Marriage Advice: What to do when your spouse is always late

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Dear Donkey and Wife

I am a very punctual person and feel it is important to be places on time–meetings, parties and church. My husband however thinks differently. Every Sunday he waits until 20 minutes before we need to leave to start getting ready. I think he forgets that I not only have to get myself ready, which is usually done before he even starts, but I have to get our son ready as well as the diaper bag, anything we need for the meetings etc. Then to top things off, I feel like I am always leaving to go where we need to be in an unhappy mood because I have been asking him to hurry, turned to impatiently asking him, and sometimes raising my voice, just so we can at least show up at a reasonable time. Any advice on how to not only encourage him to hurry (we have discussed several times how being on time is important to me and how it makes me upset that he disregards this) but to enable us to work together on this and end up places happier?

-Always Arriving Late

He Says
You need to help your husband understand why arriving late is so unacceptable. Sometimes people need to have experiences to help them remember the lessons that we want them to learn. My wife isn’t conscientious of time either, so here are a few suggestions for you, based on things I’ve tried:

  1. Next time you are going to the movies, tell your husband that you need to be there at 7:30 when in reality the movie starts at 7:00. When you arrive late and he asks you about it, you simply reply, “Now you know what it feels like to be late.” (NOTE: Be sure to use this method on a night when you are going to an action movie; if you attempt this on a chick flick night, it will undoubtedly backfire.)
  2. Create a sense of urgency, so your husband can experience the anxiety that you typically relate with being late. Next time he has somewhere important to be, hide his keys. While he is searching for them, be sure you are sitting nearby, doing nothing–or worse, watching tv. Ignore his repeated requests for help finding his keys. Finally, when he is frantically asking you for help, ask, “Oh, is it important for you to be on time when you go somewhere? Is this a new philosophy? If so, I’m happy to help out.” Then, nonchalantly walk over and get the keys out of that secret personal pocket in your purse, hand them to him, and watch him storm out of the door.

Once you solve the problem of your husband’s tardiness, it’s time to work on getting him to help the children get ready. You might try hiding your son in his room while you and your husband get ready. When it’s time to go, start walking out to the car by yourself when you’re ready. Your husband will be confused and ask about your son (if he doesn’t notice that your son isn’t around, your problem is worse than you realized). You should respond, “Oh, did you think I was getting him ready? Why would you assume that?” He will answer that it’s because you always get him ready. That’s when you pounce: “That’s right I do! I’m glad you recognize the inequity here.”

She Says
I must agree with The Donkey here, and admit that I am not the best person to be offering advice about how to get places on time. He uses various tactics to attempt to reform me, but I shouldn’t have to warn you that most of The Donkey’s methods are less-than-effective.

Methods that WILL NOT HELP a slowpoke like me:

  • Asking “Are you almost done?” 30 seconds after I get into the shower, and then repeating the question every 30 seconds, until I get so annoyed that I spitefully decide today is the day I need to do my 10-minute deep conditioning routine.
  • Continually interrupting my morning routine by requesting my assistance on simple tasks like matching a pair of socks.
  • Yelling up to notify me that I am the last one ready, giving me the impression that I have just enough time to get myself ready and out the door–until I come down to see that Daddy is indeed ready (and watching tv) but the kids all need their faces washed, hair combed, and shoes put on.

There are things that a couple can do together (even without sabotage!) that CAN HELP YOU be ready and happy to be walking out the door together:

  • Get things ready ahead of time. Lay out clothes, pack the diaper bag, even load things in the car the night before.
  • Know ahead of time who will do what. Whenever we take the kids out, I know to get the clothes ready, and The Donkey knows to get the boys dressed. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Give your husband simple tasks. I won’t ask The Donkey to lay out the kids’ clothes, because he will pick a pair of the baby’s pants and use them as shorts for the 3-year-old (true story).
  • Make deals. Decide that the last person ready will be on dish or diaper duty for the rest of the day.

Any other tips on helping each other be on time?

  1. 5 Responses to “Marriage Advice: What to do when your spouse is always late”

  2. i also have a spouse who is not very time conscentious but i find the more i remind her of how slow she is the worse her mood, so i just let her take her sweet time and then nearly kill us in a 120 mph crash course to make up the lost time. after a few tickets and near death experiences she gets the point- now all i have to do is stand next to the door with the keys in my hand and a glazed look in my eye.

    By phillyz on Dec 3, 2007

  3. Perpetual “late-ers” do it on purpose. Its a form of control. Mine does the same thing. If I say we need to leave at 3pm (I like a little buffer to allow for traffic, etc) and he figures we don’t need to leave till 3:15. He denies that is is conscious. On the rare occasions that he is ready early *by accident* he will conveniently “have to go to the bathroom” which takes precisely as much time as needed to get him to 3:15.

    Can’t change him, so I just lie about the times and we show up right on schedule.

    One time I let on during the drive that we actually didn’t need to be there until 30 min after he thought… and wouldn’t you know it – after recomposing himself after realizing he was caught – he found a reason to take a detour and run an errand and make us late as usual.

    By wifelikeme on Dec 3, 2007

  4. OMG….this is hilarious….and sounds oh, so familiar!!!

    By tired on Feb 27, 2008

  5. Wow,

    Reading this is like a replay of our last family commitment. I’m learning to carve out my own life and not doing things with my spouse that require joint arrival. Seriously. After twenty-five years together, I am asking myself if all of the small and large “drive me nuts” items are really worth staying for. It’s not a question of “do you love your spouse?” For me it’s more of: “Can I live with this unchanged 24/7 for the rest of my life?” Probably not. I made a mistake and need to seriously look at a more compatible match in the future. Or preferably at this point moving on to a single life, where my decision-making ability, like promptness, is respected and followed.

    By Onefootouthedoor on Aug 16, 2008

  6. My wife is always late in everything. Cooking, daycare, church and even getting herself ready to relax. It’s frustrating because I am a very punctual person and also very impatient. I have adapted to her and tried my best to be patient but now I worry for her because if she starts working, she may lose her job for being late. When I bring up her problem, she gets very defensive and then turns it into an argument about how mean I am. I love her but sometimes can’t stand it.

    By Allen on Jan 26, 2014

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