Okay, now I’m pissed.

To recap The Pedant’s and my conversation about his chronic lateness so far (with updates, because more has happened):

  • I texted him saying that there are two things he could do that would make me exponentially happier in our relationship: fix his lateness issue, and in the meantime carry his copy of my keys on him at all times so if he’s late getting here he can just let himself in.
  • He responded saying that he’s terrified of losing my keys but if I got new ones cut for him (so he wouldn’t have to have the pink leopard motif ones on his keychain) he’d carry them with him. And that he’s “working on” his lateness but if it bothers me that much I should be warned that it probably won’t change anytime soon.
  • I was like yeeeeah, no, it’s not my fault you won’t use the perfectly good keys I gave you. YOU can cut new ones. And I explained why it was important to me – that when he’s hours late I end up feeling like I have to sit by the phone so I don’t miss the text that he’s here, since my door doesn’t have a buzzer. And I asked what he’s doing to work on his lateness.
  • He said fine, he’ll get keys copied. And that for the record he’s never seen arriving on time as a virtue, and has looked down on some of his exes for being early to things. And added that what he’s doing to fix his lateness so far (“you’re not going to like it”) is stay in and sleep rather than make plans.
  • I said that TBH I feel like his whole “being on time isn’t a virtue” thing is a rationalization and a defense mechanism – trying to make like being late makes him one of the cool kids or some shit when in fact it demonstrably fucks with all areas of his life. And I said that duh, it had already occurred to me that part of the problem might be overscheduling himself so it’s really no surprise that seeing me less might be part of the solution.* And I asked him what other measures he’ll be taking to get on top of this.
  • I then sent an addendum reassuring him that I know change will take a long time and I’m not looking for an instant 180 from him, just sincere effort, one step at a time. [What I didn’t say was: historically, he has demonstrated that he wants to make me happy. I assume he does now, too. But I can tell that the lateness thing is a big source of anxiety for him, and by poking that bear I assume I’m gonna wake up a whole lot of fear and defensiveness. This is me trying to pre-emptively reassure him.]
  • The Pedant conceded (amazingly): “It would help if I remedied my tardiness, yes.” But then: “Knowing that someone gets annoyed by said tardiness does not do anything to help – instead, it inspires contempt. With that in mind, I’m going to limit my future plans and commitments to things I know are easily accomplished.”

I’m incredibly pissed off at this. First off, I’ve been putting up with his lateness for years and barely said anything about it. I intuited early on that it’s something he can’t just “snap out of” – like my anxiety – and so yelling at him or giving him an ultimatum would probably just freak him out. Instead I tried to deal with it as best I could. I refused to meet him at any outside location (because he’s stranded me in public places for 45 min or more, waiting for his dumb ass while random dudes hit on me and random vagrants asked me for money or told me I was tall or told me what colour my hair was); our plans always involved him coming over here. The last time we did have to meet in a public place, I flat-out told him I would not even put pants on until he texted me that he had left the house (his response: “fair.”). I gave him keys to my apartment so he could let himself in instead of me feeling like I had to be hypervigilant waiting for him (and we know how that turned out…”Oooops I forgot your keys again, you’re gonna have to let me in” ad infinitum). Hell, even now I didn’t say I was annoyed with him or scream LEARN HOW TO ADULT PROPERLY GODDAMMIT BECAUSE THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS, even though I wanted to. I simply said it would make me happy if he worked on this issue. But even that is too much for his fragile little ego.

Secondly, I get sick of his weird, oblique, passive-aggressive jabs. He thinks of himself as a rational and straightforward person but he communicates like a fucking catty thirteen year old girl (“I didn’t say you were a bitch, I said you were acting like a bitch LOL”). Telling me he “feels contempt” for people who dislike his lateness. Bitch, if you have something to say to me, fucking say it. Tell me outright that you feel contemptuous of me, specifically. But no. He’ll just toss out the idea that if I persist with my line of thought, he’ll end up hating me.

