#856: “Let’s totally do that thing together….sometime.” (Time, Planning, & Boundaries)

Greetings, Captain!

Long-time lurker checking in with a relationship problem. My boyfriend and I (she/her pronouns) have a lot of different interests. Which is fine! Not all my stuff is his cup of coffee! Not all his stuff is my cup of tea! The issue is when he says he wants to do something with me and our apparent inability to find time prevents me from doing the thing.

For example: I wanted to watch The Martian when it came out. He was Super! Excited! to watch it together! It was going to be great! Except somehow every time I suggested it there was something else to do, or he didn’t have time. After a while I brought up the idea that he didn’t have to watch it with me, since it seemed he wasn’t interested…only to hear that of course we would watch it, he really wanted to see it with me, we’d watch it next time we had time! I still haven’t seen The Martian.

I’m also a full time student with a part-time job and limited free time, which means I often do (hobby) inconsistently. This means that it feels odd to push him to go do (hobby) with me if I haven’t been in two weeks, especially if it means he misses an activity he enjoys. However, if I say I’m going, he’ll ask me to wait since he’s almost done, which stretches out into another thing, then another..then he’s ready to go, but I’m annoyed because I’m late, or it’s too late to go at all. He always apologizes, but that’s little help when I lose an hour of dancing because he wanted to finish a game.

Boyfriend is great in pretty much every other regard, and I really don’t mind if he never gets into dance or D&D or Sherlock. I appreciate that he wants to do things that I enjoy with me, but I’d rather he either a) actually DO them, or b) tell me if he’s not into ice or d20s or giant scarves, so I can go do things involving these things on my own time. I suspect that both of us have a bit of a dirty lens going on as well; my last ex found a few of my hobbies intensely boring and vice versa, while his most significant ex insisted on doing everything together.
Is there a gentle way to say “I love that you want to do things with me, but if you aren’t into it, just…don’t bother? Should I just start doing things without him, even if he’s expressed interest? Am I overreacting? Should I just go watch The Martian already?


liking D&D is not the price of admission


Dear Not The Price,

I love this question for being so specific, for covering something we haven’t done in detail before, and for being something that is very solvable with boundaries and scripts. Thank you!

I think there is a very direct way that you can break this impasse and make your time & interests less fungible where your boyfriend is concerned. It involves, for starters, adding specific dates and timeframes to your plan-making if you’re not already doing that.

Letter Writer: “I’m so excited to see Exciting Movie!”

Boyfriend: “Yeah! Let’s see it together!”

Letter Writer: “Great. Howabout (Day, Date, Place, Showtime) or (Day, Date, Place, Showtime)?” (Or, “Great, let me check showtimes and I’ll send you a couple options tomorrow.” Or, “Can you look at showtimes at the theater that would work for you?”

Boyfriend: “None of those times really work for me.”

Let’s breakdown the roles:

If you are the suggester/the inviter/the initiator/the person who wants to do The Social Thing, I suggest adding a specific time, date, place to your suggestion as soon as possible/reasonable. We have covered this in some of our threads about dating and asking people out: “Would you like to hang out sometime?” is not enough. “Would you like to see a band with me on Thursday after work?” is a real invitation that a person can say a specific “yes” or “no” to.

If you are the invitee, and you cannot make the suggested day/time/place, but you still want to do The Thing or A Thing, it is now your job to suggest alternate days/dates/times/Things. If you want to actually make plans with someone that actually exist on the actual space-time-continuum, it is not the other person’s job to endlessly suggest things until they find something that happens to suit you. If you want to do the Thing, help a person out! If you can’t do The Thing, “I don’t think I can make it work in my schedule, but I’ll let you know when that changes” is good information to communicate. If you just don’t want to do The Thing, say “Thanks for the invitation, but no.”

Letter Writer, somewhere in becoming an established couple, you and your boyfriend drifted away from scheduling your plans with each other. On the one hand, it’s a very natural and even comforting transition from “We have to meticulously plan everything” to “I take for granted that I will see you often/just come over!)” On the other hand, I think that politeness and consideration are still extremely valuable in close relationships, and your boyfriend is not being fully considerate of your time here, especially when you both have busy schedules and varied interests. Value your own interests and your own time and prioritize the things that you want to do, and then communicate your expectations and wishes to your partner.

Let’s revisit the conversation:

Letter Writer: “I’m so excited to see Exciting Movie.”

Boyfriend: “Yeah! Let’s see it together!”

Letter Writer: “Great. Howabout (Day, Date, Place, Showtime) or (Day, Date, Place, Showtime)?”

Boyfriend: “Neither of those really work for me.”

What if what happened next was this?

Letter Writer: “Ok, can you suggest a time in the next week or two that will work? I really want to see it soon.”

Then if a couple weeks go by without your boyfriend suggesting specific plans to see Exciting Movie (and if you still even want to see it with him) try this:

Letter Writer: “I’m gonna see Exciting Movie this (Day at Time/Place). Last chance to join me!”

If the dude still can’t make the schedule work, that’s okay, you’ll go see it with a friend or by yourself, and you can watch it again or rent it together sometime. But he can’t lay claim to both “I want you to wait so we can experience it together” and “But I will never make a plan for that to happen.” Nopetepus!

Let’s apply it to the other situation: When his indecision making you late for (or miss entirely) a thing you wanted to do.

Letter Writer: “I am going to go dancing with my friends tonight.”

Boyfriend: “Cool, I’ll join you. Just let me finish this game.”

Letter Writer: “Well, I said I’d meet them by 9:00 pm so I’m going to leave in about 30 minutes. If you’re ready by then, definitely come along. If not, maybe next time!”

Then go at the time you said you’d go and dance your ass off with or without him. He can pause his game, or he can decide he’d rather play the game, but he doesn’t get to have it both ways. He especially doesn’t get to have you dancing attendance on him and missing out on the stuff you want to do.

I believe you that he’s a good dude, but here are things to watch out for:

  • Your boyfriend pouts or resists or gets jealous or clingy when you go to stuff by yourself. Extremely annoying in small doses, controlling and scary in medium+ doses. Time for, at minimum, a “Come along or don’t, if you don’t I’m shutting my phone off and you don’t get to text me later ’cause you’re bored” discussion and also time to evaluate whether he’s controlling and needy in other ways.
  • Your boyfriend resists or mocks the idea of scheduling things with you in advance. “Ok, sure…Mom”Come on, let’s be spontaneous, Babe!” Dude, let’s not.
  • You are always the one who has to schedule things without reciprocal effort from him, or, you’re ultra-aware of his calendar but he’s oblivious to yours (like you are his freaking social secretary). Planning the time you’ll spend together is the constructive, healthy kind of relationship “work”, but it is emotional labor and takes thought and effort and equal investment by both partners. Time for “I’d like to see you this weekend, but I don’t want to plan everything or just hang out while you play games. Can you look for something fun for us to do on Saturday?” discussion.

If adding a time & place and asking your boyfriend to do reciprocal planning doesn’t make things better, it might be time for a script like this:

When I invite you to something, I’m learning that ‘maybe’ really means ‘no.’ And ‘later’ also means ‘no.’ (Give one or two recent, specific, examples where his hesitation meant you missing out on what you wanted to do). It’s okay if you don’t really want to come to (x events/hobbies), but I’d like you to be more specific and more clear when you tell me your decision so I’m not planning around you.”

Or “I get really excited when you want to join me for (things I like to do) and it’s a big bummer when you say yes and then it doesn’t actually happen. It makes me wish I’d just gone by myself when there was still time. Is there a way you’d like us to handle making plans that will help avoid this?” You can be clearer about specific time frames, but it’s not on you to do all the work of figuring this out. It’s very reasonable to ask him to do his fair share of work to help solve this between you.








170 thoughts on “#856: “Let’s totally do that thing together….sometime.” (Time, Planning, & Boundaries)

  1. I am Boyfriend in this scenario, in that stuff we plan to watch together will sit on the DVR for ages because I don’t have time or am not in the mood. Husband asks me a couple of times if I want to watch something, then one night says “I’m watching this tonight, either way.” This usually clarifies for indecisive me whether I was delaying for good reason or genuinely didn’t care about it, and is not a major event for us. Hopefully doing this will do the same thing and relieve the situation for everyone.

    1. We had exactly this with the most recent series of Orange Is The New Black! My partner asked about four times if I wanted to watch it, and I kept umm-ing, and then eventually she said she was putting it on and I realised that I actually didn’t want to see it: I think it is amazing but the bleakness was too much for me in the months after having given birth when everything seems kind of heightened. So I realised I needed to nope out and let her watch it without me, and everyone was happy!

      1. Oh, I couldn’t watch any of our bleak shows right after our son was born a few years ago. He’d watch them in the middle of the night when he would get up with the baby, so Kid was exposed to an awful lot of zombies and murders. Awful parenting, I know. 😉

      2. Oh yeah, my partner and I (both PhD students) had a much improved TV-watching experience when we figured out that whichever of us was stressing the hell out on any particular day was probably not going to be up for more than cartoons. “But we’re on BSG Season 3 and I KNOW you’ll get back into it soon and that season finale is the BEST TV EVER” just doesn’t hold up during prelims. Legend of Korra it is, then. 😛

  2. I believe this scenario completely covers how I feel about friendship/date planning, also. I hate it when people hazily turn down an invitation for something, and then indicate they want me to keep offering them future invites for them to pick and choose. I totally agree with CA that when you say you “can’t” make that time/date, then you should offer an alternative. When people don’t, I drop them from my friendship list. Just my cranky opinion, but I find mostly those kinds of people don’t change and have little to offer me.

    1. I feel like there are exceptions to this, like a standing weekly knit night or something. “Augh my schedule is nuts for the foreseeable future, but please keep me on your mailing list. This is the kind of thing I’d love to come to when things calm down.” But totally agree for one-on-one stuff.

    2. I wholeheartedly agree when it comes to one-on-one plans, but for group events a lot of people do have limited energy for those or consider attendance more optional (since the event can still happen without them) – I’m a person who doesn’t always have energy for hanging out with groups of people, and I’d say I accept maybe 30-40% of the group invites I receive. I still like being asked and do seriously consider whether I can make it every time.

    3. BTDT, if that’s what works for you, then you go on being yourself.

      However, as a highly introverted person, I take exception to the assumption that people who can only make every Nth one-on-one invite have little to offer a friendship. When I say I can’t do something, it usually means I’ve calculated how much time and energy I’ll be able to allocate for social stuff on that day, and erred on the side of “not enough.” If I’m really not up for seeing them more than N times a month, why would I spend more time and energy suggesting they reschedule? If Friend really wants to do something on that day, Friend can go find other cool people to do it with — I don’t begrudge them that! Possibly people who have higher social energy than me relegate me to a “small doses” kind of friend. That’s okay too. “Small doses” is actually on the high end of what I budget my energy toward.

      1. I think there’s a difference between “I can’t make it, have fun without me!”, “I can’t make it, but here are some dates I can make” and “those dates don’t work for me [no alternative suggestion]” Presumably as an introverted person you are doing the first, the reasonable one for people who actually want to do the thing, and the third gets obnoxious after a while (as we see here).

        1. Yeah. I’m introverted and ADHD-forgetful and have introverted friends who are difficult to round up (e.g. hate committing because anxiety about not making things), but that is COMPLETELY different from the friend who just responds to specific suggestions that we hang out next week with sure! but ‘can’t do that day because X’. Okay, other day? ‘can’t do that day’. Other day? ‘no, that specific day doesn’t work because…’ and will literally make me work through an entire fortnight until I hit the ONE day that works for them.

          (They also hardly ever bother to reach out, and rarely or never RSVP when not coming to rare major get togethers but are sad that ‘we’ never get together much with them. They are now in the category of ‘if you invite me, I will come, but I am not going to jump through hoops managing your social calendar for you’).

          1. Yes, Flynnthecat1. THIS is what I’m complaining out. You simply can’t expect others to do ALL the reaching out, no matter how introverted you are. No one wants to do 100% of the lifting.

          2. Thank you for articulating a frustration I have been dealing with for a long time! I am sure there are a few people out there telling our mutual friends that I ghosted for no reason, because I wasn’t able to keep playing this game indefinitely.

