Once again, my wife has accepted an invitation on my behalf to attend a social function. Is it unreasonable to expect her to check with me before she speaks for both of us?
Tom: The short answer? No! Now let me explain, because Caroline and I had our share of tense moments early in our marriage over this very issue. Time is certainly a precious commodity in our busy lives. It is reasonable that we treat it in marriage much like we treat money: We don’t appreciate when it is pre-spent by our spouses without conferring with us first. Trouble is, we are led astray by good intentions. When a friend extends an invitation to a child’s baptism, for instance, we desire to express our shared joy by accepting the invitation immediately if we know there is nothing else on the calendar for that day. A response of, “Let me discuss it with Charlie first,” we fear, will come across as a delay tactic designed to allow us time to concoct an inventive way out of the obligation. As a result, we accept right away.
Meanwhile, husband Charlie has made plans to take the boys fishing that same day. He’s irked to find out his wife has already accepted the invitation. It isn’t that Charlie wouldn’t have agreed to put the fishing plans on hold; he just feels miffed that he wasn’t given the consideration to participate in the decision. It took a lot of effort for him to pinpoint a free Saturday to go fishing with his sons.
Spouses need to respect each other’s time and participation in decisions that affect personal and family time, even if that means not giving an immediate answer. Any reasonable person should respect and understand this. We all have an obligation to answer invites promptly, but our first obligation is to our spouses. Caroline and I have formed the habit of saying, “We’d love to! But let me check with my wife/husband first and I’ll get right back to you.”
Caroline: We can communicate with each other on these situations by doing two things: First, set aside a few minutes every day to make a game plan for all upcoming events. Review any appointments for the coming week, coordinate who is picking up whom from practice, and so on. Tom and I try to do this right before bed: “Now what’s happening tomorrow?” Then nothing slips through the cracks.
Next, invest a few dollars in a large dry-erase wall calendar. Place it in a prominent place, readily visible for every family member to know what’s going on. We have ours on the kitchen wall, right by the dining table, which we pass by umpteen times a day. We find the most useful ones are the year-at-a-glance styles. Or, if you are technologically adept, sync up your electronic calendars. Each time one of you enters a new appointment, it will load onto your spouse’s calendar as well. Write down any and all appointments, practices, rehearsals and the like, and be diligent about adding new events. This takes time and discipline, but I’m always inspired by the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “The function of the wise man is to order.”
May the Lord grant you peace in your relationship and order in your schedules!
The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.