35 responses

  1. Lori Alexander
    January 13, 2014

    A very good friend of mine has a husband that is late to every dinner. This has been going on for 30 years and she is still angry with him every night. He is a socializer. He loves talking to people and just like the man in this post, time gets away from him. She has tried everything to get him to come home on time. I encouraged her to eat without him. When he gets home, give him a big hug and warm up his dinner for him. She’s tried for 30 years to change him and it hasn’t worked. She may as well accept him the way he is and learn to live with it. I know it isn’t easy, but life isn’t easy.
    Lori Alexander recently posted…My Very Boring TestimonyMy Profile

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      Yes, I would agree. Just tell him “dinner will be ready at 6:30 every night”, and then just eat. If he doesn’t make it home, then he has to reheat it. It’s better than fuming while you’re hungry!

  2. Becki
    January 13, 2014

    Thanks Sheila. This post was most helpful. In our home, my husband spends with no notion of how much money is in our account. I’ve had to do some fast shuffling to make sure bills are paid. After 12 years of annoyance, crying, screaming, raging, etc, I finally decided to do something. When I told him my plan, he looked surprised and hurt, so I didn’t do it, only to narrowly miss bouncing a check. A couple of weeks ago set up a separate account for all bill payments, one for my paycheck, and left the existing one for his. Bills are paid half by each of us, then whatever is left from our paychecks… no one impedes the other. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but your last statement – “implement consequences so the right person bears the brunt of the behavior” – makes me feel a bit more secure.

    • Becki
      January 13, 2014

      had to come back and post again, as I was behind in my reading of your posts. I just read the one from Jan 6 (My husband won’t stick to a budget), and I just wanted to assure you that we’ve been through that. We did Financial Peace University when the course was offered at our church a few years ago. We were on the same page for a time, but I guess as we made progress, it gave a sense of freedom that derailed the plan… and here were are now.

  3. Allison
    January 13, 2014

    I read this with my husband and his thoughts were, why did she think he was going to be back in an hour? Did he tell her that or is she making assumptions. Checking out a car takes more than a few minutes. With travel time there, travel time back, what if the fix was something that could happen right then and he couldn’t get to the work for awhile. Brakes aren’t something you don’t get fixed when the opportunity presents itself. His phone was out of range, his car is up on the lift so he can’t go somewhere find reception and call So here is a guy taking his whole evening to get the family car fixed, he can’t communicate and he’s being inconsiderate? Maybe perceptions need to change, but it could just as easily be painted as him being considerate and her not being grateful. Sounds like some communication is in store.

    On last thought. (my husband as gone to work), my husband goes out and fights the world for us everyday. There might be an occassion where we have to eat without him but I won’t threaten him or downplay what he does by saying be here at X or we are eating without you. There a million things everyday that can come up that he has to take care of because he is taking care of and providing for our family and then to turn around and “put consequences on him” for doing that? It’s one thing if he’s stopping off at the bar on the way home. Another if he is taking care of his responsibility as a man to care and provide for our family.

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      Allison, I think the issue is more one of what is the PATTERN in your relationship? Your relationship obviously does not have this issue. But I think that in a marriage if a husband was consistently not coming home when he said he’d be home without any notice or texting, then that is being just plain rude. It’s not a question of “is he working hard for the family?” It’s a question simply of “is he being considerate?”

      This doesn’t sound like it’s an issue with you; it certainly isn’t with me. But it is for many women, and for them I think drawing boundaries and consequences is perfectly legitimate.

      I also think that letting your spouse know where you are and how long you’ll be, within an hour or two, is perfectly reasonable and is just simply a safety issue. When my daughter moved out, I had her and all of her housemates agree that they would always know each other’s schedules and text if something was going to change, and that they would always know where they were each going to be. Again, it’s just a matter of consideration and courtesy. If a guy is gone for most of the day without you knowing where he is, then I would certainly be worried, too.

      It’s just about setting up systems so that you can be considerate to one another, that’s all. Some couples don’t need this, but for some personalities it is very important.

      • Allison
        January 13, 2014

        To quote the letter, “this has led to a FEW times” hardly consistent over ten years of marriage. All I am doing is quoting what is written down. Also, this time he was taking care of the family’s car and did not have cell coverage. He was not “gone most of the day” He was gone four hours unless I’m reading it wrong. It’s also automobile situation. Let’s be honest, how many of us females know much about cars? But I do know this, my husband knows them and whether he fixes it or takes it to someone it is not taking an hour. Why did this wife not ask, when do you think you’ll be home? How long do you think it will take?

        My point being this situation was created as much in this wife’s mind as in the husband’s actions. I just disagree.