            This is also why I will never quit Facebook, even though it’s a very creepy company sometimes: Facebook invites are such a handy low-pressure way to tell a crowd of people, “This is what I’m doing and when and where I’m doing it, if you want to meet up here’s everything you need to know.”

          3. Same with canceling a get-together and not offering a new time. You do it once, it can happen to anybody. You do it more than once, i may conclude you didn’t really want to get together with me. I mean, people do that. They feel like they need to offer a gesture, but actually they’d rather be doing something else.

      2. I think it’s fine to say no often, but IMO it’s important to take turns making the invitation.

    4. I have friends with depression who are terrible at coming out to things, but are great at using their words and saying “I am in a shit place right now, but keep inviting me plz.” I greatly appreciate this.

      1. I have a relative who does this. It’s nice to hear that they’re not backing out of plans because they don’t like me.

        But it’s also why I haven’t seen them in over a year. We’ll hang out when she shows up at events someone else pulled together, because I’m done doing all of the work in any relationship.

    5. The phrase I’ve used – and I can’t remember where I heard it first – is that I’m not a cruise director. I’m not an endless array of planning fun activities. Once I got that under my belt, it made communicating things much easier.

  3. The pattern here is that he always gets what he wants while you very rarely get what you want and no matter how you crack it, that makes for a pretty shitty partner.

    I’ve been in this situation before (the planner whose priorities always got put aside because he had “one more chapter” or “just a few minutes until I finish this level.) I missed dances and movies and outings with friends and plays and a lot of things I was looking forward to, because he couldn’t be bothered to make what was important to me, important to him. It was more important for him to finish his chapter or video game level, etc. (PS, he was neurotypical and did not struggle with the concept of time or deadlines in other contexts, just when it came to stuff I wanted to go to.)

    So I decided I was going to stop missing things. If I told him clearly that I would be leaving for a dance at 8 pm, and he wasn’t ready, I left without him. Same with movies and plays and outings with friends. He wasn’t ready, so I ended up going to a lot of dances and movies and plays alone. And it was uncomfortable, telling people why I was solo at a sweethearts’ dance or for a play I’d mentioned that I was excited to see with my boyfriend. He tried to turn it around on me and tell me I didn’t make my “exit time” clear or that I was too rigid or not understanding of his needs. I told him that if I was important to him, he would get up off his ass and get ready to leave at the appointed time. Since I clearly wasn’t important to him, I was going to continue to attend those dances and plays and outings alone, he just wouldn’t be invited anymore. We broke up and I realized I didn’t miss him much because I was already used to going out without him all of the time. With my next boyfriend, I told him I was going to X event at Y time and if he wanted to join me, he had to be ready twenty minutes before Y. He was ready twenty-five minutes before Y time, and I knew he was a keeper.

    The most important thing is that you don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re waiting around for him. How he responds will say a lot about him.

    1. “The pattern here is that he always gets what he wants while you very rarely get what you want and no matter how you crack it, that makes for a pretty shitty partner.”

      Yes, thank you for pointing that out. I’ve been in several relationships where my partner used that kind of passive-aggressive strategy of yes-totally-wanna-do-it-with-you-what’s-your-rush to control my activities and gaslight when I raised the issue. Never again!

      1. My mother is in a marriage of that kind and trust me, getting out early makes life so much better.

      2. Yeah, a good partner WANTS to make sure you get what you want! My husband has some truly bonehead moments, but he WANTS me to be happy. If he knows I desperately want to see a movie, even if he doesn’t want to see it with me, he’ll go. (He may make fun of it on the way home. He’s not a saint.) If I want to go to a conference that’s important for my career and would make me happy, even though it means he will be left alone with our kids for a week and responsible for all of their activities and wake-ups and baths, dinner, etc., he goes online and finds the best flight and books a spa appointment for me at the hotel. A smart person realizes that happy partners make for better, more fulfilling relationships.

          1. Yes, but he’s married to a very nice lady I would like to keep around.

    2. Had a boyfriend like this years ago. I’m still kicking myself for staying with him as long as I did – I knew within 2 months that he was like that but held on for another two months before getting fed up and ending it.

    3. “How he responds will say a lot about him.”

      I find this to be very true and important. If the LW is actually okay with him not joining her for dances or cinema nights and she just wants him to commit one way or another, then his reaction to her doing her thing anyway is going to let her know exactly where he stands.


      “The pattern here is that he always gets what he wants while you very rarely get what you want and no matter how you crack it, that makes for a pretty shitty partner.”

      is spot on.

    4. Yes, this concerned me too. LW be very careful. Im sure your boyfriend is amazing, but do make sure he is making time for you and your needs.
      A good test would be to see how quickly he stops playing his games when it is to meet his friends, or do something he wants to do.

      In my case, after 10 years with a guy who couldnt make time for anything i was interested in, i found it very difficult to see his behaviour as controlling. I constantly made excuses for his forgetfullness, full schedule, and ability to set priorities (“come on now. He doesnt see concepts of time the way you and I do, he’s an artiiiiste”).

      In retrospect, he was a douche.

      You and your hobbies are important. Certainly he doesnt need to be involved in all of them all the time, but dont let him control you and your interests.

    5. The pattern here is that he always gets what he wants while you very rarely get what you want and no matter how you crack it, that makes for a pretty shitty partner.


    6. Turning it around on you is really gross. Like it’s your job to manage his time for him so *you’re* not late.

      I’m curious. When he said you weren’t “understanding of his needs” did he ever articulate what those “needs” were? Or did he kinda just try to make you guess at them so he could say you made the mistake of and when something went wrong?

      1. A few years ago I had to start practicing the art of the alternative activity date with a friend of mine. I work weird hours so most of my daytime or evening activities have to be crammed into the weekend. This means I have to ration out time to each friend/group plus alone time so I don’t neglect anyone (including myself).

        Whenever this friend would propose plans for a day I couldn’t make, I’d end up being hit with an anxious barrage of “Well what about this date? This date? THIS DATE???” as if “I can’t that day.” really meant “I’m secretly planning on ghosting you, Mr. Friend-of-9-Years”. Weird thing was most of the time we never had a schedule conflict and the proposed plan would go fine on the first try. It just only took one lapse for me to get that reaction from him.

        We also had a talk about how there will be times when I really don’t know when I’ll be available next and that I don’t want to start shutting other people out just because one person keeps asking first (mostly by asking constantly). Plus I assured him that he wasn’t getting a wrong-answer buzzer and losing friend points for happening to propose something for a day when I’m busy.
        Despite the cringeyness of that situation, we managed to work it out successfully.

      2. He would say that I was trying to keep him from having hobbies. That I didn’t respect the fact that he needed time to wind down from work/his day and was pushing him too hard to make him into the person I wanted instead of loving him as he was. But when I said, “OK then” and went out without him, he got pissy and said I didn’t value our time together, that I wasn’t making our relationship a priority.

        But yeah, there was a lot of guessing involved, because his needs and priorities got more and more nebulous. No matter what I did, it boiled down to me being selfish and inconsiderate.

        I was young and should have broken it off much sooner.

    7. Yep. I think the majority of men in our society, even the good ones, the feminist ones, the keepers, have no idea how much time and space they take up in a relationship/living space.

      Like, okay, Husband, you wanna play that fucking computer game for seven hours at a time “because you’re in that place right now”, fine, but quit leaving your drawing crap all over the living room–untouched and unused–for weeks at a fucking time, but whining when I finally get fed up and shovel it back on your desk that “I had it the way I wanted it!” Or routinely refusing to make dinner until eleven pm because of said game, but having no fucking problem giving me puppy eyes at eight pm right after my nine hour shift when it’s MY turn.

      I may be a little angry, everybody.

        1. Totally disagree! My husband is one of the best guys out there: kind, smart, funny, respectful, hardworking, emotionally available, fantastic and involved father…but then there are times when he doesn’t want to do anything except “kill stuff” on his computer game, or when he gets upset at me for washing the dishes so I don’t, but then he gets tired so they don’t get done at all or when he cooks but it’s something that he’s experimented with or uses ingredients that he knows the other three people in the house won’t eat which means he’s sitting there shoveling food into his mouth telling us that “this is so good” while the rest of us sit there with a bowl of cereal or a cheese sandwich.
          It doesn’t mean that he’s not a good one….it means that he’s a flawed human being whose good qualities outweigh the bad.

          This weekend I promised I’d do the laundry, complained that nobody did it the right way except me, and then I got tired and didn’t want to. So we have no clean socks. Last night I sat in my bed and told him that I didn’t want to do anything except read and I refused to tuck the kids in so he ended up pausing the GoT marathon he was watching to do it. I cook the same 7 meals all of the time. My kids and I aren’t adventurous eaters, he is, but he eats what I cook and pretends that he isn’t bored with it.
          I’m a good one too….just equally flawed.

      1. I would make my own dinner and let him fend for himself if he can’t be bothered to live up to his side of the bargain.

      2. I’m so sorry, Goddess. That’s horrible and frustrating and so dismissive, and I wish it wasn’t happening he wasn’t doing it to you.

        Jedi hugs if you want them.

      3. My mom was here this past weekend, and when my husband was loading the wet laundry into the dryer and starting the next load, she started praising him/us for doing it and I was like … it’s his laundry too. He generally loads the first load, and whoever gets to it first does the rest, we usually both fold. It’s just laundry. He knows what my delicates are, I know which shirts he doesn’t want in the dryer. But it sort of astonished my mom?

        Which is funny because growing up I’m pretty sure my dad did plenty of laundry, but they divorced 11 years ago and apparently my mom does all the laundry for her new husband now 😛

        Anyway. I also sometimes realize I’ve spent a lot of time or emotional energy on something for the household/my husband and then think why did I do that? My husband can make his own lunch. He can clean the bathroom without being reminded. He will make his own doctor appointments. I don’t need to take all that responsibility on myself. It’s a revelation.

      4. I’m about to get married, and though it’s a very low-key, potluck wedding at a free venue, it turns out it still involves some planning, which is mostly falling to me. I’m becoming seriously/consistently annoyed with my fiance for the first time in our relationship. It’s like a slow poison creeping into the rest of our daily interactions. I brought it up to my therapist today and she told me that this is probably the most common thing she sees in her office: Woman in hetero relationship feels like the mom of her male partner. Feminist, take no shit women! Awesome men that date them! They still fall into this pattern, over and over and over.

        She called it “learned helplessness” on the part of the man. I’d heard that term before, so it actually made it worse to hear it in regards to the man I’m marrying in a month. She said that one partner (usually the woman) becomes over-functioning. The other partner (man) becomes under-functioning. And after years of helping people develop healthy coping strategies, the advice she had for me was to back off and let go of control. For my particular situation, that means maybe coming up with a list of things that need to be done, together, and choose which tasks to take on, and then leave him alone with his stuff. It works for me because I’m not particularly invested in the wedding details as long as people mostly have a good time. If he agrees to take on, say, music and chairs, and come the day we don’t have chairs or music, we’ll ask for a guest to volunteer dj and we’ll stand. Fuck it, right?

        Maybe for you, it can mean something like:
        “Hey, the dinner thing isn’t working consistently, so I’m going to do my own thing from now on and you can do the same.” Maybe even taking your dinner to work and eating before you get home or something. And for his drawing shit in the living room, maybe something like, “From now on, Wednesday evenings are Operation Clean Sweep. Move it or lose it.”

        Anyway, I get it. I had an ex that drove me crazy with that shit, which is why it’s triggering to deal with it, even in a very particular situation, with Fiance. I hope your husband gets his act together. 🙂

        1. Solidarity fistbumps. I’m in the same situation, including finding myself annoyed with FH consistently for the first time. And I hate the (very common) list advice because why is it still my job to make a list? And what about things where I can’t let go of control because it results in homelessness? Ugh, stupid gendered society.

          1. I had similar with my husband around our wedding and the first year of the marriage — complicated by some huge family trauma on his side around that time, which made it hard for me to call where I was standing up for my own needs versus going too hard on someone who was healing, and needed time to heal.

            The thing that made him get it, last fall, was reading the “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink” essay. Something in how that delivered the situation finally made it click. He got what I was saying about proactivity, about needing to not be the only adult, about how tired I was, and…things have been much, much better since. The very act of him trying to figure out what he wasn’t seeing, and then stepping up for not just me but us — it restored a lot of faith that he was capable of loving me well. The aftermath of his family exploding is still there. But -we- are better.

