Wasn’t Expecting That
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Still Here, Danny Murray: Hello and welcome to this mini episode of Big Myth Little Island. I’m your host, Danny Murray, and the show is for you, our plus subscribers. And with me in the studio this week is Niko Stratis, a freelance culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Spin, Bitch, Extra, Catapult, Autostraddle and more. And here we are reading a letter from listener. Well, I think we’re finally we’re ready. I think for our last question, and I no longer remember which one of us read the second letter was a you. I did. That sounds right. Okay, then I’m going to read this last one. And again, some chance that this is just a plotline from friends. But I don’t think so, if only because now they’re texting and they didn’t do that on friends. But the subject is unethically ethical.
Still Here, Danny Murray: I met this woman who never really got all the fuss about sex. I’ve had several sexual relationships, none negative or regrettable. And I’ve been married to my husband for 12 years. I assumed our sex life was normal. We communicate well and have a good life together. He told me several months ago that his biggest fantasy was me with another woman teasing one another until the point that I needed to have sex with him, preferably with her watching. I assume he got this specific idea from porn, which we don’t watch together. I found that so charming because it’s just like. I mean, maybe, like he also could just, like, have an imagination. Like, who’s to say I.
Speaker 2: Just like that which we don’t watch together. Like, just just say, you know, we don’t engage in that.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Or maybe even a sort of like because I have not historically thought a lot about sex other than like, it’s whatever. Like, I don’t know where he’s getting this, like, why some of them imagined sex and they didn’t have to have it. It’s just kind of like a a lovely little insight into two very different minds. I’ve never had any desire to go outside of our marriage, so I declined, offering instead to pretend that I’d been with the woman before we had sex. But he kept bringing it up for months. He’d get upset when I had a heart now and went to different apps to show me people who have group sex ethically. Finally, realizing this was something he needed, I agreed to try, although he looked for the woman he wanted. I said that I would get the final say. After several long, non-sexual conversations with Carol. She offered to meet with me alone and in person beforehand to put me at ease. We went to dinner and ended up talking for hours. She’s captivating. We kissed and that was the first time I felt like I understood what songs and books told me I should expect from a kiss. It was the best I’ve ever felt, sexually or otherwise. I’m ashamed to say I went home with her. I’m not.
Speaker 2: I would never be.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Yeah. I mean, we’ll get you there. Don’t worry. Since then, I’ve been initiating sex with my husband, but fantasizing about Carol the whole time. And he’s noted how different and much more enthusiastic I am about sex. I can’t stop thinking about her, even as I try to convince myself that it’s just the thrill of newness. He keeps bringing up his fantasy, but I don’t even want to share what Carol and I have had. She keeps texting me and I don’t know what to say. I go back and forth between being sick about cheating and needing to feel like that again. How do I get that feeling with my husband and stop obsessing over her? Please help me not ruin my whole life for this new mindblowing intimacy and get some perspective.
Still Here, Danny Murray: I feel like some of the things the letters today have. You’re asking me for something that I think, you know I’m not going to give you. Like, this is not an advice column where historically I’m like, hey, stay with your husband.
Speaker 2: Yeah. If I mean, I don’t know if I’ve ever given anybody advice, you know, what you should do is stay one like it when I’m given, like, a parameter. Like, especially.
Still Here, Danny Murray: When it’s like, well, I’ve been living in black and white, and then I kissed a woman. And now life is in glorious color like Oz. Can you make me stay in Kansas? And I’m like, No.
Speaker 2: No. Yeah, the. Sorry, the wizard left. The balloon is gone.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Right. I mean, even if your husband had behaved beautifully through all of this, I would still, I think, refer you letter writer back to that line about it was the best I’ve ever felt, sexually or otherwise. I felt like I finally understood music and literature, and this intimacy feels mind blowing. Like even if he behaved just gorgeously and he was a saint. I would say, you’ve got to break this saint’s heart and just be honest with him. But this whole like he really got upset when I had a hard no. So he kept asking and kept asking, Fuck this guy. Your husband’s an asshole.
