S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.
S2: Your produce, your prudence here, prudence decisions, you your. Here prove these things that I should contact him again. No. How. Thank you. Thank you.
S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host. Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Lavery. With me in the studio this week is Nastia Voit NCAR, a Russian born Oakland based journalist and one of the arts and culture editors at KQED, San Francisco’s NPR station. She covers the intersection of the arts, activism, labor, pop culture, the Bay Area and more. Nastia, welcome to the show.
S3: Thank you so much for having me, Danny. So excited to be here.
S1: I am so, so thrilled. And I even just a minute before the show started hearing you and Phil talk about various neighbors of Oakland made me wish that I was there right now. One of the various bakeries that I associate with like North and West Oakland, because that’s where all my favorite bakeries are.
S3: Yeah, totally. I wish we had a chance to record those in prison before you move. It’s so awesome to be doing this remotely.
S1: We absolutely could have tried to record this sort of like timeless. Oh, yes. And just gotten all of their homemade Twinkies and like had one to celebrate the ending of each letter. Yeah, definitely. As it is, I will be actually one of Phil’s relatives lives in New York and was like doing a cookie run yesterday. They had just baked a ton of cookies. And so yesterday I got a cookie delivery from Phil’s family. And so I might just need a cookie every time we answer a letter.
S3: I definitely support that. Cookies are a form of self care, so cheer you up.
S1: So I think my main goal today is to I’m trying to bear in mind, especially lately, that a lot of people are writing under unbelievably stressful circumstances where a lot of things have changed quite suddenly. So I’m trying to both be creative in terms of offering multiple solutions. And I’m also trying to go easier on all of my letter writers because everyone’s having a tough time and I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of that. So that’s my that’s my goal for the day. That’s the energy I’m trying to bring to the table is cookies and gentleness, which is not always my my mode. But now, you know, that’s that’s me today.
S3: I love the I’ve been trying to really cultivate ōba of self compassion and I want to extend that to our listeners as well. So I’m on your same page.
S1: Fabulous. All right. Well with that in mind, would you read our first letter? Sure.
S3: Subject. Planning a funeral in a pandemic. Dear Prudence, my mom husband, an assisted living and memory, care for almost a decade, and her current facility recommended that we begin hospice care, which means her funeral and maybe sometime soon. My sisters and I live very far away from each other, although we’re all in agreement about hospice. We’ve begun the process of planning for a remote graveside service, contacting the funeral home to let them know our mother’s wishes, talking to her minister and alerting the cemetery. But none of us will be traveling to the funeral unless the pandemic is over. All of us are at high risk due to our age, as well as various complicating medical conditions. Additionally, we all feel we said goodbye to our mother long ago. Since she’s been dealing with progressive dementia for 10 years, although she outlived her social group and community members, we do have some cousins who might feel slighted not to be included in the remote graveside service. I’m happy to let them know what’s scheduled when that happens, but I’m extremely uninterested in their opinions regarding our nonparticipation at the grave site in person. I suppose I could say, well, we’ll plan a celebration of life on the public health emergency comes down, but I don’t think we will actually. Any tips for handling the inevitable faux shocked inquiries? What? You won’t be there.
S1: I really felt for this letter writer. This is so stressful. And I also really related to the thought of maybe I’ll just tell people will do when later and hope they forget, which I think would be I think they’re right in saying that that’s not the right move, because I think eventually people would say, hey, it’s been six months, where’s the funeral? But I can absolutely see myself hoping that that would get me out of a situation. And then, like five months down the line having to explain, I was making that up.
S3: Yeah, totally. I really feel for those letter writer and their losses. Well, that type of loss is really complicated. I think when the person mentally of who they used to be necessarily and then on top of not just handling all these complications because of the pandemic. But I definitely think those letter writer already is kind of thinking of various things. It seems like they really know their boundaries and especially they’re taking care of themselves, not only around their loss, but their their health risks. And I think that’s really important. And ultimately, at the end of the day, they didn’t really perpetrate these extended family relationships as particularly close of at least as far as what I gathered from the letters. So I think they are kind of rhythm. They’re right to just gently say, you know, this is this loss is my business and I’m handling it the best way that I can.
S1: Right. And that any sort of scandalized response would have more to do with your not doing X, Y and Z. To keep up appearances rather than like. I’m so close with your mother. I visit her our call her every week. And I’m personally devastated at the idea of not having a service. So I think there’s there’s two separate issues. Right, which is if you have cousins who you think would feel slighted not to be included in the remote graveside service, I would consider including them, if all that means is that they would be like on a call on some sort of like video conference or like watching a link from a particular place. I think inviting them seems pretty straightforward.
S3: Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. I was actually a little confused about the I guess those are two separate questions on their service and then the idea that people won’t be scandalized, that they’re not hosting something in person.