Thirdly, the gaslighting. He consistently acts like his lateness is no big deal and it’s petty for anyone to be irritated by it (worthy of contempt, even). And that’s bullshit because first off it’s just rude as fuck to be late all the time but secondly we’re not talking about five or ten minutes here. He’s hours later than he says he’ll be, almost every single time we get together. For a while there he was regularly telling me “Hey I’ll take you out to dinner when I get there!” and then half an hour after he was supposed to be here, I’d get a text saying “thirty more minutes.” And then another one half an hour later. And then another one half an hour later. While I sat there ravenous and not eating anything because I thought we would do all-you-can-eat sushi any minute. On at least one occasion he arrived so late that the restaurant (or at least the all-you-can-eat option) was closed by the time he got here.

Fourthly, his whole “I’m going to limit my plans to things that can be easily accomplished” thing sounds like a veiled threat. “Oh, you’re calling me out on my bullshit behaviour? Well now I hate you and I’m gonna punish you by not coming over anymore and pretending I’m doing it because that’s what you asked for.” Or maybe he actually thinks this is a valid step in not being late anymore, but it sounds like avoiding the problem to me, not addressing it.

This was last night that I got this email from him. I spent an hour or so seething and writing, then deleting, a few different responses, most of them absolutely scathing. Finally – reminding myself that he was probably just feeling stupid for being such a fuckup and reacting with fear and defensiveness, I settled on:

The “contempt” is that you’re angry with me because I’ve forced you to confront a thing you don’t like about yourself, and that’s uncomfortable for you. So I suppose either you’re punishing me by seeing me less or you want to see me less because you now have a Pavlovian association between seeing me and feeling bad about yourself. Whatever. It’ll pass. I can wait.

But let’s be clear: I don’t have disparaging thoughts about you for your chronic lateness. I don’t see it as laziness or uncaring or some kind of moral failing. I suspect that my calling you out on the lateness has triggered you to have those thoughts about YOURSELF, but that’s all you. I see it as a bug that needs to be fixed, nothing more. It’s morally neutral.

We both know there’s a bug; we both know life will be better if you fix it. We’re on the same team here. And I’ve got a whole shitload of experience as a debugger so I can help you come up with an action plan if you want. Just ask.

I kind of thought he’d be unnerved by me seeing through his stupid bullshit “cool and detached” act so easily and have a knee-jerk anger reaction, but surprisingly, no. Instead, he responded:

As long as we’re being clear, I should point out that I’ve always been bothered far more by people’s expectations of punctuality than I have by anyone’s tardiness. I’ve never gotten terribly annoyed at other people for being late, but I came to actively resent people who live by their watches long before we ever met.

So…I guess this is his way of saying “it’s not you, I get annoyed like this with everyone who dislikes my lateness”? Or something?

But again with the fucking gaslighting. He might as well say “Why must everyone maintain this Hitler-like insistence on lockstep punctuality? Bunch of peons worshiping their timepieces. It’s absurd! People should be reasonable, like me!”

Well, first off, I’d bet good money that The Pedant doesn’t have anyone who’s consistently hours late to see him, and also he’s a dude so if he gets stranded in public waiting, he’s not gonna get harassed the same way I do. So of course lateness isn’t a big deal. He goes to the coffee shop, his date or whatever texts him “whoops I might be ten minutes late” and he shrugs and sits there enjoying his coffee without anyone cruising by hoping to put their dick in him. And that is usually how things would go, with him, because he lives with his parents who he hates, way out in the boondocks, so he doesn’t invite friends over. He goes to other people’s houses (so he’s never in the position of waiting for someone at his) or else he meets them for coffee or a movie (and is a guy, and doesn’t have social anxiety or agoraphobia, and is immune to feelings of danger anyway because autism or something).

If someone put him through what he puts me through, there is no way that’s not gonna start pissing him off.