            So this is anecdata, not data, but I am coming to think that even with guys who try very hard, the privilege barrier can still create this problem. They can’t see it because they never had to; we’re describing The Colour Out of Space to them.

            I wonder if the first step is them just believing us that even if they can’t see it, there’s something there. Because trust.

          2. And what about things where I can’t let go of control because it results in homelessness?

            THIS! Thank you. That seems to be the hardest thing to get across to people. Yes I do have to pick up the slack, because I don’t want mouse shit on the food prep surfaces, I don’t want my allergies and depression aggravated by filth, I do want the bills paid, I don’t want to have to spend the money to replace things that aren’t taken care of properly.

            “If he won’t do it then I just won’t get done” only works as long as it’s things to don’t affect me. And surprise! The stuff that doesn’t get done is always stuff that affects me.

          3. @Tagamorph – “Yes I do have to pick up the slack, because I don’t want mouse shit on the food prep surfaces, I don’t want my allergies and depression aggravated by filth, I do want the bills paid, I don’t want to have to spend the money to replace things that aren’t taken care of properly.”

            God, I feel this so much. I’m so thankful for the things I’ve learned I can outsource – splitting the cost of a monthly cleaner, setting up automated bill payments through online banking, shared online calendars – but there’s still a long ass list of things that just need to get done.

        2. “Learned helplessness,” lol. Did she bring up strategic incompetence?

          (This is a hot button topic for me)

    8. YEP! I had a partner who was chronically late, thereby causing me to be late to things, and it was INFURIATING. (He is also neuro-typical.) Eventually, I decided that I was no longer going to be late to things that had firm start times, and if he was late, then he could figure out his own strategies for getting to those things. It worked! I was no longer annoyed, because I would be on time, and he had to suffer whatever consequences (sometimes major, like not getting into the event, and sometimes virtually nil) of his own behavior. He also managed to be on time more often, but this strategy was by no means a fix for that. It did fix my anger and frustration, though, and his lateness ultimately had no role in our breakup.

  4. I’m always nervous when this situation occurs… I ask someone to do something x day (I’m new to the script thing), and they say “busy, but let’s do something soon”. When they don’t plan, I feel like they are ghosting. Even when they’re not, and I know they’re not, my jerkbrain goes into overdrive.

    Even worse, is when it happens with my kids. The kids are begging to get together, but they’re always “in Tahoe that weekend”. Is it me, is it my kid? What did they do!? What did I do?!… Bleah.

    1. With someone you don’t know very well/are just getting to know, I’d invite them to do something one, maybe two more times and then I’d let it drop unless they reciprocated. Letting it drop can be a friendly thing, like, “Ok! I’d still love to hang with you sometime, why don’t you give me a call when the timing is right..” Sometimes you run into that person 6 months later and you finally get to connect the way you hoped you would.

      With someone you’re in a lifelong relationship with, like your (presumably adult?) kids, I think it’s okay to say “Kids. I’ve suggested two or three different time-frames to get together, and you’ve been too busy. I would love to see you, too, but it’s your turn to look at your calendar and do the asking/planning. I hate feeling like I’m chasing you. Block out a weekend and let’s do this, but no more “Maaaaaaa, when can I see you?” without specific dates attached. Love, Mom.”

      And then if they follow through, great! If they don’t, let it drop for a while and then invite them again and hope they got the message.

      1. I took it as zardeenah being a parent of preschool or school age children, trying to schedule play dates with other families.

          1. Well, I’m talking about my younger children (but dear god this problem lasts until junior high, will the torture never end?) But I’m tucking away the adult children advice in case I need it, which I probably will. : ) <3, CA

            Sorry I was unclear. We had a terrible actual ghosting situation with my seven year old, culminating in him sending an email message to the other family (of his own volition) "why do you hate me?" And the other mother answering "yes, we actually think your child is awful, never contact us again"

            It will be a long time until I can navigate these scheduling things without massive jerkbrain "help"

            Paranoia ensues!

          2. Yes. Paydays. Eeeevil. Posted a long comment about ghosting which a “friend’s” parent executed. Not sure it made it.

            Omg, consoling a 7 year old when their friend’s parent directly emails them with “I don’t like you, and you can’t see ‘child’ anymore.” This sucks.

          3. The play date scheduling + failure to RSVP to birthday party invites = Special Hell.

            And don’t get me started on navigating hobbies and interests with me time when you have kids. If you can master it now, it’ll be a whole lot easier when your life and time gets more complicated.

          4. OMG that parent. Terrible. I’ve seen parents get so weird and moralistic about little kid behavior, like armchair-diagnosing psychopathy based on a third-hand report of roughhousing, too. I can see thinking a kid isn’t a good influence on your kid for whatever reason but you do not frame that (especially to the kids) as There’s Something Wrong with Kevin. You frame it as “Kevin and Zane aren’t a good mix right now because of (kind assessment of interaction pattern) so we’re taking a break from playdates.”

          5. @Maryaed, thank you so much for that phrasing for diplomatically easing back on kid-to-kid interaction.
            I’m going to save that for when our youngling is a bit older.

          6. We have one family that we just totally fail at planning with. The other child is BFFs with my 7 year old but the other family is so hard to plan with. I cannot work out if they just to not like us or if is it some sort of cultural barrier maybe. Both families are from countries other than where we all currently live and I know we have different religious convictions but so far I have not been able to cut through the noise. It is frustrating because my child (and other child) are so keen to have playdates. The latest development was other family not responding to the invite to my child’s birthday party. We expected other child not to come only because she told my daughter she couldn’t and was sad about it. Nothing from the parents and no response to a direct text query the week before the party.

            I feel better having vented!

            If this were my personal social connection I would have long since dropped it but since it is my daughter I think I will send some specific dates and see if I can get anywhere. Perseverance has its place.

          7. @Maryaed I’ve used that script successfully, with a friend’s son who was badly frightening my son (they were 3 at the time). Now that they’ve grown up a bit and her son has figured out some strategies for his big feelings, we can get them together again. She still has to be a small-doses friend because the kids do have a sort of fundamental incompatibility, but I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’d told her I hated her kid!

          8. !!!
            Seriously not-okay adultism/ageism going on there! If the kids want to hang out, and your kid isn’t being physically or emotionally abusive toward the other kid (and isn’t harming the parents by e.g. stealing or breaking things in their house regularly), the parents have no valid reason to try to keep your kid away from theirs. Even if they hate your kid! Your kid is their kid’s friend; ze doesn’t have to be THEIR friend. The young are their own agentic people, with a right to determine what their own social relationships are going to look like, even if they need more support than most adults; just like how intimate partners don’t get to dictate with whom their partners will have social relationships, parents don’t get to dictate with whom their children will have social relationships, and the power differential that makes that a much easier possibility makes it worse when parents try to do so. That kind of control is abusive, and the fact that we’ve largely normalized it for parents (see the phrase “bad influence”) doesn’t make it any less abusive, it just makes our culture broken.

          9. zardeenah, someone ACTUALLY said that to your kid (via email)?!??!!! My mouth is hanging open! An adult said that to a child? What the heck?!

          10. Okay…playdates…I need a script. My daughter has a friend that I cannot stand. I don’t want my kid in her home and I don’t want this child in my home. I am fine with them being friendly at school, at scouts (where I am their leader), the occasional birthday party, etc. But overall I don’t want my daughter around this child. Why? It boils down to behavior. This little girl is rude, snarky, blatantly disrespectful. She hits, she’s mean, and she’s kind of a bully. I notice big differences in my daughters demeanor after playing with this child. My daughter is totally fine with what I’ve been doing HOWEVER…this girl and her parents just haven’t taken no for an answer. I’ve been vague, I’ve been direct, I’ve been firm…but they keep asking.
            What’s a polite way to shut down the requests for playdates?

      2. Haha, oh, god, I needed this kick in the pants. I have just moved to within an hour of my adult daughter, and I see her less than I did when we lived hundreds of miles apart, and we are constantly bemoaning this fact to each other in text messages. Enough already.

    2. Here’s my .02: I actively refuse to make plans with my own mother, because she’s mentally ill and dealing with her causes me great stress. My MIL is a lovely woman who we would like to see more, but she doesn’t understand that we can’t do last minute visits, ever, and that it’s much harder for us to get to her and her parents than it is for her to come to us. (We have longer commutes and longer workdays; she lives 2 hours away and could honestly be at my house before me on a Friday.)

      So we’d love to see her more, honestly, but the days that would work for her and she proposes never work for us, and she’s averse to planning too far into the future because that’s not what works for her. We have season tickets to our local MLS team, and that’s eating up a lot of our weekends, and we either visit local friends/hang out locally or I crash on the couch for our “free” days. I’m recovering from a serious illness and get tired quickly, so going to someone else’s house for an entire weekend and being expected to help with projects/deal with my husband’s high-maintenance grandmother is something I can’t do while being productive in life or at work.

  5. here are things to watch out for: Your boyfriend pouts or resists or gets jealous or clingy when you go to stuff by yourself. Extremely annoying in small doses, controlling and scary in medium+ doses. Time for, at minimum, a “Come along or don’t, if you don’t I’m shutting my phone off and you don’t get to text me later ’cause you’re bored” discussion and also time to evaluate whether he’s controlling and needy in other ways.

    THIS. This was the thing that made me absolutely enraged about my best friend’s husband for the longest time. Every time she was deeply involved in the final planning/pre-execution stages of something big that was important to her, grown-ass man was suddenly a petulant five-year-old child having a drama meltdown about something that was Absolutely Definitely In No Way Related to her plans. Of course.

    They went through a major rough patch, and worked through it, and I didn’t see him for about a year and a half (they live on the other side of the country from me now) and one of the things that really changed my opinion of him was when I flew in on a Thursday for a weekend event she and I were attending together, and on Friday morning he cheerfully helped her load the vehicle, kissed her, hugged me, and said, “Have fun!” Mind. Blown.

    So these things can be worked on. (If they come up. And they very well might, because those feelings of “…but… you’re gonna go have fun without me?” are perfectly normal. Especially when this is a status quo change.) But first they have to be called out.

    1. “those feelings of “…but… you’re gonna go have fun without me?” are perfectly normal.”

      This. This, this, this. It’s NORMAL to feel a little left out when someone goes off without you. Really. You’re not a bad person for feeling it.
      But, as many posters have said, it’s also respectful and polite to either be ready on time, suggest alternate arrangements, or keep your hurt to yourself if you were invited and can’t make it. No one can make every planned outing. Throwing tantrums because it doesn’t fit your plans is a good way to make people hesitate to invite you the next time.

      1. I routinely go to events alone; I actually consider movies and plays to be the ideal “I’m bored at home but I don’t want to talk to anyone” evening. I never used to feel bad about it until I met someone at a concert who asked me if my partner wasn’t sad about my being out without him. I worried about it all the way back to Partner’s place, where I asked him if it was okay. “Of course it is,” he replied, amazed. “I hate that kind of thing; you love it. You were going to shows way before you met me and I would never expect you to give up something you loved just because I wasn’t into it.” Yeah, he’s a keeper.

        1. I had sort of the opposite reaction once, from a friend. We were going to see a movie together (one I’d already seen), and when I mentioned that the first time I’d seen it I’d gone alone, I got a shocked “OMG why didn’t you call me?! I would’ve gone with you!!!!” reaction. He was appalled that I’d go to a movie or a restaurant or whatever by myself. I think he’d come even if he wasn’t interested, just so I wouldn’t have to go alone. Which, I mean it’s nice to do these things with other people, but it doesn’t *bother* me to do them by myself sometimes.

          1. I go to movies by myself all the time. The limited availability of myself and my fiends because of our crazy schedules ,Rams that they sync up in ways that sometimes make it difficult to se each other. I would much rather choose to spend that limited time with them actually conversing with them over sitting in a dark room and not being allowed to speak to each other for two hours. If I’m sitting in the dark not talking, I can do that perfectly well with a bunch of complete strangers.

            (That’s not to say I never go to movies with friends, it’s just not my first choice.)

