off, and I'll have an enemy at work. When she told me I was making value judgments, it struck a nerve. I actually would rather that she did not do some of these things. She thinks by catering to her boyfriend's demands, she has guaranteed that he will ask her to marry him. I tried to warn her that men don't think about love and sex the same way that women do, but she wouldn't listen.

            I have come to believe it is better if couples wait until they are married to have sex. Having sex with a man just means he has no reason to make a commitment to you. Why should he? He is getting everything he wants without having to take any responsibility. This may be old-fashioned, but I know I want to be married and have children. I will never find a man who wants the same thing unless I stand up for my values.

            That doesn't mean she has to want the same things; I don't care about that. I never know when her boyfriend is going to be here and I'm not going to be able to sleep. She says I have no right to control her schedule, and she needs the freedom to be spontaneous. I went to see my parents and when I got home, I found some of their “toys” in the living room and had to ask her to put them away. She rolled her eyes and made a big deal about picking up each item and carrying it to her bedroom, one at a time, instead of just sweeping them all up in one trip. I don't want somebody who visits me to think I am more “on the fringe” than I really am.

            Is there any fair way to resolve this conflict?

Answer

 

            I'm a big pervert whose sex life involves a lot of noise and paraphernalia. But even I am kinda shocked by your roommate's behavior. It can be difficult for some kinky people to find housing that will allow them to play out their fantasies. I sympathize. But being an asshole to a vanilla roommate is not on the list of ethical solutions. I wonder why they are not playing at his house. Could it be that he has roommates or a landlord who wouldn't appreciate the noise they expect you to tolerate?

            If she was a calmer person who cared about being fair, I would encourage the two of you to work out a schedule for her play dates. If you had advance notice, you could arrange to be at the movies or another event while she was busy. But play-time would still need to stop at a reasonable hour so you can get enough rest. She sounds more like the kind of person who wants to escalate conflicts and flout your limits. This is not consensual, so she needs to go.

            Since both of you work at a law firm, she might look for a pretext to file a complaint against you. See your own attorney before speaking with her about moving out. Find out what your local laws say about terminating a roommate's residency. If she is spiteful, you need to protect yourself. Hopefully, you can get advice on how to draw up an eviction notice that is legal and neutral. (For example, the term “eviction” might trigger an explosion, so don't call it that unless you have to.) Avoid  arguments about her sexuality. Even though the noise is your primary complaint, see if you can find another reason to get her to move out. You may be able to say you have decided to live alone. (It's okay to change your mind about that once she's out.) Or the local laws might not require you to give a reason. As the original leaseholder, it might be within your rights to just ask her to leave by such-and-such a date.

            The time between giving her the notice and seeing her last box of toys travel across your threshold could be difficult. If you think she may vandalize your property or steal it, you might have to be there and just bite your tongue a lot. I would want to keep an eye on my cat and make sure she wasn't mean to my pet just because she hated me. Remember that you don't have to reply, no matter what ugly or provocative remark she utters. If lack of a response makes her get even more loud or provocative, you can make a diplomatic but minimal reply, such as, “I'm thinking about what you said,” or “This is a difficult situation for both of us,” or “I understand that is how things look to you.” Keeping a low volume and a clear but unemotional tone is important. When she realizes she can't manipulate you into fighting with her, she will refocus on packing her stuff and going elsewhere.

            You might be tempted to gossip about this at work. Don't. Even if she is trying to turn other people against you, don't reveal personal information to co-workers. Everyone has had a crazy roommate from hell. You will win more allies by being quietly dignified and having decent boundaries. If she thrives on melodrama and making scenes, your best protection is to bore her to death. People like this always have a lot of irons in the fire. She will find another situation that is much more entertaining and leave you alone. Remember that you have knowledge about her that is potentially much more damaging than anything she knows about you. Before she moves out, you might even want to say, “I'm sorry this had to happen. I know it might be hard to work together. But I don't think any of our personal business belongs at work.” This reminds her that she, too, is vulnerable, without threatening her.

            Let's also address a problem that you described without asking specific questions about it. It sounds like your own relationship history contains a lot of sadness. A noisy roommate who was not kinky might have been hard to take if it brought up a lot of grief or regret about the past and fear about the future. Are you simply refraining from dating or having sex, but not taking any positive steps that might make your goals easier to achieve? This could leave you feeling isolated and depressed. Eventually, you might feel so deprived that you could make a mistake. You don't want to trade your limits or values for a brief experience of intimacy with the wrong person.

            I am guessing that your values are spiritually inspired. I don't know if you are Christian or Buddhist or a Unitarian. But all spiritual paths are supported by organizations and public events. They all have an internet presence. These are good ways to meet people who might share your ideals or have similar plans for the future. They are also good sources of support and inspiration. You could find that very comforting. It could add a lot to your quality of life to make social contact via these resources.

            Is something else keeping you home alone? Are you afraid that you might be prone to picking the wrong kind of boyfriend? If so, there are ways to change these patterns. Keeping a journal, reading about personal growth, or getting counseling are all ways to achieve better understanding of yourself and change for the better. If what you want is a husband and a family, don't settle for a roommate who is quiet and financially stable. Also, don't overlook guys who already have children. Sometimes we gain a lot of valuable knowledge in a failed first marriage, and the second time around works out better.

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