Also, wanting him to arrive less than four hours after he says he will is not bizarrely picky or clockwatching. For fuck’s sake.

So again I sat here a while looking at his message and sputtering. Finally, I sent him this:

And is “living by my watch” what you think I’m doing when I express disappointment that you offered to come take me to dinner in the early evening but didn’t arrive until after the restaurant had closed?

I want him to stop being a catty little bitch and make a direct statement about me if he’s got something to say. Not “I feel contemptuous of people who demand punctuality.” Not “I actively resent people who live by their watches.” I want him to get some balls and fucking tell me straight up, “I feel that you do X and are Y.”

I know he’s seen that email because he sent me a different, unrelated thing since then. And I know he’s going to respond to me by dodging the question and talking more about this strawman he’s made, instead.

I assumed he’d get a stick up his butt about being called out for the lateness, but I honestly thought that would be a relatively brief thing – a knee-jerk reaction until he realized I wasn’t thinking badly of him or about to leave him over this – and then we’d start discussing what he could do better. Instead he’s acting like a little kid who doesn’t wanna go to bed. Whining, excuses, distractions, diversions.

I wasn’t lying about the lateness being morally neutral to me, by the way. I mean at first I felt like he must not care about me or blah blah blah, but then I saw that he’s late with everyone – even late for work to a point where he’s spending over a hundred bucks on cab fare most weeks – and I realized that this is just an ingrained problem of his that is nothing to take personally at all. He’s not a bad person for being late all the time. He’s not a failure. He just has some habits to unlearn.

What I definitely do see as a failure is that I told him “a thing you do makes me unhappy, can you fix it?” and instead of “yes, I’ll try” or even “no, I’m not willing to make the effort, if that means you leave then so be it” I get “Well maybe I’ll just fix it by not seeing you as much, then! I hate people who want me to be on time! What’s the big deal with being on time, anyway? People who are punctual all the time are stupid and I look down on them so nyah nyah!”

When I was married, my husband stopped having sex with me. Well, stopped being physically affectionate with me at all beyond snuggling or a peck on the cheek. I told him I was unhappy with this state of affairs. I explained that sex makes me feel wanted and attractive and loved and I really needed more of it than I was getting. I said that I’d never push him for PIV if he wasn’t into it – that would be awful – but there were compromises we could make that would give me some of what I needed: he could give me orgasms without us having intercourse, or snuggle up to me while I gave them to myself. Or he could just make out with me sometimes – give me some semblance of passion without either of us expecting it to go anywhere. Hell, even just complimenting my appearance every now and then would be something. I just wanted to feel wanted. In my ex’s case, he didn’t make a bunch of excuses or anything. He simply gave the appearance of listening gravely to my issues…and then did fuck-all. And in retrospect, that was the beginning of the end.

I tell this story and certain self-righteous prigs are all “Well I think it’s shallow to break up with someone over sex.” Yeeeeeah that’s not why I left him. Not really (there was also his rampant alcoholism! Womp womp). No, I left my husband because he demonstrably didn’t care about my happiness. I told him what I needed and he did none of it. He didn’t even tell me he had no intention of doing any of it so I could make an informed decision of whether to stay. The issue could have been the lack of sex or him forbidding me to watch movies or him forbidding me to listen to 80s music** and the results would have been the same.

This shit with The Pedant is giving me some really uncomfortable echoes and I think pretty soon I’m gonna insist on an answer from him: will he work on the shit that’s making me unhappy? Yes or no?

*Although in retrospect, it sounds like he was saying “I’m not going to make plans to see you when I’m tired because I might end up falling asleep and being late” but we don’t usually make spontaneous plans like that. I’m really starting to feel like this is just a punishment or a veiled threat.

**I say “forbidding” me to do these things instead of forbidding to do these things around him because our marriage was monogamous. He wouldn’t fuck me and I couldn’t fuck anyone else. So for the analogy to hold up in other areas, it has to be him unilaterally deciding that I can’t do a thing I like, ever, even when he’s not around.