Speaker 2: I’m so glad you said fuck this guy before I did, because I was like I was I was reading it and I was thinking about it, and I was just like. So, wait, this guy was pressuring you into doing something you didn’t want to do that you, in fact, told him at the outset? Not really my thing. And he was like, But what if I hound you about it? And so you said, look, if anybody’s showing you an app to try to convince you to do something red flag.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Especially when it’s like he’d get upset when I’d have a hard. No, I mean, even if you’d never met Carol, even if you’d never kissed her, I would want you to leave him.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Also, letter writer.
Speaker 2: Do you work at a department store at Christmas time? I’m just curious.
Still Here, Danny Murray: We’re not ugly people. Hard. I mean, harsh as ugly in this scenario, certainly.
Speaker 2: Absolutely. It’s just like I don’t know, you know, like this whole please help me not ruin your life. Like, I mean, I don’t I don’t want to give hard and fast advice, but I worry you might ruin your life if you don’t accept this knowledge that has been given to you of there is something you were missing and you’ve found it and you’ve experienced it and it literally it turn the lights on it.
Speaker 2: You went from the beginning, A Wizard of Oz to the good part of Wizard of Oz. The good part, the technical. Yeah. You know, you have discovered something about yourself that a lot of people never get to experience in their life. And that is a beautiful thing. And in fact, if you stay with this husband who clearly has no respect for your boundaries in so that he’s pressuring you to do things that benefit him and not you, you might ruin your life without this new mind mindblowing intimacy, like mind blowing intimacy. Those are three extremely important words in a long lasting relationship. And whether this, quote unquote, Carol, is the person that like is your one true love that you’re always supposed to be with, or whether she was just show me that opened the door and showed you a world of possibility. You know, these are important feelings to consider. And I hope that you have access to some sort of mental health professional or a support group or something that’s like, what do I do with this feeling?
Still Here, Danny Murray: Yeah. So I think, you know, I want to disentangle two things. One of it is you should leave your husband because he treats you badly and does not respect your autonomy. And the other is whether or not you should see Carol again. And so the first one again, I would just really encourage you letter writer to share with a trusted friend, somebody whose judgment you respect. My husband asked me to do something I didn’t want to do sexually. And then for months when I kept saying no, kept hounding me and kept telling me and kept telling me. And I haven’t wanted to share this with anyone because, you know, it’s it’s difficult and fraught. But I’m really upset and I think I need to leave him.
Still Here, Danny Murray: And I want to say that out loud to somebody that that’s what I would suggest you do first, because, again, this is real different from whether or not you go out with Carol again, whether or not you go out with Carol again and you feel that same spark. Maybe it was just, I love Carol and I want to be only with Carol. And maybe it was I love women. And Carol’s a woman and she’s also great. But like, let’s see who else is out there again? If she got hit by a bus tomorrow, I would still want you to leave this guy. So I think the first order of business is to share with other people in your life who you trust that your husband has been forcing you into.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Again, like the fact that you ended up having a separate connection with Carol, didn’t like retroactively justify it, like, oh, he just knew somehow you were going to be gayer than you realized. That doesn’t like give him a little credit. It gives him no credit. He had no way of knowing. And frankly, the scenario that like lit you up like a Christmas tree had nothing to do with the scenario he had originally planned, which was a totally different one. So I think you just need to get out of there. I frankly, I would hardly call it cheating. I don’t care if it’s cheating. I think he deserves to be cheated on. I think he deserves a lot worse. I think he’s a bad dude and I think you should go. And then if you also want to call Carol, by all means, do you can absolutely say, like I’m going through a lot like, you know, she might have been up for like a fun threesome and it isn’t necessarily up for someone who’s also leaving their partner. So I can’t promise you that Carol is going to want to be your girlfriend, but God, I hope so.
Speaker 2: I mean, Carol sounds like from what we understand, Carol’s sounds great, you know, mind blowing intimacy, you know, then, like, they’re obviously in communication and, you know, maybe this is like a moment to, like, seek out some community that you’ve maybe never sought out before that you might belong in. And, you know, because you might right now, so much of this is wrapped up in a sexual thing, right? It’s like, you know, I had this experience. It blew my mind. It has changed the way that I that I feel and think and look at these things. And it’s changed the way that I approach this husband who I agree with with you that this the letter writer should consider leaving because, you know, he’s violated the boundaries.
