#1075: Perpetual Time Optimism

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a really great relationship with a really great person. She can spot a logical flaw in an argument at fifty paces, picks up new languages for fun, and has a hobby of organizing elaborate theme parties. I like her lots. But.

She is bad at at time.

Like, really bad. She cannot accurately estimate how long something will take or when she’ll be free to save her life. She always succumbs to optimism and substitutes what she wishes to be true for what is true.

This shows up in two main ways in our relationship:
1) We often end up spending less time together than she promised, because her life is kind of a jenga tower that needs constant maintenance to not fall apart.
2) She’s often late for our phone calls

(Our relationship is long distance)

This has gone on for two years of dating. It felt like there was progress in the first six months, but now it’s stagnated. It seems like weekly she’s half an hour or so late to a call with very little (or no) warning, leaving me standing around, my night in disarray. The time zone difference means that I’m often giving up prime social hours to talk with her, so this is pretty upsetting.

When we last saw each other, it was for much less time than we planned. It was pretty upset and told her that I was tired of excuses and apologies and promises to do better. It’s been two years and it all just feels like empty words.

In the month after, she was really good about time. Then she was really late, but gave me good advanced warning. I told her that I’d appreciated all her efforts and then everything went to poop. She managed to be late or suddenly change our call four times in the space of a week. One of the times, she changed it to when she was in a car with friends, a thing I’ve previously asked her not to do.

I feel really sad. I can’t help but parse this as her not caring about my feelings at all. Meanwhile, she’s too depressed by other things to even apologize or take any sort of responsibility.

I’m tired of being unable to do stuff because all I can think about is how hurt I am and how much she probably doesn’t care about me. How do I get my brain back? Do I have to end the relationship?

Sincerely,
-BlueAlien

Dear BlueAlien:

February starts tomorrow, and I propose a February experiment. Here’s how it will work:

For the month of February, I want you to say “Yes!” to just about every local-to-you social thing that catches your eye. Accept with pleasure, go, and have fun. Fill your social calendar. Fill your not-social calendar, too – work your ass off at school or with your career or creative outlets. Everything that you want to spend time doing that you have a say in scheduling, schedule it and do it.

For the month of February, try scheduling calls with your partner around your social schedule. Like, yes, try to find times to talk that work for both of you, but do not work hard at leaving lots of blocks of time open on the off-chance you’ll catch her. It’s okay for you to say “Sorry, I’m busy that night, we’ll have to find another time.” If it means you talk less, then, you talk less.

For the month of February, if your girlfriend misses the appointed call time and you have something else to do, give her, say, 30 minutes? After 30 minutes, text her that you’re sorry that you missed her and you’ll have to connect some other time. Then, turn off your phone and go dancing. (Dancing, sleep, the movies, whatever, just turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer. Do not spend the rest of that evening waiting for her.) If she calls you when she’s in the car with friends, say, “Lovely to hear your voice! It sounds like you’re occupied, so, enjoy your friends!” and get off the phone. She won’t set the boundary, so, you can set it. Tell her what’s happening, even. “I’m selfish, I want your full attention, even if it’s only for a little while.” ” Change the dynamic where you chase her, the one where you wait.

At the end of February, evaluate. Has she realized that if she wants to talk with you she needs to do so pretty close to the time y’all agreed on? How do you feel about things in general? What’s the balance between “I miss her soooooooo much” and “I’m happier because I’m not spending so much of my gorgeous irreplaceable youth waiting by the phone?” When you do actually connect is it better, because you’re resenting her distraction less and have more to talk about? Does she even notice?

Is the relationship actually working for you and making you happy?

You’ve tried talking to her about this and it changed but not really. What would happen if you changed the way you prioritized your own time? What if you decided, hey, I love you, but I’m not going to miss out on interesting and fun things because I want to talk to you, especially if you can’t be bothered to check in even close to the time that we agreed? Long distance relationships take a lot of sustained effort and reliable communication over time. If she can’t give you that, it doesn’t make her a bad person, but it maybe makes this situation not right for you. Is it the worst thing in the world if you’re honest about that? “Babe I love you but you’re much too busy for a girlfriend. Let’s just be friends and we’ll see where life takes us.” 

February is a short, cold month. Try something new.

Comments closed as of 2/1.

 

 

227 comments
  1. jenfullmoon said:

    Good job on answering this one!
    Unfortunately, people with no sense of time don’t seem to really be able to measure it (I say having a mom who is somewhat like this) so it might be incurable.

    • Marty said:

      Which is why god invented calendar apps, so the computer can measure time for you. Now, when you lose track of time, your phone buzzes and you know that it is time to move on. Without this, I would never have been on time for anything in my life.

      • Saturngrl said:

        I wish that timers were the godsend for me that they are for so many. Sometimes they are helpful, yes, but you have to believe them when they alert you, and you have to transition away from what you are doing efficiently and effectively. I have been know to let the oven timer go off (once a minute) for 20 minutes if I am engrossed in something. If an alarm on my watch goes off while I am writing an email, I have to decide whether to reset the alarm or turn it off and “remember” that it went off instead of moving to something else when the email is finished.

        Executive function is complex, and everybody has their own melange of impairments and needs their own ecosystem of supports. I don’t mean to pooh-pooh your enthusiasm over alarms and timers, but since several people have commented that their solution to the problem of time-blindness is alarms, I wanted to point out that they are great, and useful, and helpful, but to differing extents. And for some people they will actually be only minor supports or might cause more problems than they resolve (if they cause heightened anxiety, for instance). So I want to caution anybody who walks away thinking “if they really wanted to solve this problem, they would use alarms” or “they have alarms and timers, so any flakiness clearly comes from both caring.”

        • cavyherd said:

          To mis-quote the old saying, “It’s not the timing that kills you, it’s that transition at the end.”

          See also: story of my freakin’ life.

          • Jake said:

            Oh. My. God. This.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          Every upvote in the history of ever.

        • Marty said:

          I always solved that problem by trusting myself to remember where I was, taking a brief note (possibly with its own timer) and then moving on. The trick to having timers be effective is to either 1) have two, our 2) decide that the timer takes precedence. When it goes off, you must stop whatever you are doing, or the whole thing falls apart.

          • YOUR trick to timers is that. It doesn’t work for everyone. NOTHING works for everyone.

        • Jadelyn said:

          Same. So much same. Reminders, calendars, alarms…they’re only as good as your ability to “obey” them when they come up. I can set a million reminders to take my meds but I’m still really bad at making the jump from “alarm went off” to “get up and go take meds”, so the reminder only works sometimes. If my executive functioning is still playing havoc with my follow-through, the alarm can’t do everything.

          (I solved the meds problem by giving my cat a treat every time I take my meds, so she learned to associate those and she will remind me at the same time every day that she wants her treat, which I keep right next to my meds. She’s a much more persistent alarm and I can’t turn her off or ignore her! Too bad she can’t be trained to remind me to pay the bills too.)

          • Saturngrl said:

            The cat-treat association is brilliant!

          • Dan said:

            That is so good. My cat will absolutely associate things with treats and i never thought to use it as a tool for my own behavioral change.

          • Majikkani_Hand said:

            Thanks for that tip, Jadelyn. Taking my meds is something that’s harder for me to do that it should be, and I was planning to get a cat in the next six months–could really help me out.

          • Convallaria majalis said:

            Oh, Jadelyn, this is brilliant! ❤ I only lose track of time when I write, but since that happens quite often I would love to "borrow" this idea. Also, our cats LOVE it.

          • Marty said:

            Oh, mornings are the worst. Fortunately, I have learned that a wakeup light in the mornings makes getting out of bed so much easier, but it’s still horrible; the worst part of my day.

        • Saturngrl said:

          Argh “comes from *not caring.”

        • MsMildew said:

          A million times this!

        • Ren said:

          This actually helped me to understand my own struggles a little bit better. Because yes, the difficulty is very frequently in breaking myself away from whatever I am in the middle of in order to respond to the alarm. The alarms help — they let me know that the time has passed, and that there is another task I need to attend to — but they don’t quite get me to function typically. (Medication, however, does help with the transition!)

        • Naphtali said:

          OMG +1 for truth.

          Timers are SO MANY STEPS. Remember to set the timer. Remember to keep whatever device is timekeeping within reasonable distance. Actually hear and register that it went off (if I am busy with a task that takes a fair amount of attention, say, reading, I won’t hear it at all). Stop what I’m doing. Remember what timer was for. Actually transition to the task required. (Insert all the steps required for said task here). Maybe somehow make it back to the thing I was doing before the timer went off? That is way too many things for my executive functioning to handle.

          If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “just set a timer” I could afford to go visit my LDR partner. Timers are a useless neurotypical solution that does nothing for a neurodivergent problem.

          • Marty said:

            Get a smart watch and strap the device doing the timekeeping onto your wrist; it’s much harder to leave lying around that way. Set up as many of them to be repeating events in a calendar app as possible, and get in the habit of scheduling events in your calendar app the moment you agree to them.

            Oh, and be merciful toward yourself when you are running late, rushing will usually just make you later.

          • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

            *shrug* at “useless neurotypical solution”

            They are actually a godsend for a lot of neurodivergent people, including myself (VERY severe ADHD, significant spectrum traits). They are not a cure, though, and do not work for everyone. (Like planners. For me timers = YES! Planners = crying and last time I tried to buy one just looking at it in the store brought on the biggest anxiety attack ever. But I know some people with ADHD for whom they are a lifeline.) Timers definitely IMPROVE things for me, but don’t fix things because of all the reasons people have listed. But just because it’s not a solution for some neurodivergent folks doesn’t make it useless for all of us.

        • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

          I needed to hear this. My husband is terrible with this stuff and it’s hard to be patient with him sometimes. The intention is there – he genuinely tries and does it without gaslighting or any other manipulative shit I’ve dealt with in the past, which goes a long way toward keeping me patient.

          Halfway through writing this comment, I just read your response to him and it generated a good conversation. The “executive function” comment resonated with him and he was able to articulate the amount of energy/labor that goes into altering his whole mental space to accommodate someone else’s expectations, in a way that I was able to understand.

          Now I’m thinking I can step back more often and ask myself if it’s worth demanding he do that labor all the time, instead of dismissing it as effortless and expected. I probably don’t need it as often as I demand it. Maybe I can save it for the big stuff.

          Yeah, thanks for this comment. 🙂 This is really helpful.

      • Kitty said:

        Yes, this! It’s not that hard.

        I have a friend whose partner promises to make dinner but then forgets until way last dinner time and friend is starving. Partner claims they lost track of time caught up in work and other things, but like, how hard is it to put a reminder on your phone to stop and make dinner? Not very!

        • Kitty said:

          Not sure how to delete comments, so after reading Saturngrl’s comment above I wanted to acknowledge that it may not be as simple as I thought for some folks, and timers may not be the solve all solution.

          • Saturngrl said:

            I appreciate that you are willing to consider a different perspective. It’s not that we shouldn’t be held to social standards, it’s that it *is hard*. It really is a neurodivergence, and what you can’t conceive of as hard can actually require heroic levels of effort that just can’t be sustained over a relationship (and thus usually require additional supports, accommodation, and communication).

        • Freya said:

          I have this issue, and one of the things I do to address it is that when I DO remember, I always chop extra of whatever I’m using, and put portion-sized batches in the freezer. That way, if I’m having a low executive function day, or I’m sick, or it’s a high pain day, there’s stuff in there and I can do a stir-fry in ten minutes. Like last night 🙂

      • M Dubz said:

        I am the same kind of asshole as OP’s girlfriend, except my life lives in my phone, and now I am 10 minutes late, max. (and thank god my friends and partner love me even though I have a very fluid sense of time.)

      • jenfullmoon said:

        I agree, I just wish my mom would um, not just ignore her timers!

    • chrometin said:

      I am one of those people, and the main reason I am not as late as that is that I set a lot of alarms on my phone to be aware for me. Like one half an hour before I have to leave and another 10 minutes before I need to leave which I take as the you should leave now if you don’t want to be late alarm. Every evening before I go to bed I check my calendar for what is happening the next day and set the alarms I need for the next day. It occasionally goes awry, but its a lot better than leaving it up to my internal timer to remember.

  2. Tea Rocket said:

    As someone who likes to make and keep plans, I feel this LW so hard. Some people suck at keeping track of time and it’s really hard not to take it personally—doubly so in this case, because Girlfriend has shown that she’s capable of keeping phone appointments when she puts her mind to it. It also sounds like she heavily prioritizes her many meat-space interactions over phone/virtual ones—a bias that I think we all have to some degree, but one that really needs to be kept in check when you’re in a long-distance relationship.

    I’m a big fan of the “You have X amount of time of grace period, and then I’m going to do my own thing and you can try to squeeze in around that” approach that Captain Awkward recommends. It’s easier not to get so riled up when you don’t feel like your whole evening has been ruined by the other person. Plus when you have other things going on in your own life, you’re less vulnerable to feeling abandoned by the other person.

    • “Girlfriend has shown that she’s capable of keeping phone appointments when she puts her mind to it.”

      Here’s the thing about neurodivergence. Sometimes you can put in a lot of effort and make a thing work for a while, but putting in all that effort simply isn’t sustainable long-term for you. So no, it’s actually not a matter of just deciding to do better.

      People get to make boundaries about how much lateness they are willing to work around, yes. But people also need to fucking learn that this is a real neurological issue, and isn’t something that just needs some willpower applied or something.

      • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

        THIS THIS THIS TIMES ONE MILLION.

        I read somewhere in a book on neurodivergent stuff (or maybe heard in a seminar) someone say “the kid will do his homework once and people hold it against him for the rest of his life” and it is So. True. Yes, with a lot of effort and work, sometimes you can get it together. But you can’t totally rewire that part of your brain and it sucks when what you get for your effort is everyone being like “but obviously you can control it! You did so well that one time!”

        OP can set boundaries. OP can decide this is a deal breaker. I have no issue with that. But all the “how hard is it obviously girlfriend can fix it she did for a while” is really getting to me.

  3. Thanksforallthefish said:

    Agreed! She could be a lovely wonderful brilliant person who still is not a good fit for you/good long-distance fit. Or she may need some boundaries to exist to wake her up to the life she wants with you.

    Best of luck! You deserve to actively pursue your happiness. You get one life. I realized that in a visceral way this year and it has changed a great many things in my life.

  4. RabbitRabbit said:

    The Captain is spot-on. You are still always being there for her. For her, there is no downside to her carelessness with your valuable time. Please treat that time like the valuable thing it is and follow this plan.

    • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

      You do not know that there is no downside to her. Most people I know who struggle with this stuff do, in fact, see chronic relationship problems as a pretty huge downside. I mean, boundaries can help and they really may help the OP in this situation. It definitely helps me when I know there’s really, truly a hard deadline. But that doesn’t mean the problem is that gf is totally unable to see the problem or feel the consequences of it.

  5. LG said:

    What wonderful suggestions, CA! Giving you back the power to steer your own ship is both positive overall and will hopefully give you feedback on whether your girlfriend will make enough effort to fit into the time that’s now available to her, as well as how the time you actually talk goes. The situation as is sounds so frustrating. Good luck with your February adventures!

    PS My comment said “Posting…” for a really long time, but then didn’t show up, so I’m trying again. But sincere apologies if it is ends up as a double post!

  6. This is good. I want to add, executive dysfunction is a real thing and it could very well be that she does care for you- she just honestly has the kind of brain that can’t measure time. I wonder what might also happen if you went into this understanding that she will always be late, instead of expecting her to be there when she says she is? And- it’s also ok if you’re like, her brain is like just like this but her being constantly very late doesn’t work for you to be in a rel with her.

    • Yes, I wondered the same thing. My daughter has a slow processing speed (not a thing I realized existed prior to the assessment) and she is terrible with time. She works so hard at it and is so much better than she used to be and I’m, you know, her mother, so it’s my job to help her work through this. Not the case for the LW, obviously.

      LW, if you think that might be the case, a gentle nudge for her to look into it might be a kindness. But this does not obligate you to hold her hand, make her get assessed, wait until she addresses it, or any other thing. Whether this relationship meets your needs is completely separate from whether or not this time thing is an intentional thing she is doing, sheer carelessness, or an executive processing thing that she doesn’t have the tools to fix right now.

      • vass said:

        Also, even if she “addresses” it by getting a diagnosis and treatment, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be fixed and her punctuality will be as good as that of a person who doesn’t have ADHD (or whatever). Treatment isn’t a magic wand, and sometimes disabilities are disabling.

    • Ren said:

      As someone who has ADHD and, as part of that, no native time sense? Yeah, it may not just be “optimism” but rather “has no idea how much time things take because an hour and a half and three hours feel about the same.” The “was able to hold it together for about a month before everything went to shit again” thing also resonates with my experiences.

      But there are things that can be done to put in external supports that help (alarms/calendar reminders, chiming clocks or vibrating watches…). And you shouldn’t be expected to put things on hold for her, either. I like the Captain’s advice to go on with your life and give her a certain amount of leeway, but no more. Her chaos doesn’t have to be your chaos.

      What would be different if her lateness was not an indication of her feelings about you?

      In the end, though, what matters is how you feel in the relationship. If structure and accountability are very important to you, then it might just not be a good fit, if she can’t hold up her side of those to the degree that you need or want.

      • Jess said:

        Right, exactly – I struggle a lot with time, including basing all my timings on the most optimistic estimates and never being able to gauge how long something will take (no ADHD diagnosis but I’ve been referred for one), but there are a number of external strategies that people can use to get better at this. It’s likely to always be a struggle somewhat for me, but a mixture of extensive calendars and to do lists, alarms, and aiming to get places ridiculously early so that I can chill and read before people get there (which generally means I just about arrive on time!) makes it manageable!

        I can’t help wondering whether Girlfriend has a job that she needs to be at least somewhat on time for? I have found that for a number of people (myself included) who struggle with time, they’re able to show up more or less on time for something that is pretty high-stakes, in the sense of possibly being fired if you’re habitually late. If this is the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s undervaluing her relationship with the LW, but – as someone said upthread – that currently there is no negative side-effect for Girlfriend to miss or reschedule a call.

        • vanadiumoxide said:

          I have a similarly dysfunctional relationship to time, and second the idea that high stakes often help. For instance, if I’m catching a bus that only runs twice a day or showing up to a class or meeting that I’m running, I am highly unlikely to be late. If I’m meeting a friend to socialize, I’m highly unlikely to be on time, even though I understand that their time is at least as valuable as mine.