        And to be honest, my husband runs his own business and there are times I don’t know when he’ll be home because he doesn’t know when he will be home. What would happen if husbands got mad everytime we were late from picking up the kids at soccer practice, dinner was late, couldn’t have sex because we were ill with PMS, etc things that were out of our control. Life is messy and not always schedulable. I would hate for my husband to “implement boundaries and consequences” for things I could not help when it has happen a FEW occassions my mind was not focused or life did not go as I planned. What did wives do before cell phones?

        I’m not trying to be harsh Sheila, but this came across severely disrespectful of our husbands.

      • Sheila
        January 13, 2014

        Allison, I didn’t mean to sound disrespectful, but in the last section I wasn’t even talking about this letter writer. I was throwing out a scenario: “If being late is hindering you in other ways than just causing worry–ie. he’s never home for dinner, or you’re consistently late for appointments and events, you can certainly implement consequences for that.”

        I think you may have read something there that I didn’t say.

        As for your husband never knowing when he’s going to be home, I understand it’s chaotic. But I don’t think it’s a big deal to have an agreement that every night at 6 he text and say, “I don’t know when I’ll be home; start without me”, or “I’m really trying to get out of here, and I hope I’ll be out soon, can you hold dinner?”

        I think that’s just courtesy.

        And yes, if we were going to be late coming home from soccer practice, I think courtesy says that you text.

        It’s just about courtesy, that’s all.

      • Allison
        January 13, 2014

        Sheila,
        I’m not trying to be disrespectful of you and your blog, but I thought we were answering THIS question. It seems to me you were the one implying something that was not there. This lady said this has happened a FEW times in a decade of marriage.

      • userdand
        January 13, 2014

        I used to have this problem a lot. My work day begins with a purpose for the client and a planned structure as to how we will achieve their goal. We have numerous skilled individuals involved with their puzzle pieces to fit together with others. Things don’t always go a planned and we will run over on time. I used to call close to the end of the day and say “I’ll be home at X o’clock,” so my wife could make plans. We would then have a series of puzzle disasters. I now DO NOT call until I am sitting in the car with nothing but traffic to keep me from arriving at the time I tell her. She still gets a heads-up earlier, but until I know nothing or anyone is going to delay me further, I wait to make the final call. If I leave the house for an errand, I try to remember to call if I start to run long on time. I don’t always do it soon enough (she calls first) but I try. It’s a matter of showing respect for her time and schedule.
        userdand recently posted…Hon, I’m Really Not Up To ThisMy Profile

      • Sheila
        January 13, 2014

        That’s great! And that’s exactly what I’m talking about! I hope she does the same for you, too. :)

  4. Cheri Gregory
    January 13, 2014

    I was just listening to the section of Henry Townsend’s book Boundaries for Leaders where he talks about separating problems from patterns. Sheila, you brought up the question of PATTERN already, and I have to admit that I’ve not really thought about the difference between the two.

    Townsend says that when we keep trying to solve the same problem the same way over and over and over without results, it may be time to address the core issue of the pattern. In our marriage, I’ve found it helpful to look first at my own reactions and see if there are patterns I can work on. Then, if I decide I also need to talk with my husband and changing his part of an unhealthy pattern, I’ve already been through a rational process (he’s a total INTP and needs logic, logic, and more logic in order to hear me!) that I can communicate to him.
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…My One Word for 2014: oneMy Profile

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      The question of patterns is such an important one. I actually wrote a post a while back on the Trigger Points for conflict, and recognizing what often leads up to us feeling annoyed–because it’s not always what we think. When we can take a step back and see those patterns it is much easier to deal with them! Great point.

      • Cheri Gregory
        January 13, 2014

        Just read “Trigger Points” — GREAT list!!!
        Cheri Gregory recently posted…My One Word for 2014: oneMy Profile

  5. Carol
    January 13, 2014

    My husband is fairly regular, but he, too, has had a problem with disappearing.He also loses track of time when he is doing things. It isn’t just when he is out by himself, either. It worried me at first, and then I kind of got used to it. I asked him to tell me where he was going, but it never seemed to sink in. Then one Sunday he dropped us off in front of the church and went to park the car. I teach children’s Sunday School, so I didn’t notice that he didn’t come in to the church. between the services, one of the men asked me where DH was and when I didn’t know (and none of our kids knew either), he became very concerned. I told him that my husband does this sometimes, and he got very upset by that. When my husband came back, our friend let him know in no uncertain terms that this kind of thing was totally unacceptable. The next time he forgot something, he made sure to tell one of the kids (as I was in Sunday School again) where he was going.

