Kate had the babysitter settled in for the evening with her three kids. There was only one problem. Kate’s husband, Jon, was running late…again. He comes from a family of people known for running late. In fact, his mother is jokingly referred to as “the late Mrs. Brown.” Kate silently fumed while waiting for Jon to get home. She had reminded him to leave work in plenty of time to meet friends for dinner. Their lateness made her feel embarrassed when they were typically the last couple to show up. Would he break another promise to arrive on time? Fifteen minutes later, Jon rushed through the door blaming traffic and saying he was sorry for running late. They jumped into the car and sped off to their event.
What to Say:
Kate: While we’ve got a few minutes together, I need to talk to you about something that is important to me. When we show up late, it makes me feel embarrassed.
Jon: I said I was “sorry.” What’s the big deal? No one seems to care when we arrive a little later than anticipated.
Kate: I don’t want you to be “sorry.” I want you to be here when we you say you will. I understand that it can be hard to break away when important things come up at work. But, I feel like we’re rude to others when show up late to events.
Jon: Gosh. I know you think I always run late. But, you are too uptight about being on time.
Kate: I’m not uptight. I just think it’s polite to arrive on time, and I enjoy having more extra time to talk and catch up. So, here’s what I’d prefer to do in the future. Next time you know you’re running late, call me ahead of time and I’ll drive myself. That would make me feel better.
Jon: Why? Driving two separate cars seems like a waste.
Kate: When we arrive late, I feel like we waste other people’s time.
Jon: OK. I didn’t know that you felt that way. I’ll try to leave work earlier next time.
Kate: Thank you. This means a lot to me, and I have no problem driving myself if you get stuck at work.
Why This Works:
By initiating the conversation, Kate refrains from giving Jon the dreaded silent treatment. Nobody likes to be in a tension-filled position with someone who says through clenched teeth that everything is “just fine.” Kate puts Jon on notice that he should arrive when he agrees to arrive. And, she offers a positive solution to drive herself without him if he’s late in the future.