S1: Yeah, I think it feels pretty straightforward and intuitive to me. If you think they’d be offended, include them, especially if it’s something that’s just being broadcast and not really giving people an opportunity to respond, which would make sense that the funeral home would have like live streams, but not necessarily facilitate ongoing conversations, provide them with the link. But but then when it comes to informing them that as a group, you and your sisters have decided that that’s the only memorial you’re going to hold. I think perhaps the easiest way to avoid that sort of I can’t believe this is to inform the cousins as a unit with if you have to do it in writing, make it clear that this message is coming from all of you as a group. All the sisters or if you’re able to do it on a phone call, if that seems easier to you, to try to all hop on the call and you can assign one of you is sort of like the speaking representative. So you’re not all talking over one another, but in whatever way that you can communicate. This isn’t just me saying this. It’s us as a group. I think there’ll be a little bit less inclined to try to shame you. And if they do, it will be a little bit easier for you as a group to say it is a health issue. Obviously, we’re sad about it, but we don’t want to risk anyone’s anyone else’s life, you know, like that. That, I think, will be a pretty effective way to shut it down.
S3: Yeah, I think so, too. And that’s such a great idea. I hadn’t thought of doing that as maybe a joint letter email or a joint phone call, though. That’s kind of the beauty of sibling relationships. You can sort of tag team conversations with a difficult relative as though it’s from my experience.
S1: Right. And then to maybe you can even lead with a sentence or two of, like we’ve talked about all the options available to us. And it was really painful to have to make this decision. But ultimately, we realized all of us are at very high risk and we couldn’t endanger one another’s health like that. You know, so if you preface it with that, the news sort of already anticipated the possible question and answered it. I can’t promise you that they won’t make at least some scandalized noises, but I do think that that will cut down on it. And if they get really caught up on that detail, you can just say this is not a productive conversation. Our decision was sad, but it is final.
S3: Yeah, I totally agree. I think of the relatives keep pushing back. They can also say something like, we’re having a hard enough time grieving this loss as it is. And we’re also all anxious and worried because of the pandemic. So just please don’t make this. Makes it more difficult for us.
S1: I think that’s fabulous. Yeah, I think that’s exactly it. So one cookie there, we can move on. The next two are sort of like two different perspectives on the same problem, which is sort of like a perennial advice column question, which has to do with like sex and long term relationships. And so I thought it was kind of interesting to have them one following the other so we can just kind of see different perspectives in different ways that it can affect people. But I think it’s my turn to read this letter, so I’ll get started. The subject is hot and sexless. Dear Prudence, my wife and I have been married for 15 years. We have two kids, two dogs and a house together after our son was born. The sex started becoming less frequent to the point where we were having sex maybe once every three to six months. Every time I would try to initiate, I would be rebuffed for fatigue, headache, whatever. When she does deign to touch me, every blue moon there, there’s no oral for either of us. That’s on her orders and there’s no foreplay. She occasionally asks me if I want to have a quickie, but I want foreplay and to feel like I’m part of a couple. She’s the breadwinner and I’m the primary caregiver for our kids. I make all the meals, do most laundry and house cleaning and contribute to the house as much as I can. I’m also a personal trainer with a very flexible schedule. A few years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight and thought that maybe getting in better shape would make her more interested in intimacy. It didn’t. She’s only become more distant sexually and it’s taking a toll. I don’t feel attractive or desirable, even though many other women have indicated they’re attracted to me. But the woman I married do doesn’t seem to be one of them. It seems like the better shape I get him, the less attractive I am to her. I’m giving these other women more consideration because I’m feeling horny, unsatisfied, unattractive and undesirable. These feelings make me go to dark places in my head. I just can’t continue in a sexless relationship till I die. Yeah, that’s. That makes sense to me that you feel sad and isolated and painful and that you are going to dark places and that the idea of being in this kind of relationship for the rest of your life doesn’t seem endurable or desirable. I think these are things that you’ll need to share with your wife. And I don’t say that, like, flippantly, like just talk to her, because I know you’ve you’ve tried having some kinds of conversations around it, but it’s not clear to me how much detail these conversations have gone into. Did you get a read on that either way?
S3: Yeah, I actually thought that was a big piece missing in this letter. I didn’t really get a sense of how much they’ve talked about this and to what extent. And also kind of from what angle. I really it doesn’t seem like they have talked a lot about it because we’re not really getting any information about where the wife is coming from on this. Yeah. Like, I’m not sure what their sex life was like before the kids and everything. But there’s kind of no indication of why she lost interest in intimacy. It’s not really clear if she is busy. If it’s something about the letter writers approach, maybe a combination of various factors. So I think really it really open an honest, vulnerable conversation would be where I would advise the letter writer to start.
