When it comes to your list of worst sex nightmares, someone walking in on you is probably pretty high up there. Depending on the person, your immediate emotional response may vary between, “I really wish I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak right now,” and, “Are they still taking applications for that one-way trip to Mars?” For minimal mortification for everyone involved, focus on etiquette. “Etiquette is about putting others at ease,” says Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert. “It’s especially applicable in this situation because the other person will likely have an immediate feeling about what they just saw.” Read on for how to handle this freaky scenario with four different people in your life.
You know them better than anyone, so be honest with yourself about how upset (or possibly angry) they’ll be. At the same time, don’t automatically act like you did something horribly wrong (unless they discovered you on their bed, because come on). “If your parents walk in on you, the sense that you got caught doing something naughty can make you feel very young,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. “That can trigger old fears of being in trouble with them.” Now that you’re an adult, you can react to the situation like one, even though it may make you want to crawl into a hole forever. “Don’t make a big, immediate fuss of it,” says Swann. Give them some time and space instead of running after them to offer up an instant apology. In the meantime, feel free to pick back up where you were interrupted (although keeping it down is of the utmost importance).
Whether you get back to the action or not, when you walk out of the room to talk to your parents, you should look as impeccable as you would for a job interview. No bed-head, smudged makeup, or wrinkled clothes unless you want your parents to have a vivid reminder of what they just saw. Make it a point to address them with your partner, but you do the talking. “Apologize and explain it won’t happen again,” says Greer. “If they’re disappointed in you, you can acknowledge that and be understanding.” At the same time, you were being an adult and making a grown-up choice, says Greer. Because of that, it doesn’t call for an overwrought conversation. A simple apology then conversation switch is due diligence enough.
You can’t get much more cringe-worthy than this. “When his parents walk in on you, it can make you feel more humiliated or exposed than if it were your own,” says Greer. If his parents are the type to brush it off, try to treat it causally, as well. If they’re super-laid back, you may not even need to bring it up, especially if you’re hitched. “Even strict parents understand that sex is a natural part of marriage,” says Swann.
If you know they’ll be offended, a formal apology can help. Even if you’re nervous about their reaction, you should still present a united front by showing up to apologize together. “Doing this will bring you closer because you'll be working as a team and dealing with conflict together,” says Greer. “It will strengthen you as a couple in the face of adversity.” This time, your partner should be the one speaking up. “Any judgment or lectures will likely be directed at him since he’s talking,” says Swann. Plus, his parents will probably be easier on him than they would be on you.
Catching a glimpse of your practically-a-Charlotte-York-clone friend’s reaction to you mid-action will probably short circuit your throes of ecstasy. Treat your loveably uptight friend much the same way you would if it had been your parents. “Give it some time so the embarrassment can subside, then tell her you’re sorry she had to see that,” says Swann. If, on the other hand, it’s your wild-child best friend who already knows every detail of your sex life? Crack jokes with abandon. “Joking about it in front of either set of parents can make everyone feel uncomfortable, but it’s fine with a close friend,” says Swann.
The exception to this rule is if that other friend happens to be a roommate who caught you going at it on the kitchen table or some other shared piece of furniture. “In that case, apologize and say it got out of hand and will never happen again,” says Swann. Offer to wipe down (and disinfect) every surface a bare butt touched as an olive branch.
If you hopped in the car for a quickie only to have a surprised passerby get an eyeful, pretend nothing happened. “You don’t owe a stranger any explanation, and you don’t want to get involved in a public conversation about your private life,” says Swann. If you see them when you're done having sex, good etiquette in this situation actually means acting like you had a great session. “You don’t want them to think you were being assaulted in any way,” says Swann. As for moving on in your relationship, chalk it up to a fun, crazy experience. “The more you can make light of it and laugh it off, the better,” says Greer. “Realize it will become a great story to tell later.”