          2. I get that reaction too! And when I was newly single (and still in pain about it), learning how to go to restaurants/movies/whatever on my own was so intimidating and uncomfortable, but now I usually *prefer* to do things solo because I can do them on my own time and process my own reaction to them, instead of worrying that whoever I’m with isn’t enjoying it as much as me/loves it when I hate it.

          3. I have a friend like this. Sometimes I genuinely want to order a beer/go see a movie/etc. without anyone else. I’ll shut off my phone, for example, and ignore it all day. My friend had texted me to ask if I wanted to do something, and then was surprised when I responded hours later, because she couldn’t imagine being unplugged, which is my greatest desire.

  6. This is an excellent question! I agree with these scripts. I also wanted to offer you how my wife and I (both of us use she/her pronouns) handle it.

    A little background information to help contextualize it. Both of us have been through a few mental health challenges at various times while we’ve been together, so we generally feel comfortable using our words to express how we feel–for example, explaining that we are out of spoons for the night. In addition, one of the reasons we gel well is that we’re both introverted, so we both understand needing space.

    For some activities, we make tentative plans. This might be, “Hey, do you want to do a date night this weekend?” “Tentatively, yes.” For us, this means that we like the idea of doing a date night, but whether we’ll actually do it depends on our energy levels, time, and other factors. It’s just a sort of pre-check of whether we have any known conflicts.

    For some things, we tend to make more on the moment plans. For example, if I’m going to get ice cream/go to a movie/take a basket weaving class, I might ask if my wife wants to go (or vice-versa). If she declines, I will go on my own, ask another friend, or invite a family member to go with me.

    In some cases, if one of us needs company, we try to use our words to ask it. This might be something like “Hey, I’m running to Target to grab the milk and bread we need–would you mind coming with me?” Generally speaking, we try to make time for each other in that case, even if it wouldn’t usually have been what we wanted to do.

    Finally, there are a small number of things that we put a priority on doing together, and that we’ve asked each other not to do alone. Specifically, our favorite show to watch together is Face Off (on SyFy). The ‘rules’ are we don’t read spoilers for new episodes and neither of us watches ahead until we can watch together. It’s our special communal activity, so we make a point of watching the episodes within a week of them airing.

    1. I think people underestimate how much good relationship bonding happens on something simple like a Target run. It’s not romantic at all, but as long as both people are in reasonable sociable moods and neither one of them is a pain while shopping, you get a good hour or two of chatting and togetherness without the sometimes high stakes of An Event We’re Attending.

      1. So very true! My wife and I, when we were first together, went grocery shopping after work (so around 8:30PM). It was time we look back on with great fondness, as we really did get to know each other during those times. (Oh, you don’t like X? great, let’s not have it for dinner. You love Y, especially in form Z? Awesome! Etc.)

      2. That’s so true! My partner and I have a one and a half year old. We are very intentional about having frequent (for parents of a toddler…) date nights, but it can be hard to stay connected when we’re both just beyond busy and exhausted. Part of that, I think, is that we don’t get casual time just the two of us. “Oh, you wanted to run out for ice cream, let’s go!” I even miss going grocery shopping together the two of us. Going out the three of us is, ha, not casual, although I love that, too.

      3. I regularly go grocery shopping with my friends because it’s a necessary activity made more pleasant by their company, and I am a busy person so I might not get to see them otherwise. It can actually be very fun!

        1. I know right? The company can make errands fun or completely awful.

          My Ex was the WORST person to grocery shop with in the world because he didn’t want anything, didn’t have preferences, didn’t want to help plan meals, and every time I put something in my basket he’d start interrogating me on why I was getting it and what I was going to do with it (I’M GOING TO EAT IT THANKS). I wound up declaring that grocery shopping would be a solo event about a year into the relationship because otherwise I was going to commit murder by gorgonzola.

          1. Best Boyfriend and I frequently comment with great pleasure and moderate wonder how enjoyable running errands together is. A Target run is an entire evening’s worth of fun, to the point that quick errands must be run solo, because if we’re together we’re having too much fun to be quick about it.

      4. My sister and I go grocery shopping every week together. Sometimes we’ll get lunch, sometimes it’s later in the day, but we go every week and it has been phenomenal in terms of really getting to know each other again and we both REALLY enjoy each others’ company!

        Plus we both need groceries, I hate driving a cart (she doesn’t mind at all), and she is one of the best couponers/deal shoppers I have ever met so I tend to come out with a few more items, but they’re generally veggies which I am bad at buying (but good at eating!) anyhow.

      5. THIS. Seriously, leisurely grocery shopping is highly underrated as a bonding activity.

  7. I do not want to take attention away from the discussion regarding the LW’s question, but CA’s mention of how planning is emotional labor made me remember a previous letter writer’s question regarding equably dividing up the work, including the socialization work, in a partnership. Does anyone remember enough to point me to it or have amazing Google abilities? I can’t seem to find it and my husband and I really need to adjust things as we’ve completely switched who’s employed. Thanks in advance!

  8. This won’t work with every hobby, but for watching movies specifically, sometimes waiting until the movie is on DVD/netflix/[instert video format here] might help. For the longest time, I had trouble actually getting my best friend to go to movies. She was one of those types to cancel at the last minute, sometimes when I was already on my way to the theater. As it turns out, she just didn’t like going to movie theaters, and having the DVD to watch (and being able to pause said DVD to grab more snacks or go pee, rather than miss part of the movie) made it much easier to actually sit down and watch a movie with her.

    So with things like movies, maybe try watching it at home and see if doing it that way versus seeing it in theaters helps?

    For the rest, the captain has some really good scripts.

    1. While I agree and you make a very good point….

      That’s not LW’s job. If her boyfriend would rather do (hobby) with some specific change in routine, then it’s on *him* to ask for that change. For example, I can’t handle loud noises very well. It’s on me to let my friends know that yes, I’d love to go to a crafts fair, but no, Famously Loud Event is too loud – how about Quieter Event? Offering ideas for how to make various hobbies more accessible to more people is great, but it’s not really useful to LW in this situation because what she’s dealing with is her partner’s lousy commitment and communication skills.

    2. Watching in a theater is part of what makes a movie so special, though. Watching DVDs is just not as good.

      1. That may a true for you thing, but for me curling up on the couch watching a DVD with my partner is better, for a number of reasons: I don’t have to worry about preplanning a time when I have the energy, the time and a babysitter at the same time my partner has the energy and the time. I don’t have to worry about being late and missing the start if there is a last minute toddler meltdown or diaper blowout. I don’t worry about having to cancel last minute if something goes wrong. I don’t have to worry about missing the plot if my brain stops tracking (which happens frequently these days, but with a DVD I can rewind and catch what I missed instead of being unable to follow the rest of the movie). I have the opportunity to be intimate with my partner if the mood strikes us, without grossing out fellow movie-goers or breaking laws, or losing the mood or energy by the time we get home. I don’t have to waste an hour there and back on public transport.

        I understand why, for you, a DVD isn’t as good, but that calculus is going to be different for person, and for each set of partners.

  9. These are great scripts and thoughts! My quick thought on this – in the moment the scripts that focus on the particulars “I’m doing this, in this time frame” should probably work best without bringing up motivation (whether he’s into it or not). If the pattern continues, sounding enthusiastic but never actually participating in coming or inviting, a talk about the bigger picture and his part in it as well as the effect it has on you is definitely in order

  10. Things that help me and partner get organised to do fun stuff together (we have mental and physical health issues and different interests):

    – we have a shared calender and we both write in our plans for the week. So anything I book in to do for career/health/my social life and I record it. He puts his stuff on there. Birthdays, anniversaries, the day the trash goes out, payday, it’s on the calender. That means it doesn’t end up being one persons job to remember this stuff and we can make time for each other if a month looks busy. If it’s not on the calender then I make plans and go anyway, the calender is out bottom line for communicating. Not on the calender? Not much I can do.

    – we have a really informal little check in on a Sunday. I might ask what is happening in terms of plans my partner has that aren’t final; how his health is, what he wants to do. He does the same with me. That way things like ‘season three is on Netflix but I plan to binge watch it on Thursday’ or ‘my pain is bad right now, can we switch our movie date to something else I can have the energy for’ can be talked about in a relaxed manner ahead of time.

    – we have to plan in rest days due to health. As much as that sucks; it helps to get a rhythm for spending time together. It is easy to get stuck in doing hobby stuff independently and not get quality date time. Then my partner gets my cranky hobby-d out self and she is not fun. We give each other the best of us, not the tired out last bit!

    – Three years in and I still have to remind my partner that it is genuinely ok for him to game for an afternoon and I am not going to sulk like his ex. My grabbing a book or going for a walk is not passive aggressive. Similarly even though there are days out he cannot attend that he isn’t well enough to go on, he encourages me to go with my friends. It is a trust thing; so long as the channels of communication are open then if one of us tells the other ‘go have fun’ then it is ok. No sulking, no placating, let your yes be your yes. We had to unlearn that fallacy of ‘what I enjoy doing without my partner is a disloyalty.’ This means being direct and fair when something is a problem and asking for what I need.

    – It took time to get into finding what we both enjoy. For us that is warhammer 40k, some tv, sci fi books, comedy on the radio, walking, board games. I have hobbies that he is not into and vice versa. I like spontaneous solitude and I need a creative den to make things in. He likes to plan his time. He has an inner circle of friends he will make firm plans with. I have a crew of friends I see sporadically as they live further away. So he won’t want to do a last minute night out. I don’t want to do a six hour dinner party with his school friends.

    We get on because we are prepared to try things with an open mind. It’s our norm to be making individual social plans and having different hobbies. I know I can use my words to ask for date time and I also know that my partner will make time without being prompted. If you are having to keep prompting and convincing your partner to do fun things with you and support you, maybe the conversation is not hobbies more than it is about affection and his priorities.

  11. so one thing that I haven’t seen addressed yet the possibility that the boyfriend really wants to join LW and consistently over estimates how many spoons he will have on the day of the thing.
    My wife frequently would (at the beginning of the week) commit to events at the end of the week, and be unable to follow through at the last minute, which caused a lot of friction between us.
    When we finally discussed it, we got a much clearer idea of what both of our expectations should be for our mutual social life.
    It’s not perfect now, but *knowing* that the pattern wasn’t malicious, or a product of her not caring, and that end-of-week spoon count is out of her hands, makes things better.
    So we plan for low spoons. What is /one/ big thing that we both want to do this weekend? What can we be tentative about, and cancel if need be?
    It might be that I’m reading into the situation, but I wanted to make sure all bases were covered.

    1. That is a point, indeed. I have endometriosis, with an extra helping of chronic pain due to my abdomen being full of scar tissue. For quite a few years, I would say “maybe” to things that I wanted to do but that weren’t high enough priorities for me to plan spoons around them – and those were things that I pretty much never got around to doing. I didn’t even know that I was doing this until my husband casually mentioned that he’d learned that a “maybe” from me counted as a “no”.

      Once that fell into place, I got far better at saying “no, I probably won’t be able to manage that”. (I’ve also since found a pain regimen that works for me, so “maybe” is now a thing that occasionally turns into a “yes”).

    2. This is a very good point, but it’s then on the boyfriend to anticipate spoon shortages and plan accordingly, rather than offloading all the negatives onto the LW.

      1. Oh, absolutely! If he’s unaware of the impact, or doesn’t know how to broach the subject with LW, I have more sympathy, but he still needs to figure out a way to manage his spoons.
        I just saw some people mentioning that it’s controlling, red-flag behavior, and while it totally could be, there are other ways to read the situation.

        1. I feel like whether it’s controlling in terms of “hah I get to make LW miss things and dance attendance on me” or controlling in terms of “I don’t need to assess my capacity because I can always offload the work of compromising onto LW”, it’s still controlling.

          1. But I think the latter situation is thoughtless, not controlling, and there’s an important distinction there, because controlling = purposeful, and thoughtless = lack of intent. The same frustration on the part of the person who does have to keep trying to make plans and picking up the partner’s slack, but different methods of addressing the situation.
            If the partner’s thoughtless, it’s a matter of making them aware and forcing them to think. In many cases, the partner does adjust and pick up the slack. In some cases they don’t, and it’s time to rethink whether the relationship is healthy.
            If the partner’s controlling, the “is this relationship healthy?” conundrum has to come up much, much sooner.

