I have a question about handling something that is both great and annoying. My husband is a big believer in “only touch it once” (known to some as OTIO). His baseline philosophy is that he tries to solve problems or deal with papers immediately. So, if he is opening mail to deal with bills he has his checkbook next to him, he writes the check, stuffs and seals the envelope, stamps the envelope, and sets the envelope aside before he opens the next piece of mail. Then, when he’s done with mail, half the time he’ll walk the bills down to the mailbox on the corner. If we are talking after dinner about how we really need to check in with, say, Aunt Tina about dinner next week he will whip out his phone and send the email to Aunt Tina right then. Or, if I am spitballing about, say, the cost of a trip to Florida during the kids’ spring break out comes the computer to “replace speculation with data.”
Now, I understand why he does this because it started when we were already married. When he was a first-year medical resident (emergency medicine) he got into very hot water with an attending physician who came after him for dropping the ball on some task. We later learned that this attending is a known jerk but it obviously spooked my husband. His super-human ability to manage a billion tasks in his head got him through medical school but his previous system was not working in a busy ER. After talking to some other young doctors, he learned about OTIO and it really worked for him.
Now, most of the time this is great! Stuff gets done! Bills are paid on time, we hear back from Aunt Tina, and things get pushed from vague ideas to actual activities. The problem is that it sometimes makes conversation and interactions less smooth. It’s like he takes everything literally: If I say we should check in with Aunt Tina, I don’t necessarily mean we need to talk to her, maybe I’m just saying I’m thinking about her. And, there are times when I wish he would finish paying bills sooner so we can go ahead and start the movie on TV. It’s like a bunch of little micro-interruptions and delays in the course of a conversation. And if I’m talking about prices, I’m just assessing his (and my) interest in Florida as a destination. He can’t quite read the room sometimes.
In the mix here is that I feel a little self-conscious about complaining about his “get it done now” attitude. A few years ago we were going to fly to an adults-only reunion weekend and the main event was a costume party. I was going to wear these really fun large-dot pantyhose as the centerpiece of my costume because they were a play on my name and the theme of the event. My husband was going to the store a few days before and asked, “Do you want me to buy you the stockings for your costume?” I said “No, I’ll get them,” he said, “OK”, and then we both forgot about it. (In his mind he had only touched it once!) When it was time to go, I had of course not purchased the stockings, there was not enough time to buy them in my home city before the flight, and none of the stockings at the local stores near our destination had the right size dots to make the joke work. Let’s just say that I did not handle my disappointment well and his “I wish you had just let me buy them for you” was pretty painful to hear even if he was really nice about it. (He really is a nice man.)
So, I am grateful for a responsible husband but would appreciate help managing this low-level friction that comes from his OTIO obsession!
— Why, Oh Why OTIO?