The noise starts before I get up from bed.
Sometimes it’s a podcast, other times it’s a radio show, or maybe some music. Whatever it is, it continues throughout the early morning. The noise travels into the car with us during the morning drive to work, usually in the form of a morning radio show. Our ride home in the late afternoon is filled with stories from her work, and they continue when we walk into the house. When the stories have ended, it’s back to the disembodied voices of podcasters. Sometimes these voices remain until we eat dinner.
My partner, I came to realize many years ago, has a different relationship to silence than I do. She just doesn’t need as much of it. Silence? Well, for her it’s mostly there to be filled. But for me, silence is a place where I can hear myself. It’s comforting. It’s an actual substance, not a void.
Here’s eight tips I’ve picked up over the years about how to live (sanely) with someone who has different silence needs than me. These are tips I’ve used in a romantic relationship though I don’t see why these they couldn’t be applied to roommates as well.
1. Don’t be self-conscious about communicating your need for silence. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. Truly understanding and accepting your need makes it easier to communicate that need to someone else.
2. Don’t take the noise personally. The other person isn’t putting on that podcast to piss you off, they have the noise on because it’s comforting to them. The noise for them is filling some sort of need, just as silence fills a need for you.
3. Compromise. Home is a shared space, and it exists for both of you. And because it exists for both of you it should be a place of comfort for both of you. The two first steps to compromise is honest communication about what you want and listening without judgement to the other person. A whole world exists in between the concepts of selfishness and martyrdom.
4. It’s a process. At one point I thought I would be really clever and put in earplugs when I wanted a bit of quiet. My partner did not like this, she felt like I was blocking her out. We decided that I would tell her when the noise got to be too much, and then she would listen to things through earphones.
5. Stay in bed. Each morning I stay in bed at least 15 minutes after my partner gets up. The darkened room and muffled noises allows me to wake up slowly and allows my brain to gradually get used to the outside world. You may find that waking up earlier than your partner works better.
6. Try to get a bit of silence when you’re not at home. If you’re at work this could mean stepping outside for 2 minutes or taking a nap in the car.
7. Meditate. I meditate for at least 5 minutes each day. If you’re around coworkers and noise during your 9-5, you could try meditating for 5 or 10 minutes during your lunch hour. I use the app Simply Being.
8. Leave the house. An evening stroll could be a nice together activity that provides enough silence for you, and enough distractions & stimulation for you partner.
Living with a person who doesn’t need as much silence isn’t the end of the world, but it can be annoying. With a little bit of (ok, maybe a lot of) patience, understanding, and good communication skills, you’re on your way to creating a home that works for everyone.