          2. Run out of nesting, but:

            I feel like making it an important distinction – especially before scripts are applied – is putting yet more/way too much effort into caring about the feelings and tribulations of the person who is hogging the LW’s time and having them miss things they care about. (I also feel like framing it as “forcing them to think” is still putting the onus on the LW to keep doing work, and infantilizing the boyfriend.)

            The behaviour is controlling, intentionally or not. The script can be applied. Information can be collected from the reaction and any changes.

            But the only practical difference you’re outlining between “they don’t MEAN to be mean” and “they mean to be mean” appears to be that if there’s deniability about whether they MEAN to be mean then the answer is for LW to do a bunch of extra work. Seriously: you are actually saying the question of “is this relationship healthy” should not be considered as early if there’s no deliberate malice.

            If someone is making you miserable and it’s not deliberate or malicious, that still doesn’t mean it’s your job to become their learning experience. It’s your job to use your words. It’s their own goddamn responsibility to decide if the effect their having is a problem and figure out what to do about it, or get help figuring out what to do about it.

  12. I find the issue of setting and enforcing a leaving time quite difficult, because running late makes me more anxious than it seems to make most other people I know. I like to have a good margin on the travel time even if it means potentially getting to a place 15-30 minutes early, especially for time critical things like the theatre or airline check-in, whereas others seem happy to risk being late or doing things I would not, such as exceeding the speed limit. The attitude always seems to be “why should I stop X activity before it suits me (or why should we travel separately) just to relieve your anxiety?”

    If the other person is a jerk about it it then becomes a meta-issue of whether they are prepared to consider your feelings, negotiate, compromise etc within the relationship, and at some point you have to consider whether to continue putting up with it or not.

    The imaginary conversation goes something like this:

    him: “You seriously want a divorce because I like leaving 15 minutes later than you do? And you always cling to the seatbelt like we’re going to crash or something. I’m sick of your craziness.”

    me: “And THAT is why I want a divorce”

    1. Reason I am NOT contemplating divorcing my husband: he tries to build in an extra ten to fifteen minutes of travel time because being late makes ME twitchy. He doesn’t particularly care. For me, being on time is a sign of respect and means I don’t miss any of the fun. I am mostly good about not using this as a standard for my friends, who often have different opinions. But my husband consistently builds in a little extra time to make me more comfortable.
      zaracat, completely reasonable thing to ask of your partner (imaginary or otherwise). It’s harder with friends, and I generally manage to be happy to see them even if they are late. But particularly of partners, I think this makes perfect sense to ask for.

      1. Unfortunately, not an imaginary partner. But a now ex-partner (for many more reasons than this).

      2. I’m habitually on time – I also get super twitchy at bring late, and my bf doesn’t prioritize being on time. But he’s learned to prioritize it for me, which makes me love him all the more.

        Basically our compromise is to show up to each other’s things at the time that person feels comfortable. He was ready in time to be 20 minutes early for my friend’s birthday party, & I found something to keep myself busy with while he was late getting ready for a work event (because he wanted to show up late enough to do the least amount of small talk).

        He learned pretty early that being early/prompt and planning things out was important to me because I got to a point in my dating life where I finally learned that it was OK to just not give a frick and do my thing – when he was late for dinner, I ate without him. When he tried to make last minute plans, I wouldn’t cancel plans I’d already made with friends.

        LW, just do your thing. When you say you’re going out – go out. When you want to see your movie, make solid plans on when you’re seeing it (maybe with other friends) and your bf can go or not. Or he’ll have to come up with a specific alternate day.

        Either your bf will join in or he won’t, and it sounds like you’ll be happy either way. Keeping you in limbo isn’t fair, and there’s nothing in the dating rulebook that says you can’t just go.

        Practice “I need to leave now – I’ll just meet you there. Text me if you can’t make it after all.”
        “It’s fine if you can’t come – Friend and I will do some catching up, and you can come along next time.”
        “Friend and I made plans to see the Martian” (it’s not quite a lie if you were the one to reach out to Friend for these plans…) “Can you come on [date]? Oh that’s too bad – let me know what date you can go & I’ll see it again with you.”

    2. Being late tends to make me anxious moreso than my SO – not to the degree I want to be a half hour early (except to the airport! Or job interviews perhaps!) but I like to be 5 min early if it’s something where being on time matters. My partner seems to like to calculate exactly how much time it takes to arrive on time and leave with no wiggle room, which drives me a little nuts sometimes because Things Come Up.
      Anyway, I think both people need to manage their feelings to some degree – I need to calm myself over things that don’t matter (I actually think movies don’t matter so much because there’s always a half hour of previews, most of which I don’t care about, or causal parties where being early is actually kind of weird, or a day-trip together to a place that I just Wanted An Early Start on) but at the same time, communicate when I really want to be heading out the door for something more time-sensitive and why. My SO in turn is respectful when I make it clear something is important to me and why.

      1. No real substance to add, but re: movies. I’ve noticed sometimes that theaters start previews at the listed start time and other times they start the movie at the listed start time, so occasionally it makes a real different 😉 I haven’t figured out if it varies theater-to-theater or a pattern that changes every couple of years, but it drives me nuts! Every time I think I have an extra few minutes, nope, turns out this time they started the movie at 11:15, not the previews.

        1. Possibly it’s a matinee thing? I got bit by that a couple of times until I figured out that (at my local theatre, not at all ones) it was early showings that didn’t have trailers beforehand.

    3. I am exactly the same: the feeling of being late makes me super anxious. And like you, my ex totally had a different relationship to time. We were supposed to be there at 3? Well we left the HOUSE at 3, so we’re on time, never mind that it takes 45 minutes to get there.

      Mr Bells, though, asks me specifically “What time do you want to leave?” and he’s ready at that time, without fail. Sometimes he will gently point out that we probably do not need to allow an hour travel time for something that is 3 miles away, but mostly he’s ok with my need to be everywhere ridiculously early.

  13. I’m a bit shocked by the second half of this question. My parents and I did social activities together all through my teens (including a lot of dancing, as it happens!)

    The routine was to negotiate a hard and fast leaving time with a couple of hours’ notice (so maybe at 6pm we’d all agree to be ready to go by 8.30), and then anyone who hadn’t got ready by that time didn’t go. The idea of one person waiting for another to finish a game or a chapter doesn’t compute.

    LW, I’m upset on your behalf that you’re having to deal with that. Your boyfriend might be lovely in other ways but he is lacking consideration in this area.

    1. “The idea of one person waiting for another to finish a game or a chapter doesn’t compute.”

      This was the case with dinner growing up – we ate together, and we were expected to come when called (except for my father, who sometimes worked at home and we would wait a few minutes and then just start without him if he didn’t turn up). The problem was that especially later when he took over cooking dinner we had no idea when dinner would actually be ready and could rarely get a useful answer if we asked. It could be anywhere between about 7pm and 9.30pm. So I would never want to start anything new that would have to be interrupted and wasted so much time in the evenings playing mindless short browser games or just browsing the web when I’d rather have been playing more involved video games, watching movies, etc. So aggravating.

  14. In some cases, I think this is a passive way of putting on an appearance of showing interest in partner’s passions without actually doing anything about it. The boyfriend may have no intention of watching the movie, have no real interest, but thinks “Well, I’d better at least pretend to want to see it, otherwise partner will think badly of me.”
    Boyfriend is going to have to stop tip-toeing around, if this is the case. I don’t watch WW2 movies with my partner and I don’t expect him to like Orphan Black. It’s just a fact that no two people are going to have exactly the same interests.

    1. Yep, this is how I read the situation as well. Hopefully this can be nipped in the bud with an “it’s okay sometimes I go do my thing and you do yours” conversation, and LW can stress that she won’t be offended if there are hobbies of hers the boyfriend doesn’t want to partake in.

      However, as others have pointed out, his reaction to this will be very telling. If there’s something LW wants to do and the boyfriend doesn’t, and he gives her a hard time about doing it without him, time to run.

  15. For things I am really interested in doing (seeing the movie on a big screen, not wanting to duck spoilers on key movie/tv releases), I would tell my former partner who had similar tendencies that I would be going AND willing to go/watch again another if partner wanted to do it together, but couldn’t meet my specific day/time schedule.

    Partner liked having the idea of us doing it together preserved. This also freed me from the planning part, because if he wanted to have us go or watch, it was entirely on him to suggest it and schedule it. Of course, that never happened.

  16. Upthread, flynnthecat1 mentioned ADHD, and yeah, the boyfriend’s behavior reads super ADHD to me. I used to do stuff like that a lot before I was medicated. I’m not saying it’s not selfish, because it is, and I own that about my behavior. In my experience, one of the weirdnesses about ADHD is that not only is it very hard to stay with a boring or unrewarding task, but it is VERY (read: *VERRRRRRRRRY*) hard to break away from a compelling task. In the beforetime, having my focus broken was almost physically painful. I note with particular interest, LW, that you use the specific example of your boyfriend wanting to finish a game. That is the reason I don’t game. I don’t even play Minesweeper anymore. For me, there is no such thing for me as “one quick game of Minesweeper.” There is only “two hours lost in Minesweeper.” Hard limits help. Something like, “I have to leave at seven, so I need to find a stopping place by 6:45 and get ready to go.” Because that’s another weirdness of ADHD: we’re not good at time. ADHD involves a short-term memory deficit, one of the results of which is that we are not good at tracking the passage of time. For me, one of the results is that, if I’m not careful, I will hear, “Be there at eight,” and I think, “Eight o’clock, right!” but through some black-box mental process that ends up with me looking at the clock and saying, “Eight o’clock! Time to get ready to go!” I have been HOURS late to things. It’s not cool.

    Two things (aside from medication) that have helped have been first, visualizing arriving at the event at eight o’clock, and then thinking backward through all the steps of getting there and making a reasonable estimate of how long each of those steps will take. This takes practice. One mistake I used to make was only adding drive time to my estimate and neglecting to add getting dressed, finding shoes, changing outfits, finding other shoes–all the normal getting-ready stuff. (That mental process was “Okay, leave at seven! Right!” and then *getting up from my task* at seven, as though I could get up from grading papers and walk straight out the door.) I’m from LA, and I used to calculate drive time based solely on freeway time, which would often make me up to half an hour late. You get the picture. Visualize ALL THE THINGS. It helps.

    The second thing that has helped was actually my New Year’s resolution this year: build more waiting around into my schedule. I used to hate waiting around, so I would calculate my schedule within a one-minute tolerance. If I were three minutes early–which never happened–I would be irritated and would look for a task to fill those three minutes. Being early felt like a waste of time. Have you ever missed a plane? I have. I’ve missed four. Once, I almost missed a connecting flight. I now add five to fifteen minutes of waiting around into my schedule. Things have gotten *much* better.

    Obviously, I don’t know whether your boyfriend has ADHD, but I feel like a lot of this would work for anyone. Hope it helps. 🙂

    1. I have ADHD and all the difficulties about task-switching and magical thinking about time rings true to me!

      The reason we have a No internet-diagnosing of strangers rule (“but it could be [CONDITION]” is that everything you laid out there is for the boyfriend to figure out and handle, not the LW to manage. His behaviors are the issue, and she needs ways to deal with the behaviors and their impact on her life. “I am leaving at 8, come along if you like” is useful because it communicates a boundary to the boyfriend. If he doesn’t rally and come OR give her a firm decline (“I am really absorbed in my game, you should go ahead!”), even if he has a hard time helping it, it’s still annoying for the LW.

      I really like your description of the strategies you used to break the patterns. As a moderator, though, I don’t want the thread to become about ADHD and attendant strategies. The forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com might be a good place for a side discussion.

      1. Oh, of course! I mentioned ADHD only because of the huge difference I’ve experienced since I started medication. That experience allows me to articulate the difference between people with time problems and people without–I was hoping to clarify–but not excuse–the behavior for punctual people and possibly to help non-punctual people. I was also hoping with my last line explicitly not to diagnose anyone. I also re-read a few times to try to be sure that I was putting everything in terms of what *I* do because it’s *my* problem to solve; I hoped that would translate as things the *boyfriend* could do because it’s *his* problem to solve. I wasn’t trying to make it about ADHD; I was trying to talk about habitual inconsideration and lateness in terms of my own experience. I am sorry that I was not clearer about my aims. Thank you for your reply! I have learned so much here, and I really appreciate everything you do! 🙂

    2. Thank you for writing this post. This is me, 100%. I had my DH read it right away, to try to explain how hard changing tasks can be for me, and how hard it is to keep track of time.

