Sooner or Later

They say that opposites attract and I guess my marriage is living proof of that. While we share the same fundamental values, our approach to everyday life is a study in contrast. My neat husband tolerates my love of piles and I overlook his need for an organized plan when flying by the seat of my pants has gotten me through 50+ years relatively intact.

The one thing that always tripped me up, however, was my husband’s chronic lateness. As a borderline neurotically early person, this was a huge hurdle in our early years together. So much so that he never actually saw our wedding invitations because we flat-out lied and told him the ceremony time was 30 minutes earlier than the actual event.

I may or may not have been a Bridezilla, but that is another column.

Over the years, I have come to view this tardiness in another light and it has helped me cope. Think of it like a kaleidoscope. From the outside, it is simply a plain tube. But if you take a minute to view the interior, you see the light and sparkle that makes it something else entirely.

Using that filter as my guide, I now understand that this lateness is the result of some pretty amazing traits like the following.

Overachiever: My husband has a to-do list that waits for no one. He crams as much as humanly possible into every minute. Because I never write anything down and have no such list, there is nothing but the current timeline for me to focus on. He is late because he knows he can squeeze in just one more thing. That kind of work ethic should be admired even if it sometimes leaves everyone scrambling for the door.

Optimist: He truly believes that stoplight karma will be on his side. That if he just drives a little bit faster and takes that shortcut, he will indeed arrive on time. Often, my husband is correct. Although we leave the house later than I think we should, we do get where we are supposed to when we are supposed to be there. That kind of blind optimism—and driving skills—cannot be taught.

Organized: If you keep everything in its place, you can afford to get a little side-tracked on the way out the door. You make that time up by having your shoes exactly where they should be. In fact, my kids should be paying attention to this because nothing is ever where it is supposed to be. Oh wait, they get that from me … damn. Anyway, my husband gains some serious ground through organization and rote. He knows when he reaches for his phone, wallet and keys they will be right on the counter because he puts them in the same spot every time he comes home.

Insightful: My husband, unlike me, realizes that there are more late people than early people. Most folks are scrambling and running; it’s a sad fact. So, when we end up with idle time waiting on others or for an event to begin, I see his point. He also knows me well enough to know that I will take care of myself and the kids so he can do whatever it takes to get him going.

Gracious: If, despite all the optimism and organization, we end up arriving late, he owns it. He does not think his time is more valuable or anyone else’s is less important. Sometimes, he simply is a victim of his own awesomeness (my rationale, not his). I mean, who can’t relate to that?

All in all, I think surviving marriage with a spouse, who was a fully formed adult when you met, boils down to perspective. Life would be pretty boring if my husband and I approached things the same way. Even if our differences can be maddening on the daily, it is the contradictions that bring movement and color to our marriage. Yes, opposites attract and we are living proof that it can be a beautiful thing if you know how to spin it in the right light.