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Third Time’s the Charm

There’s an art to getting out the door and staying married—and I discovered it. Or, I should say, my husband did.

Two hands of adults with ADHD forming a heart shape as they work through their marriage problems.

I was so proud of myself, in my late 20s, that I had finally gotten my leaving-the-house foibles figured out. When my boyfriend (and-future-father-of-Enzo) moved in with me, I remember crowing about how awesome it was that I could now get out the door with only three trips back inside.

His reaction surprised me. It was critical, not supportive. “That’s unacceptable,” he said, glowering at me from the passenger’s seat, where he had been sitting for the past 15 minutes. Actually, I think he laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous. When it’s time to go, you go.” Whatever he said, his strict attention motivated me to start keeping my keys in the same place, to have two pairs of glasses, and to put lipstick on in the car.

I was so proud of myself in my 30s when I recognized how often I made it out of the house on the first try. When there was dressing up involved, or a small child in tow, I’d make allowances, but, by golly, I had really improved! “Dave,” however, who always knows where his stuff is, and who mystically follows the same routines at every dressing and departure, was still less than impressed.

[Free Download: The Daily Routine that Works for Adults with ADHD]

His constant frustration became a source of enlightenment when he met my Great Uncle Zazen.

Uncle Zazen is married to Enzo’s Great Auntie Twinkle, who, when my mother asked her to be my godmother, embraced the “fairy” aspect of it and made me a wand. She is a highly sane person who knows she talks too much, has trouble keeping track of things, and needs to dance or ice skate every day in order to get anything done. (She is also of the generation that does not believe in ADHD, so we are not going to go there.) We were at a family wedding, clustered in rooms together, and all trying to get ourselves out the door. “Dave” noticed Uncle Zazen sitting calmly on the couch, reading a book. He was startled by his serenity.

My uncle explained that, as a practicing Buddhist, he had learned not to try to control her flow but to relax and let it happen. When he is ready to go, he explained, he sits down and relaxes. He does not get up off the couch until Auntie Twinkle is on the porch… or actually in the car and it is started (a sure sign she has the keys). “Dave” was agog. This moment changed his life, and our marriage. Now it doesn’t matter how many times I have to go back. He is happily engaged in a pastime of his choice, with a few more minutes to watch or play.

[Can This Marriage Be Saved?]

And I rejoice at how far we have come, each of us: Me in the realm of being more deliberate and prepared, “Dave” in the realm of being patient and peaceful. One less struggle is one more triumph.

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  1. That’s me/us! I know I can make my husband nuts when he wants to leave at a certain time. I’ve gotten better, but I almost always have to go back inside the house for something. In fact, I get annoyed with myself for that one, and I’m so happy for the times when I don’t have to do that. (My insensitive is having two dogs I bribe by throwing some treats on the floor so I can get out the door alone!)

    I was thrilled when I found an app called Min to Go, that allowed me to set a timer for, say, 15 minutes. Then it would give me a countdown warning alarm every 5 minutes, along with a large display. For some reason, it no longer works, and I keep trying to think of how I can create my own using a different timer. For now, I have my husband sitting in the living room saying “10 more minutes!”

    And, interestingly, my dad who had ADHD, always wanted to get going. But my mom (whom I suspect also had it) took forever. He also learned to sit in the car and read a book.

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