Fletcher,

My boyfriend and I have been together for 2 years now.  We are very happy together and love each other very much.  However, there is one issue that is really getting in the way and I am not sure what to do. The problem is that he is always late.  When he is late for his own job and commitments, that is less of an issue.  But, when his being late means that we are late or that he is late to meet me, it is really frustrating.  Please give me some advice on how to proceed so this doesn’t become an issue that drives us apart. 

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Lupita, Thank you for reaching out, I get that you love your boyfriend and want to make things work. The first thing to be clear about is that changing someone else’s behavior is impossible. Most of us waste a lot of emotional energy trying to think of ways to get people in our lives to change their behavior and it almost always leads to conflict and disappointment.  All that you can do is take responsibility for your own behavior and thoughts. 

To start, you need to talk about this topic with your boyfriend. There may be some past conflicts and hurt feelings that have occurred around this issue and those need to be cleaned up before any open and loving discussion can occur.  The main thing to do is apologize and take responsibility for times you have been judgmental and “right” about him being late.  Come from love and an openness to resolve this issue together. 

There is no “correct” way to live life.  This issue just comes down to a difference in standards. You two clearly have different standards regarding being on time. I discuss standards frequently because they influence every area of our life including… you guessed it, being on time. In most cases we don’t choose or create our own standards. They were usually taught or silently demonstrated to us by someone else such as a parent, peer, teacher, or other influential party during our growing up years. Now, of course being on-time is more workable for meetings and commitments, but it is not the only way to live life.  

Standards can be challenging to change until you become aware of them. My suggestion is to ask your boyfriend what his standard is around being on time. Be curious, do not come from a place of judgement.  He is much more likely to share if you are truly interested in knowing about him and working together so you two can create harmony. 

Next let him know how it is for you when you are late to an event or appointment or when he is shows up late to meet you. How do you feel when that happens? It’s important that you communicate this in a way that you are not blaming. If blame is introduced then the possibility for change goes out the window.

Finally, I suggest that you two brainstorm together a few actions to implement for the future that work for both of you. This may mean that you take separate transportation in some cases if you each have access to a car, bike or bus. I recently enjoyed a story from another woman who shared a similar frustration about being late to church. Well one Sunday she had had enough and left on time without the family. This was such a shock to the husband who then showed up late and without his wife that he made sure he was ready every Sunday after that on time! 

In short, Lupita, it comes down to communicating to your boyfriend in a clear and loving way your standards and expectations in general, and on this topic. And, once we have awareness what our standards are, we then have a choice whether or not to change them. Gaining the awareness is the critical factor.

Best wishes. I believe in you!