My Boyfriend is Habitually Late and I’m Sick of It!


I have been dating a guy for 9 weeks and we’ve been exclusive now for 2. He is always late for our dates, and it drives me crazy. It’s been this way from day one. It usually ranges from 10 minutes to over an hour. Usually he checks in, but I could be doing other things. He is perfect in every other way except this.

The first time I spoke to him about it I did so by cancelling a date on him. He had given me a time range of 3-4 that he would be at my house then texted me at 5:10 that he was on his way and would be there at 5:30. That’s when I replied and told him I wouldn’t be going. We talked about it and he said he thought that I was just home not doing anything, and that it wouldn’t matter. I told him it was disrespectful to me and my time and didn’t make me feel very important. He said he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. However, he’s continues to be late. I can tell he’s really nervous when he gets to my house because he’s worried about me being mad. I just don’t know what I should do about this. I talked to him again the last time he was late because he was basically an hour later than he originally said he would be even though he checked in with me. I was upset because I could’ve gone on a bike ride if I knew I had another hour.

He said I’m one of the most important people in his life, but why does he continue to be late? I asked him why he’s late all the time. He owns his own business and said he’s typically coming from work (not all the time though), and has people to take care of issues and needs to just let them handle them. He said that he’s usually a pretty prompt person except when meeting me. I asked him, how do you think that makes me feel? I asked him if his lateness has been an issue in other relationships, and he said yes, but it has never jeopardized a relationship. That tells me he’s not always prompt except when meeting me otherwise it wouldn’t have been an issue with others. I don’t want to break up with him because again, he’s so perfect everywhere else, but I expect if he says he’s not going to do it again to not. It also makes me feel like if he can’t be on time and continues to tell me he’s going to change and isn’t, what else is he going to tell me won’t do and then do?

I know he’s going to be late again. I want to compromise with him about his lateness, and I want to be able to be flexible, but I don’t want him to end up taking advantage of me. If I tell him if he’s more than 30 minutes late that I’m not going on a date I feel he’ll think I’m giving him permission to be 30 minutes late. I understand that life happens, but he’s literally been late to every single date.

I spoke with a male friend about this and he said that if I was a business transaction and had money for him he probably wouldn’t be late. I need to let him know I won’t tolerate lateness. But how can I do that and still be flexible? I believe he’s just a chronically late person and it’s not going to change and that it has nothing personal to do with me.


Once upon a time, there was a dating coach for smart, strong, successful women. This dating coach prided himself on his New York sensibility. He paid his bills the day they came in. He RSVP’d to parties as soon as the Evite arrived. His word was his bond. This worldview, plus his tell-it-like-it-is-attitude and ability to understand others’ perspectives made him a success…

That is, until he met his own wife.

The dating coach’s wife, like your boyfriend, was habitually late. Her family joked that she ran on her own schedule, which just happens to be 15 minutes later than everyone else’s. While she’d protest that she never missed a flight in her 16 years of international travel, it still didn’t make her boyfriend feel any better while he was stuck waiting for 30 minutes as she curled her hair before a date.

People’s issues exist on a spectrum and so does people’s tolerance for said issues.

Ten years later, they’re still together – and still arguing about the definition and value of being “on time.” But let’s say that she is still highly attentive to detail and that such attention often sucks up a disproportionate amount of time. She can spend a month preparing for a four-year-old’s birthday party, a week packing for two nights away, and an hour getting ready to drive the kids to school. It’s just how she rolls. All the talk about respecting others’ time – she gets it intellectually, but really, it doesn’t change anything. As you said, it’s just how she’s wired.

The compromise she and her husband struck seems to be this: she does her best to not let her time management affect him, and he does his best not to yell when he’s affected by it. Usually, it’s about a 10 to 15-minute wait, followed by 30 seconds of grumbling in the car, followed by getting back to normal.

Yet despite all that, the dating coach swears that he’s got a great marriage since this is literally the only thing about which they continually argue – and even those arguments are pretty mild, ten years into their relationship.

After all that, you might think I’m telling you to stay, Marlene. I’m not.

Ultimately, this is about one thing and one thing only: how much this bothers you.

People’s issues exist on a spectrum and so does people’s tolerance for said issues. Despite my misery-loves-company story above, it would be unfair to conflate my story with yours. I’m different than you. My wife is different than your boyfriend.

Ultimately, this is about one thing and one thing only: how much this bothers you.

Sounds like it bothers you a lot. Sounds like it’s not getting better. Sounds like he’s not going to change.

Which leaves us with a very straightforward question: if you could marry him right now, knowing that he will continue to be this way for the rest of your respective lives, would you be content?