    So, sometimes it helps if someone else besides you tells him.

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      It’s wonderful when others step in and stand up for us like that! We should be doing this more in community, I think.

  6. Bethany
    January 13, 2014

    I really like your take on sorting out these kinds of issues as a team, with both parties looking at what works for you and what will help make the situation better. I know with me and my husband, he can be pretty spacey at times, and I’m good at organizing, remembering when things are, etc, so that is important to me. He wants to communicate love and care to me, but his mind just doesn’t work the same way mine does (it works super well at a variety of things, just different ones). So we talk about specific situations, and what I can do to help him do what he wants to do — be that call the doctor, remember our plans, etc. Since we come up with it together, I don’t feel like I’m nagging or being bossy, and he is able to remember things he wants to do and where he needs to be. It’s like being able to outsource things we are less skilled at. And it goes both ways — he’s really excellent at problem solving, and often I don’t even get to the point of realizing that there is a problem that NEEDS solving…

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      Great way to look at it! When you can own the problem together and come up with a solution together it’s so much more helpful than just saying, “you’re driving me crazy.”

  7. Judy
    January 13, 2014

    This happened to us, but it was me that did it! I went for a late night appointment (with a female, not male) and afterward we just got talking. There were no clocks in the room and we both lost track of time…until the RCMP showed up outside the door! I was only a block from home,but still got a police escort! We laugh about it now, but I still feel bad that I caused such anxiety for my husband! (And while I do tend to talk longer sometimes, this was the first time it has directly impacted him in such a big way!). I try now to cut things short(er!) and he tries not to freak out if I’m a bit later than expected.

  8. Maureen
    January 13, 2014

    My husband and I have been together for 11 years, but married for 6 and he is inconsiderate in a whole different way! I was calling it selfish, but on the whole, he’s not exactly selfish. He’s very particular in his thinking – very here and now rather than long run – and it doesn’t occur to him to think of how that may affect someone else; if it makes sense to him, it’s done. There are little things like, he wanted a seasoning shaker to use for something else (I do most of the cooking, although he also enjoys to cook) and he announced, “I’m going to dump out this parsley so that I can use this shaker.” Well, I use parsley regularly (he obviously doesn’t), so when I said no he was confused as to why not. I actually had to explain that I use it all the time and I don’t want it thrown out. Or if I’m sleeping and he comes to bed later, he’ll turn on the bedroom light and say at normal volume (not a whisper), “Are you awake? Hey, are you awake?” It’s because he has something to tell me, and to him, he doesn’t want to forget so it’s logical to wake me to tell me. On that same line, we just gave birth to our second 2 months ago (we also have a 3 year old) and up until last week I’ve been on maternity leave. He doesn’t get paternity leave. Because he is the one working, and I am at home, he tends to think of it more like vacation. I haven’t slept in our bed in 2 months because our newborn cries when not on me so I’ve been sleeping in a chair downstairs with her on my chest, and when she cries, has a dirty diaper, anything – I take care of it. I’m not complaining, I LOVE being a mom. I still do all of the housework, so on his days off, or when he is home, I will ask him to hold the baby for an hour so that I can do a quick clean. The other day I did just that and I took a shower (it’s amazing how much I miss taking those every day like I did pre newborn). I’m in the middle of finishing the kitchen floor (the last thing on my list) and he wanted to go on his computer so he announced, “I’m just going to set her down here on the chair and go upstairs.” My only time to myself was essentially spent cleaning his mess, and he couldn’t hold on to her for an hour! Again, when I said no, he was confused. I haven’t been able to stop this and my irritation, more often than not, comes out as irritation at anything he does, or nagging, or yelling. I’ve been trying to press into my Bible and reading the Love Dare (again) and praying to try to change my attitude, but I am at a loss on how to make him understand why his behavior isn’t okay. I have sat him down and talked to him about how I feel, and though he apologizes and says he understands, it never sticks.
    Maureen recently posted…Okay….Ready ANY time now!!My Profile

  9. Been there!
    January 13, 2014

    My husband is like this. If he says he’ll be home in an hour it turns into two or three. It would drive me crazy! I hate being late and I always took it personally (lack of respect) when he was late. Then he got a diagnosis of ADHD. It helped me to understand that he really honestly has no concept of time (not uncommon in ADD/ADHD).

    The best solution we found? His timer on his cell phone. He uses it at work to keep him on track. He’ll set it for 20 minutes and plug away at one task until the timer beeps. Then he can take a mental break and reset it for a period of time. When he leaves on an errand now he sets it to remind him to send a check in if need be. Now that I know that he really can’t help it it makes me feel more secure. He wasn’t doing it to be disrespectful or spiteful. Hope this helps!