      I have no feel for what 5-20 minutes feels like. If I’m doing nothing, I can keep track, sort of. But the minute anything catches my attention, time stops registering.

      I also couldn’t articulate that part about things not sticking in short term memory. It’s like I’m not the one in charge of what gets kept, and what slips out. My brain retains some stuff, and other stuff just never makes it across whatever that divide is.

      The other thing that happens is, I may eventually be able to remember something verbatim, but only AFTER something else jogs my memory first. Before that, it’s like it never happened. Like my brain is a maze, and the memory is at the center of it, but something ate all the breadcrumbs that should have been left to find it again. If I accidentally stumble across it, it’s like it just happened and everything is clear, but I still couldn’t explain how I found it this time. Or do it again.

    3. Ooooh, yeah. The difference between me and my brother is I do all those things you describe and have enforced coping strategy ‘rules’ (for example, I am obsessive about memorising the time it takes me to walk places, and I just automatically drop things when people ask because I know I won’t be able to tear my head out of it, so there’s no point working round my focus on stuff) and he doesn’t. I turn up places on time, and wouldn’t be the OP’s bf, because I always try and be *early* (and end up ‘late on time’).

      I do all that stuff so well that my own parents don’t believe I have ADHD. My brother doesn’t do that, and comes across as lazy, selfish and frustrating, as well as terminally late. I’m pretty sure there’s some emotional labour stuff involved (he’s youngest, I’m eldest, he got babied and everyone just accepts he’s hopeless and works round him *coughmissingstaircough*, I was supposed to be responsible, so I took the effort to learn all these things to avoid). It’s really hard, but acknowledging you need to adjust your approach to stop impacting other people too much because your brain is never going to match up nicely with real world schedules is a majorly important first step.

      And… yeah, the bit that’s on the bf is how he reacts when he finds out he’s causing problems. Shrugging and turning back to his game? Bad. Implementing strategies (whether general or mental health related or whatever), and needing help enforcing them? Good.

      And hard and fast rules/consequences? Super helpful. (In my brother’s case, he never bothers adjust anything until people stop working round him – for example, waking him up on time. If I let him be late out the door, he learns for next time and will be 5min late instead of “an hour while people stand around waiting for him becoming increasingly late for work”, but he’ll continue to be late as long as my parents keep letting him outsource that worry. In my case, as long as there’s a ‘maybe’ rather than a hard ‘leaving at X’ then my brain has trouble lining everything up in time to get there at the right time and is either late or overspends energy on it and ends up exhausted).

    4. My iPhone introduced a major shift change: instead of ‘I’m early for work/a routine appointment, I could have done so many more interesting things’ and feeling that I’m wasting perfectly good time waiting, I now simply shift the location of my [reading/Twitter/writing/YouTube watching] to [the work car park, the waiting room]. I do the same (fun) things I’d do at home, so I don’t feel that I’m losing out.

      (I’ve missed two planes; one to bad planning, the other to catastrophic delays. I caught one plane with a minute to spare and six hours for a 3.5h journey. That kind of made up for the missed one.)

      1. I (also ADHD) had a HUGE shift when I got an iPhone. Timers! Reminders! Habitica! I show up at places early!

    5. This sounds really familiar. As in, even down to the “only builds in driving time” familiar. Not sure about the ADHD, but if he asks about strategies I will recommend.

  17. LW, take it from my younger self who missed out on a lot of things during a bad relationship and who spent a lot of time not going to nice places, not doing fun things, and hanging around in places they didn’t want to be, bored and exhausted because my ex couldn’t be bothered to either get into gear or say ‘I’m not interested, have fun without me’: Follow the script of decide what you want to do, set a time and place, AND THEN GO AND HAVE FUN.

    To add insult to injury, if you’re the person who says ‘let’s go. I really want to see this film. When do you have time. There’s only a few days left. We really need to go today if we want to make it at all.’ and ‘I would like to go home now, I’m tired. I really need to go home now. I’m nearly falling asleep on my feet and I’m driving, I NEED TO GO HOME’ you’ll be “nagging him” and he’ll be pitied universally.

  18. Dear LW,

    I love the Captain’s answer to you.

    I too have had good results with “I am doing [thing] and leaving at [time]. It would be great if you’d join me.”

    By good results I mean that I have enjoyed [thing], sometimes alone, sometimes with partner.

    One thing to watch for though is if (and how) he regulates your participation in things you do together. For example, if the two of you watch movies together, does he get upset if you craft at the same time?

  19. LW, to be brutally clear, go see the Martian alone. Leave for dancing on time and without him. His response to this will let you know where you stand – he might up his game when he realises he’ll be left behind (a best case scenario where it turns out he’s just a bit disorganised about it but really wants to do the thing). He might be really upset about it (which keep in mind is pretty crappy because your alternative is to never do what you want to do). He might throw up all sorts of other bariers to going out and doing your thing, such as massive drama and crises and inconvenience (if this happens flee from the evil bees). Maybe he’ll just stop acting interested and you’ll go to everything alone, and after a while of that you’ll decide if you can be happy in that sort of set up.

    I have a terrible history with this stuff after dating a guy who was often super interested in theory in doing things with me but consistently failed to *actually do them*. This guy also found ways to stop me from doing them. It was the house of evil bees, basically, and it slowly and stealthily ruined my social life. I would take more and more care to only ask him to do things I thought he liked, and he would gradually retreat from all of them while I became increasingly grateful for whatever scraps of attention I got and felt like the most selfish and demanding person in the world.

    I would say even if you go do things it can be pretty depressing and confusing, because we do want our partners to take an interest in at least some of the things we like, and do some things together. Constantly getting your hopes up and being disappointed is pretty upsetting long term. You’re making bids for attention and affection and interest when you ask him to share things with you. He’s acting like he’s reciprocating and then in practice rejecting you – it’s fine if it’s occasional but as a long term pattern it can make you feel deeply unloved. As someone else mentioned above its potentially a tactic used by people who want to get all the benefits of giving you what you want without actually doing it, and in my experience such people are at best lacking in self awareness and planning skills, and at worst are manipulative, gasslighting arseholes.

  20. LW, how much have you guys talked about activities you want to share and activities that you don’t care one way or the other. You tell us that you don’t mind if he doesn’t want to go, but does he know that? It might help to lay it out very clearly that doing A and B activity with you is 100% optional for him. If he wants to go, great! If he doesn’t, also great! It probably means you will be doing the thing, without trying to work it around his schedule. He can make it when he makes it. C and D activity are things you would really like to share together if possible. So more willing to plan around each other to make it work. E activity is 0% optional (important family event, taking you to your birthday dinner, etc) and you both must be on the same page about doing it and when. Laying it out like that and even using a specific agreed upon code or language (this activity is a category D for me!) could help a lot for him to understand that he can say no to certain ones. It sounds like he wants to do things with you that he isn’t super excited about because he knows it makes you happy, without really understanding that he is allowed to say no, sometimes and to some categories, more often.

    1. Yeah, I was going to say this. It may be that LW really does want him to go with her, and he is screwing things up by saying neither yes nor no.

      But it also seems likely that he feels like he SHOULD go to anything LW invites him to, that he hears the request as “we should do X together,” and thinks “when can we do that, oh, we’re both busy, not sure when we’ll be able to” not “I’m going to do X, I don’t know if it’s your sort of thing but you can come if you like” because that was usually the case in his previous relationship. Like, if he thinks “it’s ok, go without me” is basically the equivalent of “fuck you”, it’s not surprising he’s not managing to come out with that, but if he’s not really into it, it’s not surprising he’s dragging his feet on scheduling.

      In which case, making the point “I’d like it if you came to SOME of the things I’m into, but I don’t expect you to come to ALL of them” may make him feel relieved.

      1. Your entire second paragraph, though. Especially this bit ” Like, if he thinks “it’s ok, go without me” is basically the equivalent of “fuck you”…it wouldn’t surprise me if this was actually the case, given some things he’s said/done. Seriously, “Go take photos,I’m going to stay here with this book, text me when you’re done” is not code for “I’m secretly furious and you need to apologise right now.”

    2. I like this! I’ve tried to use my words about when I really want him to come with me and when I don’t need him to, but I’m not sure he always believes me because reasons reasons dirty lens. A clear framework would probably help a lot with that.

  21. I struggle with punctuality sometimes, and I’m sure that I’ve many times been the partner who was “just finishing this one thing real fast, I swear I’ll be ready to go in five minutes” for at least half an hour. I’m really bad at managing my time, and sometimes it really helps me when someone says “Okay, I’m going to go now, come join me when you’re ready.” Or, in situations where that’s not possible (you’re sharing a ride or the thing has a strict start time) I think it’s totally reasonable for people to say to me “I want to be there on time, so I’m leaving in six minutes,” and then do so. Not sure if your boyfriend struggles with time management too, but maybe this is something to try in the moment when he’s begging you to wait five more minutes while he wraps up his game or whatever.

    Also, maybe it would help if he were more explicit about how he felt about an invitation. For example, if you invite him to something and he’s feeling like it sounds nice in theory but he’s not sure where his spoon count will be on that day, or whatever, he might say something like “That sounds nice, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel when the time comes — I might be too tired after being in class all that day. Can I give you a tentative yes for now, and we’ll talk again the day of?” This way, you can anticipate and plan for the fact that he might not be there, or even say when necessary “Well, the tickets cost a lot/they require an RSVP/I want to be sure I have a dancing partner, so I’ll find someone else to go to this thing with and you and I can do something else together soon.”

    Also, if this is something you aren’t yet doing, you can also be explicit about what you want when you invite him to stuff. Are you looking for fun stuff to do together but not attached to one particular idea? “I want to do something fun together this weekend! Want to go to that pottery class on Saturday night? Or I’m open to other ideas too.” Are you really really looking forward to doing a particular thing soon and want to know if he’d like to come with? “I’m going to go see The Martian some night after work this week. Do you want to come with?” “There’s a really special milonga happening on Thursday night, and I’m going. Want to come?”

  22. I would love to know if Captain or commenters can shed any light on a related problem: when you make vague plans to do something with someone and then they go ahead and do the thing without you. For example, you mention this great new restaurant and ask if they’d like to try it with you, and they say yes, and the next thing you know they’ve been to the restaurant on their own, or with another friend.

    When I experienced this in a work context, the motivation was pretty clear-cut: my boss was organising a big screening of a film important to our industry and the boss of another department got hold of a copy of the film and screened it in the office during work hours at very short notice. Enough people saw the film that my boss’s screening event was now rendered pointless and we had to cancel it. I saw that as a very obvious attempt to undermine my boss. In a friendship context it doesn’t seem to be done with a bad motive but it’s still pretty hurtful. It’s kind of the opposite of the LW’s problem in that people who do this obviously have no problem getting organised to do something…but it still means that you miss out on things because they’re going ahead and doing the things you suggested alone while you’re waiting for them to get back to you with some dates for doing those things together.

    1. That sucks! It also seems like you might need to be the one to get dates out into the conversation with some people you know, and with others, “Was that place good? It’s been on my list ever since you mentioned it, let’s go on (day) if you are up for it.”

    2. Ugh, this sort of thing sucks especially because it can be done innocently, carelessly, or out of desire to undermine. I could totally see somebody going “oh yeah, New Restaurant…someone mentioned that…it sounded really good…hey Anna, want to go to New Restaurant?” forgetting it was Lucy who suggested it in the first place. But it’s hurtful either way, for sure.

      1. I think in my case it’s not done maliciously – it’s because the opportunity arises, like they’re passing the restaurant anyway or they have an unexpected day off to see the film, and they just choose to do it right then. I think I find it hurtful because in their position, if I’d said I would do something with someone and then a great opportunity came up to do it without them, I would at the very least give them a heads-up and possibly even pass up the opportunity, because in my mind, our previous discussion about doing the thing together counts as an agreement. Different expectations/implicit “codes” of behaviour, I guess.

        So my usual response is to blurt out something like “But I thought we were going to go together!” or whatever in a disappointed and accusing voice. The Captain’s response is a lot more positive.