          I agree that the idea to only wait 30 minutes (or even 10 minutes) for your gf is a great one. Right now, her pattern of lateness is causing negative consequences, but each individual instance of lateness alone has virtually no independent consequences for her. If being late for a specific call starts to result in not getting to talk to you at all, though, that might be enough of a consequence to motivate her to be more punctual. (Or it might not! I don’t know her brain. It’s certainly worth trying for this reason, though, in addition to the completely sufficient reason that it frees you up to use your time in a way that’s valuable to you.)

          • I agree that the idea to only wait 30 minutes (or even 10 minutes) for your gf is a great one.

            I am more on the five minutes side. We didn’t even have to wait 30 minutes for a full professor in college.

        • Saturngrl said:

          Hm. As someone with ADHD, I would like to point out that these high-stakes deadlines burn me out and burn me up. If I have to put extensive energy into all the work necessary to make it to work on time every day, that leaves me with fewer spoons to be on time throughout the rest of my day. OP’s girlfriend probably really likes/loves and values OP and wants to believe she can make it work, but what sort of longevity can you get with a relationship where all contact has to be high-stakes?

          I spent a couple if decades being chronically late, before discovering the perfect fix — aim to arrive early and being a book! Which…is great when youndont have kids with school drop off and lessons and therapy appts and you own appts and work and…and, well. OP’s girlgriend sounds like she has a lot on her plate, and she tried to make “deal with my entire life sufficiently that I can be on time to talk with OP” her highest priority for a month and it wasn’t sustainable.

          OP, I hope you heat what folks around here with executive dysfunction are telling you — you are fixating on the wrong thing (“does she even care about me?” “will she proves she cares about me by doing this thing that I think is pretty basic and she would be able to do if I really mattered?”), and should instead be asking “is this enough for me?” “do I like the way this feels?” “can I be happy with this as our life together?” If your girlfriend loves you truly, madly, deeply but doesn’t change, will you be happy? Or do you need her to change into someone she’s not — someone you think she would be if she really cared (despite all the evidence to the contrary that this is how she moves in the world).

          • Saturngrl said:

            Oh, ugh, sorry for all those typos.

          • Kaz said:

            Yep. I have time problems too (executive dysfunction high-five, although mine is Asperger’s rather than ADHD) and although I can force myself to be on time for something really important, it takes a. lot. of energy, plus involves forms of mental self-trickery that I can’t do too often or else my brain will catch on. It’s not something I can do on a regular basis. Me, I’m very glad my job has flexible start times; if I had to be there at Xam on the dot every day, I think it would end with me being fired.

            And all the +1 for your last paragraph.

          • Saturngrl said:

            Oh, man, yes to all the forms of mental trickery, and having to invent new forms because how long can you really outsmart yourself?

          • Inahc said:

            Yeah… It took me a long time to figure out that what I was doing to get myself to get shit done was essentially self-harm. Turns out that’s not sustainable either 😛

            So, +1 for “she may be a lovely person who loves you very much but maybe you’re just not compatible” and “let her bear the consequences of her lateness, not you”

          • Jess said:

            “I would like to point out that these high-stakes deadlines burn me out and burn me up”

            Um, wow. It never occurred to me that this could be a Thing, but when I examine my own life – absolutely definitely yes. Thank you for clarifying something for me!

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            And all future upvotes until the sun burns out.

            I am another chronically late person. It’s not about caring. It’s about a lot of things, but caring isn’t one of them.

            Family history makes deadlines and “planning to be on time” a deep-seated stressor, as in I feel my chest clenching even thinking about it.
            Yes, I can be on time to catch a plane, but the related anxiety is so intense I have to pack and be ready to walk out the door a week ahead of time before the anxiety starts to creep in or I live in denial until I throw everything together at the last minute and run, because if I try the middle route and try to prepare following a reasonable timeline, I’ll be a basket case before I leave the house. I have recurring nightmares about packing for trips.

            Between “get ready” anxiety and several other anxieties and the tendency to zone out or zoom in so I lose track of when and where I am, I suck at being on time with anything. Christmas catches me by surprise every year.
            Calendars and alarms can only do so much, and therapy isn’t quick.

          • Jadelyn said:

            It’s a spoons thing – I can force myself to be on time for work most days, because it’s a high-stakes thing. But, I can’t put that same level of intense focus and effort on every single thing in my life – I just don’t have the energy to spare. So I can either be on time for work, or on time for social events. Take your pick, but “both” is not a sustainable option. I could do both for awhile, but I’d burn out and have to let one or the other go again, which sounds similar to what’s happening here.

          • Saturngrl said:

            Jadelyn, yes, this exactly. When people say “she can be on time to woek, why can’t she be in time to drinks?” I always think they have answered their own question. She has limited capacity to be on time and she has significant incentive to choose work over a social outing. Would they truly prefer that she be consistently late for work? (Me, I don’t make it to work on time Either, but I am taking people at their word that they know people who actually do perform punctuality consistently in some sphere of their lives.)

            BigDogLittleCat, I hear you on the anxiety. When it comes to flying, my husband manages his massive anxiety by being hours early. I choose the seat-of-my pants approach. We…do not fly well together. (The funny thing is, This is complete role reversal, mostly he is tossed and torn by the tides of life, but the stakes of travel really hit him hard.)

          • neverjaunty said:

            Another thing that melts a lot of spoons? Is having executive function issues and putting in a ton of effort to try and rearrange your life to be on time and functional….and then the person you’re trying to accommodate gets distracted by reading Tumblr or whatever and now, the nice time you were going to spend together or the thing you busted your spoons to make happen, it isn’t.

            And I get that people aren’t generally like this on purpose. But I’m gritting my teeth at the undertones that people who are upset or thrown off by perpetual late-ers just don’t UNDERSTAND how hard it is. A lot of us do, because BTDT, and it’s kind of a kick in the teeth to get lectured about how succeeding anyway means you lack empathy.

      • thneedle said:

        This! Thank you, Ren.

        LW, like Ren, I live with ADHD and one thing I’ve learned is that I need to deal with my difficulties myself. Yes, I have a terrible time remembering things but my life requires things to be remembered, so I use tools. Like I write things on a wall calendar that is in my hallway, so I see it every time I go to the bathroom. And I use the alarms in my phone. (Your gf has a phone, so she can do that too.) I can set an alarm for anything up to a week from now, and it really has helped me to do this. Among others, I have daily reminders to take my medications, and weekly reminders for when the local classical station plays a live broadcast, and currently there’s an every-3-ish days reminder to check my sauerkraut.

        LW, I also agree with Ren that your gf has to decide that she’s got a problem, and right now only you have a problem. Let go of taking the lateness personally, but don’t stop reacting to it. Set yourself a limit of how long you’ll wait, and have a plan in place for what you’ll do if the limit comes. (Have your plan B already in place! And if you find yourself kind of hoping she doesn’t call because you’d rather do Plan B, well, that’s useful information.)

        • Violet said:

          All of this above about ADHD and executive functioning issues and time. I’d like to add, as an ADHD-brained “Time? Ahhhhhhhh! I lost it again!” person, that when people start to make my executive functioning issues into some kind of love test and i am Doing It Wrong and Letting Them Down and Failing Them…that takes on a life of its own separate from but co-morbid with my challenges that are not about them. I get cringy when my best attempts at functioning are Always Never Enough and i am Letting Them Down All The Time.

          I’ve learned over time, the hard way, to steer clear of people who take it personally when i don’t/can’t meet their friendship expectations. I take responsibility when i blow it, own up and apologize. I encourage people to not wait for me if i can’t get my s**t together, and try when possible to plan things such as to minimally inconvenience/stress other people if i screw up. I try really hard to be careful to only agree to things i’m pretty sure i can realistically do, and to hold to my word when i give it. But when that dynamic of someone taking it personally and Being Hurt and Disappointed in me (but trying to guilt/shame me into changing instead of recognizing i don’t work for them and backing off on their own) rears its head, i have found that way more things go wrong than in situations where people understand how i’m wired and do what they need to do for themselves given that, and aren’t hurt and blamey and you’re-bad-you-must-change at me.

          I’m not hearing that she doesn’t value you and your relationship. I’m hearing that she tried really hard to fight against her wiring to try to make you happy and give you what you need, but that it’s not consistently sustainable for her, so 1) if that’s a deal-breaker for you, you probably should let go of trying to have a primary relationship with her. 2) Once there’s a pattern in place of you being hurt and disappointed with her for running the way she runs, my hunch (based on my own experience) is that has set up a fearful avoidance loop. She knows that when she does talk to you you’re going to be hurt and disappointed and feeling blown off and taking her operating system personally as a sign of you not mattering to her. If you didn’t matter to her she wouldn’t have been making any of this really pretty serious effort all along. But her brain is her brain and the feeling that it’s never enough and if she’s not constantly tense and vigilant (and even sometimes when she is) you’ll be let down _again_… that’s a love and connection killer. I think the calling you when she’s with friends is an attempt – maybe unconsciously – to avoid the I Am So Bad feelings she’s now getting when you talk.

          You’ve told her what you want and need to be happy in this LD relationship. You’ve been disappointed with her enough that she’s starting to, consciously or not, avoid ‘being alone’ with you. So i’d echo the Captain’s advice to let go and live your life and see what she does without pressure, and decide whether you like that enough to want it in your life or not. The only thing i’d add is to try and recognize the role of how bad it feels to have your basic way of being always be failing and hurting and disappointing someone you love, and how taking it personally makes that a thing of its own, with its own negative feedback loop, which i think is making things worse. Doesn’t mean you like dealing with a person with those challenges/that style or that it will work for you to be in a primary relationship with them. You get to choose that. But making it a love test that she will always fail overrides the more basic dynamics.

          • Saturngrl said:

            Amen.

          • Ellen Fremedon said:

            I think you’re right about the avoidance loop dynamic here–that jumped out at me, too.

            I have experienced this one from the LW’s side, and I and my perpetually-late friend did manage to short-circuit the avoidance loop enough to make some permanent, positive changes. Friend’s ADHD was not diagnosed until adulthood and she really internalized the idea that being late or breaking a commitment because of time management issues was Bad and she was Bad for doing it. Her first impulse when she realized she was running late for something was to deny anything was wrong, scramble to catch up, and hope for a miracle–because she was good enough at last-minute saves that it sometimes worked, but also because in her mind as soon as she admitted that was running late, that was it, game over–she had done the Bad Thing and as soon as anyone knew that, it was irrecoverable.

            And that was where we were able to interrupt the loop–I explained that I had to deal with sudden changes of plan from other people, too, and the reason I didn’t get as angry with my other friends when they backed out of things wasn’t because their higher executive function made them better people, but because they used specific strategies to minimize the consequences, and could Friend try doing some of those things? Like preemptively contacting me to postpone or reschedule as soon as she thought there might be a problem instead of hoping there wouldn’t be?

            And that was really hard for her the first couple of times! But it got easier for her because I really didn’t mind changing plans as long as I had enough lead time to restructure the rest of my own schedule. And after Friend had seen that she could call me before I left work and say, hey, can we do dinner at 7 instead of 6, and the world wouldn’t end, it got a lot easier for her to start proactively managing her time.

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            Double amen.

          • Kitty said:

            Thanks so much for this eye opening perspective. I think I may have been like that with a friend who is in the process of getting diagnosed with ADHD, and I really don’t want to be that judgemental disappointed person to them.

          • MsMildew said:

            Thank you for putting this so simply & clearly. This dynamic is one of the big things that has destroyed my marriage. I’ve been told “you don’t care!” for so long, that now, I really don’t.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Same here! Also for this reason I may…never make a good long distance partner. I know this about myself. No need to subject someone else to that.

        • Saturngrl said:

          Yes, this. I know how hard I have to work to meet my in-town commitments. For an LD relationship, either I would have to cut those down massively in order to set up the structure needed to maintain the relationship, or I require my partner to shape their life around mine to an unhealthy extent. It does not sound like the OP’s girlfriend has made this relationship that sort of priority (and would that really make sense of it is relatively newer anyway?).

          OP, long-distance relationships are hard and take extra work. You have every right to ask your girlfriend to make the changes necessary to prioritize your relationship. If she can’t or won’t, that doesn’t really say much about whether she really loves you. But it does mean that she can’t give you a satisfying long-distance relationship. I love Captain’s idea of you living your life and setting well-boundaried opportunities for your gf to join you, and then assessing when more time has passed.

    • Buni said:

      The greatest gift to my executively-disfunctional gets-engrossed-in-one-thing mind has been the alarm on my phone. I can go “I need to do x at y time”, or “I need to leave the house at x time” and set the alarm (with an x-10 for getting reading if nec), and then just get on with what I was doing. It frees me from both the constant worry of being late (I HATE being late) and the the checking-the-cloack-every-ten-seconds loop.

    • Exactly this.

      LW, my best friend of almost 40 years and I used to fight All The Time about her chronic lateness. I mean, all the time — I would lose my temper about it, she would promise to do better and she would for a little while and then things would slide back to they way they had been. And I never doubted that she cared for me (nor I for her), but it drove me absolutely batshit insane that she could not and would not respect the importance of being On Time to me.

      For probably twenty years this was the thing that caused the most arguments between us (and it wasn’t always me initiating; she used to get exasperated with me wanting to leave earlier than necessary for things, too).

      And then I got a good therapist, who gave me two pieces of advice:

      This is BFF’s way of being in the world.
      You can’t change anyone’s way of being in the world, you can only change your reactions.

      It took me a little bit to establish this plan, and some of the pain was helped by her marrying a man who has my same sense of urgency about getting places on time and also a late diagnosis of ADHD for BFF, but we are now in a place where even when I find myself exasperated at her lack of time-sense it’s easy enough to remind myself that it’s her way of being in the world, and to be prepared to be kept waiting.

      It was a trade-off that was worth it for me, because I was solid in our caring for each other. The question is, will the Captain’s advice and the end result of maintaining the relationship be worth it for you.

    • nesprin said:

      I have ADHD and I am almost always punctual (though I have shown up on the wrong days for things). The combination of phone calendars and realizing that I’ll need at least 1/2 an hr to pack up, leave and park at an appointment means that I am essentially always on time. If you are important to her, she will make the time.

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        A lot of people in this thread with ADHD or similar have shared personal experiences that are quite different than yours, yet your last line implies that you’re considering your experience to be the universal one. Could it be that LW’s partner’s does not, in fact, necessarily succeed at making time for everything that is genuinely important to her?

        • I'll come up with a clever name later...maybe. said:

          I have ADHD and am on time for nearly all things. I struggle. I use tricks and gadgets, calendars and alarms and I plan for the unexpected. I am on time about 95% of the time. Why? Because the time of others is just as important to them as my time is to me. For me to leave people waiting on me because I am unable/unwilling to expend the energy to make sure that I am on time is kind of selfish on my end. I think that Nesprin is right. If the LW is important to LW’s partner, then she will put all the effort in to be on time so LW’s time isn’t wasted waiting around for her.

        • Marty said:

          It’s the adoption of a prosthetic that makes the difference. When you know that you can’t trust yourself to do something (say keeping track of time), then you find something else that you can trust. Today, we live in a world of computers, calendars, and phones which are capable of telling us when we need to leave to be on time. Developing the habit of using such a prosthetic may be difficult, but, once managed, it does fix the problem.

          One other thought, if you have a hard time keeping your phone on you (another thing that ADD won’t help with), then consider a smart watch. Either way, finding and using a prosthetic makes a world of difference for this kind of problem.

          • Kim said:

            The trouble with this is that computers can’t estimate how long everything will take you. They are great for planning a trip on public transport, but not for less defined tasks, especially ones with unknown variables like other people.

            Having an alarm to tell you when to start something new doesn’t help if you haven’t finished the first thing.

          • EmIpsaLoquitur said:

            Consider, though, that not every crutch works for every person, sometimes crutches stop working, and sometimes you just haven’t found the right crutch yet.

            For instance, your solutions–computers, calendars, phones, smartwatch–all don’t particularly work well for me, even though (i’m assuming from your comment) we both struggle with ADD. I say this having tried all of them, and all of them do not work for me. Or some of them worked for a while, but then stopped working (like the phone alarms that my brain adapted to being able to shut off without me even noticing them consciously when I was in the middle of focusing on something else).

            It’s easy to say “you just need to find a prosthetic!” if you’ve found the ones that work for you, but many people with ADD and other executive functioning issues know that but haven’t been able to find a good solution, despite actively trying to find one. So to some extent, yes, it’s valid that habits and devices and such can dramatically help reduce executive functioning issues, but it’s not fair to extrapolate from the fact that you (or anyone else) has found solutions and strategies that help to conclude that anyone who hasn’t just hasn’t ever considered trying to find something like this that helps, or, idk, just wasn’t willing to put in the work to stick with it.

          • As others have said: I am glad that your method of timekeeping/management works for you.

            But people with executive dysfunction are not yardsticks that are exactly equal to each other and with markings in exactly the same place. Like all people, they’re lengths of string cut out at haphazard lengths and not always even from the same originating ball.

          • Oh, man. Please pardon the department of redundancy department.

          • Vicki said:

            The adoption of a prosthetic can often help, but that doesn’t mean that a prosthetic exists that will entirely solve the problem, and be within a person’s resources in other ways. Vague analogy: my vision used to be such that relatively cheap glasses gave me 20/20 vision. It is now such that complicated, expensive glasses can get me to 20/40–and that’s still better than a lot of people’s. At least people don’t tell me that adopting a prosthetic is necessary and sufficient, because they can see I’m already wearing one.

            I’m not throwing away my glasses–my life would be much poorer without them. But Vicki-with-glasses can’t read a bus sign as far away as many people can without them.

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        A lot of people in this thread with ADHD or similar have shared personal experiences that are quite different than yours, yet your last line implies that you’re considering your experience to be the universal one. Could it be that LW’s partner’s does not, in fact, necessarily succeed at making time for everything that is genuinely important to her?

        • vanadiumoxide said:

          Sorry for double post, my phone hiccupped! Captain, please feel free to delete one.

      • “If you are important to her, she will make the time.” – not always.

        I’m the almost always punctual one in my social circle, but at a cost. we’re all neurodivergent, and none of us can do time precision. the usual dynamic is we’ll plan to meet at [indoor place with seats] between [time] and [half an hour later], and we both aim for [time]. except, because I now think I need to be there at [time], I work in another 30 minute chaos margin for me, so now if everything goes well I get there 30 minutes *before* the start of our 30 minute window. if anything goes wrong, part of my brain is convinced I’m going to be late (ie in the window we negotiated). if I’m there first, I’ll calm down. if my friend gets there first, I’ll confuse them by apologising for being “late” because I showed up 2 minutes into our 30 minute window.

        the only alternative is being late.

