Sex IRL: 7 Couples on How Living With Their Parents Affects Their Sex Lives
"With five people living in our house at one point, there was no way I’d be able to have sex at home."
Not everyone’s comfortable talking about their sex life, but knowing what goes on in other people’s bedrooms can help us all feel more inspired, curious, and validated in our own experiences. In HG’s monthly column Sex IRL, we’ll talk to real people about their sexual adventures and get as frank as possible.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began to spread across the country this past spring and economies started to shut down, plenty of folks opted to pack up their lives and move back in with their parents—for financial stability and due to the fact that they had no idea when it would be safe to travel again.
I was one of these people. My lease ended in late April, and my plans to move in with my boyfriend had to be put on hold. So instead of struggling to find a sublease during the height of the pandemic in New York, where I was living, I stuffed my things into my parents’ garage and settled back into my childhood bedroom in New Jersey.
As you can probably imagine, our sex life took a major hit because of this. While my boyfriend and I were seeing plenty of one another (as we spent the majority of our time at his parents’ place in New Jersey), being down the hallway from your parents isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac.
Luckily, my boyfriend and I were finally able to find an apartment and are now cohabitating without having to worry about where in the house our parents are. But I wondered—how did other people balance living with their family with their bedroom activities?
You can find those answers below.
“Living at home has definitely gotten in the way of exploring my bisexuality.”
“I’ve lived at home since October 2019. I moved back home from living in Vietnam and was changing careers and saving up money with plans to move abroad again in April or May of 2020. Since the pandemic hit, I’ve stayed at home much longer than I expected. But I’m finally leaving next month.
“Living at home is definitely hindering my dating life! Before the pandemic it was alright, but my parents are a bit traditional, so it wasn’t super fun to tell them I wasn’t coming home when I went on dates. As soon as the pandemic hit, I knew there was no way I could safely date, so I haven’t since March. At the time I was seeing a former high school crush who I had reconnected with in October. It was tough to end things, but I couldn’t put my family at risk.
“When I was dating him, after our second or third date, I started sleeping over at his place. There wasn’t a discussion with my parents, really. My excuse was that I was drinking on our dates and he lived in the city (my parents are in the suburbs) so I couldn’t drive myself home afterward. Even when I was dating someone seriously a couple of years ago, anytime we visited my parents’ house together, we couldn’t share a bedroom. My parents are definitely a bit old-fashioned, but they also really don’t want to talk about it.
“On top of that, living at home has definitely gotten in the way of exploring my bisexuality. I realized I was attracted to women almost two years ago and casually dated a couple of women while living abroad. One of my aims for 2020 was to try dating women more seriously, and I planned to do that when I moved abroad again. That didn’t happen, of course, and not only can I not date women here because of health protocols, but I also haven’t come out to my parents.”
— Katie, 25, currently single
“My mom knows my sex life is none of her business.”
“I’ve lived at home the entire time I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend because I was still in school up until this summer. I plan on moving in with my partner sometime in the next year.
“Living at home does impact my dating life. I wouldn’t bring home anyone who I’m not dating seriously and exclusively, as I don’t really wanna explain or justify my dating life to my parents. However, with my current partner, I feel like it only impacts our sex life minimally. We make sure not to be too loud, and I only have a handful of sex toys at my place. However, it is nice for us to have the option of going to my partner’s place because he lives alone and we don’t have to tone it down for anyone else.
“Being in a long-term relationship while living at home is perfectly fine to me, but I do look forward to having my own place and being able to manage our time together without having to consider my parents’ plans or schedule. Luckily, my mom is pretty chill with having my boyfriend around. She let him stay over the first night that she met him and knows that my sex life is none of her business, so she’s never said anything to me regarding that. She also doesn’t mind when I sleep over at his place for a few nights a week, and she lets us plan our future together without intervening.”
