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My girlfriends anxiety around making noise is putting a strain on our relationship

Mloop

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My girlfriend and I live together. One night a few months ago, I was talking loudly in our bedroom, which shares a wall with out neighbors bedroom. My neighbor knocked on the wall. Message received, I was a bit embarrassed in the moment and I shut up and made sure to be more considerate going forward. We’ve bumped into this neighbor since and she’s been friendly and hasn’t mentioned anything about noise to us. Honestly, I think she’s forgotten.

On the other hand, this incident triggered some deep anxiety in my girlfriend and it’s putting a lot of stress on our relationship. She’s now petrified of making any sort of noise in the bedroom. Any talk above a whisper gets shushed. We don’t have sex anymore. Recently, she won’t even sleep in there. Walking around on the creaky apartment floors evokes a similar response. I have to step over the creaky spots lest I trigger her anxiety around upsetting a neighbor.

We both try to be considerate people, but this is overboard. Today she broke down crying and telling me how much she hates this apartment but I think it’s something deeper than that. My theory is that it has something to do with her father, who was verbally abusive to her and her siblings and would always yell at them to be quiet. But I’m not a professional.

She has anxiety around a lot of other things too. She hasn’t been able to hold a job the past 4 years. Any job she’s had results in her having panic attacks. She has social anxiety and rarely hangs out with friends. And even sometimes simple things like suggesting that we spend a weekend afternoon at the zoo (one of her favorite places) triggers anxiety and result in hiding in bed for hours.

I don’t know what to do at this point. It’s getting to a breaking point. I’m getting anxiety about triggering her anxiety. Just writing all this out and reading it is giving me anxiety, lol.

I’ve recently started seeing a therapist again and it’s been helping me. I try to get her to do the same, but she refuses. She says it’s a money thing, which I get, but I’ve offered to help pay. She still refuses. I just don’t know what to do.
 

Brad66

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You could try and set something up with the neighbor to have a talk to make sure you are all the same page. Maybe invite her to dinner or something.
 

Cuchculan

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I think a talk first with your girlfriend would be a good start. As to what exactly is making her think that no noise is allowed? Life is full of sounds. We can't stop them all. More about her learning that making some noise is allowed. As long as it is not bad noise. Like yelling the place out of it. Try and make her see the difference between what is normal noise and what is not normal noise. Point out that everybody makes noise. That does not mean that everybody is in the wrong. All about learning right from wrong. Good from bad. Understanding that most of what she might see as bad, is actually normal.

Therapy wise, it would be good to know why she doesn't want to go. What she doesn't want to talk about. Could be something in her past. That she wants left there. You are guessing her father. Maybe he was always yelling at her telling to stay quiet and to stop making noise. So now she has this idea in her head that the neighbour is doing the exact same thing. Is like a trigger for her. Her getting to know the neighbour, as suggested above, might not be a bad thing. To see she is really a nice person.

Crazy last suggestion. Not sure if you have any isolated areas near were you live? If so, take her there. Let us see if she is willing to make noise in a place with nobody else around. Amazing thing to do. Finding a place and just shouting / screaming. Sort of makes you feel good. Like you are setting something free that is inside of you. I know it is a little bit odd. Odd things are the best things at times.
 

Mloop

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies everyone.

I like the idea of finding an isolated area and just letting loose. We live in a fairly urban area, and even the nature-y parts on the outskirts are full of people. Maybe we can just shout and make noise in the car?

We have chatted with both the downstairs and next door neighbor, and I casually brought up the apartment noise. "Hey, I know the building is old and the floors creak a bunch. We try to be cognizant of that but let us know if it bothers you or we have the TV on too loud, etc." They both said something to the affect of "I barely even hear you" and "I don't even know you're home most of the time!".

Despite all this, we had another incident today. We decided to go to on a day trip to a little town an hour away. We had a fantastic time. Got lunch, did some shopping, just sat in a park and enjoyed the sunshine. I thought maybe this was all behind us. When we got home, she said she was going to lay down cause she didn't sleep well and was tired. I walked by the bedroom a little bit later and she was curled up in a ball crying. I have no idea what triggered this, and she'll barely talk to me besides telling me she hates this apartment and is thinking about moving back home. She's been like that for 2 hours now.

I think I'm going to have to have a serious talk with her. As I see it, there are 3 options here:
1. She agrees to go to a therapist and I help her find one that works within her budget
2. She moves back home
3. We continue on and it gets worse and worse

I feel so awful for her. I wish I knew what was going on in her head and how to help her. And every time I'm with her, I feel like I could hit an anxiety landmine at any moment, which is in turn giving me really bad anxiety.
 

triceps

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Hi and welcome Mloop. Just one man's opinion, if your girlfriend doesn't agree to counseling, she needs to move back home where you'll both be more comfortable. However, the first task would be to meet with the neighbor where they'll reassure your girlfriend that noise in general has not been a nuisance. If your girlfriend refuses the meeting with the neighbor, she needs to move back home.
 

Cuchculan

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Hi and welcome Mloop. Just one man's opinion, if your girlfriend doesn't agree to counseling, she needs to move back home where you'll both be more comfortable. However, the first task would be to meet with the neighbor where they'll reassure your girlfriend that noise in general has not been a nuisance. If your girlfriend refuses the meeting with the neighbor, she needs to move back home.
They have already met with the neighbours. No problem with them at all. Is just the girlfriend is imagining problems. As you rightly say she needs help. Which she doesn't seem to want to get. Be curious as to why not? Does she not think there is anything wrong that she needs help with? Moving back home would be a comfort for her. Back in a place were she may always feel safe. Hope it doesn't damage the relationship along the way. Come the end of the day, she might just miss home. Could be as simple as that. Though did we not hear in an earlier post about an abusive father? As in loud and always shouting. Or something like that. Maybe she was trying to get away from that to begin with. Catch 22. Once away she misses home and wants to go back.
 
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