        I half joke that I don’t care how often my friends are late, but the time I show up an hour late and 30 seconds away from a panic attack they need to be more concerned about the 30 seconds.

        I am important to my friends, but being on time is hard. if the only way they can be on time is by mirroring my nonsense, I’d much rather they were late and calm than on time and anxious.

      • bats are cute said:

        I also take issue with that last line. I don’t have ADHD, but I have MDD and it has messed up my sense of time baaaaad. But I have a million alarms, post-it notes, lists, and other reminders I use day-to-day so that I’m rarely late for appointments or flake on a date/meeting. Even though a lot of executive function stuff is hard, I manage. But it’s exhausting and some stuff slips through the cracks.

        Long distance stuff.

        No matter how hard I try, I’m rotten at replying to messages to my online friends. I never remember to call my best friend who now lives 4 hours away; we go months without talking sometimes. I have a brother in prison; I got a letter from him after Christmas and it took me until YESTERDAY to write him back. Planning visits is a little difficult (have to get up super early, which is hard for me) and i only manage to see him once every month or so. I love all of these people. Immensely. Particularly my brother is one of the most important people in the world to me, and his being in prison makes me feel extra obligated to keep in touch with him because phone-calls, letters, and visits are all he gets–yet still I fail!

        That I don’t manage to make time for these people the way I should, as often as I should, does not reflect how important they are to me. It is a reflection of my illness. And it’s no picnic to cope with. It makes me feel like the shittiest person on the planet, knowing that society views this sort of thing as lazy and rude and uncaring.

        I’m not saying this is GF’s situation–she may have executive function problems, but it’s equally possible she’s being rude/careless and choosing to not respecting LW’s time. It doesn’t really matter though, because the girlfriend isn’t the one writing in for advice. What matters is the behavior itself, and whether LW wants to put up with it.

      • EmIpsaLoquitur said:

        Without being intimately familiar with someone’s personality, habits, etc., the argument of “I did this so anyone can do it” is pretty unreasonable. Maybe LW’s girlfriend has undiagnosed (or diagnosed–we have no indication one way or another from the letter) ADHD or something else that affects executive functioning. Maybe she’s just flighty. Maybe she wants to end this relationship but doesn’t know how. All of these things are possible.

        But even if we assume there’s an ADHD or similar executive dysfunction issue going on, diagnosed or otherwise, the severity and intensity of how that plays out varies dramatically for each person. Some people will continue to struggle with timeliness, impulsiveness, or other symptoms even after they’ve found medication that helps, are working with a coach or therapist, and have implemented lots of coping strategies. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences that flow from those continued issues (if you lose track of time and miss your plane, the fact that you had good intentions and active countermeasures in place doesn’t make the plane come back). But it’s unfair and unrealistic to summarily conclude that all people with continue to struggle with something you’ve managed to master must simply not be trying or caring enough, especially when we have so very few details to go by.

        • MsMildew said:

          As someone who wasn’t diagnosed ADHD until age 48 (I’ll be 51 next month 😣), I think I have come to hate “not trying” and “not caring” more than any other phrases that exist.

          • Saturngrl said:

            My diagnosis was early 40s for me, and I really, really feel you on this.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            Early twenties for me, but… yeah.

            Whether or not LW’s girlfriend cares… I would not want to be in a relationship, in the long run, where 1. someone I cared about was distressed by something I couldn’t change; 2. with someone who thought I didn’t care when I did. Or, I suppose, with 3. someone who placed a very different priority on the relationship that than I did. LW might be doing her a favor by ending an almost-okay situation.

      • flrpwll said:

        I also have ADHD and am on time for everything.
        I keep a diary, which I don’t always use. I set calendar events with reminders one week, one day, and three hours prior to the event. I also use separate phone alarms, again with warning alarms, eg “need to leave in one hour” or whatever.
        It did take me a few years to get it down to a fine art, but I *hate* having my time wasted and so refuse to waste anyone elses time.

    • subliminalflicker said:

      Ha yes, I have two friends who are consistently late. One a bit more so than the other. It is simply something I automatically factor into our plans. If friend says “let’s meet up at 10” for brunch, I eat a snack at about 9, and plan to eat around 11 (and bring something to occupy myself while I wait). If we need to do something time sensitive I pick her up, (but usually we don’t so it’s not a big deal). I’ve learned to accept this as just a part of their personalities, but I don’t think I’d want to deal with what LW is dealing with in a relationship as it seems to go a bit further than “chronically late”.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      One question for the people here who have opened up about their executive dysfunction/time management mental health problems. Is being unable to provide updates part of this? For me, I can deal with waiting around for much, much longer if I get a ‘running late!’ text or email or phone call or, I don’t know, semaphore. Am I unreasonable in thinking that this is a realistic thing to ask–it’s okay if you’re not late, but please let me know so I’m not cooling my heels?

      Also, while always running late seems like a possible neurodivergent symptom, I’m not sure that ‘calling from the car with friends when asked not to’ is. That’s a fairly clear boundary on the LW’s part, that they’re being made to continually restate. Why is GF ignoring it? There may be a reason, but I can’t think what it would be.

      • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

        Oh, I got this one.

        With regards to the update texts there are a couple of reasons I can think of. One is that when time REALLY gets away from you, you may not realize that it’s time to send an update. Or another is that you’re anxious (anxiety and ADHD to hand in hand) and upset and sending the reminder doesn’t feel courteous, it feels like “I fucked it all up AGAIN” and the dread of the response to the update outweighs the ability to send it. A third is that idea of being “optimistic about time.” You may be going, “Okay! I can still do this! It’s not really that late, I’m almost on time, this thing here will take just one more minute, so no need to send reminder because I am literally two seconds from making the actual phone call!”

        Working on getting consistently good at updates is likely going to be easier than getting consistently good at being in time, but it’s not necessarily easy.

        And with the” friends in the car” thing, that is an obvious (to me) rock vs hard place situation. The executive planning problems create a situation where she’s in the car at phone call time. She’s either going to be disrespectful of OP boundaries by being late or by calling while with friends, so she chooses what she feels to be the lesser of two evils. Especially if she has a history where sending update texts feels shameful-acknowledgement-of-failure.

        So glad you asked instead of assuming that just because you can’t think of a reason, there isn’t one. Again, it’s fine to set boundaries, have deal-breakers, etc! It’s fine to be annoyed and voice what your needs are. It’s fine not to live your life around other people’s lateness. But it’s not fair to assume “won’t” when the issue is frequently “can’t.”

      • flrpwll said:

        Being unable to provide updates shouldn’t be part of it. It only takes a few seconds to send a text.

        • Jake said:

          “It only takes a few seconds to [do X]” is just about the least helpful thing you can say to a person with executive functioning problems, and shows a real lack of empathy for the difficulties we face.

      • Jake said:

        I’ve learned to provide friends with updates and realistic estimates of when I’ll get somewhere, despite my executive dysfunction, but it’s been hard getting here.

        I don’t think the difficulty with providing updates is always necessarily executive function-related, but those of us with executive function problems often also have anxiety and just a TON of shame as well. We’ve been told our whole lives that our lateness makes us bad and wrong, that it must be a sign that we don’t care about others, that if we were only trying it wouldn’t be that hard, that we must be lazy, that we get no credit or reward for doing the same thing everyone else is capable of doing. That kind of conditioning creates shame and avoidance like whoa.

        In order to give a friend an update on my ETA, I have to face the truth that I am running late. I have to deal with and overcome the shame associated with that truth, and love and forgive myself enough to begin to hope that the other person might also be able to. I then have to face, and decide not to avoid, the anxiety I have about how my friend is going to respond to the information. If I think they’re likely to roll their eyes and sigh and otherwise act exasperated, it’s a lot harder. You’re right that it’s still the right thing to do, and I try hard to do it anyway, but I think it’s important to remember that there are obstacles. People with ADHD also often deal with rejection sensitive dysphoria, which basically means we feel it a _lot_ more acutely when people act upset with us. Again, not a reason to pretend you aren’t upset if you are, but another thing to be aware of. Other people’s anger or irritation is a powerful avoidance motivator for a lot of us.

        Finally, once I push past all that and make the decision to call or text, I have to initiate that task, which is an executive function thing and is not trivial.

        The more I’ve practiced providing friends and family with realistic estimates, the easier it’s gotten. But it took a lot of work over a lot of time for that to be something I got good at, and the shame never completely goes away.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          Thank you.

        • Jules said:

          Thank you

  7. Typhoid Mary said:

    “Change the dynamic where you chase her, the one where you wait.”

    So I’ve been with my partner for fifteen years, and the most difficult times have been when one of us is in the role of pursuer and the other is being pursued. It is a dynamic that creeps up so gradually, and it can feel so very normal. Kudos to you for being able to articulate the issue so well, LW, and I can personally recommend the Captain’s advice; when we worked hard to change that dynamic, our relationship improved. Of course, we were BOTH committed to changing that dynamic, which was why it worked. Either way, if you do the Captain’s February experiment, you will get valuable information (and hopefully, you know, have some fun!)

    Also let me just say “her life is kind of a jenga tower that needs constant maintenance to not fall apart” is poetry and you have a gift, lol.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      I have found that one thing that is really telling (and related, I think, to the pursuer/pursued thing) is what happens when you do suggest changing the dynamic. With chronically late friends, I have taken to suggesting, “How about you text me when you get there?” so that I am not sitting alone at a restaurant for half an hour twiddling my thumbs (or worse, if it’s the kind of place where they won’t seat you until your whole party is there, standing outside shivering). I only do this if there’s a long-term pattern–a few latenesses, even long ones, don’t cause an issue; that sort of thing happens to everyone–but eventually I will suggest it.

      If the person goes “Oh gosh that’d be great,” then I know that they really don’t want to be making me wait, they’re just not good at being on time. It frees them from the stress and guilt of knowing that I’ve been kicking my heels in the bar waiting for them. On the other hand, if they start to complain about how then they will have to wait, it’s another story, and they tend to get, er, downgraded to ‘sometimes friend’ or African Violet-ed. The former is someone who is bad at time. The latter might be someone who is bad at time, but it’s definitely someone who thinks that their convenience is more important than mine.

  8. Tammy said:

    All of the captain’s advice is good. I want to add to what brownstargirl said: This used to be me. I had a terrible sense of time, and an utter inability to judge how much stuff I’d committed to, which left me chronically over-committed. I learned to compensate in my own ways – for example, I avoided being late by always being relentlessly early for everything. But it was always a struggle, and my brain weasels often told me how screwed up and worthless and undeserving and unloveable I was because of it.

    What I learned last year, at the age of 43, was this: I have ADHD. I also probably land somewhere on the autism spectrum close to what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome, though I have enough adaptive skills layered on top of that to make a formal diagnosis difficult. These two states of being – ADHD and autism – often occur together, and they’re often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in women. And there are things you can do – medications and therapies, sure, but also structures you can put in place in your life – to make them better and to struggle less.

    None of that changes where you are with your girlfriend – you’re allowed to be not okay with someone who has this struggle if it doesn’t work for you. But if you do want to be with her enough to work through the struggle, it might be useful to explore with a competent professional whether this might be the source of some of her struggle.

  9. Some people can not be on time. One of my friends is such a person, and it’s just a fundamental part of her personality. Over twenty some-odd years, we’ve negotiated a truce on this subject. I’ve deemed the friendship worth the price of admission, but I want to repeat that this has been a twenty year process that still causes pain, tears and heartache. LW needs to decide if the pain is worth the price because this isn’t going to change. LW’s girlfriend isn’t a bad person, but she may be a bad fit for the kind of relationship LW needs.

    • Clarry said:

      I’ve heard this, want to believe it, but still wonder. Do the people who cannot be on time never fly because it’s a given that they can’t be at the airport on time? Do they not work because they can’t be at the office on time, can never meet with clients, can never meet a deadline? Do they never see doctors on a non-emergency basis? Have they never finished school because they’ve never taken an exam? Do they always miss the beginnings of movies?

      I ask because my experience with these people is that they seem unable to meet appointments WITH ME. They’re miraculously able to be on time when it suits them or when they know the airline, boss, client, doctor, teacher, theater simply won’t wait for them. I have never known one of them to notice this. I do.

      When I do point it out, they usually apologize ahead of time and tell me that they might be late because they have to do this list of things before meeting me. When I, at that point, say that instead of being late, why don’t they just tell me what time they’ll be there and I’ll meet them then. This sometimes gets an angry response. More often it gets a puzzled one. They’re really convinced that I have the ability to wait for them, but they, in addition to being fundamentally unable to be on time, are also fundamentally unable to wait for me should they get somewhere early.

      Sometimes I’ve tried side-stepping the chronically late person by only making arrangements where I can’t be inconvenienced- like I’ll ask them over to my house for the day so, if they don’t show up, I’m still doing things in my own house, or we’ll meet at a bookstore where I’m not unhappy browsing until they get there. Sometimes I side-step by taking into account the 15 minute delay and showing up late myself in the hopes that we’ll both arrive at the same time. And the funny thing is that none of these ever works for long. In almost no time, the person who was chronically 15 minutes late becomes chronically 30 minutes late. The person who was to meet me at the bookstore where I didn’t mind waiting leaves me there 2 hours which is a long time even for me. It’s as though if I’m not frantic or at least a little put out, it doesn’t count for them. One way or the other, the friendship cools.

      In one case, a chronically late person who kept letting me down in a volunteer situation, seemed put off when I mildly was unperturbed by her not meeting any of the time or other commitments she’d agreed to. When I didn’t complain or otherwise give her grief about what she’d done, sure enough, she started listing all the things she had getting in the way, how she’d been sick, etc. — not that she’d mentioned this before or why she hadn’t done the promised things before taking off for disneyworld. I figured she was using me to acknowledge how busy and important she was, and sure enough, when I didn’t give her that, she had to point it out to me.

      • This whole response is exactly what I was coming here to say .

        In fairness, I get there are diagnoses that impact the ability to manage time, but why does everything need to be attributed to a diag?! Can we please, please just stop doing that?!

        • zootzoot said:

          But the response to that question – as someone who has diagnosed ADHD and undiagnosed something that sounds a lot like Tammy’s – is: I fly once in a few months, at most. So yes I have always made flights (though there were some that I almost missed). I DO get to work late and I am very lucky and thankful that I found a job where that is not a ground for firing me. And, yes I am late for almost everything else. Mostly just 10-15 minutes. Because everything else is NOT like flying, I have to do it everyday and while yes, once in a couple of months I CAN be on time, being on time everyday, everywhere, I can’t. When I had jobs I had to be on time at, it was an enormous struggle and I was always exhausted. I never displaid my diagnosis to anyone as an excuse. But yes it is part of how my friends can make life nicer for me to accept that I will probably be late. And they can start the movie/eating/orderinh without me. We’re not meetinh for a shift at the ER, after all.

          • Saturngrl said:

            +1 I think this is what I was trying to say, but much more succinct.

          • Clarry said:

            What happens in this situation? There’s a standing appointment for M.Early and M.Late to meet every Monday at 3:00. M.Late gets there between 3:20 and 3:40 every time. M.Early expresses distress for having to wait, and M.Late always apologizes. M.Early finally says “This obviously isn’t working for us. You’re rushed and stressed. I’m impatient and exasperated. Let’s change our appointment time to 3:40 since I know you can be here then. M.Late agrees. Then, realizing that there’s extra time in the time-budget, starts showing up after 4:00. Is that due to adhd or another diagnosis?

          • zootzoot said:

            Carry, well, obviously I can’t diagnose a (fictionnal?) person with adhd based on one story told by someone else. Does it sound like something I, one person with executive function disorder from ADHD, could do? Yes it does. I was always 15-20 minutes late for my writing group and pushing it to 20 minutes later would definitely not have solved the issue, and I totally get that it is confusing and would also understand if Mrs On Time would cancel standing meeting.

          • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

            Trying to reply to Clarry downstream, but not sure how to make this nesting thing work.

            Why, YES! That is EXACTLY how it would work with ADHD! Because M. Late’s problem is not with the time of the appointment, but with planning how to get there on time and estimating how long they need! So, now, their brain -EVEN if they know it isn’t logical – goes, “Okay, now there’s extra time, so I can get X done and still make it, after all, I used to get there at 3:20 a lot, so surely squuezing in this thing will be fine! And then, well, damn, that didn’t work as planned, late again.

            When I wake up EARLY in the mornings, I’m often more likely to be late because my brain goes, “Oh, look! You have time! So much time! This morning will be so much less stressful! There’s time to do things! Look how on top of it you are today!” and then because my sense of urgency is lost, everything goes to hell and I spend the day low-key hating myself because why can’t I just get it together? Even though I know the answer.

        • zootzoot said:

          And also, honestly, this kind of comment/discussion is why we have to display diags at all. If everyone would just accept not everyone can do everything instead of making, in this case, unoptimal time management a case of moral/social breach we would never have to say “but I’m disabled” to not be perceived a bad person for something we can’t help.

          • xms967 said:

            Hard agree. Instead of acceptance, there’s interrogation and word problems and having to disclose disability status to be left alone.

          • Mari-täti said:

            This!

          • That’s because there are a good many people who point to their lateness with pride.

            Maybe, in fact, they all have executive function issues. They patently have consideration issues. I think that the inconsiderate are to blame for much of the opprobrium people with executive function issues face.

      • MuddieMae said:

        I ask because my experience with these people is that they seem unable to meet appointments WITH ME. They’re miraculously able to be on time when it suits them or when they know the airline, boss, client, doctor, teacher, theater simply won’t wait for them. I have never known one of them to notice this. I do.

        I think it’s worth highlighting that people hear this kind of thing a lot when they can, say, walk short distances but not long ones so they get a wheelchair at the airport or an accessible parking permit or whatever. It doesn’t follow that someone isn’t disabled just because they can do the thing sometimes, infrequently and/or when the stakes are high. It may require an exhaustive effort or lifehack-type things that just aren’t practical for day to day.

        Which isn’t to say everyone who’s chronically late has an executive function disorder or that people with those disorders can’t be jerks about their lateness. Just that it’s not quite as binary as it seems to feel to you.

        • Indoor Cat said:

          I have mixed feelings about this.

          I struggle with chronic respiratory illness, and it absolutely helps to have friends who understand, for example, sometimes I’ll contract an illness or get hit with exhaustion very suddenly, and have to cancel / leave early / reschedule. And I can power through something like taking care of my niece or cat, or finishing my work, with “low bars” but it would be unwise to push myself for a social thing.