S1: Right. Like, I my mind went to like, oh, maybe after the birth of her son, she experienced, like, physical complications or some sort of hormonal shift that made her feel differently. But then I destroyed, like, I don’t know that like, I’m I’m trying to read information in there because that, as you say, is kind of conspicuously absent. Yeah. So. That doesn’t mean I think you should, like, turn to her right now and just say everything you said in the letter without any kind of like editing or thought process beforehand. But I think the things that you need to communicate to your wife are one, I’m really, really unhappy about our sex life. It makes me feel rejected, unwanted and miserable. This has been going to this has been going on for a long enough time that I feel unwanted. I’ve started to entertain thoughts about other people who have expressed interest in me. I’ve started to speculate why you might not want me. And I know that that’s not really healthy. But I’ve been guessing because I don’t know. So because because those seem to me like the crucial things, right, is like a miserable about this, I think about other people, I think about potentially leaving this marriage. That’s how serious this is to me. And I don’t know why things have changed the way that they have. And we need to be able to talk about it, because what’s happening right now, where we don’t have sex and we don’t know what the other one is thinking about it, that’s not sustainable.
S3: Totally. And also the with those letters and other concerns, Jeffrey is kind of makes me wonder what’s going on in those relationships in terms of intimacy and the feeling of closeness in general. The letter doesn’t really address that very much like there’s no really other details about like, oh, but we’re very loving where we cuddle or anything like that. So I wonder if it’s, um, I mean, it seems like it’s a lot bigger of an issue than just sexual satisfaction or getting off. Yes. Yeah. And I wonder if there are ways that they can work on rekindling just more of a general sense of intimacy. Like I was thinking they could maybe even before launching into how this is making them feel miserable and unattractive, an unwanted maybe they can also come at it from the angle of you’re my wife and I love you and I want to feel close to you and intimate with you and sexes, a, that I would like to do that. But why are we not connecting in this area?
S1: Right. Yeah. The one line that I felt like there was a slight hint was when she does deign to touch me in every blue moon suggested that there was a lot of withdrawal on the one side and a lot of isolation and resentment on the other. I really felt for the letter writer, not that bit about like I lost all this weight and I felt that that would fix things. And I just I really feel for them. And I’m really sorry that you haven’t been able to talk about this with your wife sooner, because just the idea of like going through the long, long process of of that kind of like physical change and thinking thinness or a certain type of body size will will make my wife want me. And then when that doesn’t work, that kind of increased like self recrimination that seems present. But I’ll just say to that, like, you know, there’s not a certain body type that guarantees automatic sexual intimacy or attraction or desire. And that’s not to say like you should feel bad about whatever your body is doing right now. I just mean that I think there’s often this kind of hope that maybe this one thing will act as a substitute for talking to my partner about sex. And if there’s one conclusion I can draw from these types of letters is that there’s no substitution for talking to your partner about sex. If you’re not talking honestly, all the guessing and hoping and trying in the world, absent that crucial information isn’t going to address your problem.
S3: That’s so true. And maybe a more honest conversation could also bring the kind of emotional intimacy they may be lacking and maybe that could kind of lay the groundwork for a more physical intimacy. Between two.
S1: Yeah. Yeah. But I think really, you just need to let her know how much this is difficult and painful for you and how serious this is, because it may be that her first response is a little evasive or defensive. And what I want for you is not to just say like, OK, and then go back to another 10 years of feeling miserable and untouched. But to really push for. You don’t have to share every single detail with me right this minute, but you need to know that this is taking a real toll on our marriage. And if we can’t find ways to talk about this, maybe with a therapist or or something else, but like if we can’t find ways to talk about this, it may not be possible to stay in a relationship together. Not to say that as a threat, but simply to acknowledge the fact that this is gutting you.
S3: Yeah, it sounds like a major incompatibility and maybe it’s something they could work on. But I was also gonna suggest maybe a couples therapist would be really good for those couples, especially since they’ve been married for 15 years. And it seems like there’s a still a really big disconnect when it comes to talking about sex and maybe a solution to this, depending on what the wife’s reasoning is for this. Maybe they may want to explore something like an open relationship down the line, or maybe they’ll decide the they shouldn’t be together. And I think a couples therapist can help guide them through any option that ends up making the most sense for them.
S1: Yeah. I mean, there’s just no substitute for knowing what’s going on in her head. And honestly, even if the conversation you ended up having was quite painful and you realized you’re no longer sexually compatible or she’s no longer interested in sex at all or or something else, that that was not, you know, good news will be able to rebuild a sex life together. Even that, I think, would be better than the guessing game you’re playing in your head or saying things like, maybe if I lose more weight, then she’ll want to touch me. Like, that’s just that kind of misery and uncertainty is just unbearable. I think.
