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Marriage

How I Deal with My Space Cadet Husband, Without Going Crazy

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This morning, my husband let me sleep in. He does that often on weekends, and I love him for it. He woke up with the kids, played superheroes, put on some cartoons, and fed them cereal.

Then, I heard a ruckus. I heard my husband say, “OK, well I’m sure Mommy knows where they are.” It was close enough to when I’d told him to wake me up anyway, so he crept into the bedroom and asked me where the Green Lantern and Joker action figures were. “In my purse,” I offered, half-asleep. Then, I rolled onto my other side to catch a few more minutes of sleep.

I should have known what would come next. One child started to cry; the other started huffing and puffing about all the noise. “Well, if they’re lost, we can always get them again from Toys R Us,” my husband said, consoling the crying child.

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I jolted awake. I knew that the last thing we needed to convey was that something was lost. That was sure to bring hysterics all around. And I knew the toys weren’t lost. I had put them in my purse the afternoon before specifically so our superhero-obsessed son wouldn’t lose them at the park.

I came into the living room. “I’ll find them,” I said, looking around blearily. I’m half blind without my contacts in. “I really think they’re lost,” my husband said, in all seriousness. “I looked everywhere in that bag.”

You know what happened next, right? I opened my purse, moved a few things aside, and found the toys in a side pocket. No, not buried deep in the pocket. There in plain sight, Green Lantern’s bright green boots sticking right out.

Later that day, my husband took our boys to their swimming lesson. (This is another way he totally rocks; I hate schlepping the kids to classes, birthday parties, and other events.) As he got the kids ready, I packed up all their stuff: bathing suits and towels in one bag, and snacks and water bottles in another. I reminded him several times to take the bags when he left.

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The boys raced out the door. I turned on the 80’s Pandora station, and went about cleaning the house. About two minutes later, I looked in the entryway, and there was the swim bag. Luckily, I ran out to the driveway and caught my husband and the boys just before they left. My husband rolled down the window and joked: “You put the bags in two different places. How was I supposed to remember both of them?”

The fact that we could both laugh about it is a very good thing. In the early years of our marriage, I didn’t always take his forgetfulness lightly. He would get irritated because I’d remind him to do something a million times, and I would fume because my nagging didn’t seem to do a damn thing.

Frankly, I was baffled by how spaced out he was. He was an Ivy League educated man with majors in Philosophy and Ancient History—his brilliant mind and passionate spirit were what drew me to him. I didn’t understand how he could so effortlessly expound on Kant’s categorical imperative, but if I asked him to get the ketchup out of the refrigerator, there was absolutely no way in hell he would find it.

Sometimes it got even more serious than ketchup. When we were a young couple, he lost some pretty important things, like a voucher for a plane ticket (no, the airline wouldn’t issue a new one), and several different wallets. In college, he lost his ATM card 4 times (I’m not kidding). Do you remember back when ATM machines swallowed your card, then released it back to you when your transaction was done? As soon as the cash spat out, he just walked away from the bank machine without retrieving his card.

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My husband and I have been together for over 20 years (married for 14). He’s still quite spacey, but he doesn’t lose anything of tremendous worth anymore—I think there’s something about having to go to work every day to feed and clothe a couple of kids that made him a tad more responsible about keeping valuables in check. Still, no matter what I do, he still has an uncanny ability to forget every last thing I tell him, and can’t seem to keep track of a single item in our very organized house.

And yet, it doesn’t get under my skin quite so much anymore. He and I have reached a truce about it. He acknowledges how supremely spaced out he is about certain things, and I see how many other gifts he possesses, so I forgive him of his ineptness. He will let me remind him about the little things he’s apt to forget—we’ve gotten to the point where he actually appreciates it, and considers my little reminders helpful (even if they don’t always work!).

The fact is that, of the two of us, I am the one blessed with the organizational skills, as well as the ability to remember all the uninteresting details about our lives. I used to have some notion that a good marriage meant that each partner contributed equally to all aspects of the partnership. But I’ve learned over the years that as long as each partner is willing to do their share, it’s OK to divide up the tasks according to ability and expertise.

Most of all, life is too long to get hung up on the little things—at this stage in our marriage, I’d rather just laugh it off than start a fight. And you know what? His space cadet qualities are part of what makes him who he is: the philosophizing, wistful dreamer I fell in love with all those years ago.

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