          And, I have lost one job and failed classes due to this illness, although fortunately I’ve finally graduated and found a flexible, work from home job.

          The reason I have mixed feelings is, sometimes people (myself in the past) do not communicate well and then get defensive when people feel disrespected. And, it is a sign of disrespect for others time if someone, say, bails to hang out with cooler people, or for no reason. Like LW points out, it’s imbalanced– she is sacrificing social time for her gf and her gf hasn’t been meeting her halfway. That’s going to make someone feel unappreciated at the very least, and I learned that when I don’t communicate early and clearly, people will fill in their own blanks. So, when I felt defensive when people said they felt disrespected, I was in the wrong; their feelings were valid.

          And, I think it is telling that, I have been on the receiving end once (friend offered to drive me to an appointment then couldn’t at the last minute, so I had to reschedule the appointment and it was embarrassing and delayed my treatment by like a month) and suddenly I became a lot more empathetic to the feeling of, “if you cared about me, you’d keep this commitment or at least try to help me find an alternative solution.”

          So, now, I try to keep some rules for myself. Communicate my needs early and clearly, including saying that I have no idea what my health will be like x days ahead of time, so I can’t commit to more than a maybe for social things. Offer to reschedule or offer alternative plans if applicable instead of cancelling (befriending people who enjoy low energy activities like “watch Netflix on a split screen while Skyping” or “paint and listen to all the Grammy nominated albums, don’t mind if I nap in the middle of the party” has helped immensely). Offer to help resolve any logistics problem caused by my absence. Initiate same-day plans on days I feel great.

          All this might mean that I still am not a good match for everyone. But, it has helped a great deal to diffuse resentment and defensiveness on both sides. I think this is a situation where there are many possible flavors of compromise if the people genuinely care about each other, as opposed to one or just having to deal with it (in this case, “it” is either lateness or resentment over feeling hurt ).

      • Life totally *is* a jenga tower said:

        I’m going to echo MuddieMae and some of the other commentators and say that speaking for myself as a chronically late person due to medical nonsense — can I be on time if I absolutely must? Sure. But it’s a HUGE amount of effort that I am rarely able to put forth.

        So for me, it’s a choice between either saying no to almost everything and having no life, or just rolling with the fact that for the time being, sometimes I’ll be on time, and sometimes I just won’t. I do my best to warn everyone, explain the medical reason behind it, and keep them appraised of my updated ETA. That doesn’t give me or anyone else permission to be jerks about it, and if others can’t deal with me that’s absolutely fine. From my perspective, it’s *awesome* when folks communicate their boundaries about this, and I do need to get better about figuring out from a social perspective when I can be 10 minutes late and when I really honestly can’t.

        (To answer your actual question — I don’t really go to movies or any voluntary things where I have to be in a certain place at a certain time. I’m purposefully in a job where I set my own hours. If I do have work meetings or medical appointments, I either show up HOURS early, enough to overcome even my chaos…or, yeah, am late, and just deal with the consequences. The last big fight my partner and I had was when I was trying to get to a train on time and I was like IT IS TIME TO LEAVE, I AM LEAVING NOW and my partner was like “woah, chill, there’s totally enough time for me to finish my video game” and I was like “no, you don’t understand, anything can happen between here and there and I need to catch this train, I AM LEAVING NOW, what you do is up to you.” )

      • Saturngrl said:

        Hahaha, lolsob.

        Okay, think of this a chronic illness. It’s something you have to manage, and boy does it take spoons. And it takes spoons away from other things. You are right, if I have a specialist appointment that takes months to book, I am going to plan my whole day around getting there on time. And that means that my best friend and husband and school pickup (where I have to pay $1/minute but at least my kid has someone looking after her) and my parking meter and whatever else are bits of ballast that I have to throw off to be able to make the damn appointment. Those all come with consequences they no have to manage, but yeah, I do need my dearest beloved’s to be able to absorb some of that collateral damage without it being a referendum on how much I love them. Now, if it is daily life that’s making me toss impirtant things as ballast, then my life is too dysfunctional and I need many many more supports (maybe meds, maybe alarms, maybe a buddy system, etc.) — and it would be a major mistake for me to commit to a relationship that requires so many more spoons than I even possess.

        And just a frustrated aside, for those of you saying “these people can be on time if it is really important ” — do you really know this to be the case? I nearly missed my graduation (got there as my group was lined up to walk onto the stage), I have missed more than one flight, I can’t even tell you how many doctors appointments I have had to reschedule because I did not leave enough time for traffic and parking and finding the right office, or maybe I just had no idea what day it was. I have lost more the one job because I could not be on time consistently. The only way I can realistically be on time is to actively plan to be 20-30 minutes early and that falls apart when you have too many commitments and too many times you have to be on-time in a day.

        Also, for those who say “well, y’all can function when it’s high stakes, so just get your priorities straight” (I may be projecting a bit there…), ADHD in particular has this funny quirk where yes, we are indeed able to fund our executive function under high-stress situations. And in fact we can often manufacture or just await the adrenaline rush by procrastinating until our brains finally switch On. But, are you really suggesting that this is tge state we should live our lives in? That we can be on-time to our phone calls and dates by perpetually fearing we will be dumped if we fail? Not only is that a terrible way to live a life, as someone else on here pointed out, we *will* go into a shame spiral at some point.

        I do think that diagnosis and learning what your actual limitations are and what supports you deserve and are entitled to can really help. (Knowing that 3 days of hyperfocus and knocking shit out of the park WILL incapacitate me and require 1-2 days of bare-level functioning and that it’s not just that I am actually lazy and reverting to type has helped me not overcoming. Knowing that dealing with mail and bills and administrative stuff at home actually uses up more of my spoons than someone without executive dysfunction lets me eitgerngire someone to do that while I use my spoons to do other things that are important to me, or to adequately plan around and honor how much this “simple” set of tasks takes out of me. etc.) But it it is still a chronic condition that is being managed, not a selfish quirk that can be set aside if someone really cares.

        • Saturngrl said:

          Argh.
          *has helped me not overcommit.
          *let’s me hire someone to do that

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          same! same! cheers

        • Inahc said:

          “And in fact we can often manufacture or just await the adrenaline rush by procrastinating until our brains finally switch On. But, are you really suggesting that this is tge state we should live our lives in?”

          Been there, done that, got a permanent migraine. So for anyone still trying to function that way… Find a different way ASAP. :/

        • MsMildew said:

          YES YES YES
          People without executive function disorders/time blindness have *no idea* how stressful & energy draining it is to try to be on time even once in awhile, let alone day after day after day…or how shitty the moral judgements about it feel when you are doing your damndest all the time & it just doesn’t work.
          Diagnosed at 48 means I had a loooong time to think about this stuff. I used to read every single helpful article about being on time/being organized etc, thinking that SOME DAY I’d figure out whatever secret trick the rest of the world used to do these things that seemed to be SO simple for everyone else. (And I did! The secret trick is called “being neurotypical”. 😕)

          • Saturngrl said:

            “And I did! The secret trick is called “being neurotypical”. 😕”

            Truth. It has been so freeing to realize this.

        • Jake said:

          but yeah, I do need my dearest beloved’s to be able to absorb some of that collateral damage without it being a referendum on how much I love them.

          Oh my god, this to infinity. We all have a responsibility to each other, and the extent to which I see even neurodivergent people saying about ourselves “Yes, this is hard for me but that doesn’t mean I should let it affect you,” just upsets me. Yes, we all have to try, and we all have to treat each other with respect, and we all want to mitigate the harm we do each other, but _that cuts both ways_. It means that those of us for whom the basic stuff of everyday life is just SO MUCH HARDER get a little slack. We get to not succeed at some tasks as well as others. We get to have some (not an infinite amount, but _some_) of that slack picked up by neurotypical people showing a little willingness to plan around our limitations (by, for example, making peace with the fact that sometimes we’ll be later than we said).

          We are real people. Our lives and feelings are as important as those of neurotypical people. The fact that society is set up to meet the needs of _one_ kind of brain doesn’t make our needs less real or less important.

      • thneedle said:

        > Do the people who cannot be on time never fly because it’s a given that they can’t be at the airport on time?
        > or when they know the airline, boss, client, doctor, teacher, theater simply won’t wait for them

        Well, let’s see. I’ve gotten to more hair-cut appointments and doctor’s appointments than I care to admit at *just* 30 seconds to my appointment. I’ve gotten to airports on the late side, even to the point my plane was almost done boarding, but I did make the plane. I tend to want to get to a play or movie 15 or so minutes early, but often end up 5 minutes early.

        So, yeah. I run late a lot. I get anxious because of it a lot. And I’ve learned that I do better getting to work on public transit because it has a schedule that ignores me. There’s a lot of “late” that isn’t “too late”.

      • mice dancing on the keyboard said:

        Do the people who cannot be on time never fly because it’s a given that they can’t be at the airport on time? Do they not work because they can’t be at the office on time, can never meet with clients, can never meet a deadline? Do they never see doctors on a non-emergency basis? Have they never finished school because they’ve never taken an exam? Do they always miss the beginnings of movies?

        The answer to all those is yes! I have done all of those things and ten times more! It’s a pretty sucky way to live (though it’s definitely not boring), but it is absolutely, definitely not personal. The best I can describe it is that I have little control over what I perceive as important. For example, right now, I am filled with constant, urgent, demanding thoughts about buying nibbly cat treats, and absolutely blasé about the thousand thesis words I have to write today. I know intellectually that writing is more important than buying cat treats, but my silly brain is convinced about the exact opposite. In distracted, weaker, tired, or just non-self-aware moments, I will go with what my silly head tells me. When meeting friends, I absolutely do feel that I have time to pick up milk on the way, or that I can get dressed in two minutes, or I can finish that thing first. Combine this with low self esteem, and I can often convince myself in the moment that it’s better to not turn up at all than be late because people will be pleasantly relieved to not have to see me.

      • formerly_academical said:

        Well this thread discussion has given a lot of food for thought. I have missed VERY IMPORTANT flights, trains, appointments, etc. Sometimes the consequences have been – not good. (I’m not blaming anyone but myself.) My internal sense of time is appalling. I’ve been aware since kindergarten that everyone else seems to know something I don’t and can’t seem to get the hang of to my great frustration. I’ve been “practicing” for almost forty years. As someone mentioned up thread it’s the transition from doing thing A to thing B that particularly sucks me into the vortex of lost time. I’m much better, almost average, with routine things. Getting ready and going to work is easy. I don’t remember the process most days unless I really think about it. Anything that does not recur regularly is very difficult to manage. It takes effort and can be exhausting. It’s really not as straightforward as, “well, they didn’t really want to.” I do my best to plan in ways that don’t inconvenience others, but it does require them being honest about if those plans work for them and not thinking it’s part of some elaborate test. If it doesn’t work for them then it’s better to let go than to do the dance of mutual disappointment.

        • M Dubz said:

          And for me it’s the opposite! Special situations are easy, because it pulls me out of routine. Routine situations are the ones where I mis-estimate how long it’s going to take and then whoops I am leaving for work at the time I should be at work. FFFFFF.

      • Sarabeth said:

        So, as a person like this who flies a lot – I’ve missed planes because I’m late (also because I forgot my passport, or otherwise had executive-function fails). But also, even flying “a lot” means that I get on a plane once every few weeks. I can generally manage timeliness once every few weeks, although it takes a lot out of me, and involves strategies like getting to the airport hours ahead of time just in case. I am also a college professor, and I do manage to be on time for class at least 95% of the time – that’s three hard deadlines a week. But again, it involves prioritizing that obligation above literally everything else (sometimes I don’t eat breakfast so that I can get to class on time) and I never ever schedule classes for earlier than 10:30 am, which is about 90 minutes after I usually get to work. I can’t do that for every meeting in my life. I have lots of other tricks that I use to make things work–whenever possible, I schedule meetings in my own office, so that I don’t have to remember to go anywhere–and I am lucky to be in a job with a lot of autonomy. But still, I fuck up all the time. I forget to take my daughter to swim class, I am late to faculty meetings, etc. All this despite being medicated for my ADHD – it was much worse before I got a diagnosis. When that happens, it’s not because I think swim class/faculty meeting is unimportant. But it is not *as* important as showing up to the class I actually have to teach, and I’ve used up my resources for the former.

      • Kate 2 said:

        Yes. With all due respect to the people posting here, as someone who has her own physical/mental struggles, I err on the side of believing people. But their experiences just don’t match what I have seen, and their own posts sometimes put paid to the idea that they can’t make appointments, such as when they discuss being on time for work.

        Every single chronically late person has been able to be on time for the “really important” things you list. It is just friends and family members who get to endure the lateness. It takes work for everyone to be on time. It isn’t effortless and magical for everyone. We don’t teleport to the meeting spot with coat on and keys in hand like Glinda the Good Witch. It takes practice and reminders. We all had to learn and practice the same tricks.

        Set your stuff out on a special bowl or table by the door the night before. Set an alarm (or two like I do!) on your phone. Put on your shoes and coat 15 minutes before you have to leave. You know your area and the traffic on the worst days. Take that amount of travel time and apply it to every day. Bring a book or a craft project, play games on your phone or whatever when you arrive. Give yourself a treat every time you arrive early, like 5$ toward something fun. And remind yourself that even though you might not mean it that way it is disrespectful towards the people waiting for you when you are late. They made an effort, you can make one too.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          I am very aware that being late is disrespectful of others. I think *most* chronically late people are.
          The problem is, for some people the necessary effort is setting two alarms, while for others, it’s not having a panic attack at the mere thought of “time to get ready”.

          Of course that’s an extreme, but it’s not always as simple as practicing tricks like putting your stuff out the night before.

        • EmIpsaLoquitur said:

          Wow, this comment is so completely offensive and unnecessary, and also completely misunderstands the entire concept of executive dysfunction (whether it’s caused by ADHD or other things).

          But, you know, I’m sure that even though every one of us has had to deal with this mean and condescending attitude more times than we an count, *this time* being told that “It’s not hard–just do all these things that your brain literally makes is very hard or impossible to do! You’re just being lazy and selfish!” will definitely magically cure everyone in this thread who has tried to genuinely explain their lived experiences.

          I dream of the day that “Maybe you should just not have ADHD” is not the immediate response from a huge portion of the population when people try to explain the very real and damaging impacts it has on us. Trust us, if phone alarms or “just give yourself more time!” admonishments were enough to fix us, we’d have all been cured years ago. None of us *like* being a constant source of tension and disappointment and stress when our friends and family are waiting on us. So yeah, maybe you know people who are just selfish and disrespectful, but it would be great if you didn’t feel the need to demonize belittle the rest of us who have done nothing in this thread but try to explain (but in no way excuse) the reasons we struggle with running late.

        • Rana said:

          You make this sound very easy. It is not.

          • I think her point is exactly that it’s not very easy. I know it’s a whole different ball game if you’ve got executive function disorders – but being on time is not easy for most people.

            When I say I’ll be somewhere at 6:00, I don’t just magically know when to leave there by 6; I have to do a whole bunch of calculations – how long to find shoes? keys? Do I need to eat or pack things? How long will that take? Use the bathroom? How long to get there? Am I familiar with the transit or should I add buffer time? What am I doing beforehand? Will I be able to finish it or do I need to pick a stopping point before I start? Is parking going to be an issue if I’m driving? Am I going to be moving more slowly for any reason – sick, bad weather, stubbed toe? Do I need to coordinate with anyone? Do they run on time, early, or late?

            At some point, a lot of these calculations become really automatic. But then you might move or change jobs or the seasons might change and you have to learn a whole new set of calculations, so you’re back to square 2 if not square 1.

            Now, I have a fairly decent sense of time, part innate, part cultivated, and that absolutely helps a whole heck of a lot. But being on time is not something people generally find very easy. It’s boring and it’s difficult. So it can be grating to hear other people complain about it being hard – of course it’s hard; you knew it was hard because you did it.

            That’s not entirely fair, of course, because people were dealt different hands in the whole time-keeping game. And there are absolutely people who legit don’t care if others are late, which is awesome and a very valid way to exist in the world!
            I am not one of those people, and part of that is because I put a whole lot of work into having my life not being a series of me rushing to meet deadlines. I find that experience deeply unpleasant. I find waiting more than 15 minutes for other people deeply unpleasant. I arrange my life so those things do not happen very often; I’m not very happy when someone consistently throws all my hard work out of whack (but I have learned to invite those friends to things where I am happy by myself or with friends, so I don’t really care what time they show up.)

        • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

          *sighs really heavily *

          In a lot of situations, you’re right, we can make it work for some things and not for others and, yup, friends and family can get the brunt of that and it’s absolutely unfair. That does not make it illegitimate.

          Do some research into it if you care to. One of the hallmarks of the disorder, if we’re talking ADHD, is inconsistency. We know what we’re supposed to do, but putting it into action and making it work on a consistent basis is difficult. And doing it for every aspect of our lives consistently is nigh on impossible. And even for people who have worked out systems, it took a LOT of time and effort and did not happen overnight and even though, yup, we’re nearly all putting in a lot of effort on improving, there aren’t really shortcuts and we can’t suddenly get “there” just by really really wanting to and maybe trying a couple of new strategies, most of which will work great for a few days or weeks and then suddenly lose effectiveness. Which is the thing I hate the most. When whatever I’ve been using to motivate or help or trick myself into doing so, so well and have become certain it’s Absolutely Life Changing quits working and life is the same again.

          When I get put on a new medication that I haven’t adjusted to yet, or when I accidentally double meds (because I don’t remember whether I’ve taken it), sometimes I have days where I am pretty sure I’m experiencing what it’s like to be in a neurotypical brain. And it’s all so, so easy. I get so much done. Not doing The Things suddenly gives me more discomfort than doing The Things. And I get really, really angry when it wears off because you know what? If my brain worked like that by default, I could do it, too. I could easily manage most of the problems that have dominated my life. And I feel humiliated because I know how I must look to people whose brains work like that by default, how I must seem lazy or selfish or stupid. And that’s the absolute last thing I want, and I work so hard to try to prevent that, but I know I’ll never be able to really pull it off. I’ll only be able to pull it off enough that when I fail, people will say, “But she could do it if she really cared, because she does it since of the time!” I wish there was a similar way neurotypical folks could experience something like being in my default brain, to understand how genuinely difficult it is. It’s great you’ve been gifted with frontal lobes that are more intact than mine and I wish people could understand how that is luck, not virtue.