S3: Yeah. No, I absolutely agree with you, yeah. I think the voters should be compassionate with themselves as well as their wife about this, because this is a very a intimate and very personal issue.
S1: All right. Well, from one type of painful sexless relationship to another, would you read our next letter?
S3: Yeah, definitely subject. How do I not get offended by my boyfriend’s low libido? Dear Prudence, I’m a 26 year old woman who’s very grateful to be in a relationship with a kind, thoughtful, intelligent and attractive 28 year old man. He’s a fantastic partner. We’ve started talking about getting engaged. My family likes him and he gets along well enough with my roommate. But we’re all moving into a house together. The problem right now is our sex life. I have a higher libido and crave the closeness, an emotional intensity that come with sex. My partner often prefers to sweetly cuddle while I’m desperate for something more. This has been exacerbated by a shelter in place orders. I want to respect my partner’s boundaries and energy levels. He has chronic health problems. We’ve discussed this mismatch more than once, and he understands how I feel. Sometimes he’ll say not right now to help it feel less like a rejection. But no matter how kind he is about it. I find myself consumed with anger and sadness when he says, no, I want to cry. My chest hurts with self-righteous anger, all because my very caring partners said something incredibly reasonable. We have sex an objectively reasonable number of times every month. And he is very affectionate otherwise. So it’s not like my needs aren’t being met. I’m torn. Even in the moment between wanting to respect my partner’s boundaries in a reasonable way and also feeling like I’m going to explode, I try to hide my feelings. But he is perceptive and notices when I’m upset. I just don’t know what else to say. I feel super sensitive about rejection. I question whether he really wants me or if I have unwittingly pressured him. What is wrong with me? Do I just need to swallow those feelings and be happy when we do have sex? How do couples live? Well, the differing sex drives. OK, so this one is very different from the last one.
S1: Yes, I absolutely this this relationship, this couple. I think one thing they seem to have going for them, you know, aside from the obvious fact that they don’t have to deal with like them two kids and two dogs, which is a ton of work, is that they both seem relatively self-aware and fairly regularly like upfront with one another about how they’re doing.
S3: Yeah, I think it’s pretty wise of those letter writers to be cognizant of the fact the the you know, they’re feeling these emotions, but maybe in May not be fair to necessarily make their partner. I guess they put the pressure on so to make her partner feel bad about it because he has a health condition. And I definitely think the fact that he has a health condition and otherwise really affectionate is an indicator that they seem like they have a pretty healthy degree of intimacy despite this mismatch. And it’s not a lack of love or caring in the relationship, which is a really hopeful sign. But maybe there’s just kind of other ways that both people can feel satisfied and respected without necessarily having more sex of one partner. Can’t.
S1: Right. Right. I am. I’m with you on all of those counts. I think it’s really good that the letter writer is aware. Not not that I think she needs to be ashamed of the fact that she feels real extreme sensitivity or that she has a really difficult time with hearing. No. When it comes to sex. I hope you’re not too hard on yourself, letter writer, for having those feelings. I think it’s really good that your concern is I don’t want to pressure my partner and I don’t want to get into any sort of rhythm where I share these emotions, which are really big in such a way that makes him feel guilty. So. So that’s really good, too. You’re aware I don’t want to pressure or pout or throw a tantrum to try to like turn a no into an okay. Falling. I don’t want to do that. What I want is to figure out how to process these really volatile, big emotions that I cannot control. Right. Like that. To me, it’s a difficult situation that you’re in. But your your values and your goals are all good.
S3: Yeah. I completely agree. I think that there’s some extent to which the writers should spend time processing these emotions on her own. I am super into mindfulness and that helps me a lot. And I think this is one of those feelings where it’s like, OK, she needs to kind of look inside and recognize that she’s really frustrated that there’s something out of her control. That’s frustrating. Which is her boyfriend sex drive and really kind of feel that emotion and experience, the kind of work on really thing individually without necessarily talking about it in a way that makes the boyfriend feel bad about his health issues.
S1: Yeah. I also want to I think it might help the letter writer to consider the ways in which heterosexuality can throw an extra wrench into this dynamic, which you don’t mean like, oh, no, it’s bad that you two are are straight or that you’re dating a man. I just mean, oftentimes when it comes to ideas about how like a relationship between a man and a woman are supposed to work, there’s the idea that, you know, men only want one thing. Ha ha ha. They love sex, can’t get enough of it. And even when people they think are broadly aware that that’s a stereotype. I think he can still prove very difficult when there’s a relationship where the woman has a really high sex drive and the guy doesn’t think often of problems that can arise as a result. Is is the woman can feel really like, you know, I thought of sex as like this thing that men always want. So if he doesn’t want sex with me and I want sex, I must be really undesirable. And so that, I think could be a potential complicating factor and may well explain part of why it feels so devastating is this idea of like I’m not used to thinking of myself as the person who ought to be the initiator. Right. Again, you can think these things without necessarily consciously waking up thinking like I want to have really rigid sex rules in a relationship today. These are these are all things that we absorb over a lifetime. Does that. Does it seem like maybe a little too far afield here?