— Julie, 19, with her boyfriend for 1.5 years
“One time I woke up from a sex dream and wanted to finish myself off, but then my dad literally walked in to put laundry away.”
“I lived [on campus] because I was supposed to still be in college but instead was sent home in March. I was there for six months, and I just moved out this past August. Back at school, I had a friend-with-benefits situation and was also dating. Home was three hours away, so when I moved back there, I couldn’t hook up with my friend anymore. Further, I moved from a Midwestern city to a super rural area, so I would run out of swipes on an app really quickly.
“I did match with some people from high school. One girl I knew in high school matched with me and asked if her boyfriend could watch. I was actually down for it, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get out of the house without my parents asking questions. My mom is a worrier, so I’d have to tell her where I was going. I don’t have any friends left at home either, so it wasn’t like I could say I was going to a friend’s house. My parents never brought it up, and I think they figured there were no available gay girls in our area, to be honest. We didn’t talk about it, and I never felt any unspoken expectation either.
“My parents live in a ranch-style house, and their bedroom is right by mine, so I couldn’t even really masturbate. It’s not that my parents would care, but I just could not get in the mood knowing my parents were right across the hallway. I think I got a quick masturbation session once when they were both out getting their car oils changed, but other than that, we were all just consistently too close to each other. One time I woke up from a sex dream and wanted to finish myself off, but then my dad literally walked in to put laundry away. I pretended to be asleep.”
— anonymous, 22, currently single
“It’s definitely a weird moment to basically be telling your parents that you are going away for a few days to have sex.”
“I was serving in the Peace Corps when COVID hit and was abruptly sent home to America when all volunteers were evacuated. All volunteers had their service terminated (fancy talk for being fired) with no clear framework of when they might be able to return to service, if at all, so I’ve been living with my parents since I came back in March and trying to sort out what and where is next.
“Peace Corps volunteers don’t get regular unemployment because we are considered to have ‘stopped volunteering’ rather than having lost a job, and it’s not exactly the best time to have been thrown into the job market, so as long as I’m looking for work, I wanted to keep my expenses as low as possible.
“Living at home has definitely made dating and sex more complicated, especially combined with the pandemic. My parents are both older and in the higher risk category, so for the first few months of being home, I was completely isolated and basically [was] unable to leave the house other than a daily run around the neighborhood. I definitely was NOT expecting to even try dating during quarantine or while living at home, but I re-downloaded Tinder just because I was pretty lonely and thought it might be nice to talk to people. I ended up meeting my current boyfriend there.
“We were seeing each other for over a month before we were even able to hold hands, nevermind any physical intimacy. About six weeks in, I was able to spend four days with him and finally be physical. It was amazing. To be honest, the extended amount of time and emotional intimacy that led up to us finally being able to spend a long weekend together was really refreshing and I think laid a stronger foundation for the relationship than we would have found outside of the restrictions.
“At the beginning, I just didn’t even tell my parents where I was going when I would go into the city to see him (my family lives in the suburbs, about 15 minutes from the capital city in our state), and they didn’t ask a lot of followup questions about where I was going or what I was doing. I think they were just happy I was taking some space for myself. Once it became clear that it was going to be a serious relationship, I told them that I was seeing someone, but we didn’t really talk about rules. I think they just trusted that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and following the rules that our household was following.
“Eventually, when I wanted to spend the night with him, I basically made a plan for how I was going to handle it (I’m lucky that I had someplace to go to quarantine after the visit, so I was able to visit him and then get tested and wait for my results before coming back into the household). I just told my parents what my plan was, rather than discussing or asking for permission. It’s definitely a weird moment to basically be telling your parents that you are going away for a few days to have sex, but it went pretty well.”
— anonymous, 29, with her boyfriend for two months
“How am I supposed to have an orgasm when her little sister is screaming about Oreos?”
“Because my parents live pretty far from where my girlfriend lives, we alternate and spend a period of days at each other’s houses. (My girlfriend also lives with her parents.) Sometimes this is difficult because of our work schedules, not to mention that I don’t have a car.