          Yes, we should try. We do, though, is the thing. The g/f clearly does care enough to make serious efforts to improve, even if they eventually fall apart. And no one I’ve seen commenting has suggested the OP just put up with this – we all seem to be strongly in favor of the Captain’s advice. The issue is that it is not easy, it is not personal, and it is not necessarily about her character or priorities.

      • twomoogles said:

        I think people have done a good job of covering the ways people compensate for medical issues around this, but it’s interesting that this thread just kind of…assumes that OP’s girlfriend must have a diagnosis? I mean, she may! But I think there are also lots of chronically late people where not caring or not being considerate is an issue. I am aware that hearing that is hurtful for some people, but it doesn’t mean it’s never true for anybody. It’s of course up to OP to figure that out, and whether they can live with it, and to look at the overall relationship and see if “not caring enough about OP’s time” is a constant pattern, or if it’s just lateness.

        • SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

          The advice of the Captain applies to either situation. The comments those of us with diagnoses are making are generally respinding to people assuming there is no adequate neorological reason for this.

      • lilisonna said:

        My friend has repeatedly missed plane flights. It’s a good day for her when she makes it to the doctor in time to be seen; she reschedules appointments frequently. Part of our balancing act is that we don’t try to carpool to plays or concerts.

        So, yes. For at least some people, it’s really not you, it’s them.

      • M Dubz said:

        I am a chronically late person. I was chronically late to classes in grad school (by about 5 min or so) and it was humiliating, and some professors cared more than others. They let me graduate though. I now have a job working with college students, who are perpetually late themselves, so me showing up to an appointment 3 minutes late means i’m still waiting another 5, often. I am often late to doctor’s appointments, and then have to sit in the waiting room for half an hour or more until the doctor is free. I plan to show up to the airport two hours early, always. I am lucky in that my timeliness problems are relatively minor (usually 5-10 minutes for work/appointments and never more than 20 for social appointments, and then only when I am showing up at the person’s home). But it causes me consequences. I’m still late.

      • cartesiandaemon said:

        My experience is that there are both sorts of people.

        There are many people who are chronically late for everything, including, sometimes especially, things that they care deeply about. And it’s a big problem in their life, and they can work round it sometimes, but only with great effort.

        And there are people who don’t care that much, and just don’t make an effort to avoid inconveniencing people unless they’re getting something out of it, and put it down to “oh yes, I’m bad at that”.

        (And, inevitably, people somewhere between.)

        And you kind of have to decide. It sounds very likely that the people *you* met may not have been trying very hard. But there’s many other people who *do* care and *are* trying, but are just really bad at it, and you need to take them or leave them. I remind myself how many other bad habits people keep all their adult lives even when there’s not an underlying medical reason.

    • scullymurphy said:

      Same. And some of the strategies I’ve used to deal with my perpetually late good friend are: 1) Never share a ride or mode of transportation with her to a thing (or more generally, never make my arrival time dependent on her arrival time); 2) Always assume she’s going to be significantly late (if it’s an event lasting a few hours, she’ll be 30-60 min late. If it’s say a weekend trip somewhere – she’ll be anywhere from half a day to a full day late) and make peace with/plan for that; 3) Never make other activities dependent on her arrival time – not, “We can’t leave to go wine tasting until X arrives at the house!” but instead, “X, we’re leaving to go wine tasting at this time, if you aren’t there by then we’ll just see you later!”; 4) Never take trips/do things with her that depend on keeping to a consistent schedule.
      These strategies have allowed us to remain friends, but it took acceptance of the fact that our friendship will be on certain terms and frankly somewhat limited. It also takes constant reinforcement because she is always severely inaccurate (dishonest?) about arrival estimates and always wants to share rides or plan scheduled things. But as lilisonna put it, I’ve accepted this as the price of admission. But, while this price seems fine to negotiate for a part-time friendship, it seems like it would be really difficult and painful with a partner – especially a long distance partner. So much in an LDR depends on the participants being impeccable with communication – and this feels like a big communication breakdown (the call from the car with friends also reinforces this impression).
      So yes, give it your month and see what shakes out and then, as the Captain and others have said, take stock and see what you can live with. I hate the mental image of you waiting by the phone, feeling like you have no way to change this situation. I hope the end of February sees you moving in a direction that makes you feel good/better. Best of luck!

    • scullymurphy said:

      Same. And some of the strategies I’ve used to deal with my perpetually late good friend are: 1) Never share a ride or mode of transportation with her to a thing (or more generally, never make my arrival time dependent on her arrival time); 2) Always assume she’s going to be significantly late (if it’s an event lasting a few hours, she’ll be 30-60 min late. If it’s say a weekend trip somewhere – she’ll be anywhere from half a day to a full day late) and make peace with/plan for that; 3) Never make other activities dependent on her arrival time – not, “We can’t leave to go wine tasting until X arrives at the house!” but instead, “X, we’re leaving to go wine tasting at this time, if you aren’t there by then we’ll just see you later!”; 4) Never take trips/do things with her that depend on keeping to a consistent schedule.
      These strategies have allowed us to remain friends, but it took acceptance of the fact that our friendship will be on certain terms and frankly somewhat limited. It also takes constant reinforcement because she is always severely inaccurate (dishonest?) about arrival estimates and always wants to share rides or plan scheduled things. But as lilisonna put it, I’ve accepted this as the price of admission. But, while this price seems fine to negotiate for a part-time friendship, it seems like it would be really difficult and painful with a partner – especially a long distance partner. So much in an LDR depends on the participants being impeccable with communication – and this feels like a big communication breakdown (the call from the car with friends also reinforces this impression).
      So yes, give it your month and see what shakes out and then, as the Captain and others have said, take stock and see what you can live with. I hate the mental image of you waiting by the phone, feeling like you have no way to change this situation. I hope the end of February sees you moving in a direction that makes you feel good/better. Best of luck!
      [sorry if this is a double post! I think my comment got eaten when I logged in]

  10. monsterzero said:

    Hmm, I feel like gf’s “hobby of organizing elaborate theme parties” doesn’t really square with “cannot accurately estimate how long something will take”. Is she really bad at her hobby? If not, then she’s just not prioritizing LW. Which is an answer in itself to “Do I have to end the relationship?”

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      Parties frequently run just fine without punctuality or any set schedule, and much of the organization can be done flexibly in the days beforehand. I don’t see a contradiction.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      She might not be organizing these elaborate theme parties all on her own—in fact, if they’re elaborate enough, she probably isn’t. In that case, chances are that someone else is handling the time management side of things. Girlfriend might be the inspired idea person (and maybe helps with set up and clean up), while someone else takes care the practicalities like timely booking of the venue, buying/preparing refreshments, etc.

    • Lily said:

      sometimes busy people just don’t prioritize things that have no consequences to miss.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      As someone with ADHD here I will tell you that single one-off exciting events or projects have a way to get executive function going in a way that weekly things cannot. This scenario described reminds me very much of myself. I also suspect I would make a terrible long-distance girlfriend for all those reasons and I’d like to think I wouldn’t subject anyone else to that but I really don’t know.

      • zootzoot said:

        Wow I think this thread is getting good riddance of all the remaining doubts I had about my ADHD diagnosis…

        • Liz Black Dog said:

          SAME

      • xms967 said:

        I’m pretty great at one-off things, like emergencies or travel or similar. Maintenance stuff, like getting to work on time or consistently doing chores at a certain time of day, is way infinitely harder.

  11. Cordoba said:

    Chronically late people are going to be late, I’ve not seen evidence that there is anything practical that another person can do that will change that.

    I like the advice, but would only wait 10 minutes rather than 30. If she stood me up longer than that a few times I’d call it quits and instead try to find somebody closer to home and easier to get along with to go do fun things in person.

    Why are you always giving up “prime social hours” for her schedule? I can’t see any mix of time zones on earth that would have to result in one person always losing out on prime time in the absence of a very unusual personal schedule.

    If she is learning languages for kicks and organizing theme parties (that LW probably doesn’t attend often) she has plenty of “free time” and is just choosing to spend it on things other than LW. That’s fine, her time is her own and she gets to decide how to use it, but that’s clearly not working for LW.

    • Lou said:

      I also agree on not waiting 30 minutes, and instead waiting less time. I think 10-15 minutes is ideal, and then you get to plan something else for your night. According to LW, gf already seems to know that she can for-sure be 30 minutes late and LW will still pick up/have the conversation.

      Alternatively, LW could set aside 1 hour total for this phone call, so if gf is 30 minutes late that means it’s a 30 minute phone call and then LW has other plans. If gf wants to talk for longer than 30 minutes, she can start trying different things on her end (alarms, calendar alerts, whatever works for her) to call closer to the actual start time and thus get that 45 minute/1 hour phone call.

      Either way, LW, like the Captain says: don’t put your life on hold for someone who isn’t currently respecting your time. Turn it back on her to sort things out on her end to make the effort for you. Setting these boundaries where “whoops, we’ve run out of time, ttyl!” or “whoops, you missed your window, guess we missed our connection. let’s try again next week!”, will either force your gf to take steps to remind herself of your scheduled time together or make it clear for you that she is not as invested in making that time, which means you can back off yourself.

      • thneedle said:

        > LW could set aside 1 hour total for this phone call

        This is an excellent idea.

        LW, I also wonder why you’re waiting for her to call. Maybe instead, you should call her at the agreed-upon time. If she doesn’t pick up, leave a message that you’ll try again in 10 minutes. If she does pick up but isn’t able to talk, well, you did your best.

      • Ginger said:

        Steal a line used alllllllll the time in Corporate America: “I have a hard stop at [ENDTIME].” And then stick to it. This is the time you must leave or you miss your train; don’t make the movie; leave for your dinner with friends – whatever you planned to occupy the rest of the evening during Prime Social Time.

      • Msconduct said:

        +1 for only waiting for a short time, and even then I question whether that will be enough for LW (although if they follow the Captain’s excellent advice they’ll certainly find that out). At least for me, time spent waiting is not neutral but has its own particular quality: if I’m waiting for someone/something and I’m not sure when they/it will arrive, it’s not a matter of just getting on with something else and enjoying that in the interval. The *feeling* of waiting basically cancels everything else out and means that is totally wasted time for me even if I’m reading or something else that should be fun. I respect that for many people lateness isn’t something they want to do, struggle hard with and don’t in any way mean personally, but hating waiting as it feels like completely dead time is *my* way of being in the world, and that counts too. It has to work for both sides. Since the LW’s relationship currently revolves around appointments with their partner which the partner clearly struggles to keep in a way that LW is happy with, this sounds like a situation which simply isn’t going to work for either of them.

        • Kitty said:

          “if I’m waiting for someone/something and I’m not sure when they/it will arrive, it’s not a matter of just getting on with something else and enjoying that in the interval. The *feeling* of waiting basically cancels everything else out and means that is totally wasted time for me even if I’m reading or something else that should be fun.”

          OMG this. You so perfectly described why it bothers me so much when people are late. Even when it’s just a casual “hey come hang out at my place” thing, I still like to know when they’re going to arrive, because I can’t fully enjoy anything else while I’m waiting/unsure when they’ll arrive. I think it’s to do with my introversion, and knowing that something I’m doing could be interrupted at any time by the friend arriving and I’ll have to switch gears from alone time to social time kind of makes it hard to relax or be present and enjoy the thing.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            YES, thank you both for describing this so well. It ramps up my anxiety like crazy to wait for people. It’s almost as though the entire world has become an alarm clock of the oldskool wind-up kind that go BRRRRRIIIIIING when they go off, and my attention is constantly hounded by this perception that the entire universe is going ‘tick tick tick tick tick’ in the back of my head while I wait. Even if I’m not physically inconvenienced–say, waiting at a restaurant, or about to miss a show–it just makes my anxiety climb and climb and climb and climb. Or, to use another metaphor, it’s like walking on a hiking trail that’s recently been flooded, where you’re just unsure and unsteady the whole way–until the person shows up, I’m walking uphill on squishy mud. My whole day is made unstable.

            It’s hard to describe, but it’s very real, and it means that there’s a limit as to how chill I can be about lateness just because of my own mental health issues.

        • slfisher said:

          This.

  12. ladysugarquill said:

    This makes me sad, and I’ll add a different perspective:

    I am terrible at time. I never finish things when I said I would, I am always late for everything, the works.

    Now in my case, it’s a terrible mix of hipersomnia (meaning my brain decides when I wake up and no amount of alarm clocks will make a difference), executive disfunction (I know I have to do the thing, I want to do the thing, I just CAN’T do the thing and I lie in bed/scroll through tumblr being UNABLE TO THING and hating myself for it), anxiety-fueled procastination (I’m terrified I’ll fail at the thing so I’ll only start doing it at T-minus-arrghhh), and axiety-fueled avoidance (which like TRIPLES when it involves a guy I like – it can take me half a day to answer a text because I CARE SO MUCH WHAT IF I DO IT WRONG)… and also optimism bc I’ve been doing this my whole life so I’m kinda resigned to it.

    Claiming that someone who can’t be on time means they don’t care is unfair. Some of us just CAN’T, and (particularly in a long distance relationship) you can’t know just *how much* they may be trying. You two may not be compatible, but since I’m in their place most of the time I’ll say, give it a chance?

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t think it necessarily means they don’t care, but I do think you’re allowed to be like “hey this doesn’t work for me anymore, sorry” even if it’s based in something that’s not their fault. (I’m also not awesome at Time).

      • The way I see it, there are a lot of things like that which just… exist no one can be blamed for them, but they are an ask of your partner and a BIG part of making a relationship work is like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle of all the things which just are and won’t change, the things you can make work somewhere in the middle and the things you’re able to change without being unhappy about. And you look at how you feel about the stretch you’re making and if those pieces fit together comfortably or they’re kind of strained and tugged in a way that’s giving you a cramp.

        Then you look at the picture that all those puzzle pieces form and decide if you like what you see, if it’s YOUR picture, a picture of how you want your life to function. It’s not a matter of the objective beauty of the picture, or what the standards of composition and elements of style say about the picture, or if your family wants to hang that picture over their mantelpiece, it’s if YOU like the picture you see. If you don’t feel like holding the picture together is giving you a bad cramp, and it looks good to you, no matter the way the pieces fit when looked at from another angle, it’s a good picture for you.

        • JenniferP said:

          This is lovely and you should feel good.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          This is perfect, yes. I honestly think that a lot of the details are a red herring–at the end of the day this is sort of a Sheelzebub’s Question type of issue: assuming that your partner is never going to get better on this issue, is this a relationship that you’ll want to stay in? And either answer is legitimate. It’s legitimate to say, “There are enough good things about her that I think this is worth tolerating, so the answer is that I let go of any expectations about timeliness or this improving.” It’s also legitimate to say, “No, if what I have to do is to give up the hope that she will consistently either call me on time or warn me that it’s late, that is not a relationship that I want to continue.”

          I confess, I say this as someone who is almost always The Flexible One in friendships. I wait for friends, I eat wherever they want to eat, I remind them of things if I know they aren’t going to be able to remember on their own, etc. And precisely because of that, it would be a hard dealbreaker in a romantic partnership. It’s extremely tiring and anxiety-provoking to always be The Flexible One, and I can’t handle that in a long-term partnership, so I’d be noping on out of there. But other people can and will legitimately make the opposite decision.

          • Seconded! I think the details are a red herring too. I see a couple of very closely related but separate issues here: that LW feels like they are girlfriend’s very last priority, and that LW seems to be making more sacrifices than girlfriend is to make the relationship work. That second one is probably creating a miserable feedback loop where LW sacrifices a lot of their prime socializing time waiting by the phone for a call that never comes, feels like they don’t matter because they’re making this big sacrifice for someone who reschedules them like an errand they don’t want to do, and feels lonely because they didn’t get to see their friends or talk to their girlfriend, which makes it even more painful the next time girlfriend reschedules or calls late, and around and around it goes.

            The Captain’s February experiment would be a great way to break that cycle, and like another commentor said I think they’ll learn a lot by filling their own life up and seeing if they miss girlfriend or end up seeing that they’re just not compatible.

            Whether or not girlfriend is being bad at time at LW, she is hurting them and that has to stop. Maybe it stops by finding a way to make LW feel cared for and prioritized that doesn’t involve being on time for stuff, and maybe it stops by ending the relationship, but good intentions do not make it okay to treat LW to like that one super boring errand that you put off and put off.

            At the same time, and I say this as a member of team “people who don’t even text me when they’re going to be late are not my friends”, I think it’s also reasonable for girlfriend to decide that LW is asking for something she simply can’t give and end the relationship so she can stop feeling like a constant disappointment to LW.

            LW, whatever happens, both you and girlfriend deserve relationships where you feel happy and prioritized and accepted the way you are, but those relationships might have to be with other people.

    • It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just them saying “I cannot be flexible, you must be”, which is a big ask, but that’s okay! we all have big asks! If the relationship works in other ways then that ask is a small part of the greater give-and-take of a relationship.

      Right now this letter-writer is finding out if this is a thing that gets better or is flexible at least, or a thing that just is. I think the method suggested is a great way to figure out that if not doing all the labor to close the gap makes this a flexible thing, or if it doesn’t if it’s a thing that’s not a dealbreaker because the LW can still have a rich social and personal life without sacrificing it for the relationship as it stands if it can’t change, or if the process of mitigating the effects of this means that he doesn’t get what he needs out of the relationship.

    • CMart said:

      My best friend is like you. It’s been a struggle for the 20 years we’ve been friends and sometimes results in really hurt feelings (see: the time she only managed to see me for an hour when I was in her city for five days and reaching out constantly, and my not being terribly charitable or understanding about it). But we’ve committed– actually no. *I’ve* committed to not letting that get in the way of our friendship. Because you know what? She doesn’t have anything to commit to really, other than “trying harder” where she inevitably gets anxious and overwhelmed and I just have to deal with it still.

      BUT. She, like you, knows it’s a problem. She apologizes when she leaves me hanging. She’s stopped committing to things with optimism and instead articulates the reality. “I would love to see you. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling or exactly what I will have going on so I can’t promise I’ll be available, but please do call. I will call you too when I am able.”

      I don’t get the feeling the LW’s girlfriend person is like that. Judging from the frustrating radiating from the letter, it sounds like the girlfriend is simply going about her haphazardly timed life and assuming/counting on the LW to figure it out. That’s a pretty callous and uncaring way to treat a significant other. “I see I’m hurting you but idk just deal with it” isn’t really great, you know?

    • Temperance said:

      For what it’s worth, though, I’m coming at this from the other side. I struggle with self-esteem and anxiety and other issues that may me a bit oversensitive and it’s super easy for me to feel rejected. Having someone repeatedly not respond to me or avoid me or miss meetings would really, really sting and would fuel the issues that I’m actively working to resolve.

