June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Hearing Fighting From the Couple Next Door: What Should We Do?

Dear Dr. Chani,

Thank you for writing this column. My husband and I look forward to reading it on Shabbos. We have been grappling with an issue concerning our neighbors’ frequent fighting with each other. We would love to hear your take on our situation.

My husband and I live in an apartment building with seemingly paper thin walls. Over the past few months, almost every night, late at night, we hear our neighbors, another young couple who has been married for a few years, fighting and arguing to the point of yelling and slamming doors. We have not heard the specifics of their arguments since we cannot hear their exact words. All we know is that it has become increasingly uncomfortable hearing their intense fighting every single night like clockwork.

While the yelling does prevent us from falling asleep at a reasonable hour, I am more concerned about this couple who is fighting every night. It seems extreme to me that they are so absorbed by their arguments that they are seemingly unaware of their volume to the point that their neighbors hear them. I know the woman somewhat from the community and we say hello or wave when we see each other, but that’s about it. Is there anything I can do? Or if not, is there any advice you have in this situation?

Thank you,
Atara


Dear Atara,

You are understandably very distressed about the fighting you hear from the couple next door. The fact that they are fighting regularly to the extent that you can hear them suggests a high level of conflict in their marriage, which is worrisome. You would also like to have the peace and quiet you need in your own home. So what can you do about this?

Before we consider what you can possibly do to deal with the issue, it is helpful for you to think about what motivates you most to take action. There may be more than one reason why you want to do something about this. It is important for you to be aware of what your primary motivation is because it will affect your strategy and how effective it will be. Your reflections on this question may help you determine how to address the situation.

When you and your husband sit up late at night wondering what to do, what most propels you to think about intervening? Are you concerned about the problem you think the couple might have or the disturbance it causes to your own sleep schedule?

For example, if your primary goal is to help your neighbors with their marriage, it can be worthwhile to develop more of a relationship with them before you share any suggestions or advice. As a rule of thumb, people do not usually feel comfortable receiving advice from someone with whom they have no real relationship. If you mention the fighting to the wife at this point, you have no idea how the wife will react. Raising a sensitive issue such as their fighting when you have no relationship with her will likely cause her to feel ashamed and it may result in a feeling of tension between you and your neighbors.

You are much more likely to succeed in helping their marriage by reaching out to them and developing a connection. You can make an effort to strike up conversations or to invite them over for a Shabbos meal. Keep in mind that when a person is in a state of marital stress, they can often feel lonely. Befriending them can mitigate their feelings of isolation and strengthen them emotionally. Developing a relationship will also give you an opportunity to get to know them better which will help you determine if you want to take any further action and what action to take.

Once you develop a connection, you might raise the topic of their fighting with the wife. If your motivation is to help them with their marriage, keep this in the forefront of your mind when you speak with her. As Chazal tell us, “Things which come from the heart have the ability to penetrate the heart.” The wife is much more likely to gratefully hear your message if she senses that you are speaking out of genuine concern for her welfare. You might say something like, “I wanted to speak with you about something. I know that if I was in a similar situation I would appreciate someone reaching out to me. Since the walls of our apartment building are paper thin, I have been hearing fighting from your apartment in the middle of the night. I want you to know. If I can help you in any way, please let me know. I am here for you.” After letting her know that you hear the fighting and that you care about her, take your cues from her about what to do next.

On the other hand, you might not feel that you can connect with either member of the couple and create any meaningful relationship with them. If this is so, it might be that, despite your golden intentions, you are unable to help them. It could be that this is a problem in the world that you can notice and be pained by, but are unable to solve directly. If your advice does not come in the context of a relationship with them, they might not appreciate it. Instead, it can cause discomfort for them and create tension between you, with no payoff.

An alternative to approaching them directly is to find someone else who does have a relationship with them and inform that person about what is going on. You may find a rabbi, friend or relative who they are close to who you can ask to get involved and help them. This might be the ideal strategy, especially if you feel that the couple needs help desperately, such as if you suspect abuse.

What can you do if your primary motivation is to restore your own peace of mind and quiet at night, and you would like that to happen as soon as possible? That is a legitimate need too. It might not sound so altruistic, but it is a real need for you and your husband.

If this is your goal, you might be able to achieve this by casually mentioning to the wife that the walls to your apartment are paper thin. You can mention that you often hear loud voices coming from her apartment and you thought that she might appreciate knowing so that she can be more careful to protect her privacy. It is possible that this revelation might encourage the couple to lower their voices, and it may even reduce the intensity of their fighting.

The situation you describe is difficult and delicate. I hope that these points to consider enable you to determine your best course of action so that you can benefit everyone involved.

Wishing you much success,

Chani


Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach, specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, and teaches online courses to help you create your ideal relationship. Get free relationship resources and contact her at www.chanimaybruch.com 

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