“We had been doing long-distance while I was at school, and this sudden ‘togetherness’ was somewhat of a shock, not to mention a major life change for me. I was in a city, not knowing a soul, missing my girlfriend like crazy, and then a pandemic hit and suddenly we’re together all the time. It seems like a fairytale, but it’s had its challenges.
“My girlfriend is Hispanic, and in Hispanic culture, it’s actually quite common for grown children to still live at home, even with their significant others. But for me, I still feel like an intruder in her house. We have a very mature relationship, and sometimes it definitely doesn’t feel like it in our situation. My mother still nags about the one fork in the sink, and her mother still vents to me about her crippling anxiety. It’s overwhelming and disorienting. How am I supposed to have an orgasm when her little sister is screaming about Oreos? No one can. Not to mention the time my mother walked in on us. Not even a knock and we were fully naked. It’s comical how frightening that was.”
— anonymous, 19, with her girlfriend for two years
“We were not sure how to handle this whole ‘me at home, dating and having sex’ thing.”
“I lived at home following grad school, from ages 24 to 27. I was lucky my parents were willing and able to have me move back home rent-free. But dating was challenging. I wasn’t dating anyone seriously prior to moving home and frequently dated casually or just for sex. So when I moved home, it was like, ‘Okay, how do I do this?!’
“There was one [incident] where things got heated and emotional. I had been seeing this guy for a few weeks. I’d drive to his house, we’d have dinner, and we’d have sex. Very casual, nothing serious. It was never expected that I had to come home, but my parents just wanted to know if I wasn’t.
“One Sunday night, I’d driven to his house and stayed over. I’d told my parents that I would be staying out. At the time, I had a temp job, so I had to drive home really early the next morning. When I got home, my mom started crying about how she just wants me to be safe when I’m out. It definitely signaled to both of us that we were not sure how to handle this whole ‘me at home, dating and having sex’ thing. I grew up with a mom who talked frankly about sex; however, I think this was just something she was so unprepared for. After that, I dated a few guys here and there, although they didn’t turn into anything serious. And I always made it a point that if I was out and having sex, I always came home.”
— anonymous, 32, currently single
“Dating and sex are a huge part of my life and were completely put on hold.”
“I left Manhattan in late March when I went remote for work to stay with my family in the Midwest for a couple of weeks, which unexpectedly turned into five months. I was starting to miss home around that time and thought it was a good opportunity to spend time with family. Then I got a little too comfortable working from a house rather than a 600-square-foot apartment and eating free groceries.
“My dating life has been very casual for the past five years. Once I moved home, I continued to swipe and talk to new people from New York on dating apps. I don’t like communicating over the phone and prefer meeting someone from a dating app in person after messaging for a day. So the longer I stayed with my family, the more those conversations fizzled out. During this time, my dating and sex life were completely nonexistent. I didn’t want to risk my parents’ health or get coronavirus by having sex. And if I did want to have sex with anyone, I definitely would not be doing it in the bedroom I was staying in next to my parents’ bedroom or at anyone else’s parents’ house.
“I tried swiping on Hinge for people in my city, but I didn’t match with anyone I liked. Had I known the pandemic was coming, I probably would have worked harder to keep in contact with others who I could at least FaceTime [with] while living [at] home. I was extremely jealous of anyone already in a relationship during this time. I definitely hit the sexually frustrated mark. Dating and sex are a huge part of my life and were completely put on hold.
“At one point during quarantine, we connected my phone to the TV and my mom and sister helped me swipe on Hinge. They at least wanted me to have a dating life virtually. With five people living in our house at one point, there was no way I’d be able to have sex at home. I just knew it wasn’t going to happen during this time. But from this point on, I will be keeping a backup list of dates to keep in contact with for the next time I live with my family.”
— anonymous, 23, currently single