      It’s clear that LW is struggling with feeling rejected by his/her partner. Even if LW’s partner has good intentions and just makes other things a priority or can’t manage or what have you, it has the same impact on LW regardless of the reason. They’re limiting their own social life to foster the relationship, and since GF can’t meet them halfway by doing her part, for whatever reason, LW is missing out on socialization that it sounds like s/he needs.

      • Indoor Cat said:

        +1 to this comment.

        To misquote a guy, “love is 90% show, 10% tell.” A big way of feeling loved, of knowing you can believe someone when they say the words I love you, is: are they there for me? In “Love Languages” parlance, do they devote quality time for me? Do I feel like I have to chase them or beg for their attention, or demand it? Or can I simply ask for it and feel safe and confident that it’ll be given?

        If attention / quality time is someone’s main love language, then delaying that time is going to make someone feel unloved. That’s not a right or wrong way to feel, but it’s a real feeling that has to be acknowledged.

  13. Life totally *is* a jenga tower said:

    Except for the “elaborate theme parties” and “in the car with friends” bits, this could easily be a letter about me. My life is in total disarray at the moment, and, yeah, I’m late to everything, even when I try my very hardest. I *think* my partner’s cool with it (she’s also sometimes late to phone calls and I am A+ 100% fine with that?), but, uh, maybe I should double-check.

    Anyway, the Captain’s advice is spot-on here. While I’m trying to get my life back in order, she should *absolutely* be out living her own life, and if that means we talk less, then we talk less. And if I’m too much of a jenga whirlwind to be what she needs…then that’s totally valid. Two people can both be really excellent people and just not be right for one another.

    LW, you absolutely matter here. I know that setting boundaries is difficult and scary, but the best case scenario is that your partner is super-grateful for the boundary-setting help and it fixes the problem, and the worst case scenario is that you’ve spent February working on you and now you’re a month’s worth more of an awesome person.

    • Saturngrl said:

      Love your username. I had the same thought. Despite all my talk about ADHD on this thread, I am not trying to internet-diagnose OPs girlfriend, but not did that phrase about her life being a jenga tower that needs constant maintenance resonate with me and my ADHD life.

  14. Oh my lord… I dated this woman, I swear! Of course in her case it was a little different (had Lupus and bad brain fog from medication plus her condition) but, giving up hours and hours to sit and wait for the phone or my instant messenger to light up… looking back over Yahoo Messenger seeing my last 20 messages over three days were “Hey, it’s 6:00, you there yet?” “We were supposed to hang out at 4, and it’s 9 now, are you okay? please call when you get this” “Hey, sorry it looks like I missed you log in, I went to bed at 11, please call me when you get this.” “Haven’t heard from you in two days, we were supposed to hang out yesterday and we were going to watch a movie today… what happened?” “Hey! Uh, haven’t heard from you all weekend, please call me!” “I sent you a message on facebook because it said you were on Monday morning, have you been okay?”

    And then Wednesday night after five days of waiting on tenterhooks she’d hit me up out of the blue, a brief apology and no real explanation. Sure she might have had issues but no level of mental impairment that didn’t leave you totally unable to care for yourself would cause you to forget someone you love for days at a time, ignoring messages and calls and texts.

    I gave her months of my life in time spent not doing other things, not meeting new people, not really kicking butt at school, and I regret it, I regret every minute. Okay you’re not in a situation as bad as mine but I feel your pain because I regret most all the things I didn’t do waiting for someone.

    At a certain point you have to look at the subtext, and make it clear to them what you see. “Hey, I know you don’t mean it this way, but when you make me wait for you I feel like you’re saying ‘my time matters, yours doesn’t, and your schedule and life have to revolve around my changing needs and moods’, and that doesn’t feel super good”. It’s a level of, well, selfishness that a relationship is hardpressed to survive and, frankly, it’s a form of gaslighting in my opinion to stick someone waiting chained to a phone or their computer.

  15. L. said:

    As other commenters have said, being late can have different reasons and sometimes can just not be fixed, but there’s no excuse for making your SO feel like they’re the irrelevant afterthought of your life. Of course it is tough when your physical or mental health prevents you from doing your stuff on time, but if that’s the case, she should tell LW and try to find a fix on her own, which apparently isn’t the case.

    I feel like this here is a key part of this letter: “I can’t help but parse this as her not caring about my feelings at all. Meanwhile, she’s too depressed by other things to even apologize or take any sort of responsibility.” It’s less about her being late, then, but about you not being able to discuss issues with her? This sounds like her mental state is a strain on your relationship; is she seeking counselling, or doing anything to get better? You’re not her pacifier, and you’re not her secretary doing her scheduling either. The captain’s script is good to sort things out, but don’t let it become a long-term solution.

  16. Frolicking Elf said:

    Have you tried reading any of the long-distance relationship blogs out there? Tons of em’, and if you DO take Captain up on her advice for a busy February, joining a support group and reading through other people’s stories of dealing with long-distance relationships may offer some insight into your own needs in a long-term relationship. I highly recommend finding an online support group.

  17. As a bad at time person, LW, I urge you to prioritize yourself and your needs, and not those of your bad at time long distance gf. I am bad at time. It does not mean I do not care, but it does mean that I do not get mad at people if they decide that they cannot handle this thing about me and do not want to be close friends or whatever, because I know that for some people, being bad at time is a bridge too far.

    I have a long distance (plus eighteen time zones) BFF and the only way we have managed to maintain our weekly FaceTimes is that they are pegged to a thing that I am virtually always doing on that day, at a time that is convenable for both keeping me there AND making sure that I do not need to do something else instead.

    Please prioritize yourself.

  18. CAnemone said:

    I have a couple of friends (one of whom I am dating) who can’t seem to Do Time either. I’ve learned what their window-of-lateness is (one friend is around 30 minutes, the other is closer to an hour), and I plan on the later time. If I want to meet at 3, I’ll tell them 2:30. If they say they’ll meet me at 3, I plan to be there at 3:30. And because they are the ones who are literally always late, they can’t get upset with me if they have a magical day where they actually show up on time and I’m not ready. I also try to avoid depending on them for time-sensitive things like rides to stuff that starts at a certain time. It’s an imperfect solution, but it seems to help with my frustration. Also, just recognizing that this is their pattern and nothing to do with how important I am to them is sometimes helpful.

  19. LAF said:

    I was in a relationship like this. My ex was late to a lot of things, but oddly enough never to work or class. He also managed to turn in all of his class work on time, although he usually finished it at last minute. There were a few really painful times, such as when he said he’d be home for dinner and didn’t come home until after 9pm (dinner at our place was generally around 6ish at the latest). Or when he was supposed to come to an important event to support me and was 2 hours late (the even only lasted an hour). Or when he was supposed to meet me and my parents so we could give him a ride someplace and he was almost an hour late. To us doing him a favor. We were also long distance for a time (he was studying abroad) and I had a lot of awkward conversations with his roommate (who did not speak much English) because he was not home for our scheduled phone calls (this was before cell phones).

    I like “perpetual time optimism” because when I discussed the issue with my ex, this is sort of how he explained it to me – he just sort of hoped that it was all going to work out (although how leaving or something 45 minutes away 15 minutes after you were supposed to have arrived was supposed to work out, I’m not sure). He also had a habit of just getting really wrapped up in whatever he was doing, which was a great quality when you happened to have his attention, but a really shitty one when you were the one waiting for him.

    I get what people are saying about executive functioning and it being really hard for them, but I can’t see how being in a relationship with someone who is perpetually late is going to feel like anything but your feelings/wants/needs/time being disregarded. I can’t imagine being in a successful relationship with someone like that unless you’re an absolute expert in the art of letting go.

    • Saturngrl said:

      I think the way it works is if there is effort on both side, and that effort feels sustainable and equitable over time. Having to wrap yourself around someone else’s way of being in the world at great cost to your own well-being should be a short-term emergency-only approach to a dire situation. It is not sustainable.

    • it works better when you’re both like that, and still needs both people to 1. be doing their best, & 2. believe the other person is doing their best.

      I have a social life almost entirely with people like this, so:

      – we pick the meeting place assuming someone will be waiting there an hour. it should have seats, and be indoors unless it’s summer.

      – we NEVER say “meet at 1pm” it’s always 30 minute windows (so, 12:30-1 or 1-1:30) or “I’ll text you as I leave the house”

      – everyone tries really hard to get there at the beginning of the window.

      – we bring some means of entertaining ourselves for the time we will be waiting

      – we text if we’re not going to make the window

      – and occasionally we just lie. if I’ve told someone “the show starts at about 7”, 7 is now the very end of my 30 minute window because otherwise my friend will panic. when I tell them “about 7” is actually 7:30, we both breath easier now that we’re there in time to have coffee/go for a pee/whatever.

      but, yes. your ex sounds more extreme than me & my friends, plus if time isn’t that hard for you the forgiveness part would be harder. when my friend turns up an hour late, they’re visibly flustered and I’m genuinely pleased to see them. they apologise and calm down, I smile and reassure them because I know why. I’ve sat on so many stations staring at clocks after realising I misjudged the timings, knowing I’m gonna be late whatever I do now because I should’ve been on a train 5 minutes ago and the next one is cancelled and the one after that is late. it’s still inconvenient, but I don’t have to consciously get over the idea that it’s a sign of contempt for our relationship because it’s not always one sided.

  20. Lix said:

    This really hits home for me (I had an LDR where my SO got really busy and we never seemed to talk anymore, skyped rarely, I always initiated contact and when we did videochat I didn’t feel like I had his attention at all) and Cap has laid out a great strategy for you to not only get an idea of where things are at but also help you get some perspective and alone time. I had a really hard time not reaching out all the time when I was the only one doing it, even though all I could think was that if the other person was too busy for me, they obviously weren’t invested in the relationship and I needed to cut my losses, which I eventually did. But what got me to decide that (and it may work out differently for you) was to do something like this — spend a few weeks pretending we were friends at best. It did wonders for my anxiety about my relationship ending.

    Good luck.

  21. Anonym said:

    Hi, first time commenter here (she). I think the Captain’s advice is great and would like to add one thing from my experience. I really feel your pain, LW, because when people are late or reply late a lot I also struggle not to take it personally. I’d like to suggest that you take time to allow yourself to be sad about this: acknowledge that you miss her, and that you fear she doesn’t care, and that you wish the two of you could talk more often on the phone. Then, take care of yourself in the best ways you can think of. This is also where the February plan would come in. Wishing you all the best!

  22. zootzoot said:

    “How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.” I forgot who tha quote is from… But so I would say very big differences in time management is a very important issue in a relationship and it would definitely not be a shallow one to break up over. I also learned that from my last relationship. For us it was a question of spontaneous/planned encounters, but basically my Strategy was what the Captain said: i scheduled stuff and then worse come to worse I wouldn’t see her. It got a bit better at first because I wad more relaxed. Then, as I was back in my own life, so to say, I realised how much I had missed it and how incompatible our styles truly were. It made things easier knowing that when we did break up a few months later. I wish you fun social events and cosy nice phone calls, LW!

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      So much this. As a person who finds uncertainty and spontanaity taxing, this would be a deal-breaker for me. And that’s okay. As the Captain has said, you don’t have to have a “good enough” reason to call it off. I have no doubt that LW’s person is exactly as a lovely person as they say she is. But there are lots of lovely people in the world that you may be more compatible with. And, LW, there is no shame if you should decide that you simply need a more predictable life.

  23. misspiggy said:

    Another bad-at-time person chiming in here. What worked for me:1) partner making it Very Clear that he couldn’t tolerate the relationship unless my lateness improved; 2) Getting diagnosis and guidance to manage the underlying chronic condition that was causing a lot of the problems; 3) taking on less stuff, mainly by saying No more often, and shutting out the voice that said I was a bad person for that. Now I am rarely more than 5 minutes late for anything, and never more than 10.

    But it was never about caring/not caring; more about wanting to feel safe with someone who could let me be me…until I realised that my someone didn’t feel safe with me.

  24. Vicki said:

    The Captain’s suggestion, of seeing what happens if you wait for her to reach out, seems good. What follows is relevant only if, come March, either she’s better at reaching out/keeping plans, or you otherwise decide that she cares, you care, and it’s worth looking for workarounds for her problems with time.

    I’ve been doing the long distance thing for years, and for a while was doing it across three time zones. One thing that helped was that I was three hours earlier, but am a lot more of a morning person than my long-distance partners: so I’d open a chat window on weekend mornings, and fairly often would get a “hello” from the other coast, from my partner who had been awake about as long as I had. (Sometimes we talked ahead of time and “I’ll talk to you Saturday at noon my time,” and sometimes I had the window open but went on about other things.) There might be something similar that would work here, in terms of scheduling phone calls with her so that you aren’t giving up prime social time. I also do a lot of my relationship maintenance/socializing in email, which I know doesn’t work for everyone, but works pretty well for me and brilliantly for my long-distance partner.

  25. Dear LW,

    I, too, think you should fill February with all kinds of wondrous stuff, fit your girlfriend into the free edges, and bail when she’s more than X minutes late (I think X should be 15 minutes though, 30 is too much).

    I’d like to address the feeling I’d get when presented with this advice: But I want to talk to her an hour, and reducing the time when she’s late cuts my nose off to spite my face!

    Yeah. It does. And waiting around for her, which you do maybe because you think if you don’t she won’t show at all, is reducing you.

    Consider thinking through why you’re willing to take the leftovers of her life. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m saying think.) Think about what you’re afraid will happen if you don’t wait for her.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • Saturngrl said:

      “I’d like to address the feeling I’d get when presented with this advice: But I want to talk to her an hour, and reducing the time when she’s late cuts my nose off to spite my face!

      Yeah. It does. And waiting around for her, which you do maybe because you think if you don’t she won’t show at all, is reducing you”

      Beautifully said.

      • Thank you!

  26. Cheddar bae biscuit said:

    Yes! I think the Captain’s advice for a full February is spot-on. I was in a similar spot in a relationship (not long distance, though) where he was really bad at time. He was in grad school and super busy, but I was frustrated because I was also super busy working 2 jobs, applying and saving up to go to grad school. After a few months of being extremely frustrated, I realized I was so good at making things work time-wise that he could assume I would make sure we saw each other regularly. I decided to let that responsibility fall exclusively in his shoulders for a few weeks and to prioritize my plans, not leave prime weekend time slots open just because he said maybe we could hang out. At first he thought I was angry with him and purposely making things difficult, but when I explained I was prioritizing our relationship the way he had been, it clicked and he got a lot better. There was the risk of him deciding it wasn’t worth it to step up and prioritize our time together, but I realized I wouldn’t really want to be in something one-sided for the long haul.

  27. catherine said:

    I noticed that all her list of qualities are about being smart, not about her being kind, warm, or supportive. Bad at time? Well, if she can do all those smart things I don’t think an app that beeps at her on occassion would be too hard. Or something. Bad at time — gets caught up in her life and I and have taught her that I’m flexible, after a bit of resistance. I think focusing on “maybe she really is bad at time” type thinking shifts the process to making it about maybes and inaction. Poor her, bad at time! Maybe she’s got a syndrome or something..?! No she’s fine. It’s also not about focusing on what you feel – legitimately not valued. February is a great month to focus on valuing your own time.

    • rmloro said:

      I agree. “Bad at time” is an excuse for “not putting in the effort”. Which, you know, maybe she *can’t* do at the moment. Maybe she is at a moment in life when this is impossible, and she is not an evil person for not doing the emotional labour. But being in a relationship that benefits her despite her partner’s suffering… that is a choice she is making. And not a very nice one on her part.

  28. SZ said:

    The February Experiment will tell you one of two things:

    1. I am happier when I am filling my own time and not waiting around for her.
    2. I missed her–even with the limited amount of time we get to spend–so much that I want to figure out a way to adjust to this quirk.

    Right now you’re making it a referendum on how important you are to her. Maybe you need to reverse the question and ask, how important is she to me? Is this a problem I’m willing to work on for the sake of keeping her in my life, or is it a deal-breaker?

    Also, given that she is ‘too depressed by other things’ to address this, and the many suggestions that an attention- or executive function-related disability may be part of the problem, ask her to get evaluated and find treatment if she needs it. It’s likely that your relationship is not the only part of her life where chronic lateness is causing problems. Even if it winds up being a dealbreaker, encouraging her to address the underlying causes could be the biggest gift you can give her.

    Good luck.

    • rmloro said:

      It’s not a ‘quirk’ if it’s making the LW completely unhappy and their partner refuses to comfort them about it. Seeing this as a mere ‘quirk’ may hurt the LW even more, because it would mean not listening to their own feelings of hurt, which are completely legitimate and should be the barometer to measure whether the relationship is good for them or not.

      Also, doing the *extra* emotional labour of encouraging their partner to seek therapy… that is just *more* responsibility on the shoulders of the LW on top of the time-management and care labour that they are already doing. So, I disagree with this too. You can suggest therapy to someone, but whether they seek help or not is up to them, always, and it’s unlikely to fix problems that stem from unequal, unbalanced partnerships.

      The LW should focus on their own emotional and mental well-being, start valuing their own time in the manner that the Captain suggests, and listen to the feelings that are saying ‘this situation is hurting me’.

      • Temperance said:

        I do think LW needs to put their own needs first at this point. Not take on even more emotional labor because their girlfriend can’t manage her time or nurture the relationship.

      • Saturngrl said:

        But I think SZ has the right end of the stick. OP needs to get ahold of their own life, and then decide how much accommodation they are willing to make, and what accommodations/alterations/getting help they need Girlfriend to make to keep the relationship health and viable for OP. Maybe OP will feel happy and healthy making some specific, boundaried accommodations if Girlfriend matches that effort by working on setting up supports in her own life that aren’t “equal” but are balanced. Maybe OP will feel do much better not contorting themselves around Girlfriend and decide that the emotional labor required isn’t worth it, even if GF did work to step up her side of the equation.

  29. rory said:

    Oh man, this was so hard for me to learn. It happened to me twice, once in a one-on-one interactions with someone where I eventually did have to learn how to be like “okay I’ve waited long enough, I’m going to bed/food/shower” or “I need to actually do things that aren’t waiting”, and it was okay, she was fine with it. But then there was the online social group that would plan to have events/chats/etc start at X time, but it wouldn’t actually start until 3 hours later, by which point, it was too late for me. And I never solved that one; instead, I ended up leaving the group, since it never worked for me, but it took me far too long and I wasted a lot of time waiting around for other people to show up when they promised they would.