Speaker 2: But also, you know, like there might be more to this and really like you might be in a really good point in your life where you get to really discover new secrets about yourself that you have never unearth or even thought to question. And you know, that is actually like a really I understand this is a person that thought that they didn’t transition and come out and do all these things until slightly later in life. You know, you start to discover a lot of things about the world that you never saw or never experienced or never knew. And it really gives you a whole new perspective and lease on life and all these other things. And it’s really beautiful and honestly incredible. And you don’t have to be stuck in it in a marriage that feels like it’s doing more harm than good. And like, you know, if your husband had wanted to like creates a situation where you had a non-monogamous relationship and you were inviting a third partner in to be like a partner in your lives that shared in your lives in some way, that would be a different story. But he wanted to bring a third person in for his own gratification. That had nothing to do with you.
Speaker 2: And I just think that’s such a gross thing. I just think that I, I don’t like it. And I think you shouldn’t leave this person. Whether or not you ever talk to Carol ever again. Doesn’t matter if she has shown you the door. And there’s a whole world on the other side of that door that I think it’s important to have this open the door and look through it and see what’s there and see what else grabs you. Because there’s a whole there’s there’s there’s just a whole scene out there that you haven’t yet that you get to really allow yourself to let all your burdens down and participate in, right?
Still Here, Danny Murray: Yeah. I just think they literally are. The thing that I keep coming back to is finally realizing this was something he needed. I agreed to try and I just really, really want to stress somebody who gets a. Set. When you say no and ignores you and demands that you do what they want instead, they’re not telling you a need. They’re coercing you, they’re hurting you. They’re being, at best, an asshole.
Still Here, Danny Murray: You know, this isn’t like a reasonable question of, well, people sometimes have conflicting desires and hashing it out can be complicated. This is he asks you for something specific for your sex life. You said no. And then he spent the next months wearing you down and hounding you and getting upset. That is not a natural and inevitable result of his need. That was a choice that he made. That diminished your, you know, humanity and autonomy. So really, really want to steer you away from.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Well, he wouldn’t have been such a fucking asshole about this for months on end if he didn’t really have to watch me fool around with the woman before begging for him to fuck me. This is. He chose to act like a little fucking whiny baby for months and months and treat me like. I didn’t exist outside of my ability to provide him with his exact fantasy on demand. And so just again, really, really not about he must have really needed it. That’s the only reason he would have done it. He did it because he really wanted to. And he didn’t care that you didn’t want to. And he was absolutely willing to coerce pressure to force you into something sexual that you didn’t like and didn’t want because he didn’t care that you didn’t like it. Didn’t want it. He wanted to do it anyways. And that’s just a real, real bad thing.
Still Here, Danny Murray: And I know that that can feel really daunting to think about, especially after 12 years and especially after 12 years, where you’re like, This is fine. Our life, I assume, is normal. It can feel like I’m already dealing with a mind blowing connection to another woman. I don’t know if I can add to the plate reassessing my husband’s character. I get that. That’s a lot. But you need to reassess it. Please reassess it. It’s not good. You know, show this letter. Show like even just show those, like, three sentences if you don’t want to share the Carol stuff with a close friend yet, I totally get it. But like, show them that part and hopefully you will get a universal reaction of what the fuck? Can I come help you pack?
Speaker 2: Yeah, like it’s a violation of your boundaries, and it’s like it’s a it’s emotional abuse, it’s manipulation. It’s so many of these things that so many women especially never recognize in a relationship until they’re on the outside of it and can look in safely and say, Oh, my God, that’s what that was. And like, you know, it is really hard to see that for what it is, especially when you’ve been with somebody for a really long time, because all of a sudden it’s like Pandora’s box that you open, right? Well, what else has been here all along that I never saw? You know, maybe for what it was. I mean, we don’t we don’t know. We can I can only see what’s on the page here. But, you know, if this is happening, you know, a clear stated violation of your own stated boundaries has happened. And that’s not acceptable. And that’s not okay. And you can’t you can’t you can’t accept that from somebody that like long stage emotional abuse, that whittling of you down until you acquiesce to his needs is really disturbing. I hate it. I fucking hate it.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Yeah. And even if you never went out with Carol again, if all that came out as a result of this is that you never saw your husband again, that would be fantastic. That would be worth it. So leave him, leave him, leave him. And then either go out with her or another woman and have a wonderful time. You have a bright future ahead of you that involves zero of him.
Speaker 2: Agreed.