S3: No, I actually I completely agree with you. And I was also thinking of another way of the heterosexual dynamics might be impacting this, which is, I think a lot of the time. I mean, I don’t know if both of these people identify as straight or not, but a lot of the time in heterosexual relationships like the. The sex is kind of like strictly defined of like P and V sex or. Yeah. And maybe there’s a middle ground between like if a boyfriend may not be up for penetrative sex. All the time. Maybe there’s more things they could do, like with toys or stuff like that, where, like the girlfriend can have, you know, a greater sense of sexual satisfaction without necessarily like for the boyfriend exerting himself more than he wants to and stuff like that. And maybe about. That’s a conversation worth having about what those gray areas could look like for them.
S1: Right. And that may be a challenge for the letter writer, too, because if your fundamental problem is if you’re really self-conscious about the possibility of rejection and like my partner might not actually want me, then that can mean it’s challenging to say, like, oh, would you like him? Want to then ask your partner to, like, watch you jerk off because it’s like that would require a high level of like security. Confidence and certainty and my desirability from my partner. And if that’s not yet something that you have solid grounding in, it might feel really daunting to ask for something that could maybe feel like an accommodation. So I want to acknowledge that that might be one barrier to that possibility, although I do think it would help. I think really the last thing that I would say is it’s important for you not to hide your feelings about this. I understand why you don’t necessarily want to take them all to your boyfriend in the moment. I think that’s a good instinct. But I don’t think that just swallowing your feelings, turning your face away and crying quietly while you’re facing the wall and hoping your boyfriend doesn’t notice is going to help you. I think this is important. A journal about I think it’s important to do some reading about. I think you should maybe think about talking to a therapist about this even just in the short term. And the last thing that I would say is you say that you have sex an objectively reasonable number of times every month, and he’s very affectionate. So it’s not like your needs aren’t being met. I encourage you not to think of it in those terms. It’s very clear to me that you love and respect and esteem your partner. And what you’re trying to say in that is he does a really wonderful job of of paying attention to me. I get that you’re not trying to get him in trouble. There’s no objectively reasonable number of times a couple can have sex every month. And you’re not being, like, greedy or unnatural by having a high sex drive. And I would encourage you to think of this as something that’s really good about you. Like to think of this as a really positive thing. Like, one of the things about me that’s really great is I have a high sex drive. I love the kind of connection, creativity, fun, excitement, thrill that comes with sex, not just the things that come with cuddling, but specifically sex. That’s a good thing about me. It makes me cool and fun. But that is the only way someone can be cool and fun. But it’s the way I’m cool and fun and it’s the way I am vibrant and tapped into a robust sense of being alive and being present. It may sometimes make this relationship challenging. It may sometimes mean the two of you aren’t on the exact same page. But this isn’t something shameful or weird about you or that makes you inherently selfish. It’s a lot to try to balance all at the same time. Maybe you, too, will find fabulous ways to meet in the middle of your different sex drives. Maybe someday you will want to try having an open relationship. Maybe someday YouTube will decide you are better off as friends. I really don’t know. All I’ll say is that it’s really good that you have a high sex drive. Don’t be ashamed of it. You can treat your boyfriend well and also find ways to talk about bad, painful, dark, scary, upsetting feelings and that finding healthy ways to express those feelings is not the same thing as pressuring him into giving you what you want and that you two have a lot of good options available to you. And I wish you all the best.
S3: Yeah, I love that prospector. And I thought when the letter writer opens up to her boyfriend about this, she is mount with of of reassurance and love and compassion. And they can move forward from us.
S1: I hope so too. This is a real issue, neither using anything wrong. But it’s not unheard of for people who love each other to have really different sex drives, even for, you know, short time, much less like long term relationships. So you’re not alone and neither of you is like doing anything wrong. All right. So in keeping with this theme, which is just like struggles between couples who are like kind of trying their best, but also maybe letting the other down. I think this next letter I’m going to let you read. All right. I really, really I felt this one. Like, when I got to that line about the notification, I felt both like the the letter writers exhaustion and then also that the letter writers partners sense of, like, I cannot hear that thing one more time.
