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Dear Mary: Living with my parents is putting a huge strain on my relationship with boyfriend


Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

I am in a very loving and affectionate relationship with my boyfriend of five years. We are both in our late 20s. Like many couples today, we moved back in with my parents and my adult siblings to save for a deposit on a house, and have been living here for over a year now. We greatly appreciate my parents' help but the living situation has become impossible.

Our bedroom walls are paper- thin with siblings either side and there is zero privacy - no knocking on bedroom doors, no matter the time of night. The house feels very hostile, we can't watch TV or chat in our room at night (including weekends), and my parents constantly need to know our comings and goings. The list goes on with the usual frustrations you might expect from such a situation. He has not said so but I know my partner feels very uncomfortable and unwelcome in the house as if he is in the way the whole time.

Worst of all, despite how strong the relationship is, we have only had sex four times since last October due to the lack of privacy. It has become unbearable and is putting a huge strain on the relationship, making us angry, frustrated and irritable, and we often take it out on each other. Because we are saving for a house, weekends away are kept for very special occasions, but have helped hugely in the past. I feel the situation has pushed us to the point of being best friends rather than a couple.

Now my partner is unemployed due to Covid-19, so our plan to buy a house has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. We are devastated as the light at the end of the tunnel now seems further away than ever. It is not possible to maintain a healthy relationship in these circumstances - I can see it eventually ending the relationship. I often feel like giving up.

What do we do? How do we cope?

Mary replies: I have a huge amount of sympathy for you in your current situation. You actually gave me many more details, which explain why the house feels hostile, but for reasons of anonymity they will not be shared in this column. Suffice it to say that it really is an almost intolerable situation for you and one that cannot be allowed to continue.

Your right to privacy in your own room is important and this is not being respected. As you have all grown up together, it is understandable that your siblings, and perhaps your parents, feel that they have a right to barge into your room like they did when you were all much younger. When you are all together at some point, you should say that it bothers you greatly that your space is being invaded and ask that people think, and at least knock and wait for a reply, before coming in. Then ask if anybody else has something that is bothering them that they would like changed. This may lead to some useful conversation, or may not, but at least you will get to speak your mind. If they don't take any notice of this, then put up a sign saying Private - Do Not Enter - and they may get the message. It is only natural for parents to ask about comings and goings. They probably are not prying, but as it is something that they always did when you were a child and young adult, old habits die hard. There is also quite often a very practical reason - whoever is doing the cooking needs to know who will be around for meals. It is annoying to be asked where you are going and what you are doing, but this is something that I feel you will have to put up with, and I know that if everything else was okay for you it wouldn't be such a big problem.

The biggest thing in all of this is that you are unable, for reasons you fully explained, to have any sort of intimacy with your partner. And in any event paper-thin walls are a total passion killer - and it's no fun either to be at the other side of the wall and being forced to listen to an amorous encounter! You will have to be inventive and come up with an alternative venue. In Japan where space in homes is at a premium, there is a concept called a "love hotel", which rents rooms in two-hour blocks, mainly for couples.

I'm currently reading a historical novel and a large group of refugees are travelling on a ship to Chile. This takes many weeks and the author has the newly-wed couples on board taking turns to use the lifeboats for lovemaking - which affords some privacy. Not much use to you, I know, but it will encourage you to think about alternatives. You may also want to think of biting the bullet and renting together and postpone saving. You should also discuss with your parents, on their own, how you are feeling. You don't have anything to look forward to. This is adding to your distress which is why something needs to be done very soon.

You can contact Mary O'Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie Alternatively, or write to Mary O'Conor, c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence.

Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

Sunday Indo Living