    • Sheila
      January 13, 2014

      So true! And I think that’s the point: often people aren’t deliberately being inconsiderate, they just have a personality that sometimes makes them get carried away with what they’re doing. Finding a solution like the one you did is so helpful and also takes the blame out of the situation.

  10. Ellie
    January 13, 2014

    I think the bottom line is two-fold — communication and respect. And it really needs to flow both ways! When expectations are clearly communicated, things flow more smoothly. i.e. if the husband told the wife -or the wife asked- for an ETA of when he’s be back, things might have been different. When there is a big discrepancy in time, of course we are concerned that something bad may have occurred. This was often the case in my marriage, but my husband was often just tied up with a client’s issues and hadn’t realized the time. (Now he puts his phone on vibrate and I can text him to get an ETA if it’s past what he had originally said and we’ve just agreed that it isn’t nagging, I’m just making sure he’s safe and seeing if there is anything I can do to make his day easier since it’s obviously not going the way he had planned. The vibration doesn’t disrupt a client conversation or issue, but my husband knows that it’s probably me and he tries to take the next available free moment to text me a response.)

    The big wake-up call for my husband, however, was when I was in a serious life-threatening car accident. Never again has he looked at someone being ‘late’ the same way – now it’s always a concern as to whether or not they are okay. He also shows me respect by communicating that he is running late so that I’m not worrying unnecessarily. It really can be a safety issue – and so the respect needs to flow both ways in not causing a spouse unnecessary stress or worry.

  11. Courtney
    January 13, 2014

    I describe my husband as a fish. He’ll chase every shiny object that comes into view. It’s hard to live with a fish! Especially for someone like me – and ENTJ. As, I imagine most fish are, my husband is often “late” returning from work. Usually, it’s because he didn’t leave on time, then he took side streets instead of the freeway, then he stopped to pick up a part to fix someone’s car, then he had to talk to Ben, then … the list goes on and on. It’s like living with Jeffrey from Family Circus. What could have taken 30 minutes, takes at least 3 hours. And there are times I wonder if he’s been hit by a truck and is lying in a pool of chunky husband parts on the side of the road. But alas, no truck. Just shiny, shiny objects.

    Of course, he almost never proactively calls or texts me about his ETA but, to his credit, will eventually respond when I text him asking for his ETA. And yes, I would worry that he’s having an affair, except that this is him all the time, every day, in every situation. He’s well-known for it. It’s very much who he is: slow, disorganized, distracted, inconsiderate, not malicious. So, obviously, I haven’t found a solution to this problem, because I can’t change his core personality traits. But as I’ve gotten to know him better (we’ve been married 10 years), and have done some research, I have become convinced that he has adult ADHD. Now, my mission is to get him to agree to be tested – and possibly medicated. I’m hoping that the diagnosis and medication will help him focus on tasks like coming home to have dinner with the kids…
    Courtney recently posted…Today, I Am Mom.My Profile

    • Ticia
      January 14, 2014

      We call it squirrel in our house. Of course that’s usually me.
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  12. Julie
    January 13, 2014

    Sheila, I think your advice is spot on. The post doesn’t say if the husband is sorry for the worry he’s causing his wife and wants to improve communication, which would be helpful to know. If he’s cooperative, there are lots of ways to address the problem – timer on his phone, etc. If he has a “so what?” attitude, I think your consequences are excellent. He may not be intentionally being rude to her, but he’s got a pattern of being inconsiderate. Setting boundaries (dinner at 6:30, unless you call, for example) isn’t punitive, it’s REALITY.

    My husband has a hard time managing time. It’s all very fluid to him. For quite awhile we were late to church every Sunday. It really bugged me – coming in late is inconsiderate and disruptive, but in his family… no biggie. So we made a deal (well, he wasn’t excited, but he agreed!) if we arrived late, we didn’t go in, we just turned around and went home. That put the responsibility and the result of it all on him. It only took once. Besides missing the spiritual aspect of church, he’s really social and missed out on visiting with his friends. He had to be on board with it to begin with (although, reluctantly) but he didn’t like the consequence, so he changed his behavior.
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  13. Brooke
    January 13, 2014

    While I am not suggesting your readers try this, this couple reminds me of a story my Mom told me about my Dad early in their marriage. He was always leaving without telling her where he was going and would not tell her when he was coming back. Sometimes it would be late and she would worry and it really bothered her. He just didn’t seem to get the point. Finally after he was gone again and back late she got smart. She didn’t say anything to him. He asked her if she had been worried about him. Her answer was,” No, I wasn’t worried. I spent the time thinking about how I was going to spend the life insurance money.” Ever since he tells her where he is going and calls her when he is on his way home!
    Brooke recently posted…PlantainMy Profile

    • happywife
      January 13, 2014

      I love this and your mom is a wise woman. Rather than nag your dad about what he was doing, she looked at what she had control over in the situation (how to spend the life insurance money ;-) I realize she was saying that in jest, but it really is how we need to live. I can’t change him, but I do have a choice as to how I’m going to let it affect me.

