Hus­band moan you’re al­ways late? Here’s why it’s NOT your fault

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - By Tessa Cun­ning­ham

POS­ING for her wed­ding pho­tos, Claire Cox sud­denly be­came aware of a chill breeze blow­ing up her back. Shiv­er­ing, she reached round to check what was go­ing on, only to dis­cover that her dress was gap­ing open to the el­e­ments. She’d been run­ning so late for her wed­ding last month, she’d lit­er­ally run out of time to fas­ten her dress prop­erly. Now the zip had worked its way un­done and her strap­less gown was threat­en­ing to burst open.

‘I was mor­ti­fied,’ says Claire, 40. ‘I made my ex­cuses then dashed back in­side the ho­tel where my aun­tie man­aged to zip me again. But even se­curely fas­tened, I’d be­come so flus­tered that I felt clammy and stressed.

‘Worst of all. I had no ex­cuse and no one to blame but my­self. My hus­band Johnathan and I had mar­ried in a lo­cal ho­tel and the regis­trar had drummed it into me for months that I needed to be on time, as she had other wed­dings.

‘I promised my­self I’d glide serenely up the aisle. In­stead, I ar­rived half-dressed, stressed, sweaty and rid­dled with guilt be­cause I’d let ev­ery­one down — again.’

Sadly, Claire’s ap­pear­ance wasn’t the only thing that suf­fered on her wed­ding day. She ar­rived ten min­utes late to find her poor fi­ance bit­ing his lip in ner­vous dread that she’d changed her mind.

The video pho­tog­ra­pher — a fam­ily friend — spent the cer­e­mony twid­dling his thumbs un­able to cap­ture a sin­gle pre­cious mo­ment. In her blind panic as she’d rushed to get ready, Claire had for­got­ten to bring the vi­tal video card he needed to film the pro­ceed­ings.

Of course, as a busy mother to three chil­dren — the youngest of whom is just four months old — Claire’s not un­usual in find­ing punc­tu­al­ity a prob­lem. But is there more to her patho­log­i­cal lousy time-keep­ing than that?

Some ex­perts are go­ing as far as to sug­gest that, if you’re some­one who can’t be on time how­ever hard you try, you may have a deep-seated psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lem. Chronic tar­di­ness, they sug­gest, may ac­tu­ally be a men­tal ill­ness.

Suf­fer­ers are late so pre­dictably and so spec­tac­u­larly, wreak­ing havoc on their own lives and those around them, it’s al­most a form of self- sab­o­tage. These women ar­rive ev­ery­where late and in a flurry of ex­cuses. Yet, how­ever guilty they feel, they find it im­pos­si­ble to change.

‘When you can’t even be on time for an im­por­tant event like your wed­ding, it sug­gests a prob­lem,’ says con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist Dr Lars Davids­son, of the An­glo euro­pean Clinic in Lon­don. ‘ We all oc­ca­sion­ally do things that aren’t in our best in­ter­ests. But be­ing chron­i­cally late and beat­ing your­self up about it sug­gests a neu­ro­sis — or mild men­tal ill­ness.

‘For ex­am­ple, if your fa­ther was a stick­ler for punc­tu­al­ity, you may have been so des­per­ate to please him that it left you pan­ick­ing about be­ing late and con­se­quently in­ca­pable of be­ing on time. Or his ob­ses­sion may have driven you to rebel.

‘The re­sult is a deep- seated pat­tern of be­hav­iour and for which you may need psy­chother­apy.’

It’s a sce­nario which rings true for Claire, from Pon­typridd, South Wales, who is cur­rently on ma­ter­nity leave from her job as an of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Her­late fa­ther, Cliff, was ob­ses­sive about time­keep­ing. Add to that Claire’s in­abil­ity to del­e­gate — she was up un­til 1am on her wed­ding day fin­ish­ing off ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions — and it’s a recipe for tar­di­ness.

‘When­ever we were go­ing out as a fam­ily, Dad would be pac­ing up and down like a caged lion, threat­en­ing all sorts if we were late,’ says Claire. ‘It made me flus­tered and so fright­ened of be­ing late that I would panic.

‘Mum was the op­po­site. She was a chron­i­cally bad time­keeper, too. I still cringe when I re­mem­ber the hu­mil­i­a­tion of ar­riv­ing for school assem­bly late. The dou­ble doors would swing open and Mum would push me in­side, while the teach­ers looked dag­gers at me.’

Yet as much as Claire has been de­ter­mined never to in­flict the same pain on her chil­dren, she just can’t help her­self. As she runs from one task to the next — as well as car­ing for a new baby, she looks af­ter her mother, June, 82, who suf­fers from de­men­tia — she gets in­creas­ingly flus­tered.