        It seems to happen most when the thing itself is very easy for the other person to do (round the corner from their house, happening on their usual day off, etc) and therefore involving me probably feels like extra work. So maybe I need to take the Captain’s suggestion and be very proactive about suggesting dates so they don’t have to do that part. And also maybe I need to move faster instead of always thinking “She said she’d let me know when she’s free to do X, so she definitely won’t do X without me,” when that’s been proved time and time again not to be true!

        1. I sympathize. I had a friend with whom I would make plans to go to specific movie openings (we are fellow Big Movie dorks) with, but when when the time came to buy tickets he would (a) already have tickets, but I could come along if I wanted or (b) he had decided to go/not go to the midnight show, whatever. Ultimately, I gave up planning to hang out with him because it always ended up with me tagging along with a bunch of people I hardly knew or going by myself when I had planned to go with him. In other words, it hurt my feelings. I still see him from time to time, and we talk about the movies we like, etc, but I no longer make plans with him because repeated disappointment is not something I’m hoping to get from a friendship.

        2. I sometimes do this but I generally do it in a context of “hey I tried that restaurant you said and it was awesome, want to go together?” My intention isn’t to not go with the other person anymore, it’s more that I happened to try it due to opportunity arising. I generally try not to do it for big stuff like a museum exhibit or something though

          I wonder if you could say something like, “Oh how was it, I’ve been interested in going there, want to go again with me?” Maybe that will jog their memory and they will apologize or they would at least be open to going again with you. That might help you weed out who’s malicious and who is just kind of oblivious (which is still annoying)

    3. I dunno, I think you might be reading more negative intent into those than is really there. I could see myself happily agreeing to go to Restaurant with you, but I wouldn’t see that as a reason to say no if other friend also asked me to visit Restaurant, or indeed to not suggest it myself if going to Restaurant suited the plans and needs of both Other Friend and myself. The way I’d see it, I’ve agreed to go to Restaurant with you, and I will, but you don’t own Restaurant, and I don’t owe it to you to keep myself free of Restaurant until we do it together, especially if we just have a vague “let’s try that some time” deal. I don’t think it’s quite like keeping myself spoiler-free; every visit to a restaurant is different. Obviously, if I am your life partner, and Restaurants are your passion and this one in particular is super important to you, I am insensitive. But otherwise? If I am keeping my original commitment to you, I don’t really see what I’ve done wrong.

      Similarly workwise: you know your workplace a lot better than me, obvs, but I can see lots of reasons why Other Dept Boss did what he did that had nothing to do with undermining Boss. Undermining other people in that way is a pretty high-risk proposition, after all. I’m obviously missing a lot of context and perhaps you know for other reasons that this was in fact undermining, but on the bare facts presented, deliberately undermining someone would be low down the list of probabilities. Hanlon’s Razor, and so on.

      1. Sarahnova, I’m not reading any negative *intent* at all – I was asking: what I can do about this behaviour that is not intended in a negative way but nevertheless has negative consequences for me? Although it’s very different behaviour, the consequences for me are very similar to what the LW describes – hanging around waiting for someone to do the thing you agreed to do together, and then being disappointed when it doesn’t happen. I like the Captain’s suggestions of being way more proactive and specific with dates.

        In the context of my workplace, then yes, it was malice all right. (Hanlon’s Razor is an absolutely marvellous tool for malicious people to wield when they want plausible deniability…) It was mainly Other Dept Boss’s department who made scheduling the film screening such a long-winded and difficult process in the first place; various key people, including Other Dept Boss, wouldn’t commit to any of the dates we offered, which meant we had huge difficulty fixing a date to book the room, book the caterers etc. So Other Dept Boss saw all the emails about our event. He was well aware that we were trying to organise this big event and that we wanted his department’s participation. I think he deliberately let us put lots of work in and provisionally book the caterer before scooping us with his own impromptu screening of that exact film. There was a long history of bad feeling between him and my boss.

        1. Fair enough re: work issue; malice certainly exists.

          On a personal basis, though, I can think of legitimate reasons why Friend might end up going to Restaurant with Other Friend that don’t have to do with their relationship with you. I’m guessing the issue stems from “I feel hurt that you prioritised doing Thing with Other Person when you didn’t prioritise it with me”? I’m still not sure I understand the relevance of its being the same restaurant (I’m assuming that the person didn’t make you promise “Don’t go there without me!”), but if they’re a close friend, using your words definitely applies IMO; if they’re not, I think the Captain’s rule of 1-2 proposals of specific dates, then dropping it and taking the feedback that they are not going to prioritise it right now, is probably the implication.

          1. The relevance of it being the same restaurant is that they’re going ahead and enjoying the delicious shrimp while I’m putting my own plans to go there on hold because I’m waiting for them to get back to me with dates. I mean, I too could just do all the fun things alone and save myself the hassle of coordinating schedules with anybody else, but I suggest things to friends because I like them and want to spend time with them! So when I suggest something and the other person says “Yes, great, I’ll let you know when my day off is,” and then just goes ahead and does the thing alone and doesn’t tell me until after the fact, it’s hurtful because if they so demonstrably have the time and inclination to do the actual activity, why did they flake so hard on doing it *with me*? And my jerkbrain goes into overdrive…

            Like I said upthread, I think this an issue of different expectations/codes of behaviour and maybe I take verbal commitments more literally/seriously than other people – maybe too literally/seriously?

          2. gryphon: I think you absolutely should do all sorts of fun things alone if it’s become an immense hassle to try to schedule them with someone. Yes, it can often be hard to coordinate schedules, so maybe you should say “I’m doing X thing on Y day, I would love it if you joined me” and then do the thing. Then you get the do the thing, and it’s in company if people can make it, and if not you still get to do the thing. That is, of course, if the things you really want is to do the thing, rather than to hang out with the friend as a motivating factor.

            It sounds like you and your friends have different ideas of what making an actual plan, as opposed to a suggestion, looks like, and the best way to address that is probably to just talk to them individually about it.

        2. I think it’s an issue of both of you saying the same thing but meaning/interpreting something different from it. I had this issue with some friends I made who were from other cultures/countries, where I learned that basically I was making plans in pen, and they were making them in pencil. My “let’s do dinner on Saturday!” implied that we were definitely on for dinner Saturday, and if god forbid something else came up, we’d get in contact to cancel/reschedule. Their “let’s do dinner Saturday!” implied that they’d love to do dinner unless something else came up, and we’d just confirm on Saturday if our stars aligned and dinner was still on.
          So it sounds like you’re a “plans in pen” person, and some of your friends are “plans in pencil” people, which can definitely be frustrating! Maybe the key is using different wording when you make plans, and establishing a common language with these friends around the things you want to do.
          I learned to make it clear I was set on an event/activity, and tell them specifically to contact me by X day to confirm, otherwise I’d just assume it was off. And on X day, I’d just make other plans (eg invite someone else to the same thing, or just do something else). The pencil friends would rarely if ever get mad about me making other plans – it was what they were doing anyway the whole time. It’s still not a perfect system, but there are slightly fewer hurt feelings on my part at least.
          So maybe start saying “OK, let me know by XX if/when you’re available to go.” And then on XX the restaurant or activity is no longer locked down to that friend, and you can consider yourself free to just go by yourself or with someone else.

        3. Ran out of nesting, but I just wanted to second CA’s advice: for closer friends, be the one to suggest a date, for more distant friends, let it go and don’t stress.

          It sounds a bit like there’s an imbalance of expectations with some of your friends. The “plans in pen” vs “plans in pencil” observation was also astute. However, I’d say if you’re regularly trying to plan stuff with Friend and Friend doesn’t come through, dial back your efforts and put more energy into other relationships. Friend might not be quite as into you as you are into them, or Friend might want social space for other people and doesn’t have the social skills to say so outright. One phrase I’ve heard on this board is “people who like you will act like they like you,” but I’ll add that someone can like a person quite a lot and still run into these imbalances.

          1. Thanks, SM and h, the pen vs pencil thing is what I was trying to get at! I like the idea of setting very clear date boundaries and I think that will go at least part of the way to solving this problem. That and being way more proactive about planning.

  23. i want to signal-boost
    1) that this behavior is very disrespectful of your time. disrespectful behaviors are a legitimate problem no matter how awesome the guy otherwise seems.
    2) chances are that the only way to break this particular behavior pattern is to clearly articulate a cutoff time and leave without him if he doesn’t make said cutoff time.
    3) tantrums, whining, or gaslighting in response to (2) is a very bad sign.

  24. Oh man – tangent to “he can pause the game” – I have friends whose relationships were ruined by (the un-pausable nature of MMORPGs) combined with (their inability to write/use scripts like the ones the Captain suggests here).

    Do not let this happen to you! Use the scripts! Set the boundaries! This doesn’t have to be relationship-ending, but it’s a danger.

    1. Yeah games can be tricky. If you’re playing with other people then quittingay leave them in a bit of a lunch depending on the nature of the game, and it can also be easy to get sidetracked when someone else adds “oh yeah while you’re on can you help me with…?” (And even single player games can be evil thanks to save points–we once left for dinner an hour late due to a combination of this and high difficulty)

      I don’t think that really changes the situation though–if the game is more important to him go alone, and if it matters that much he’ll make it work. A decent gamer group understands that RL aggro is important, and regardless you need to force a choice if this is a pattern.

      1. Goodness, for sure! Plus so many games now make it easier to continue stuff if someone has to drop unexpectedly/early, so it’s not the case where you’re suddenly messing stuff up for 39 other people.

        My Ex had so many arguments with me about leaving on time because it would negatively impact his Hearthstone/DOTA rating. If he couldn’t figure out that “we need to leave in an hour” meant “so you have time for ONE game” then it really wasn’t on me, and I’d leave without him (and he’d get upset). It’s not like I didn’t play these games too, but I knew that “can you tank this dungeon for us” would mean a 45-min commitment no matter how fast people think they can clear it and would answer in accordance to how much time I realistically had.

        1. As you say, if the event is not a surprise they know how long they have when they sit down to start playing. I know people struggle with this sort of planning, but beyond a certain point I expect a partner to work out how to find the time to socialise with me or do chores or whatever. What’s extremely telling to me on hindsight was that exes of mine didn’t have trouble being ready mostly on time for things that mattered to them – for example none of them were sitting on their computer for an hour after they were supposed to leave for a hobby they were into. If someone can be mostly reliable about stuff that matters to them but not for stuff that matters to you it’s a clear sign that it’s about priorities and not difficulty in making and sticking to plans.

          1. Yes yes yes! I know folks who struggle with this kind of planning too, but they deliberately don’t put themselves in situations where they have to deal with it or have methods of managing it (not sitting down to play at all and doing something else instead, setting really annoying alarms in other rooms, email reminders, etc). But they have this sort of problem with everything.

            Ex only had issues when it was a thing I wanted to do, or was a thing we were going to do together. No problems whatsoever when it was things like work, or professional events, or things he really wanted to do.

            90% of our relationship issues can be attributed to “he didn’t give a shit about me” and it’s a little frustrating to still be teasing parts of that out.

            (PS I always love what you have to say around here, so thank you!)

        2. I had those kinds of interactions with my high-school boyfriend. My parents were pretty strict, and so the time we could spend together outside of school was limited. This especially affected things during the summers. (He was a giant sexually abusive asshole, and my parents were right to worry, but they didn’t handle it correctly…but that’s another story.)
          Anyway, one day I went over to his house, and I could only visit for something like an hour. I called him on the way, he knew I would arrive imminently. And not 5 minutes before I arrived…he committed himself to a half-hour long World of Warcraft mission.

          So, so rude.

      2. Ok so referring to ‘leaving at the time at which it is necessary to leave for an activity boyfriend has voluntarily signed up to do’ as ‘RL aggro’ seems warped.

        LW should not have to nag boyfriend to do a thing he has insisted he wants to do, and referring to her desire to leave on time as aggro plays into this weird gendered dynamic where all the requests women make of men are by default unreasonable and annoying, which is Not A Cool Dynamic.

    2. I’d fucking had it when my husband ignored me and the friend who’d come over to watch TV for TWO HOURS because “I can’t pause the game.”

      It took me crying tears of frustration for him to grasp that that was really rude and I was genuinely hurt that he’d done that.