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10 responses to “Okay, now I’m pissed.

  1. J.

    I’m a long time reader here and I love your blog. I’ve got to tell you I’ve been reading your last few posts with an increasing sense of dread. I can’t shake the feeling that you are fixating on ‘fixing’ the Pedant, and it seems to be going way beyond what you might expect from typical relationship feedback. There is definitely a line beyond which you can’t apply the same principle of ‘if you would do x it would make me happy’ without starting to fundamentally try to change the other person. It feels pretty awful to be on the receiving end of that and not feel like you are good enough, like you’re being changed through a war of attrition. You’ve stated before your bad relationship habit is trying to fix people. Maybe take a beat here before you go nuclear and give an ultimatum about something that is not at all new about his personality. Why is this suddenly such an issue? I’m not surprised he is being defensive. Is it worth you ending a loving relationship because you can’t accept this trait? (if yes, fair enough, up to you of course, but I just had to break my silence and ask).

    • I’m honestly getting big time cognitive dissonance right now because your writing style makes you sound like a reasonable person who’s not a troll and yet you’re saying that I might be going too far in telling my partner that I don’t like him fucking me around and wasting hours of my time on a regular basis.

      And you ask why his lateness is “suddenly” an issue when this blog that you’ve been following for a while has been quite vocal about my hatred of this habit for years. And in THIS VERY POST I talk about how I mostly just suppressed all my anger over this because I specifically didn’t WANT to make him feel attacked or “not good enough” – instead doing everything I could on my end to try to make it so it would bother me less. But it’s still bothering me. So now I’m asking him to meet me halfway.

      I suppose I COULD just say “I’ve reached the limit of my tolerance for this. Goodbye forever” but I DON’T want to throw away a relationship that has generally made me happy, so I’m giving him a chance to fix the thing that’s upsetting me. If you feel that leaving him over this AND asking him to fix this are both unreasonable (which seems to be your premise) then the implication is that I have an obligation to stay and take the ongoing upsetting behaviour graciously, which is ridiculous.

      One thing you did get right: I do have a pattern of trying to fix people. This time though what I’m asking is for him to take the initiative and fix HIMSELF, which is an important distinction. Of course instead of answering my simple damn question “Work on eventually not doing this thing y/n?” he’s opted to hint around that he hates me for asking and then write a dissertation on how people who are always on time are, like, sooooooo uncool, instead.

      Don’t make the same mistake people did when they heard the story of my failed marriage. If I break up with The Pedant it won’t be because he did a thing I didn’t like. It’ll be because I asked him to stop doing the thing and he handled it SPECTACULARLY badly.

      I’m still holding out hope that his defensive douchecanoe behaviour will run its course soon and he’ll start addressing this like a grownup, though. No ultimatum planned just yet.

    • jooyous

      I feel like this is a little bit too harsh, because I think asking someone to not be like 4 hours late to everything is a legitimate thing to ask, and it’s understandable to be frustrated that he can’t do … basics. However, I do think there’s a middle step that’s missing: if he won’t change this trait, then you can try to salvage the relationship by minimizing the damage it does to you. And like, not meeting him outside and not putting pants on are good steps, but you could also just like … move on with your life if he fails to show up when he said. You could go out and if he’s stuck waiting for you, it’s his fault. You could go to sleep and if he can’t get into the building, he can deal. This is kind of the difference between just stating boundaries and enforcing them. And like, you could text him this stuff to let him know so that he can change his plans; it doesn’t have to be a surprising thing.

      On the other hand, I totally understand that, if you’re an anxious person, then forcing yourself to go out when you know someone is coming over can be hard and fake and feel like you’re artificially punishing them, because you’re still thinking about it. Or like, trying to get to sleep when you know someone might be stuck outside can be basically impossible. And while I think that it would be good for *him* to have this happen a couple of times, I also totally understand deciding that you’re the wrong person for the job.