Still Here, Danny Murray: And that’s it.
Still Here, Danny Murray: If you are up for it, I have a fun update from a listener and also a question asker. I never know how to write a letter writer. Do you mind sticking around while I read an update? I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Speaker 2: I love it. Yes, absolutely. I’m here for it.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Fantastic. So this is an update from the episode that I did with Michael Gerber a while back, and the name of the letter was Weaponized Femininity. Thank you for answering my letter and for your and Michael’s words of support for my girlfriend. I got her to listen to the episode with me, and the outside perspective helped a lot because she had been thinking that she was protecting me by not asking me to get involved with her ongoing battle with her mom, and that supporting her would make me feel caught in the middle of a problem that wasn’t mine. Her mom’s behavior was so normalized that for her, after living with it for almost two decades, she didn’t fully realize that it was her mom I was upset with, not her for causing it. Don’t worry, we’ve had and will continue to have lots of conversations about that.
Still Here, Danny Murray: We came up with a plan together and after a very harrowing conversation where her mom continually tried to equate us establishing boundaries to my girlfriend, trying to control both her mom and myself, we now give a clear kind warning. If she starts insulting my girlfriend and then we leave, if it continues. It’s not perfect. But her mom has proven over and over again that she’s not ready to listen. Most importantly, she now knows that my girlfriend’s problems are mine too, because we’re now engaged. I wish I could have an update saying that I finally made her mom understand and that she now praised us both for who we are. But we have the rest of our lives to decide how to deal with her together. And I couldn’t be happier that we’re finally on the same page about it.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Oh, letter writer. You have absolutely made my day Niko. I’m sure you could intuit some of this from the update, but the problem had been that the letter writers partner was butch and she herself was pretty femme. And so her partner’s mom was constantly just like, Oh, I’m so glad there’s like a feminine woman around. Oh, my terrible butch daughter is such a disappointment. And so the letter writer was like, I want to tell her to back off, but I also really want to be a buffer. And so she was just really worried that her partner would feel like she was overstepping if she said something. And I’m so glad because like, of course. Right. Both of the people in this relationship were like, I don’t want to step on your toes. I don’t want to step on your toes. And the letter writers just like, please give me permission to be a little firm with your mother.
Speaker 2: I mean, I love it. Congratulations on your engagement, huh? Yeah. I mean, that’s a hard that’s a hard conversation to have with your partner and then to, like, start stating those boundaries with somebody else’s mother. You know, that’s a really hard thing. So congratulations on on doing the hard work.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Yeah. And I know that it doesn’t exactly feel amazing. That’s like, okay, well, now, every, like, fourth time we hang out, we just, like, leave abruptly because we’re like, stop doing that. And she won’t. But it’s good that you’re doing that. You know, that’s a good beginning. And it might eventually mean that maybe you just like, hold it that for forever. And that’s just like a weird thing. Or maybe you eventually leave and you’re like, Call us when you can stop. Jesus Christ. And maybe she eventually, you know, gets realizes like, Oh, this isn’t working for me. I need to stop. Either way, this is a definite step up. And I’m really, really glad that you’ve made it clear to your soon to be mother in law that you don’t think it’s awesome, that she thinks you’re like, feminist is like a wedge that she can use against your partner.
Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, yeah, you know, that, like, it doesn’t feel good to, like, have to walk, keep walking away because the mother doesn’t get it. But it does feel good to say like, hey, we established boundaries and we created rules that work for both of us and we’re abiding by them and we’re doing stuff that that makes us feel better, even though it’s hard, you know, at least you get to do that. And that’s a nice thing.
Still Here, Danny Murray: It is really amazing how attached mothers can be to criticizing their daughters, where it’s just like, Please do anything else. And it’s like, No, I need this to stay alive. It’s my emotional support criticism.
Speaker 2: They critique your daughters industrial complex creeks ever onward.
Still Here, Danny Murray: Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, a little mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Surkis, who also composed our theme music. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com slash mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Thanks. Also, if you can please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, you should join Slate. Plus, Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations with the guest. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com forward slash mood plus to sign up. It’s just $1 for your first month. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, maybe need a little advice, maybe some big advice. Head to Slate.com slash mood to find our big mood, a little mood listener question form or find a link in the description on the platform you’re using right now. Thanks for listening.