If not, dump him on the spot. This IS a glimpse at your future.

And if the answer is yes – despite his chronic and maddening tardiness, the good far outweighs the bad – do your best to bring something to read wherever you go.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the iPhone saved my relationship.


  1. I used to have a boyfriend who was habitually late.  Finally told him that in the future, if he were more than 10 minutes late, I simply wouldn’t be there, whether I was simmering just behind the door or not.  The very next time, you got it, at the 10 minutes late mark I got up to lock my door, and there he was.  He knew I meant it and he was never late again.

  2. 100%. If your date doesn’t arrive within the range after you’ve informed him it matters to you, you don’t go, and he doesn’t get the benefit of your time. I wouldn’t even answer the phone. I’d just text with the time I’m next available, then drop it.
    But for the OP, she’s already told him, he said he wouldn’t do it again, and then he did. He’s already blown his chance. Dump this guy immediately.

  3. There is a big difference between someone being habitually 15 minutes late to somewhere and someone who is always late but you have no idea HOW late. I have certain friends I know will be 10 – 15 minutes late. It’s easy, I show up that late myself and problem solved. But not knowing if you’ll be waiting 15 minutes to an hour? How exactly can anyone structure their day with that lack of information?
    It shows a disrespect for your time and placing his as priority over yours. The fact that he admitted that he just assumed you’d be waiting around all day anyway so he didn’t need to come on time is evidence enough that he has no respect of your personal schedule or you having, you know, a life. The fact that too he’d show up for a business engagement on time is yet more evidence. Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you like that? Who thinks you don’t have your own things to do and can just wait around for him because . . . why? Because he’s just THAT fantastic?
    I like Donna’s idea. Don’t be there. Give him 15 minutes and if he doesn’t show up by then, leave. And ultimately if he doesn’t change his behaviour then you need to really think about this carefully. Can you spend the rest of your life with someone with this behaviour? I couldn’t. But maybe you could. And if you could, well I give you serious props.

  4. How much does it really bother you? Does it leave you fuming, to the point that you can’t enjoy your time together once he arrives? It doesn’t sound like this habit is going to disappear anytime soon. Is he late for everything, including events, such as concerts, where they don’t let you in after it has started?
    I’ll admit to not being the most punctual of people myself, though it’s something i am working on, as i live in a country where it’s frowned upon to be more than five minutes late. I always think i can cram in one more task before i head out of the door and lo and behold, it suddenly turns out to be later than i thought it was. What helped me was my friends telling me what it felt like to be left waiting, that it came across as me thinking my time was more important than theirs. That’s when i realized that i had to start paying attention to how long it REALLY took to head out of the door and act accordingly. Maybe he would be willing to see what his time slurpers are so he can turn up at places in time?

  5. I have a brother like this. He’s been that way his entire life. Always made it to school and work on time. Literally, on time. Not 15 minutes early. Ever. But, for everything and everyone else, chronically late. If my mom told him we’re going to dinner… Be ready by 7. He might show up by 8. She finally started telling him a different time than the rest of us. If she wanted to leave by 7, she’d tell him to be there by 6. Worked pretty well, but it’s a little ridiculous having to manipulate a grown man just to get somewhere on time.
    I’ve often wondered if it was some sort of unconscious desire to control things. “We’ll go when I’M ready”, type thing.
    Not sure what type of business Marlene’s boyfriend has, but maybe that’s why he has his own business. He can make his own hours and get there when he wants, which is great, but he can’t run the rest of his life that way. Not without consequences, anyway.

  6. I’ve often wondered if it was some sort of unconscious desire to control things. “We’ll go when I’M ready”, type thing
    I think you’ve nailed it here. I had a b/f who had similar issues, and it would always leave me MAD. This is about control, it’s “i am so much more important, please kindly arrange your life around my schedule and sit around and wait for me to show up” – whether it is conscious or unconscious. This is not the same at all as being 15 min late because you’re curling your hair kind of thing..

  7. Emily, the original

    I’ve often wondered if it was some sort of unconscious desire to control things. “We’ll go when I’M ready”, type thing.
    I totally agree. I have a cousin who is like this. She came to visit me and spent TWO HOURS in the bathroom every morning. I was living in a one-bathroom apartment! I spent most of her visit waiting for her, and one morning I lost it. “You look the same going into the bathroom as you do coming out!” I shouldn’t have said that, but my goodness, I was expecting Elizabeth Taylor after all that primping.
    Always being late is about control or selfishness. People who make you wait don’t care that they are wasting your time.