    Best of luck. Don’t be me for those four years I didn’t stand up for my own time. Make your own plans. There are a ton of tools she can use for tracking time, that ball is entirely in her court. But don’t miss out by waiting forever for her. (There’s an excellent Neil Gaiman poem/short story about how the world ends, aliens come, etc… but the narrator never noticed, since they were waiting by the phone, hoping their certain person would call.)

  30. Biancasnoozes said:

    My long distance best friend is like this. So hard. It came to the point where I had to either end the friendship or let it go. I chose to let it go.

    One thing that helped was that I asked her not to make appointments with me to talk. She was big on scheduling a time to talk, and then missing it. That made me so crazy and angry.

    For us, the solution was to stop scheduling time. If she feels like talking to me, she can either just pick up the phone and call me to see if I am there, or she can text me and say “Are you available to talk right now?” If I feel like talking to her, I can do the same. Sometimes, the result is a missed call or “No, sorry, I’m busy right now!” It happens, but it happens on both sides, leading to a much more equal feeling relationship.

  31. kanel said:

    My partner was 40 minutes late to our first date. It made me so relieved, because then I knew I wouldn’t have to worry so much about my chronic lateness 🙂

    Anyway, what I thought of reading this letter, that hasn’t been mentioned yet, is the two year long distance thing. It might be tangential, but also might be worth thinking about. Two years is a long time. For many people a long distance relationship is too much work and too much heartache and longing for too little reward in the long run. Maybe this is where you’re at? Is there a plan for one or both of you to relocate or is the plan to keep on as is? Those questions could be worth pondering.

    That said, I don’t necessarily recommend uprooting your life to live closer to her if you are unsure of her feelings. Just that maybe the status quo has run it’s course.

  32. rmloro said:

    Dear LW:

    You don’t have to do anything at all. You can do other things, such as the Experiment, or giving her a (real) ultimatum, before considering breaking up. But this much is true: you deserve better.

    You invest so much emotional energy into this relationship. I really doubt that she doesn’t love you, I don’t think this is about that. It’s about the fact that, no matter how she feels and whatever the problems and reasons on her side are, you have some emotional requirements that are not being met, because she is making the choice not to put the effort in. Sometimes, love is not enough. Love is not just a feeling, it is an act. An act that involves time-management, logistics, respect, and caring for the other person (and for oneself). But because she is not acting out her love properly, your relationship is unbalanced, and this is completely unfair on you.

    So. You deserve better. Feel free to get angry and upset, as strongly as you need to. And focus on making yourself happy, whatever decision you may take ❤ ❤ ❤

    • thneedle said:

      One of my favorite lines – and I think someone read it at my wedding – is that “love” is a transitive verb.

      It’s an action verb. It’s not a state of being, like being seated is. It’s a series of actions and choices.

  33. johann7 said:

    I should note that I used to have this issue, too, and I figured out strategies to help manage it becasue I thought it wasn’t fair to other people, and it was an important thing for me to try to work on. Cell phones (and especially smartphones) have been a game-changer for me, as I used to have to get ready for things really, really early in order to not be late, but by logging travel times, times for certain tasks, etc., I figured out when to set alarms to remind me to do things I’d otherwise forget. At this point, I’ve been doing it so long that the reminders are less necessary: I’ve been able to get better at estimating time – both as it passes and guessing how long things take – because I explicitly focused on it for so long, and it’s now more internalized (though I still set alarms with extra lead time for events that are novel).

    Having now read through other comments, I see that my strategies won’t work for everyone. Sorry to hear it, and I wish you all the best in finding coping strategies that do work!

    • Saturngrl said:

      I think you are bringing something new to the discussion, though, something that I have heard recommended by many coaches: investigating and tracking how long things actually take. That is not what most of the watch-and-calendar people have been conveying. (I feel like I should acknowledge that a watch alarm and phone reminders have really helped my husband. But he is hypersensitive to noise and it pulls him out of his zone, whereas I will have TV and radio going and still feel understimulated.)

      What i have found useful is a combination of planning and chunking my time and using Pomodoro techniques to get moving and keep myself from just losing time. But part of what’s been useful is learning where and how I am inclined to wander off-track. And I have a much more realistic assessment of how long a particular set of repetitive tasks take when I am relatively functional.

  34. As another precarious jenga emperor, I want to suggest that you de-emphasise scheduled phone times, and try to find non-time-specific ways to connect emotionally, like emails, postcards or letters or small presents through the post, snapchats or other messaging apps that don’t require an immediate reply, short voice messages, reading the same book that you choose together, playing casual phone games, having a shared dropbox folder of songs and amusing snippets, adding silly things to each other’s calendars, sending flowers, remote controlled vibrating buttplugs (yes they’re a thing), gorillagrams, enchanted magical coins, long-distance chess, skywriting etc etc, and keep phone calls or facetime to a hallowed regular time once a week or so. These more playful but short interactions can help spread emotional connection throughout the day, instead of organising emotion time into one big block.

    • Saturngrl said:

      Ooh, I love this approach.

  35. Sheelzebub said:

    Hey, LW.

    I have ADHD. I’m often late. And I think the Captain’s advice rocks.

    First–just to address the speculation train in the comments–we have no idea if your GF has ADHD or another processing or mental health issue. What we do know is that it’s causing distress for you.

    That is all that counts. It’s distressing to you, and you really like her. This is also long-distance and there’s a lot going on there. So I’m not going to tell you to break up; I won’t even tell you to assume this won’t change and ask you how long you can live with this.

    I think the Captain’s advice is spot on because a) it’s good to set boundaries, b) it’s good to prioritize your time and yourself and c) it’s good to check in after a month of doing this and seeing how you feel. Assume you don’t change your new behavior. Assume you continue to do the fun and awesome things, the work stuff you need to do, etc. Assume you prioritize yourself, no matter what your GF does in response. How long can you live with THAT? What does that life look like? And will you be able to give that up?

    As I said, I have ADHD (diagnosed in my 40’s). I have developed coping mechanisms and strategies. I am not perfect but I do make an effort, and the people in my life know this. I am not going to assume anything about your GF because I think internet diagnoses are really fucking irritating and shitty. But your needs and feelings are valid, no matter what the reason is for her behavior. It doesn’t mean she’s a bad person, but she may not be the person for you. You may decide that after prioritizing your time. And that’s okay if you do.

  36. denali denali said:

    I love the Cap’n advice here, and good input from other commenters. I want to encourage you to push, gently, at the assumptions that lie behind “she’s too depressed by other things to even apologize or take any sort of responsibility.”
    Diagnoses (or conditions that exist but haven’t been diagnosed) and a jenga-tower life can make it more difficult to be a 100% responsible, responsive partner… but they don’t make it impossible, and it’s still ok for you to have expectations that make you feel better and more comfortable in your relationship.

    • Saturngrl said:

      Yes, this. I missed this line initially. OP, depression is real, struggle with it is real, but you deserve a responsive, responsible partner. Your girlfriend needs to take some responsibility here. And if you have had 2 years of this…well, someone above said something like “how you live your days is how you live your life.” Is this how you want to live your life? Your girlfriend’s depression is not yours to bear, not to this extent. (It is unclear from the letter whether she has clinical depression or just feels things madly, deeply and expects people around her to take on the burden of managing her emotions? If it’s this, then I say skip the February Experiment.)

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yep. I had a boyfriend who (genuinely) was severely depressed and (genuinely) had executive function disorder. This tended to manifest around chores: he would be supposed to, e.g., unload the dishwasher, but he’d forget, and if he set a timer it’d go off while he was playing video games and he’d be like ‘just five more minutes’ and he’d forget again, and then he’d realize that he had to get up early and go to bed and tell himself he’d do them in the morning, and then he’d not manage his time well in the morning and not have time, and then repeat the next night, until we ran out of forks and I started to be afraid of cockroaches and gave up and did them for him. And then imagine that expanding to pretty much every household chore or errand. Slowly but surely I took them over because I wanted clean underwear or we genuinely needed more bread or milk.

      We talked about this all the time. He was remorseful. He clearly didn’t think it was okay for me to do all the chores and errands. (He didn’t have that problem at work, but his explanation was basically the same as others have mentioned above–he had to use up all his spoons on his job, so he was out when he got home, and also, the way he dealt with deadlines at work was to whip himself into such a froth of panic that he could bully through and do it, which he was not willing to do about washing the dishes.) He was hesitant to see a therapist about it, but did make a few stabs in that direction, but things didn’t really improve.

      Reader, I broke up with him. Not because he was a bad person undeserving of love. Not because I thought he was lying that this was hard-bordering-on-impossible for him. But because I looked long and hard at the prospect of a life where this wasn’t going to change, and realized that I was not okay with that.

  37. kwolicki said:

    I think the Captain is right…and I think talking through how this makes you feel may help. Because of all the late people I know, and I am often one of them, not one has been doing it because they don’t really care or prioritize me. They just suck at time. So being able to say “This is how this is making me feel” let me get to hear them say “I’m sorry, that’s not my intent.” Even when I knew it would happen again. You get to decide if this is tolerable to you or not. Or if you want to be the person making adjustments or not. But I’m not thinking it’s likely to change, ever, no matter the effort expended.

    My mother was diagnosed with ADD at 50. Before that she just kinda believed she could teleport, no travel time required. One of my closest friends is SO BAD at time, she once called me five minutes before we were to meet (I was at the library to wait, I knew how late she generally was). Small chat, then she said she’d be a little late. Where was she? IN ANOTHER STATE, 90+ minutes away. We still laugh about it. I got to read half a book while waiting. Another friend is so bad at math, she always shorts the server. I always leave the tip now when we go out because I’m the one that finds that distressing. Once I made that decision, poof! I no longer cared about how much it would cost me, it was the cost of seeing my awesome friend. This could be terrible – but it’s not. I just adjusted what I expected from my friends because I hope they do it for me. I make myself happy, I don’t trick them or nag them or try to punish them, I just accept that they’re that way, and I plan accordingly so I don’t end up anxious or angry. But if this was consistently making me anxious or angry? I’m not sure I’d have that relationship anymore.

    I’m anti a strict end time for these missed conversations because I’d wonder who was being punished here, if LW was the sad one after missing out on time together. Also I don’t incline towards anything that feels like one partner punishing the other in an attempt to change behavior as opposed to one partner taking care of theirself and the other partner possibly seeing a reason to change as a result.

    • neverjaunty said:

      I’m side-eyeing Math Friend, though. I am the worst at math – I literally have trouble doing simple addition. Turns out that even very basic phones have a calculator, and pocket sized actual calculators can be had for next to nothing.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yeah, I think that “shorts the server and isn’t distressed by it” is more of a moral issue than a logistical one, to be honest. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at math, if you’re going to eat out you have to not stiff your poor waitstaff on the tip. (I also can barely do basic arithmetic on my own, for what it’s worth, but pocket solar calculators cost a couple bucks tops.)

  38. GreenDoor said:

    Yes to the LW resetting the boundaries. You’re either here at the appointed time or I’m giving you X minutes of leeway, and then I’m moving on to the next thing on my own list.

    Just out of curiosity, LW, if you were dating this person locally….waiting for her at restaurants, showing up to her place to pick her up for a date and she’ snot dressed yet, waking up early to head out for a weekend getaway and she’s not ready to leave yet, making excuses to your group of friends for her lateness to their gathering….if all of that was happening locally, how long would you put up with it? You shouldn’t have to put up with it any differently just because you are in a long distance relationship. Respect for another person’s time is respect. Right now, you have a serious lack thereof.

  39. Serin said:

    The captain’s advice is perfect.

    I think that some people, through no fault of their own, are just not going to be very good at long-distance relationships. Some people who would be perfect partners if they lived in the same town are just not going to be able to do the level of planning and coordination required for long-distance.

    It’s sort of like you wanted a partner to live with you in a lighthouse. If you choose an extrovert who has trouble with stairs, it’s not that that person doesn’t care about you, and it’s not that you’re incompatible in a vacuum — but that’s a person who is not compatible with your current living situation.

  40. Rhoda said:

    Not that it’s your problem, but it’s possible your friend could have ADHD and not realize it. Poor timekeeping is one of the many things that people with this disorder have. They lose track or get distracted or simply think they can do everything in a portion of time they don’t really have.
    The Captain offered good advice – only wait for her for so long and then go on your own. She’ll eventually learn to manage her time better.

  41. Lana said:

    I feel you so hard, LW. I am pretty good at time, and I’m typically only late to things I don’t care about very much, so I am very prone to interpreting other people’s lateness = they do not care about me.

    My best friend is a lot like your girlfriend, though maybe not quite as bad, and one of the most important conversations we had was about what made us feel loved in in a friendship/relationship, and how we showed love to others. I show the people in my life that I care about them by showing up for them super reliably, and she shows people that she loves them through vulnerability and honesty. After that, I was able to see how she was showing me she loved me in other ways, and noticing ways I had not reciprocated, instead of focusing on the way I give love and always taking it personally when she didn’t give me that.

    That said, you also have to know yourself and what you need. A girlfriend is different from just a friend, and I, personally, could not be with an exclusive romantic partner who was Bad At Time. Ultimately, you have to accept that you can’t change your girlfriend, you can only decide what works for you.

  42. OMJ said:

    Differences in time perception/priorities is a hugely underrated area of incompatibility, IMO. I remember talking to a friend of mine who’s a relationship therapist, and she said that differences in how you perceive and manage time are actually one of the most frequent sources of conflict around. So I’m just saying, LW, don’t feel like this is a trivial issue if it’s bothering you. It’s a real thing.

    That said, I’m a person who’s generally very aware of what time it is and when things should happen, and I’m married to a person who does not match me on that. The Captain’s advice is SPOT ON. Husband and I have both done some work to meet each other partway on the big prioritizing things (he is better about checking the time, I am okay with frequently sending him reminders about how much time he has left before Thing happens). But the best thing I’ve done for my emotional satisfaction is to stop waiting for him when he can. He says he’ll be home in an hour? Eh, I’m going to pick something I really want to do and just go do it, and he’ll show up when he shows up. I really want to go somewhere at a specific time and he’s not anywhere near home yet? Guess I’m going without him, then.

    The big thing I found from all of this is that for me, this waiting around and getting frustrated or disappointed or whatever, it was about control. I resented that I was putting myself on hold for someone else. So I stopped doing that. And it really helps.

    It also helps if you identify for your partner what the Really Big Important things are. Most people with time issues can still be on time when they really really need to, but it takes a lot of extra effort that they can’t expend all the time. So pick out your top priorities and lay those out for your partner. For anything else, make yourself a backup plan.

    Anyway, I think the February plan is great because it gives you some time to see if you are OK with living this way in your relationship. If you’re not, then you’re not obligated to stick around. But this kind of thing tends to be hard to change, so you’re now in “how do I live with this” mode, not “how do I change this” mode. Just assume it’s not changing.

    • EllenS said:

      Yes, there is a big difference between expecting someone to burn all the booster fuel to achieve escape velocity for a Big Thing, and setting yourself up for that kind of stakes every single time you talk/see each other.

  43. xms967 said:

    Could I put a few bucks down and avoid seeing comments saying “it’s just so EASY to be on time, just use an ALARM CLOCK [and other helpful hints you’ve surely never heard of]”? Asking as a bona-fide ADHD person, insofar as that should matter at all.

    • EmIpsaLoquitur said:

      OMG YES. Obviously there’s no way to know for sure what’s going on with LW’s girlfriend, but the number of people replying to people talking about ADHD struggles with the equivalent of “Maybe just try not having ADHD?” is so absurd and depressing.

    • EllenS said:

      Indeed. ADHD does not equal stupid.
      Everybody’s cluster of issues is different. Alarm clocks don’t fix everybody’s brain anymore than “just get glasses” fixes everybody’s eyes.

  44. My dearest LW, I echo the Captain’s suggestion of “fill your life with other things, don’t put your life on hold while you wait for her time issues to sort themselves out as a referendum on how much she cares about you/your relationship, and set a boundary of ‘I will allot x amount of time as a grace period for our scheduled calls/skype sessions’ and stick to it” so hard that the vibrations from it are resonating through my computer.
    I’ve got a sister whose time management skills are so skewed that we literally ask her before visits “are you planning on scheduling this visit on Andrea Time or Standard Time?” If she says she’ll be somewhere “in the morning”, realistically that means she’ll arrive around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, if not later; this has only gotten more pronounced now that she has a child. If she says “I’ll be there by 10:00” then she’ll be within an hour of that time. We have learned to accept this, because our vocal frustration has not improved the situation and in fact just makes her avoid us from a combination of shame and resentment.
    This letter actually reminds me a bit of the letter from the LW whose sister was always super flaky, and the advice was to stop trying to schedule things with her, or only schedule things that the LW would be fine attending with or without her sister (difference between “hey come see this movie with me at 7:15 on Friday” and “I’m going to a bar for drinks and live music; if you want to hang out, that’s where I’ll be from 7:00 to 10:30 Friday night”. Is that something you think could work in your situation? “I will be available for our phone date from 7:30 to 8:30; if I haven’t heard from you by 7:45 I’m going to assume you can’t make it and do something else and we can try again [tomorrow/next week/some other time that works for YOU]”
    Best of luck, LW; I know it’s super difficult to deal with.

  45. H said:

    Hi,
    I’ve been both sides of this equation. It’s possible to have “perpetual time optimism” & not really have a brain diagnosable condition.

    For me, when a friend told me (angrily but very reasonably when I was 10 or 20 mins late for a 30min slot for the upteenth time) “if you’re ever more than 2 mins late I will never play squash with you again” – and I totally believed her – it caused me to pull finger & work out a reasonable time sequence for turning up there on time. I’m very grateful to her for that confrontation as it brought vividly home to me just how upsetting my perpetual lateness was. I’ve been better (not perfect ) ever since.- & it was weeks before I was noticeably late for squash again, by which time we had a new pattern & I was forgiven.

    I now have a friend who is also chronically late – partly due to the perpetual optimism thing. Yes it’s really really annoying & leaves the always-waitee feeling unvalued. My strategies for dealing with this are:
    * never agree to meet anywhere that you would find it unpleasant to wait. They’d prefer to meet in their favourite bar? Tough – it can be my favourite bookshop. Or I’ll walk to the bar from the bookshop only after they’ve texted to say they’re already there. For a situation like long distance phone all this could be amended to a txt a few mins prior to the call checking that the timing is still good (if no reply assume it’s not & make other plans )
    * when they’re a bit late (10-20mins) send a txt asking for an update. Annoyed responses from them along the lines of “just chill” I am allowed to feel annoyed about & let it show & say what else I might have done had I known that the time was available. Basically let them know that my time matters too.
    *eventually just leave or allow a hard finish time to remain so that friend gets less because of lateness & has a consequence for their choice.