‘I panic that I’m late. Then I go into head­less-chicken mode,’ says Clare. ‘I am al­ways late to col­lect the chil­dren from school. We even ar­rived 30 min­utes late for my daugh­ter’s 18th birth­day party din­ner. She had to ring the an­gry restau­rant man­ager and beg him to hold the ta­ble.’

And even though Johnathan, a 42-year- old lo­gis­tics man­ager, is driven al­most to the brink of de­spair by her in­cor­ri­gi­ble tar­di­ness, she still can’t change.

‘I was 25 min­utes late for our first date,’ re­calls Claire. ‘Johnathan was smil­ing through grit­ted teeth. Six months in he said he loved me, but he couldn’t abide my be­ing late.

‘I’ve promised to try to change. He’s bought me an old-fash­ioned diary so I can write down ap­point­ments. But the truth is as much as I hate my­self, the habit’s so deep- seated I al­ways un­der­es­ti­mate how long things are go­ing to take.’

Claire’s predica­ment is so typ­i­cal of the chron­i­cally tardy that U.S. science writer Tim Ur­ban has even coined a term: CLIP (Chron­i­cally Late In­sane Peo­ple.) Tim, who suf­fers from poor time­keep­ing him­self, be­lieves that late­ness is so de­struc­tive, it’s a men­tal ill­ness.

He ex­plains: ‘CLIPs have a bizarre com­pul­sion to de­feat them­selves — some deep in­ner drive to in­ex­pli­ca­bly miss the beginning of movies, en­dure psy­chotic stress run­ning to catch the train, crush their rep­u­ta­tion at work etc. As much as they hurt others, they hurt them­selves more.’

raised by a mother who al­ways ar­rived late, Tim can’t stop him­self re­peat­ing the same pat­tern. ‘I’ve been a CLIP my whole life,’ he ad­mits. ‘I’ve made friends mad at me. I’ve em­bar­rassed my­self again and again, and I’ve run cu­mu­la­tive marathons through air­port ter­mi­nals.’

Ac­cord­ing to Tim, al­though CLIPs are ‘in­sane’, suf­fer­ers of­ten have trou­ble un­der­stand­ing how time works and un­der­es­ti­mate how long tasks take.

Psy­chol­o­gists sus­pect that this in­abil­ity to keep track of time orig­i­nates in the same part of the brain that af­fects suf­fer­ers from ADHD ( At­ten­tion- Deficit Hyper­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der.)

Dr Davids­son says ‘Time is an ab­stract con­cept. So if you strug­gle to gauge how long a task will take or how much time it takes to get some­where, you may want to look into whether you have ADHD.’

The sen­sa­tion of time dis­ap­pear­ing on her is all too fa­mil­iar to Kirstin Bell. She has been known to miss flights be­cause she was still pack­ing her suit­case as the taxi driver ar­rived.

Kirstin, 41, a univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tor, who lives in Brad­ford with her hus­band, Michael, 50, an en­gi­neer and their son, Thomas, eight, says: ‘I’ve re­cently been di­ag­nosed with mild dys­lexia. One rea­son why I sus­pected I might have a prob­lem is that I’m so very bad at time­keep­ing,’ she says.

Luck­ily, Kirstin works flexi-time, which means her time­keep­ing doesn’t in­con­ve­nience her em­ploy­ers. ‘But I see Thomas’s lit­tle face when he’s the last one in the play­ground and my heart breaks. How of­ten can I keep telling him that I’ve been kept at work when the truth is that I make my­self late?’

In fact, Kirstin is con­vinced that, beyond her hazy con­cept of time, this is the fun­da­men­tal rea­son why she’s al­ways late.

Ir­ra­tional as it may sound, she ad­mits get­ting a kick out of be­ing late. ‘I’m ad­dicted to the adrenalin rush,’ she says.

HOW TO TACKLE YOUR TARDY HABIT

Be HON­eST about how long things take. Late­com­ers tend to re­mem­ber only the time it took them five min­utes to reach the su­per­mar­ket and for­get the 99 times it took twice as long. Write down your daily habits. es­ti­mate how long you think you spend on them then how long they ac­tu­ally take.

re­MeM­Ber, be­ing early doesn’t have to be a waste of time. early birds can be much more pro­duc­tive as they don’t waste en­ergy in panic.

GeT out of the mind­set of think­ing your time is bet­ter spent rac­ing around rather than ar­riv­ing early, cool and calm. List all the use­ful tasks you can do as you’re wait­ing.

rOUND up, not down. Timely peo­ple tend to round up how long things take. So they will al­low 30 min­utes for a 23- minute car jour­ney. Late peo­ple cal­cu­late to the split- sec­ond, mak­ing for hair-rais­ing jour­neys.

PUT your­self on alert for events. Pro­gramme your phone to alert you to forth­com­ing ap­point­ments, say with a count­down from 60 min­utes, so you have time to pre­pare. Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures For The Punc­tu­ally Chal­lenged by Diana Delon­zor, £7.60,

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