  25. As someone who also worked while going to school, I so sympathize that rare free/fun time is being curtailed by BF’s vagueness acting on his commitments. This would have gotten me very upset.

    Whatever his issue is, let him confront it because LW is managing their own time. The scripts are so good for simply telling the truth; always a powerful move.

    In fact, if BF rarely or never goes or does certain events, I would even skip the invite. Out of consideration.

  26. I really wanted to see Age of Ultron in the Theater, and Crimson Peak and Deadpool and Carol and so many other movies and concerts and social occasions. Most of these things happen in the evening when I am out of spoons. I now tell my husband to give us two chances to see a matinee and if I can’t he should see it himself.
    I have also instituted Creativity Saturdays at our house on Saturday afternoons (so after farmer’s markets but before night time plans)
    So that people can come to me and do whatever their craft is while we all sit around and talk and eat snacks.
    Chronic illness/pain have made me fairly unreliable and fairly forgetful, I really hate that. But I don’t ever tell SO or anyone else to wait just a little longer until their social thing is ruined.

  27. (Please delete if this is a double post; the internet just ate it….)

    This has kind of been referred to, but in case BF is like my family… We had this thing about how “the time you leave for Thing” is actually “the time you start getting ready to walk out the door for Thing”, which involved much frustration, miscommunication, and lateness. I especially remember that my dad would get ready, then start doing Preferred Waiting Activity while the rest of us were getting ready, which communicated to us that we still had more time, so he’d be sitting there waiting and getting frustrated about how the rest of us weren’t ready… etc. (I finally, as an adult, learned to say things like, “I am ready to walk out the door. I am going to sit here and read a book until you are ready too, but the moment you are ready I can stand up and go outside to the car,” so no one would think I was stalling or something.)

    So IF BF has that approach to things and IF it’s an event you want him to come to, work that extra bit of time into your ultimatum time. For example, if you have to leave at 7:00 to be on time, tell him, “I’m leaving at 6:45 to go to the dance; if you want to come with me, then be ready by then.” If at 6:45 he is still playing and wants to finish up the level he’s on, or otherwise not trying to get ready, then you can walk out the door and show up early, and use the extra time to change into dance shoes, hug everyone, hang up your coat, or whatever else you do when you go dancing. If on the other hand at 6:45 he is stopping the game, grabbing his shoes, running a comb through his hair, finding his wallet, etc., and you think he’ll be ready on time, then wait until 7:00 for him (and then leave if he hasn’t gotten it together by then).

    I know that some people would still find this crazy-inducing, and you don’t have to take this approach. I’ve just found it useful for my family, and also for a wide range of friends that I have who have lived in other countries where punctuality is more flexible, and who intend no disrespect but who genuinely have a different understanding of time. (This includes myself at times, since I have lived in one of those countries for a few years, as well as my family for my whole life, and so it takes more planning than I expect to be ready on time.)

    1. I understand your point, and have met people like your family, but I would find having to build in time for delays just too much.

      At such a point as LW’s bf is reliably showing up (or not) it might be reasonable to suggest that she accommodate him by building in extra time. Right now, when he isn’t even getting across whether he actually wants to go to events, this seems too much work for LW

    2. The Newspaper Cycle!

      That’s the name one group of friends and I had for the Preferred Waiting Activity. See, Cassie would be ready to leave for Whatever Event. But she’d then start killing time by reading the paper. So then Mandy would get to the point of being ready, but would see Cassie reading the paper and think “Huh, Cassie’s busy. I might as well kill some time,” and start reading the paper. And then half an hour later Cassie would blow her stack about Mandy making her late. This happened enough times that we finally put our collective finger on what was happening and gave it a name. So then if Cassie got ready, she could go “I’m Newspapering,” and Mandy would know she wasn’t actually busy, she was ready to go but killing time.

    3. Oh! Recognition!
      This happens in my family too. I don’t live with the family member who usually causes the lateness so I’m not personally affected as much anymore, but still pocketing those lines for the future.

      I also had a chronically late friend who found it annoying that I would be done getting ready and lurk around the door ready to leave while they were still getting ready… this would probably have helped :/

  28. And for the OP, it can be tough going to things alone, but it can also be something you learn to enjoy. I was so self-conscious eating out at restaurants by myself when I first started having to travel for work… then I started bringing a book with me. Now it’s totally normal for me and I love it if a server is fun about it (one likes to say “Oh you’re having lunch with me today!”), and it’s a relaxing treat instead of a sadfeels thing. Same goes for movies and such. If it’s something that’s bigger, like a convention, then I volunteer as it gives me a job to do for part of the time, usually pays for my tickets, and means I meet a ton of people in a very comfortable-for-me role (answering questions/doing registration vs just approaching strangers). I don’t do cons by myself very often unless it’s actually in my area, but I have done it and had a really good time doing so.

    Make it all about you and your enjoyment. Go see The Martian or whatever’s out. Get popcorn, too. Have an amazing time. Your feelings matter, your wants matter, and they matter JUST AS MUCH as your boyfriend’s. If he’s sad that you’re having great times without him, well, he was invited and chose not to, because this really is a matter of choices.

  29. The captain gave great advice here.

    If your boyfriend’s scheduling problems are simply forgetfulness, then I think going to do the things by yourself will be really good for your relationship. It will show him that he doesn’t *have* to say that he’ll do something, if he’s only mildly interested. If there’s any left over fear from his ex, that you’ll be mad at him, that will pass once he sees you cheerfully go do the thing on your own. Also, having separate hobbies is a fun way to always have new things to talk about and share with each other.

    In the off chance that his actions come from any amount of a desire to control (by keeping you from the things you care about), at least that will become evident quickly, once you start doing those things. Hopefully, that’s not the case.

  30. Long time lurker first time commenter. My Roomie and I have many shared interests, but some different ones, and many scheduling difficulties. She’s got a lot of after hours work commitments, and I’m my mothers evening and weekend caregiver, so planning activities is challenging at times. We’ve ended up using a shared calendar to keep track. If I want to go to thing, I send her a meeting request. She can say yay or nay. We can build in travel time and put a reminder on it so we get there in good time. If she’s got thing going on and won’t be home for dinner, it goes on the calendar, if my Tuesday caregiver has a crisis, etc… We have a grocery date every Saturday to reload the pantry, it’s on the calendar, if something comes up, we find a new time. Both of us have somewhat variable work schedules so they’re on the calendar too. If I need a ride to the eye doctor or “Your annoying relative is going to be in town and wants to do dinner?” “Uh, no, I don’t have a caregiver, but do plan to stop by for a drink before you go out? and bring me a doggie bag?”

    It’s a sanity saver I tell you.

  31. I think there is something important about valuing your partner’s excitement and time and desire to do something now/soon enough to be honest with them when they are asking you to take part, and that not making them wait is a definite emotional labour related thing when they are already working really hard to accommodate you/include you/whatever. I love this site for its emphasis on communication and boundaries.

    I think the corollary to this is that sometimes you have to remember that it’s okay to choose to do your thing on your own, and you don’t owe your partner endless opportunities to involve themselves in stuff only to find yourself rebuffed by passivity; but that you then maybe end up having to address a feeling of neglect (if their involvement is really a driving factor in your enjoyment, sometimes). And actually, they need to get that maybe you aren’t just asking them neutrally to an activity, you are wanting them to be invested emotionally in something that is important to you, in a way they can sustain. That’s partnership.

    I say this from a place of, recently in our relationship, after reading the emotional labour MeFi threads, we talked and argued and talked some more and then made some changes to our relationship. (We are lesbians. For clarity.) I would say that one of us very definitely tends to “choose myself first” and one very definitely “puts others first” which can end up in a really uneven dynamic, whether it’s about activities or disposable income/spending or housework. We have done a lot of work to connect this stuff to the consequences for the other person and we now go on more dates, do our own hobbies, and both get to have nice things, because things are more balanced. And one partner does not feel guilty about “choosing myself first” and the other partner feels good about “putting others first”.

    Being as I am the “get distracted or hyperfocused and let time roll” partner, I have to say it’s good to have a kick up the arse (self imposed or otherwise) that it isn’t just my time I am wasting, but also my wife’s, when I’m asking her to wait around for me, deferring her opportunity/enjoyment for whatever I’m currently absorbed in. Not usually deliberate, but at the same time, a definite choice, and reminding myself of that helps me act differently. Saying out loud to myself “I am choosing refreshing Twitter for the ten thousandth time over doing the dishes and allowing my wife to relax/entertain friends/bake cupcakes on her night off” usually motivates me to shake a leg.

    TL;DR sounds like you have some great scripts here; it wouldn’t surprise me if this dynamic of talk and no action/frustration at missing out carries over into other areas of your relationship; that can be really gendered but it doesn’t have to be in terms of what gender you are; this is probably something that could generation a lot of reflection and change, if you both want it to.

  32. This may not be relevant at all, but I used to be the “Yeah let’s totally do that sometime! … [does not actually do the thing]” member of my social circle. It was before I realized I have social anxiety and figured out how to navigate that. I didn’t realize the reason I “didn’t feel like” doing the thing when push came to shove was usually because a) I hadn’t given myself enough time off from doing social things in advance to rest up for it, and b) “oh gosh I have to go be social tonight?” was triggering the anxiety. Then when I started to realize that I wasn’t sure whether I was up to doing a thing until right before, I tried to be all “let’s just be spontaneous” because I thought if there weren’t any actual concrete plans, nobody could get mad at me for bailing. (They still could!) It turns out having concrete plans far enough in advance that I can rest up before and after Social Thing is actually the best way to go.

  33. This behavior DECIMATED a relationship of mine. My ex would say “let’s hang out sometime” and that felt like a nice happy endorphin rush because that’s what being in love feels like, and I wanted to actually make it happen so I would say “How’s Tuesday?” and Ex would say “ok” and then Tuesday would come and hours would pass and I would be waiting for Ex to finish X activity and Y activity and take a goddamn shower before we could get together and by the time Ex would finally get around to me I just felt like calling the entire thing off– but Ex felt happy and excited, because to Ex everything had gone according to plan because there WAS no plan for Ex, and Ex had gotten to do everything Ex wanted and hadn’t had to wait for anything. I felt disrespected and devalued, and Ex felt confused by my impatience. I tried pushing for more specific plans to address it, but we broke up instead. I immediately became a much chiller person!

  34. I also had an ex who would say she wanted to do things I wanted to do, but it would become clear over the course of doing the thing that she in fact was miserable and we all would have been happier had she stayed home. But while in the middle of complaining, vocally, about the thing– and therefore ruining it for me!– if I offered to give it up and go home for the sake of her happiness, she would say, no, she wanted to be there, which I assume is a lie she told out of some kind of bizarre attempt to go along with what I wanted, even though by that point– if she was going to complain about the price of the movie ticket and the distance to the theater and the guards checking the bags and the lights on the seats and generally be a bitter pill and stress me out the entire goddamn time, I myself did not want to see that movie with her either! (Plot twist: we went to see the Martian.)

    1. I had a very close friendship like this. It was a nightmare. She ruined so many hours of my life and especially some vacations. I could never figure out how someone could be so outspoken about hating everything I was doing, and yet not feel comfortable enough to say, “Why don’t you go ahead and do that thing that I don’t enjoy without me, and then we’ll get together later and do this thing that we both like?” Instead she was always like, “Yes! I want to come with you! Don’t go without me!” and then she’d ruin it by nitpicking and complaining and criticizing me and everyone else the whole time.

  35. LW here. Thanks for the most excellent scripts! You make an excellent point about scheduling an explicit time to do things; it’s something that has really fallen by the wayside recently, and I think it will make things easier on both of us.

  36. Ran out of nesting but thanks for your comment, Novel deVice. Usually my first motivation is to do the actual thing, then I suggest it to a specific person for a reason – e.g. it’s something I know they like doing, or the location is near where they live/work, or whatever. (Or sometimes it’s because they’ve got a car and it’s somewhere you need a car to get to and I’m hoping for a lift!) I wouldn’t say it’s a problem of coordinating schedules as such, because the other person doesn’t contact me to try to schedule it with me, they just go ahead and do it alone and I only hear about it afterwards. I like your suggestion of just going ahead and picking a date to do the thing alone myself, and seeing their company as a bonus. Luckily the people in my life who do this are a minority so I don’t have to do this with everything I plan!

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