We Take Separate Cars, And It Saves Our Marriage

I was raised in a military family whose constant mantra was:

To be early is to be on time

To be on time is to be late

To be late is to be grounded

We were never late anywhere. I don’t even remember my parents having to freak out about it very often. We just knew that it wasn’t acceptable to be late, and if you were the cause of the family’s tardiness, then hell-fire would rain down upon your head.

Even as an adult with an unusually large family, if I’m the parent in charge, we’re usually extremely prompt. If my husband is in charge, we’re either skin of our teeth, or slightly late.

My husband was raised in a family completely unlike my own, although he disagrees his relatives tell a different story. His parents don’t have the strongest concept of time. They get there when they get there, and don’t see much need to hurry. They don’t expect anyone to wait for them, and are happy to join in the action or the meal at whatever point they happen to arrive. There are no start times to gatherings, only vague suggestions. We were once 45 minutes late to a family party (we had a new baby and my husband let me nap. I almost hyperventilated in the car because of how late we were) only to be greeted at the door by his aunt who declared, “You’re the first ones here!” Everyone else trickled in over the next two hours, and I sat dumbfounded in the corner. What kind of madness had I married into?

As long as he gets there sort of on time-ish, my husband is happy to go.

It bleeds over into vacations as well. I’m of the notion that we should pack the car the night before, get up early (around 7am), and get to our destination so that our vacation can begin. He believes that the vacation has already begun, so why should he hurry? A few hours don’t matter all that much, so he sleeps until he’s done, has a leisurely breakfast, and then throws things into the car, and leaves sometime around noon-ish.

Once we’re on the road, we swap personalities with him becoming the person who won’t stop for anything and me always ready for a snack or a potty break. He prefers a quiet car with maybe a book on tape, and enjoying the views along the way; while my car is a raucous dance party/movie festival. The only rule I enforce is that the person in the passenger seat must be willing to dance and sing along with the music, or they have to move to the back.

I’m not sure how two such different people have managed to love and live together for twenty years, but one of the big reasons is that we take separate cars almost everywhere. It stopped my resentment at being late and his resentment at being nagged and hen-pecked to hurry up.


It was very freeing to just say “We have very different approaches to life, and that’s okay. Let’s find a way to make the differences work instead of fighting against them.”

This morning, I left for Church while he was still in the shower. The early birds and I were early enough to grab the pew we prefer for Mass (It has a good view of the altar, and easy bathroom access if we need it. We always do.) and to say the entire rosary and those who needed to hit the Confession for absolution. My husband and the stragglers slipped in next to us just as the first notes of the Processional Hymn sounded, unharried and unhurried. He slipped in next to me, intertwined his fingers with mine and said, “You got the good pew. Nice.”

I flashed him a smile, because I know he’s glad I got there early, and also really happy that he didn’t have to.


Photo credit: ironypoisoning via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

About Rebecca Frech

Rebecca Frech is a Catholic author, speaker, CrossFit coach, and the Managing Editor of The Catholic Conspiracy website. She is the author of the best-selling books Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and Can We Be Friends? She is a co-host of the popular podcast The Visitation Project, and is a columnist for The National Catholic Register. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their eight children, a German Shepherd named Dave, and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies.
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