Dear Captain Awkward,
Here is my situation: My husband and I generally get along great. But one thing that routinely proves to be a problem is the concept of time: that is, when we should depart to get to a place before the event we have tickets for/need to be there for/whatever commences.
He’s a “shave it to the last minute” person. I am a “I need a buffer of time because everything takes longer than it should and also when we get there I might want to use the bathroom/get a drink of water/want a moment to breathe/get a good seat” person. Shaving things to the last possible minute stresses me out.
This has been the supremely boring subject of multiple conversations over the years. I tend to organize things and will say “we should leave at this time” to which he’ll ask how long it takes to get there/when it starts. Then the dickering over five or three minutes commences. And he’ll expect me to explain in detail why I have to leave earlier than he believes we should. I do understand that if we have a morning event he’ll want to be able to get in as much sleep time as possible, since he battles insomnia. That said, I don’t surprise morning events on him: he knows ahead of time.
I could passively-aggressively tack on 5-10 more minutes to his question of “how long/when do we need” to get there, but that’s lying – and he’s not a dummy. He will figure this out, and stop trusting my word. Either way, the problem does not resolve.
Nor does he propose alternatives to departure. A recent trip would take us 35 minutes to get to a city tour. I wanted 45; he said “no.” Not “how about 40” but no. This led to an over hour-long discussion that again had me reiterating that by shaving it close I am totally stressed out.
I am exhausted. I have said I could just leave earlier and he could depart when he feels the time is right, but that does defeat the purpose in going together as a couple, and he didn’t like that anyway.
A previous argument like this ended with him agreeing that if I organized the trip, he would go along with my timing for departure. That fell apart instantly with our city tour argument (see above). At the end of this most recent discussion, he asked me to explain to him every time that this leaving time is important to me and it will stress me if I don’t leave at this particular time. Why should it always be on me to justify?
I have tried to use my words. I have tried to offer suggestions. Mostly, it makes me not want to organize outings at all with him, which is also not a road that’s worth going down.
If you have scripts that I can use that I obviously have not thought of before, I’d really love to hear them. And maybe I’m the problem here – so if I just need to do more flying by the seat of my pants, do feel free to tell me. (When he chooses the outing, I generally will go when he wants to go.)
Thanks in advance,
Are You Ready Yet?
Dear Are You Ready Yet,
When you say “Show starts at 8, let’s try to leave by 7:15,” you should pretty much universally get an answer of “Ok, great, thanks!”
Your husband has apparently decided that he is the One True Authority on departure times, traffic, available parking, lines at the ticket will-call, and whether you should be allowed to have time pee before the show at the venue. In the name of “saving time” he is willing to automatically discount your planning abilities and argue the abstract point of the One True Perfect Departure Time for more than an hour of YOUR time.
This is about control. By creating a lot of friction and annoyance around a very easy “problem,” your husband is using the argument about departure times to try to control the situation and control you. He is setting up a situation where your preferences about when to leave involve asking his permission and opening the door to a lengthy, exhausting negotiation. The One Objectively Correct Leaving Time is not actually a thing that exists. He is setting up a matter of preference as a faux logical contest that only he can win. He is also showing his ass mightily by “not liking” when you suggest traveling separately. Nope, only his way (together)(exactly when he wants to leave) will work, even if (especially if?) it makes you anxious and uncomfortable and give him tons of your energy and attention. It only works if he gets to arrive by the skin of his teeth AND force you to comply.
This is bullshit, Letter Writer, and I am so angry on your behalf. You are not the problem here.
First, a note on traveling separately to events: It seems like the simplest, easiest solution in a way: You get to leave when you want to, he gets to leave when he wants to, sure, it’s wasteful to take two vehicles but if it’s really that big a deal to him it’s easier than having a dumb fight every time, right?
However, I suspect that he would still find a way to sabotage the evening and cause you maximum anxiety while you sit in your seat at the venue waiting for him to show, wondering if he’ll actually make it, doing the dance of “I’m on my way!” texts, and disturbing everyone around you while he takes his seat (late). Since going separately is not his preference, he will find a way to exert control and make you decide it’s just “easier” to do it his way.
He’s already shown that he won’t respect a “S/he who makes the plan makes all the plans” agreement with your planned city tour. This tells me that he doesn’t actually want a solution. He wants the friction, the argument, the attention, the anxiety. He creates it every time even when the path of least resistance would be to say “7:15, got it!”
Are you able to say, next time the argument starts, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there. I would prefer to leave at 7:15 and that’s a good enough reason. I’m tired of having this argument with you. Let’s not.” and just shut it down? Leave the room? Remove your attention from him (the way parents are advised to do when dropping toddlers off at day care)?
I’m guessing…no? Because he will find a way to punish you, badger you, leave you sitting in the car waiting for him until it’s his preferred departure time or using the “Go by yourself, then!” “Fine, I will” ultimatum (which makes for a rill fun Date Night).
In your shoes, Letter Writer, I would take the next month or so and make fun outing plans with friends, family, cool coworkers – literally anyone but your husband. Buy a book you’ve been wanting to read and take it to a nice restaurant and read alone over an awesome dinner. I think you need to do some fun stuff without this burden around you and I think you need a reminder of how reasonable people behave around this.
Give yourself a break from dragging this dude kicking and screaming out the door.
See if you actually miss his company.
See if he misses yours. Is this all this about how he’d just prefer to stay at home and doesn’t want to go out as much as you do but he can’t talk about that like a grownup? (See if he acts like a butthead about this, too, by pouting at not being invited and trying to put friction around you going out with people who aren’t him.)
If he does bring it up in a “Hey, why are you doing cool stuff without me?” way, maybe, tell him? “I am so tired of the ‘how long does it really take to get there’ fight, I want to be able to do fun stuff without that discussion. I’d prefer to do fun stuff with you, but I need you to agree to knock it off and then follow through by actually knocking it off.”
See if he transfers his controlling behavior to other aspects of your life when this outlet is removed.
After that month or so, I think this might be one for a marriage counselor. Since he doesn’t listen to or believe you, maybe an outside “authority” can deliver the news that he is being a pill about this and needs to stop.
For what it’s worth, I think this is a fight/discussion well worth having/a road worth going down. Your husband turns every Date Night into “You’re Wrong About When We Need To Leave The House Night.” That’s not normal or cool or even a little bit your fault, and it’s frankly a miracle of your patience and compassion that you still try to take him anywhere.