    I read an excellent book recently called “scarcity why having too little means so much” which deals with both Jenga like timetables & finances. It’s an interesting different take on the.whole thing. I’d recommend it.

    If you’re up to it/care enough say something as brutal & awakening to your partner as my friend did to me. I’m grateful for it.

    Best wishes

  46. Letter Reader said:

    LW, this is a tough position for both of you, and I’m sorry.

    As with the other commenters, I think the February Experiment would be useful. Potentially devastating, yes. But this whole situation is rife with devastation, albeit of a slower and more drawn out nature, so I don’t think that’s actually a strike against it.

    Picking up on some other threads:

    – The central issue here is that a) your girlfriend is Bad At Time and b) you interpret this as her not caring about you. As several people have said, it’s probably very hard for her to become less bad at time. So my question is: are there other things she could do that would make you feel cared for, without needing to coordinate phones? E.g. making you costumes, writing you stories/letters, …? This would have less immediacy, but might also be less of a strain, and that seems like it could be worth it.

    – Speaking of immediacy, you mention being long distance for two years and that not working out well. How soon could you stop being long distance? What would each of you need to sacrifice? How does your relationship & time work when you live together (if you ever have)?

    – Can you expand on her depression and its role here? What triggers does it have, and what best works for her to cope with it? How can she best work on her time awareness around it? Can you frame it such that you’re less upset with her as a person as she deals with this – without pouring more negativity back into yourself?

    – What are all the pieces of her jenga tower life? Have you discussed any she might give up, and how does she feel about this possibility? Is she deliberately keeping herself busy to cope with the aforementioned depression? If so, how do you fit into this?

  47. Letter Reader said:

    LW, this is a tough position for both of you, and I’m sorry.

    As with the other commenters, I think the February Experiment would be useful. Potentially devastating, yes. But this whole situation is rife with devastation, albeit of a slower and more drawn out nature, so I don’t think that’s actually a strike against it.

    Picking up on some other threads:

    – The central issue here is that a) your girlfriend is Bad At Time and b) you interpret this as her not caring about you. As several people have said, it’s probably very hard for her to become less bad at time. So my question is: are there other things she could do that would make you feel cared for, without needing to coordinate phones? E.g. making you costumes, writing you stories/letters, …? This would have less immediacy, but might also be less of a strain, and that seems like it could be worth it.

    – Speaking of immediacy, you mention being long distance for two years and that not working out well. How soon could you stop being long distance? What would each of you need to sacrifice? How does your relationship & time work when you live together (if you ever have)?

    – Can you expand on her depression and its role here? What triggers does it have, and what best works for her to cope with it? How can she best work on her time awareness around it? Can you frame it such that you’re less upset with her as a person as she deals with this – without pouring more negativity back into yourself?

    – What are all the pieces of her jenga tower life? Have you discussed any she might give up, and how does she feel about this possibility? Is she deliberately keeping herself busy to cope with the aforementioned depression? If so, how do you fit into this?

    • J said:

      Way too much emotional labor. The girlfriend is a grown ass woman. Why should LW work so hard to find reasons to put up with it? Who cares about why she is depressed? The LW has an issue and girlfriend is not interested in fixing it. So LW can set boundaries and it will play out. I have issue with folks excusing this ‘bad at time’ thi g. I’m bad at time and there are so many strategies one can use to help. Girlfriend doesn’t sound like she is doing that. It’s a basic question: is gf willing to work on an issue that is legitimately hers to fix? No? Then it’s not the issue anymore it’s respect. Gf is not respecting the relationship. Not ok, no matter what the issue. Can we please not gaslight the LW into believing gf just can’t help herself?

  48. Letter Reader said:

    Also, a different question for the Captain: I’m pretty sure (like, over 95%) that I know the LW. Besides the question itself, there’s just too many details that match up.

    There’s a chance I’m wrong, of course. But I bring this up because I don’t see anything about this situation in the site policies, and it seems like something that should be there.

    I figure the right thing to do is pretty clear: preserve anonymity here (including using a pseudonym that doesn’t match any of my other accounts), & don’t mention anything about this post or this issue to either LW or LW’s GF, or anyone who knows them, unless they bring it up first. If you feel a need to comment, do so compassionately & discreetly, without adding other details about the situation.

    Is there anything I’m missing from this? It seems like some letters might present tougher situations — e.g. finding out that someone is experiencing abuse.

    Would the site benefit from a “here’s what to do if you recognize the LW” policy? Should we even be talking about this?

    • Vicki said:

      Potentially relevant: a while ago I read a letter here and thought “this sounds awfully familiar.” I sent the person I know a note that said something like “either I just recognized your letter on the Captain Awkward site, or someone else is dealing with a situation similar enough that you might benefit from reading that letter.” My friend acknowledged that yes, it was them, and I stayed out of the comments about that. In that case, my friend had been asking for help in a more private online space; it wasn’t just “I think I know these people” but “I think I know this person and what they’re worried about right now.”

  49. Singingasilentsong said:

    I was late for many many many years / to everything / and then one time I very late to an event and my friend became ill right after I got there ( I was over an hour late ) and that was the last time I ever saw him alive.
    The pain of that lost hour – the loss of that last hour on that day and then the realization of ALL the lost hours strewn along the path of our friendship – well it shocked me into the NEVERMORE reaction. Nevermore would I assume life goes merrily forward and I can catch up at the next intersection when I get there late.

    I made changes to my end of the roadway – I make plans that I keep – set out early to make sure I met others at the TIME destination agreed on / because TIME is not static and rolls and weaves and keeps going even when we think the bus will wait.

    My life is in my hands / heart / mind – I now curate the time I have to fit the needs I have.

    I get that it is hard and it is so very exhausting to swim in the currents of real time – but I do it so that I can swim with others / together like a school of silver minnows. I schedule time that is empty too / so I can rest in the shallows without schedule.

    It has worked for me / this change

  50. J said:

    Captain is spot on. I’m pretty bad with time, but I gave developed strategies. I don’t lie about it and sometimes I just add a half hr to a meet time, like I’ll say I can be there at 7:30 if I think I can by 7 to give myself a buffer, and not disrespect someone’s time. And I apologize if I’m late and it’s real. But mostly I recognize its rude so I work at it and that’s worked for me. Not perfect but pretty good. What your girl is doing isn’t bad at time, I don’t think. It’s careless callous disrespect. She’s not dumb she could easily add a half hr or so. She doesn’t care to solve the problem. Put it this way, if she had to get on a plane would she make it? Maybe by the seat of her pants but would she? Heck I’ve had close calls but rarely missed a flight due to my issues. So if she’s really doing this all the time it’s just callous disregard, she doesn’t care to change. And that’s why the captains advice is good. This person may have some good qualities but respect does not appear to be one of them and you have a right to feel hurt. If someone set that boundary with me I would not be offended I’d be shamed a bit. You will learn a lot from her reaction to your setting the boundary firmly. Is she chagrined? Or angry at not getting what she feels entitled to. A get out of jail free card. I hope she feels shame and makes changes. If not then you will know what to do.

  51. EllenS said:

    I have ADHD and time is hard.
    There is no one-size fits all system, but if I have enough incentive (like work/have to pay bills), I can stay within socially acceptable parameters. It’s a lot of effort, and it’s very tiring.

    Generally speaking, I try to arrange social and family-type interactions in such a way that time fluidity isn’t a problem. Because I don’t want to be constantly exhausted by my relationships. Trying to have a romance “on the clock” would be as much a nightmare for me as it would be for my partner.

    I have not done a long-distance relationship, but are scheduled phone calls of fixed duration in a designated location really the only way to have one? But if that’s what’s important to the LW, then if course it’s a valid choice.

    That’s what is so good about the Cap’s advice. It doesn’t involve trying to make the girlfriend function a certain way – it’s just about freeing up LW to live their own desires and boundaries.

    Maybe LW will find that the girlfriend adjusts. Or that life is fine whether she does or not. Or that the relationship isn’t working.
    Maybe the girlfriend is looking for a relationship where she can relax and not have high stakes connected to punctuality.

    A good fit is complicated.

  52. BlueAlien said:

    Hi! I’m the letter writer. My GF and I have been blown away by all of the stories people have shared. Especially people with ADD and ADHD! Hearing you stories has definitely helped me view this as more of a “brains are different” thing than a “she doesn’t care about me thing” (you all changed someone’s mind on the internet!). Our talks tended more towards the intellectual “what would be best if all of society did it” or more nitty gritty “here’s how our brains are different”, not “is what I’m asking for actually possible though?”. The disconnect between her agreeing with me that she wanted to treat my time as as valuable as hers and her actual actions was where a lot of pain came from.

    In this case, there’s no ADD or ADHD diagnosis and it wasn’t even on our radar to look into it. Now that might be changing. I should also probably mention that my side of things is probably driven by moderate social anxiety and that it was exacerbated by meds I was trying. They helped the anxiety, but gave me fairly strong megalomania. I’ve stopped it now, because megalomania is _bad_ for being an empathetic person.

    I will probably be taking Captain Awkward’s advice. We’ve also agreed that I can ask to talk briefly before I go to bed if I’m feeling not unloved due to lateness. There’s a nice symmetry in inconvenience here that we think will be doubly effective. In general, I’m now viewing eventual solutions as much more likely to be along the lines of “make sure the inconvenience is equitably distributed”, not “make her do the correct thing”. Having all of you chime in with your own struggles really helped with that shift!

    I’d like to respond to a few more questions people asked, but I noticed my responses had “we” a lot and I don’t want to post those without first making sure they are a “we”, not just a “I wish we” or “I think we, but this might be motivated by X”. But I can say that our long distance relationship is fulfilling and fun, that it isn’t a proxy for another relationship, and that I like it on its own merits a _very_ substantial majority of the time. It is remarkably free of tragedy, longing, or feelings of distance, despite the actual distance (in fact, I think we’re generally better at dating long distance than close, but this is almost certainly practice).

  53. Naphtali said:

    As a person who is both chronically, irreparably bad at time for neurological reasons and has been in a wonderful long-distance relationship for a year and a half, this has been an interesting and terribly painful thread.

    Maybe LW’s girlfriend’s time management problems are carelessness, and maybe they’re a sign of an underlying problem that could maybe be better manged with help, and maybe it’s an unchangeable fact of her life. I don’t know, I’m not her doctor. I can tell you that, for me, yeah, sure, I can catch a plane or make it to a doctor appointment, but I literally have to take the entire day off work and spend it anxiously not doing anything else until its done. I leave 2-5 hours early for a destination less than half an hour away. Two appointments with different doctors in the same building requires at least a few hours buffer time between. It’s exhausting and time consuming and I take exactly zero pleasure in it. I make it to work in the morning because I have a solid routine that I practiced with outside help until it stuck and also because I have nothing else happening from 4am when I wake up to 6:30 when I get to work. The people I care about can handle me being half an hour late or only making spontaneous plans because they love me enough to not inflict hours of anxiety on me over time management. The people who can’t handle it I don’t spend time with because neither of us needs the negativity. If someone has better things to do than wait for me or points their hostile attribution bias at my disability, I wish them well, but we are not compatible meat-space friends.

    Short version of above paragraph: I’m seeing a lot of comments to the tune of “if she loved LW she would make the time.” But for my own life, punctuality has very little to do with respect or care or effort and everything to do with spoon management and anxiety and massive, unsustainable stress levels. Is this true of LW’s girlfriend? Who knows?

    What I can say for sure is that right now, scheduled phone calls are not working for LW and Girlfriend. Maybe unscheduled calls or a different kind of scheduling could be more effective? My partner and I will let each other know when we have free time via text, and ask if the other is available to talk. Sometimes the answer is yes, and often it’s no, but its easy and low-pressure for us and I don’t have to deal with brainweasels about keeping appointments.Sometimes snapchatting turns into an impromptu video call. We make dates where they clear their whole afternoon and I call right after I wake up (before anything else can get in the way). Sometimes we don’t hear each other’s voices in real-time for months. One or more of these things might work for other people.

    The thing that is more concerning to me is the problem LW and Girlfriend are having during visits. What is preventing Girlfriend from making time then – is it other plans that have cropped up, not showing up to the visit on time, or is it other people interrupting by calling, running into them on the street, etc? Because all of those are problems with different solutions. Maybe LW and Girlfriend need to meet up somewhere that is away from people who know them. Maybe the time frames these visits are scheduled for aren’t a good fit (overnight vs a weekend vs a week). Maybe they need a no-phones policy for face-to-face time. Maybe LW and Girlfriend have vastly different needs in terms of personal space and cuddle time. Maybe one partner considers plans where both people hang out with a group of others as a viable means of “spending time together” and the other doesn’t.

    Both brain stuff and LDR stuff sometimes require creative solutions that don’t make sense to anyone else.

  54. GirlCalledBob said:

    Both me and my (long distance) girlfriend are bad at schedules, if not specifically time, and we’ve found if phone calls are Too Much for one of us to get ourselves organised for, text communication is a good way to stave off those ‘but does she hate me??’ feelings.

    Like other people have been saying, LWs girlfriend may never be good at being on time for calls. But maybe having a smaller, secondary way to communicate could help that feel more managable?

  55. atma said:

    I agree with the Captain’s excellent suggestions, both the strategy – give it a month, see if it changes – and the shift in perspective – what can you do to change the situation, what do you find acceptable, how will you handle it.

    It is better for the both of you. As it looks now, there is a weird power thing going on, you feel disrespected and unwanted and I bet your friend feels judged an flawed. The Captain’s suggestions takes this dynamic off the table and gives you a chance to try a new start. And also to decide that this is not working for you.

    I am one of the chronically late people. I can’t blame it on any sort of diagnosis. And I’m never as happy as when I’m travelling to, say, India, when I’m not alone. Living life is a constant uphill battle. Being late is never just an inconvenience, it is a moral failure, late people don’t respect others, they are lazy, stupid and they really don’t qualify for being seen as people. A little bit like fat people, all we hear is, well if you cared at all and wasn’t just a bad person you could easily fix this. So yes, for dating and friendship over the divide between time optimists and punctuality fascists there needs to be communication and mutual respect. And maybe it will still not work, and that’s OK!

    I get to work mostly on time, I catch flights by giving myself extreme margins (yes, I have missed flights) as well as big dates and anniversaries. I avoid promising punctuality and respect that this will cause me to miss out on certain things. I also give myself permission not to be friends with people who demand extreme grovelling and apologies for handling time different than them. I’m OK with this

  56. Hallie said:

    I tend to pack my diary back to back so when the first thing runs over because I’ve not scheduled enough time or forgotten to include travelling time, the rest of my day spirals.

    A possible solution – schedule calls in the morning or lunch time before that spiral develops. That’ll depend on your time zone differences I realise but early tends to be the appointments I’m closer to on time for and maybe that will help.

    The depression comment resonated – that’s how I felt before I was diagnosed and struggling to cope with my conditions. It may be worth gently encouraging her to talk to a doctor in case she has a neurological reason for this. Additionally, if you decide you do want to stay with her, there are resources for partners of people with ADHD and Asperger’s (the behaviours she has are overlap with behaviours of these conditions) that may give you advice on how to approach these issues regardless of whether she has a diagnosis.

    Of course, it may be she doesn’t care and the captain’s advice above is a great way of finding that out as well as giving yourself a holiday from the frustration and resentment.

    Whatever her reason, you’re allowed to want her to be on time. If she can’t, it doesn’t make either of you bad people, you’re just not right for each other. Just be gentle but firm when you express it if it is a neurological condition because shame spirals make it worse.

  57. JenniferP said:

    I’m gonna shut the comments down today, before I see one more “But you could just set alarms on your phone!” comment. I was teaching yesterday afternoon and evening and I’m sorry I couldn’t stem the waterfall before it got this far. There may in fact be executive function issues going on with the girlfriend, but it’s not our job to diagnose them, and it’s also not our job to use the Letter Writer’s feelings of frustration to beat ourselves up with. The frustration is real, and I think the Letter Writer deserves to be able to take care of themselves around this without an avalanche of “but she probably can’t help it.”

    To be clear, I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s. It explained….so much. So much.

    One thing it explained was why HARD STUFF (keeping a complex movie shoot on track!) was easy and EASY STUFF (leaving the house on time every day to get to another place at a specific time) was hard for me. Because the narrative of my entire life was “You are smart so why can’t you _______?” but y’all, I couldn’t ________. I will be there either insanely early (before you want me there, hiding around the corner at the coffee shop) or 10 minutes late. That’s it. Choose one. I sometimes have to be at 3 different jobs in one day, and sometimes I can’t do the Insanely Early Coffee Shop thing.

    I’ve gotten better over time, with all the “you could just…” workarounds mentioned here, but it took a lot of time and energy (not to mention medication) and it’s still not perfect. If your brain is the kind of brain that doesn’t struggle with this, I’m happy for you, but you don’t get it. The workarounds you patiently explain, like alarm clocks and keeping all your things organized by the door, WE KNOW ABOUT THEM. We have great intentions about implementing them. I have a literal crate full of time management planners and books, with the first pages optimistically filled out, that I am too ashamed to just throw away. There is so much shame about this, and so much capitalist Protestant work ethic language about being late as a moral failing. We should be able to. But we aren’t able to. You can’t explain that ability into being no matter how hard you try.

    You don’t have to put up with inconsiderate behavior or feel great about lateness, but I would implore you to stop assigning a moral value to it around your friendships and acting like pay will be docked if they fail to punch in. That said, boundaries aren’t mean. In fact, BOUNDARIES HELP people who are bad at structure create a little more structure. When I know a timely friend is really bugged by lateness, I will pull the extra mile to be on time for that friend. And when I am inevitably 5 minutes late instead of ten, she will smile and be glad to see me.

    The hardest part of setting and maintaining boundaries is setting them for ourselves, like, “I will not wait by the phone indefinitely, I will go out and have fun and not dwell on this.” “I can’t control what the other person will do, but I can control what I will do about it.” In my opinion, the Letter Writer needs to get out of the pattern of putting their own social life on the back burner to wait for the girlfriend to have a little time for them. That will feel a bit like prioritizing the relationship less, but it’s not a punishment for the girlfriend or a test set up for her to fail, it’s the Letter Writer maintaining a structure for themselves that gives the relationship a chance to thrive.

    Letter Writer, I wish you well. Here endeth the comment thread.

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