  14. happywife
    January 13, 2014

    The reader here says: “The only major issue I have is the fact that he has no sense of time at all and this has lead to a few occasions where I’m at home worried sick wondering if he’s had an accident.”

    First of all I will say that yes, I’d be worried and annoyed by this and I would let my husband know how I feel when he isn’t communicating with me and I would ask him if he could please in the future be more mindful of calling or texting. But we all know that phones die, we lose track of time, things take longer than expected, etc, etc. Why do we always have to assume the worst? If my husband is dead in a ditch somewhere, I’ll get a call from the police. Otherwise, I need to get a grip and not let myself worry myself sick. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s the truth. And aren’t we commanded in the Bible to not worry about anything but instead take everything to God in prayer?

    But this is what I really want to say… If this is her husband’s biggest fault (as she implies), why choose to make an issue of it? It sounds like she has a great man… be thankful for all his great qualities. Why do we as wives always think that we need to fix all of our husband’s quirks? I’ve learned to let go of those things that really don’t matter. Dirty socks on the floor, spending money on things I’d rather him not, being late from work, eating things that aren’t healthy, giving the kids junk food, and so on. I have a good man and I need to accept him, faults and all rather than make him my project to fix. He’ll never be perfect so I choose to enjoy him right now exactly as he is.

    Yes, make your requests to your husband “Please call if you’re going to be late, could you please put your socks IN the hamper, I’d rather the kids not have soda…” But then let it go and enjoy the life you have with him. And honestly, he’s going to be much more willing to listen to your requests if they are few and far between and if most of your words to him are words of praise and admiration.

    • Julie
      January 13, 2014

      Amen! I feel like most fixing is geared towards men these days within the church for some reason.

  15. P
    January 13, 2014

    I am the husband and it is my wife who does not understand the word ‘punctual’. On our wedding day she was 2 minutes late coming down the aisle and that is the closest she has ever been to being on time in over 39 years! It used to drive me nuts. I have often suggested she think about when she needs to start getting ready and then start 15 minutes earlier; this rarely works. It still drives me nuts but I accept that is just how she is. I love her dearly and know she is the woman God intended me to love, marry and look after. I have learned to go with the flow and accept that I either have to rush to get where we need to go or accept it that we shall be late. In fairness I have to say that I drive her nuts by not always calling her if I am going to be late back from grocery shopping or other errands. She is still the most wonderful woman in the world for me and I know she loves me so does it really matter very much? Is it worth getting all steamed up about? Certainly not.

  16. Ashlie
    January 13, 2014

    My husband loses track of time consistently as well. He’s very much an in-the-moment type of person, and things always take longer than expected (partly bc of his adult ADD). When we first started dating I would worry, but as I got to know him I realized he just didn’t have a good concept of time, and how long things take. I just started doubling the amount of time he thought it would take and worried a lot less. We did talk about why I worried and how I felt about him always making us late, or me not knowing what was going on but it didn’t sink in until he had to worry about me. I left my phone on the charger while I ran a quick errand, and then I bumped into an old friend, so naturally we had to catch up! I always keep my husband up to date, but this time I couldn’t. He never realized what it felt like to not know where a loved one was, bc I had always let him know. After that day he started letting me know when he arrived and was on his way home (from out of town trips), and when he is going to be extra late.

  17. Rachael
    January 14, 2014

    I think I need to take the real version of the Myer’s Briggs… I lean more toward the INFP side… but everything is pretty darn close for me except that I’m not really an extrovert.

  18. beth
    March 25, 2014

    I have been married to my husband for almost 11yrs and been together for 8yrs before we married. He hardly tells me where he is going or how long it will take him. I used to get upset before, but I have learnt to ignore him and focus instead on my kids to get past my anger. There was a time he was out with friends till 2am and his phone was unreachable. I was so worried that, I told him to make sure he has his will ready and to leave enough funds for the upkeep of his kids. (I am from west africa where if d man dies without a will, d family can take everything and leave the wife and kids out in the cold)
    This got him straight for a while but he has gone back to being his old self. Guess I just have to accept him as he is.

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