S3: Totally. Okay. So subject. My wife has told me to leave the bedroom. Dear Prudence, I am an essential worker. I work for a State Department of Agriculture. I’m in charge of making sure that the state’s food supply remains safe and trust us retailers, venders and members of the public who are struggling to do the covered nineteen outbreak. Everyone in this department is on call 24/7. I’m on my computer twelve hours a day coordinating state, local and federal efforts. I get phone notifications throughout the day. The other night my wife and I were in bed but not ready to sleep. I received an e-mail on my work phone. This is the first e-mail notification I have received when we were in bed since the outbreak. My wife told me that she has to listen to that all day long and it is not allowed to be on in the bedroom at night either. I can turn it off or sleep out of the only bedroom. I’m on a 24/7 emergency watch. My wife does not work. We have no children at home. The phone has not previously nor since made any noise at night as silence my phone during the day and now check for notifications hourly. So the phone makes no sound. My wife still refuses to allow me in the bedroom. Am I being unreasonable to expect to be allowed to sleep with my wife under these conditions? Woof.
S1: Oh, yeah, yeah. I really felt for them both.
S3: Yeah, sounds like such a hard job. I mean, it’s hard for anyone right now during the pandemic, but also, you know, organizing these food supplies, which, you know, if you’ve been reading the news about the food supply chain is completely out of whack. And, you know, whether people can eat it partially depends on the slaughter. It is obsolete. Totally got the pressure, but they’re under.
S1: Yeah. Yeah. And and I absolutely am with the letter writer in the sense of like, I have this incredibly demanding job right now. My wife isn’t currently working and I want more support or flexibility or patients than I’m receiving from her. I think that’s super reasonable. Yeah, I think I mostly mentioned that I, I could understand her frustration because I think one of the things that’s really challenging about listening to someone else’s notifications is when it’s your notification, you know, what device is coming in on. You can see what the message is. You respond to it like it has mental context, whereas just hearing someone else’s devices, dinking and buzzing and not knowing, has it been handled when when is the next one coming in? Having no association with where things are coming or going, it can feel much, much more maddening. And just like that kind of form of torture. That’s like a drip, drip, drip of water on your forehead. Again, it is not the same thing as being tortured. I want to make that really, really clear. And I don’t think that it means that she should just be able to be in like a meditation pod while you do all this by yourself. I just want to provide that hopefully useful context of why it might feel additionally jolting or jarring for her to hear those sounds. Does that make sense? Do you think? I’m bending too much backwards for her right now?
S3: I mean, I can see how it might be annoying for the wife, but at this point. And whether it seems like the letter writer made a lot of accommodations. Also, like they say, they silence their phone during the day and check for notifications hourly. So that sounds like it’s meeting a lot of her demands as it is. So. At this point, I don’t know. But what if sounds a little bit harsh to me? What this reaction because especially, I don’t know, since the letters so able to be on call 24/7, but only check notifications once an hour. It seems like they would be able to, you know, say these my eight hours for sleeping on my phone can just be on silent during then.
S1: So it really doesn’t sound like they’re able to make that push back with their employer right now. I think under almost any other set of circumstances that would be possible. But I think the reason they say they’re on the 24/7 emergency watch is really because even at night, they have to be checking their phone. And that does get I mean, that’s awful, right? Like, that’s awful for the letter writer. That’s not sustainable. But it’s also true that it can be hard to sleep through the night with somebody who is even if they’re trying to be as quiet as possible about it. Like turning over and checking their phone. It it may just that said, it may be that you two can’t sleep together most nights right now. But in that case, I really think you need to be the one in the bedroom and your wife needs to be the one to sleep elsewhere.
S3: Oh, that’s an interesting perspective.
S1: Yeah, cause you’re the one working around the clock. You need the bed. She’s able to nap during the day if she needs to. She doesn’t have deadlines to meet. Right. Now, that’s not to say that she she doesn’t have like things to be done in her own life or around the house or anything. But she’s not operating under nearly the same pressures that you are. And I think the person who needs to be able to prioritize sleep and comfort right now really has to be you. So, no, she ever listens to the podcast. Maybe you could play this for her. Or if not, I think really make the case for. I’m trying to meet you halfway where I can. I need something from you right now. I am under a ton of stress and pressure and I need to be able to sleep comfortably. And, you know, being forced to be doing this job are on the clock and then sleep on the couch is I can’t do that. I need you. If you can’t sleep with me, with my phone checking, then I. I need you to be the one who sleeps on the couch.
S3: Yeah. That’s a really good point. And yeah, I would just worry about also, you know, how this could potentially erode intimacy or the sense of support they have in their relationship. So I just also hope when making these requests for the wife as being compassionate about what the operator is going through. And, you know, like I figure she wants a full night of sleep. But maybe there’s a conversation they can have about meeting in the middle or maybe even like a couple nights a week. They both sleep in the bed and the rest of the time they sleep separately so they can both go. But I rest. But yeah, it sucks that the notification sound like they’re an annoying. But I would hate for this to become a much larger problem just because of that annoyance for her.