      But! Because that other option exists, I do think that it’s wrong to present it like an ultimatum. He’s kind of already let you know where he stands on this anyway. =/

      • jooyous

        For the record: I also struggle with the boundaries option. But I also want to point out that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Like, sometimes I decide that I’m not doing anything anyway and I’ll wait around for a late person. And sometimes I decide that I’m missing out on some other thing and destroying my schedule and I go do the other thing and sometimes it’s still hard and I still worry? So ymmv and sometimes you can fake it till you make it, and sometimes actually the other person reacting badly to you deciding to not wait around for them can be helpful for deciding where to go from there.

      • Excellent point about there being midground I haven’t really explored. But:

        “On the other hand, I totally understand that, if you’re an anxious person, then forcing yourself to go out when you know someone is coming over can be hard and fake and feel like you’re artificially punishing them, because you’re still thinking about it. Or like, trying to get to sleep when you know someone might be stuck outside can be basically impossible.”

        THIIIIIIIIIS. God, I’m so happy you understand. Most people don’t.

        Really, the big midground thing is for him to BRING HIS FUCKING KEYS. That would free me up to do whatever I wanted and he could just let himself in. I’m resenting it pretty hard that I gave him keys and he won’t keep them on his keychain (and hasn’t cut a new set that’s not pink). I mean dude. DUDE. $5 and a tiny bit of effort to make the relationship five hundred percent better for me and he hasn’t gotten around to it.

      • Also, it really seems like his lateness is this huge ingrained thing like my anxiety is. If I leave him stranded, it’s not necessarily gonna “teach him he needs to be on time from now on” like all my friends keep telling me. He doesn’t know HOW to be on time. That’s why I wanna undo this shit from the source.

        • jooyous

          Right, exactly! Which is why he also might not be bitchy/whiny about it. He might just be like “whoops, guess I’m locked out” and just go home. But YOU will get to get your stuff done and eat dinner and get sleep and don’t resent him for messing up your life. So it’s still a win for you in that respect at least.

          However, if he IS whiny or bitchy and like whyyyy didn’t you let him in, thaaaat’s also good information for you to have.

          • Oh, I’m sure he’ll just go “whoops, I’m locked out.” But if it’s a case of him texting that he’s here and me going “actually I’m at the store right now, back in half an hour” he won’t WAIT. He’ll either go home or bide his time somewhere else and end up coming back late again. And then I’ll have missed out on still more time with him.

            I wish I was the kind of person who could just bail entirely – leave for the night or turn off my phone and go to sleep. But I can’t do that. It would drive me nuts. And, again, the most it would do for The Pedant is make him pull his shit together under duress for a time or two before his self control slips again.

            • jooyous

              But see, here you ARE thinking about trying to change his behavior. I’m not talking about bailing in order to try to change him; I’m talking about moving on with the stuff you need to do so that his extreme lateness doesn’t affect the OTHER stuff you need to do. Like, these are hours and hours of your life that you spend waiting around.

              The way I think about it is: if you fail to meet up with someone within some reasonable interval (30 min?) of the time you agreed on, then the agreement is off and everyone moves on with whatever else they’ve got going on. Any time past that requires a re-negotiation. So once he doesn’t show in 30 min, then the time slot you had for him goes to be used for your stuff. If his input to the re-negotiation phase is that he’s going home, then like, that’s his decision?? And, like, it’s kind of unfair, because you’re more anxious, so you can’t cash in any of your past not-going-to-the-stores for him coming-back-after-being-late and get more time together either. But that’s where you kinda have to hope he wants to see you enough to make it work out eventually?

              • Ah, yes, you make sense.

                See, literally every friend I’ve vented to about this suggested I give him a deadline after which I go about my business, but it was always, ALWAYS to “teach him that his actions have consequences.” The focus was never really on me getting my life back. So that side kind of didn’t occur to me.

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