  8. CaliforniaGirl

    It’s not going to get better, it will only get worse and you will resent him big time in the future. I’d cut loose this guy probably after his second lateness. Will not even continue to see him because this behavior will not change.
    I had an ex who was late all the time and not 10-15 minutes but hours. The last straw was when he asked me to leave early from work to go to his sister’s birthday party so we won’t hit the traffic but he was late 2 hours and it took us 2.5 hours to get to the place instead of an hour if we left early. I was furious, tired and felt disrespected. I told him that I am not going to attend any of his family’s functions anymore or change my schedule for him ever again. It was always a lot of stress for me to plan anything with him because he was always late and I would stress out. Oh, and I also thought he was fantastic but then I met another fantastic guy who was always on time.

  9. Schedule a date 30 minutes earlier than you actually plan to meet and then show up 30 minutes after that planned time.  For example…schedule drinks on Friday at 6:30 at night and then show up around 7.  If you both show up around the same time, problem solved!  If you show up after he does ask him if he liked waiting around for you to show up.  If he says ‘no’ then tell him that’s how it feels for you when he shows up late.  It may not solve the problem, but at least he will have a bit more respect for your perspective.

  10. Chronic tardiness is a sign of a passive-aggressive personality. Time is the most precious commodity there is, because it’s the one thing in life you can never get more of. Find someone who shares your values regarding time.

  11. Week 9, 2 weeks of being exclusive—still pretty early into the whole relationship. Id NOPE and BAIL right now girl. At end of day, its just pretty damn rude. Like Very rude. I have been on hundreds of dates, a guy is late once or twice–fine. Late EVERY time, Id start scheduling dates before meeting him and even dine and order my food already. Pretty much youll start to have to manage the time that is spent ‘waiting’ , which creates a whole new set of problems. Id start to feel very very single. Id say there is a sea of men out there, you can have your pick. Id chose the guy that shows up on time 80% of the time. You can compromise yes, but not on values. If he doesnt value your time, why should you stick around? =)

  12. If he has his own business is pretty understandable why he is late. Has NOTHING to do with respecting you or not. Is because his brain is always occupied with the business – whatever it,organisational issues,..who knows what.. There is Always something to think or do in your own business .. And man’s brain /some women’s as well / does not just switch of this.. When is only him thinking about it..
    There is also – Murphy’s law – may sound funny,but.. is Always..Always something happening in the last minute,something you can not drop and go,something you think it will take only two minutes to fix ,but in fact may take an hour…
    She is focusing far to much on this lateness and does not look wider than that.. Is not about her and is not intentional at all, I am sure.. he does Not just sit there,twinkling his fingers thinking : ” how much to be late today to hurt her or piss her off..”
    Evan said it – get a book,play phone games,do something with this time.. and  open your mind and Understand him a bit more. May be get involved in his business ,if you are exclusive,he may like that.. Than you will have another point of view for everything..
    or let the guy go and do not punish him for being what he is and trying his best .

  13. What a bunch of baloney. Thousands of people run businesses (more complex than the OP’s b/f) and manage to show up to their relationship. And *sarcasm on* getting involved into the business of your b/f of 9 weeks is a great way to strengthen your relationship *sarcasm off*

  14. Evan illustrated a good point that he tends to overlook his wife’s flaw of being late. What I got from his response was his wife is a fantastic person and he lives with the tardiness. The person writing in said her boyfriend is perfect, except he is chronically late. If I met a woman who was perfect for me and she was late all the time, I would ask her to show up on time. If she continued to do it, I would be grateful that was her only flaw. It’s not easy finding a mate with one flaw. Tardiness beats most other flaws I can think of right now.

  15. Nobody, i think, is expecting their boyfriends to be on time 100% of the time. There’s traffic, weather, last-minute work calls etc. Being late sometimes, or even being late always by 10-15 min is tardiness and it can be tolerated. Being always late by an hour?? This goes beyond tardiness. This is plain disrespectful. Everybody is busy. I only have 10-15 hours a week to socialize with friends and family and if a person habitually wastes 20% of that time because they “run a business” (as opposed to us mere mortals who have nothing better to do but sit and wait for them…) they should be g-o-n-e

  16. Fifteen minutes late is one thing, texting I am on my way and showing up over an hour later is another.  To the OP, maybe instead of being unavailable the next time he is late, go out on your own and do something else in the meantime regardless of how long it may take.  When he calls or texts ” I ‘m here” text back back ” Oh, I decided to go shopping and run errands, I’ll get there as soon as I can.  See you in a bit,” and just show up when you decide to show up.

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