S1: Yeah. And I think to really stress, like when you have this bigger picture conversation to say, like, I understand that these notifications are really hard to hear. I also find them really hard to hear. But in addition to hearing them, I then have to address them. And, you know, it’s not like I’m saying this to be like I’m important and you’re shit and you have to just do what I want. I’m just trying to express a real need that I have for care and support for me right now. And I really think your wife, you know, you can both grant one another patients and flexibility. I get the times are tough for everyone right now, but I would really encourage you, letter writer, to tell your wife what I need from you right now is more support and more flexibility and more understanding. Can you do that? And I hope that she can reorient her approach to this problem.
S3: I hope so, too. I think that’s a really good way of putting it.
S1: Yeah. All right. So moving on to another thorny marital issue. The subject of our next letter is Anxiety and the Dog. Dear Prudence, my husband of 26 years suffers from severe anxiety. He’s on medication. And we’ve been going to therapy regularly for years. We have two dogs. One is very easy to handle. One is not. We’re working with a behavior specialist and that dog is now on Prozac. He’s come a long way and he’s a big sweetheart. I’m very attached to him. My husband is not. He loves the first dog. These are our first pets together. My husband’s anxiety is severely triggered when Freddy barks in the house or car. He has a sharp bark. My husband is an instantly pissed, anxious and upset. He doesn’t want to, quote, have this dog for 10 more years because, quote, I will not be able to live like this. I love the dog and I love my husband. I don’t want to resent him by feeling forced to give up the dog. I also don’t want to put my husband through torture. My husband adores the first dog. We’re supposed to go on a long distance camping trip this summer, but my husband doesn’t want to take the dogs. Of course, we could leave them at home, but that’s expensive and not a great solution to an everyday problem. Can we keep our dog and all be happy? Can you think of a way for them to keep their dog and all be happy?
S3: No. Yeah, I yeah, I don’t think so. They didn’t say how long they’ve had these two dogs, but but they have to. And the husband likes one of them.
S1: Yeah. If the dog if the dog in question could live 10 more years. The dog cannot be more than five years old now.
S3: Yeah. And especially if the husband has severe anxiety. It’s launches because he doesn’t like the dog or doesn’t want the dog. This is kind of this is affecting a medical issue. And not only that, but they have two dogs. So, I mean, if they can keep one dog and still have a pet, you know, and then got the other dog, maybe it’s her of a safe, loving home. Would be the best case scenario, I think, for everyone involved.
S1: Yeah, I think, you know, obviously, I’m not saying like call up your local shelter tomorrow and put the dog up for adoption. I realize re homing a dog, especially a dog that’s difficult to handle is very, very challenging. That said, I am also absolutely the type of advice columnist who would say if there’s no other options, prioritize your marriage over your relationship to a dog. Yeah. So I would say sit down with the behavior specialist and your husband and say, like, here’s the things we’re doing now. Prozac and the regular training sessions. Husband, how much of a difference would you say this has made in terms of how often the dog is throwing you into a tailspin and maybe your husband says it’s changed five percent, maybe your husband says it’s changed 20. I don’t know what number he would give, but try to get a sense of is this actually helping at all? And if the answer, which I suspect it will be, is something like no, then you talk to the behavior specialist and you say, what do you recommend in cases like this? Listen to the specialists advice. Maybe they have something else they recommend for extreme cases. Maybe they will know people who’d be willing to foster the dog for the short term while they look for a more permanent home. But this is a person who presumably deals with very difficult pets all the time. And so this will not be the first time the specialist has heard someone say, we’re trying X, Y and Z. And it’s not working. We need to come up with another plan.
S3: Yeah, that’s a really good point. And they also say we’ve been going to therapy regularly for years. It’s not very clear if it’s individual or couples therapy. But I think they can also have a similar conversation with their therapist, too, if that would help mediate. But I think it’s pretty clear to me that the husband’s anxiety takes precedence and this 26 year marriage takes precedence over the desire to have this pet.
