The Absent Minded Husband

Can you see any of the following scenarios happening in your home?

- After several years of marriage, your husband asks what date your birthday is.
- Instead of bringing your daughter and her friends to ballet class, your husband automatically drives them to his office.
- Your husband volunteers to change the baby, and you discover later that he forgot to put on a clean diaper on after he took off the wet one.
- You husband comes running into the room where you are, panicking that he has forgotten to ________. You explain that you took care of it weeks ago.

If you experience these sorts of situations on a fairly regular basis, then congratulations! You are married to an absent minded husband.

When I was younger, I remember listening in amazed delight at the stories of my absent minded grandfather. My grandmother seemed to take it all in stride, and often laughed about the turn that life could take with an absent minded husband. Other pastor’s wives had similar stories, and as kids we called absent mindedness “minsters’ disease”. It seemed quaintly cute that gifted men who excelled in their calling could not remember that dinner was at 6:00. Then I married my own wonderful, absent minded husband.

How was this supposed to work? How was I supposed to react to situations that were frustrating and, from my perspective, easily avoided? How could someone so smart and upright forget to pay the rent? Over the years, I’ve talked with different women married to absent minded men, and there are some things that are helpful to remember and think over when you are confronted once again by a wonderful, intelligent man who doesn’t seem to be living in the here and now.

- First, his absent mindedness is not a sin. He’s probably working at it, but it’s something that just happens because of his personality and/or employment. But often, my reaction to the absent mindedness is sinful. It’s something to watch out for and pray about.

- Certain jobs create or aggravate absent mindedness. The “absent minded professor” is a stereotype for a reason. Jobs which require huge and ongoing mental work (lawyer, doctor, minister, professor, diplomat, engineer, etc.) leave little time to be concerned with the details of daily life. That’s why the Lord has given your husband a helpmeet – you! – to take care of the things that would otherwise go unnoticed. G.K. Chesterton once explained, “I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” Your husband doesn’t forget birthdays because he’s thinking of nothing!

- Be thankful that the Lord has given you a husband who can do such mentally demanding work. He forgets where to drive because he’s probably doing something important in his head that will eventually come out and be a blessing to others. Thomas Edison once went into his bank but could not remember his own name for a withdrawal, and had to ask a friend on the street for help. That’s a small price to pay for the invention of a light bulb. And think of all the absent minded men in church history: Luther, Edwards, and John “Rabbi” Duncan, whom James Sinclair described as “remarkably absent-minded, in regard to the common things of life,” but focused and intensely “exercised about the higher and eternal realities.” Chesterton once telegraphed his wife: “Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” She responded, “Home.” Where would we be without godly, absent minded men? Where would they be without wives who understood and supported them?

- Certain life stages aggravate absent mindedness. Maybe your husband is in the middle of his comps or some other extensive exams, a messy counselling situation, or is very tired because of a new job or work situation; don’t expect him to notice on his own that you got a hair cut. He loves you – try and show your love for him by your support and cheerful self-sacrifice.

- Most guys realize that their absent mindedness causes extra work and sometimes grief for their wives. He probably feels bad about everything he forgets, even if he can’t tell you exactly what he has forgotten. Don’t rub it in, point it out, or expect an apology for every slip.

- Try and see the funny side of the situation. Laugh with him – not at him – when something quirky happens because of his absent mindedness. It can be very funny.

- If something “bad” does happen because of your husband’s absent mindedness (he gets into an accident because he was oblivious to traffic; he misses an important meeting; he forgets to tell you that he offered to put someone up for the weekend, etc.), recognize that while this happened because of your husband’s absent mindedness, it is the Lord who allowed it. Your husband was merely an instrument. Your husband’s absent mindedness is not outside of the Lord’s providence. Ask Him to help you both with it – He will use even this quirky aspect of life to make you more like Christ.