An Interesting Conversation

30 Nov

I unload freight for a living, and right now is Peak Season, when lots of people double-shift to help move the extra product. Last night I was in a trailer with some dude double-shifting from the midnight sort. I walk in, we nod to each other in greeting, and begin unloading packages.

After about five minutes of conversationless work, he speaks up. “Hey man, you uh, you uh, you married, right?”

“Yup,” I answer.

“Lemme ask you a question. What would you do if your wife was talkin’ to her ex? An’ let’s say you been an ass to her for a few years, so I dunno, maybe it’s karma or something. An’ what would you do if she carried around a picture of him in her wallet?” While I have done my best to recreate the flavor of the conversation, I have decided not to include the periodic grunts and pauses caused by the moving of boxes.

“You’re asking the wrong man.” I don’t why I felt compelled to share the way I did, maybe I felt this pour fella needed a bit of a jolt, a shock. He was clearly in a bad place, asking a random co-worker for advice on marital troubles, and maybe he needed a fresh perspective. It’s not that I felt he needed to be fixed or corrected, he asked my opinion and I decided that being honest was better than giving the expected response. “It wouldn’t bother me. My wife and I have an open marriage.” I felt saying ‘polyamory’ would complicate things. I quickly summed up our situation.

“You mean like Will and Jayda?”

“Pretty much.”

“How do you do it man? Don’t your ego get in the way?”

“Well, yes it does. And so does jealousy and lack of trust. But those are issues for any marriage, not just mine. I trust that my wife will still love me, and I understand that jealousy comes from fear of loss. If I trust that she will come home to me every night, then I’m not afraid of losing her. And ego, well, if I have to be the best and most important man in her life, then that probably means I am insecure. I trust that she loves me more than him. It all comes down to trust and honesty.”

“Man, I don’t know if I should feel sorry for you or call you a god.”

“I’m happy, nothing else matters.”

“But, man, what do people think?”

“I don’t care what people think. There are some people I don’t tell, but otherwise I don’t give a damn. Why should I care what people think about my marriage? Am I married to them? Anyone who is close enough for me care about their opinion are usually the kind of person who won’t judge me for it.”


At that point the trailer was emptied, and it was time to move on to another. Time to wrap up the conversation.

“Look, you asked for my advice. Here it is: Tell her you love her and that you trust her. Tell her you don’t care if she talks to her ex, that you know he is important to her, that he meant something, but that you are not threatened by him. Tell her you trust her to talk to you, to tell you if there is anything you need to know. And leave it at that, don’t accuse her or make a big deal out of it.”

“Yeah man, but what if she’s cheating on me?”

“She is or she isn’t. There is nothing you can do about it. But my way, you get to be the bigger man, the man who loves and trusts her. If you confront her and yell and shout and accuse her, that won’t fix anything, she will just get defensive. But if you tell her you trust her, either nothing is happening or she just might confess and then you two can move and fix things. Which is better, knowing she cheated on you and forgiving her, or having her cheat on you and lie about it? To me it’s the lies that would hurt more. And hey, chances are nothing is going on, but either way you have to decide how you want to handle it, with accusations or trust.”

I didn’t see him again till hours later at the end of shift, as I was leaving. He was waiting for me at the guard shack.

“Hey man, I texted my wife what you said, and look-” he pulled me close and showed me his phone as he read aloud his wife’s reply, “I luv u 2 babe, dont worry i just need to talk to sum1, thanx 4 trusting me, i wud never cheat on u.” He grinned at me, and I was afraid he was going to try to hug me. “Thanks man, I owe you one.” He clapped me on the back and walked off.

This whole situation was kind of odd for me. The entire time I was simultaneously sitting outside myself watching the conversation, critiquing myself. Don’t say that, and That’s kind of arrogant, approach it differently. Without sounding condescending, this cat was not the most articulate, and he was probably not used to much intellectual strain, so I could not have the kind of philosophical conversation I am used to. And I did not want to approach this from the point of view that my way was the absolute best for everyone. He was obviously hurting, to ask the advice of someone he had just met. He still does not even know my name. He could have gotten all sorts of advice, from “Kick that bitch out man!” to “Tell her she can’t ever talk to her ex again.” So I tried to give the best advice I could, from my point of view, for the healthiest relationship. Clearly he wanted to make things work, and I hope he and his wife work out their problems.




One Response to “An Interesting Conversation”

  1. Alice Digitalis December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    I read this at the perfect moment, as I’m struggling with “coming out” as poly. Thank you for sharing this conversation, it touched off some good thought threads for me.

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