S1: And I do wonder it makes me curious, because the letter writer doesn’t say much about what the process of getting these two dogs looked like and how involved their husband was or or if one of them was a kind of last minute thing or if they adopted them together and one turned out to work great and the other didn’t. I truly don’t know. It may be that as you look back, you can reflect and think we didn’t put enough thought beforehand into what taking on this dog would entail. How do we make sure in the future we don’t make that decision lightly? Again, I don’t know. You may not have made the decision lightly at all. Sometimes these things just happen and it really sucks. And I also understand that you’re not just like, great, I’ll just give up this dog that I love. No big deal. I realize that that’s a big thing. I realize that might be a very, very painful thing. And I realize it’s something that you want to do again lightly or tomorrow. And you wouldn’t want to do it if you weren’t fairly certain that this dog would be going to a good home. But I think it’s time to start talking about what the rehanging process might entail. I’m sorry to say, until I realize that’s a bad pun, but it needs to be something that you start discussing. And again, like bring it up with the behavior specialist, because they’re going to be able to give you more specific advice and to help you plan for. OK. We’re trying all this. We’ve given it a reasonable amount of time. Nothing is working. This is not sustainable. I wish I had a better answer for you. I wish I could say get a muzzle. I don’t doubt make the dog very happy. And I think your husband would still find ways to be upset or agitated by a dog that was clearly like in distress. It also may be bad for this dog to be living with another dog. I don’t I don’t know if there’s anything in particular about your living situation that’s hard for this dog to deal with. But. Yeah, I think it’s it’s time to start saying I don’t think this home is working for this animal.
S3: Yeah, absolutely.
S1: Or or for my husband and I’m really sorry. I wish I had a better answer for you. And if anyone listening is a dog expert and it’s like, hey, here’s a great thing. You didn’t know that you can do with a really anxious dog. Please write in and let me know when I will read it aloud on the air and hope they hear it. But that’s all I got.
S3: Yeah, it was it was a simple has given peanut butter something.
S1: Yeah. Yeah I do too. Did you ever share a pet with somebody that you were dating. No. No. I realized that this was a married couple, so it’s, it’s very different. But I’m also realizing, too, I never shared a pet with someone I dated. I think in part because it always seemed to go so badly whenever anyone I knew would get upset with their boyfriend and girlfriend. I now, though, wonder if perhaps I missed out on an important bit of life experience that would have enabled me to advise people better.
S3: Yeah, I know I’ve never done that. But you know what? I actually live next door to 10 wiener dogs. So yes, I get enough dog barking noises all day while I’m here working from Haast 10 wiener dog.
S3: It’s really excessive.
S1: Do they ever pull a tiny, tiny wagon?
S3: No, but they should. But honestly, wiener dogs, people think they’re really cute, but they’re kind of like a pack of of hounds. Just really small compact.
S1: I mean, I can totally imagine what you’re saying. And yet all I can picture is the purest joy.
S3: Try hearing them barking every day. I’ve asked why ten. So they started with one. Got her impregnated. And they kept all five daughters. Is Amendment got one of them impregnated and she had puppies over the summer. And then the grandma died actually. So. Yeah. And others. 10, four, five.
S1: What I mean then fight is how you get ten dogs. Yeah I, I’m stunned. That is so many dogs. Yeah. I hope somebody ends up making a movie about them. Not a bad idea. Or at the very least that someone gives them my wagan idea. And someday maybe if I’m visiting Oakland again, I’ll get to see 10 little wiener dogs running in a row pulling a little wagon behind them.
S3: Oh please stop by. Yeah, I can definitely show them to. You can pet bone, though, have a feel there.
S1: There’s a dog on my block that looks just like my dog died last year. And every time I see this dog I like, I feel compelled, said like stop and explain to the dog like no, no, no. You don’t understand your you you have a special psychic connection with me. And I need you to know that you have a certain emotional responsibility towards my well-being. And I’m worried that you don’t get it. And I never have. But I want to very badly.
S3: Oh, and those eye over the loss of your dog. But yeah, I can. Think, Yeah. She was the best.
S1: Yeah. He was truly, truly one dog in a million. And I do wish that there were ten of him pulling a little sledge. But this is actually a really lovely cheering note to end on. I’m just picturing 10 mersiades like trotting around badly, pulling something and then getting distracted and trying to eat peanut butter. So I’m ending today’s episode on a really high note, and I’m very grateful to you for that.
S3: Well, thanks so much for having me on. It’s been a lot of fun.
S1: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I’m so glad you were able to join us. Thank you. Have a fabulous rest of the day. And you don’t get out of here. You’re done.
S3: You too, Danny. Take care.
S4: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Phil Circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show at the Slate dot com slash. Dear Prudence, to subscribe.
S1: And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate.
S4: Plus go to Slate dot com slash Prudy pod to sign up if you want me to answer your question. Call me and leave a message at four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three two seven. You don’t have to use your real name or location and we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. If you’re going to show someone texts that are cruel about them and ask for any kind of like emotional support or what have you in dealing with those texts, you need to then also be prepared to say to the person who sent them, you can’t talk about my partner that way. Like, you can’t. I think he’s trying to have it both ways. And it was not right for him to ask for your support by showing you those messages and then saying, like, I can’t even tell her, hey, don’t call my wife. Names like that’s not getting into an unnecessary quarrel with your ex. That’s a pretty reasonable line to draw. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy Pod.