Wedding Woes

"I just need to talk without you needing to take action."

Dear Prudence, 

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?

Re: "I just need to talk without you needing to take action."

  • “Babe, please put the computer away. I just want to have a conversation with you, we do not need to research everything immediately.”
  • LW is going to have to figure out a way in a car when the H is driving to talk to the H and say that she's going to start using her words carefully so she knows what's something that she thinks needs attention soon and what's in the more 'thought bubble' status.   She's going to need to be specific here. 

    But she also needs to accept responsibility for her own issues. 
  • "I don't really want to research the trip now, I just wanted to talk about it." 

    But I don't understand why the stockings are his fault at all, or why they have anything to do with this. 
  • "I don't really want to research the trip now, I just wanted to talk about it." 

    But I don't understand why the stockings are his fault at all, or why they have anything to do with this. 
    The only thing I can think of is that the LW is so used to relying on the H that they're not doing things that come up in conversation.

    But LW sucks here for bringing up a situation that's clearly their fault.
  • I read that totally differently in that LW feels bad complaining about this overall issue because his "do it now" attitude can be helpful in situations like the stockings.  Obviously it's LW's fault and i thought it read pretty clear that they knows that. 

    I think 2 things would help LW  1) be direct with him about when to stop like Starmoon suggested and 2) try to adjust language as they did above when it's something they know could spur action.  Say "I'm thinking about Aunt V" not "We should talk to her" etc.  
  • I can see why, on occasion, this might be annoying.  But, overall, it would be amazing to have a partner like this.

    I agree with you all.  I think this needs to be a calm, relaxed conversation sometime where the LW needs to give him a heads up that sometimes she wants to talk about ideas first.  And then start those conversations with a cue like, "I don't want to plan anything yet, but let's talk about where we would like to go on vacation this summer."

    He would be in trouble around the holidays, if that were my H, lol.  "Honey!  Look at this 20" 24kt gold chain with a 3-carat emerald center stone.  What a perfect Christmas gift for me!"  ((That's right, take the credit card out. Get your Christmas shopping for me done right now.))
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Honestly the partner sounds nerodivergent.

    I don't think LW will be able to change what partner is doing, but maybe they could have key words of - discuss or research - and that was partner knows this is just a discuss or maybe they're at the research spot.
  • It could be all in the phrasing. “What is the cost of going to Florida” is a different question, and a very different answer than “how do you feel about going to Florida for vacation”. One has a clear, research-able answer and the other is asking his opinion. If you want to chat say “I’d just like to talk about this, how do you feel about x” rather than as something that can be looked up or done. 
  • I can see how, even if it's not the intent, how you could feel judged as a partner with someone like that.  Or at least like you need to work toward his level.  He also sounds really intense, which is also hard to deal with a person who is 'on' all the time.  It sounds a little tiring.  

    I don't think they're a lost cause or anything, but I do think LW is well within their right to try and work toward a happy medium.  This trait is great for having bills and home repairs on lock, but he could also use a little work in the day-dreaming department.  LW does need to speak up, every time, when they just want to talk and not have him immediately go into action/research mode. 
Sign In or Register to comment.
Choose Another Board
Search Boards