Boyfriend is always late and I'm frustrated

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend is always late when we have something planned. Not just fifteen minutes or so, but an hour or more! I don't know why I even wait, but I really care about him. He doesn't realize how much it bothers me. My question is, how can I get him to become more punctual?


Dear Reader,

It's frustrating when you rush around trying to get somewhere on time, only to be kept waiting by someone else running late. For many, showing up on time is a sign of respect for a person and their time, especially when schedules are busy. There are a number of factors that could explain your boyfriend's chronic lateness. It could be that you two have different concepts of what it means to arrive “on time” based on your respective cultural backgrounds. Additionally, he may lack time-management skills or struggle with procrastination. It is also possible that a mental health condition or learning disability is making it more difficult to perceive time and organize plans accordingly.

If you haven’t discussed your concerns with him yet, it may be helpful to communicate to your boyfriend how you feel when you're kept waiting. This could lead to a conversation between the two of you in which you work towards reaching a mutual understanding and agreements about expectations: you could tell him about how his lateness impacts you and he can tell you why he struggles to be punctual to your plans. Together, you can problem solve and agree on a path forward that feels good for each of you. A discussion like this could offer an explanation for your boyfriend’s lack of timeliness that doesn't involve deliberate disregard for your schedule.

As mentioned, mental health, for example, can impact punctuality and result in lateness even if someone intends to arrive on time. In fact, chronic lateness is commonly associated with both anxiety disorders and ADHD. For those with ADHD in particular, time may seem to move either slower or faster than it actually does, making it difficult to prepare for events. What it means to be “on time” also differs from culture to culture; while one person may deem anyone arriving after an established time on the clock to be “late,” and another may have an acceptable window (for example: fifteen minutes) after said time in which someone could arrive and not be considered “late.” 

You may also want to consider asking your boyfriend to think about what would help him be more punctual.

  • Is there difficulty with procrastination? If so, it may be useful for him to divide tasks into smaller, more manageable ones that will seem less daunting.
  • Does he struggle to remember agreed-upon meeting times? If so, setting some alarms to alert him ahead of your plans may be a helpful idea.
  • If he is trying to manage a health condition that causes him to be late, would he be open to exploring support — such as medication or time management strategies — with a health care provider?

Getting to the exact root of your boyfriend’s lateness, coming to a mutual understanding and shared expectations, and discussing resources for support could help you two find solutions before you lose your patience entirely.

Best of luck,

Last updated Oct 07, 2022
Originally published Feb 19, 1999