Now in Session! Judge Marilyn’s Relationship Court

Is Being Late a Deal-Breaker?

If your date always arrives late, should you wait or cut 'em lose? Judge Marilyn Milian from The People's Court tackles one couple's timing issues.

Judge Marilyn Milian

Couple case #2: "Help, my girlfriend's always late to dates!"

Plaintiff: Jesse, 26
Your honor, thank you for hearing our case. My problem is, my girlfriend Samara is always late to everything. She'll leave me waiting at a restaurant for 20 minutes so we lose our reservation, or I'll be standing outside the movie theater 10 minutes after the film's started, so we miss the opening scenes. If it happened a handful of times I could let it slide. But at this point, it's more of a lifestyle: Chronic lateness. The worst was when she was late to a Broadway play my parents got us tickets for when they came into town. She left my parents and me standing in the rain on 42nd Street. Not only did we miss the opening scene for a play that cost my parents $80 each, but it made the worst impression on them. It's not just the inconvenience—in my mind, it shows she just doesn't care about me or my time.

Defendant: Samara, 25
Your honor, I'll readily admit I often arrive late. But I honestly think that Jesse is overreacting. I'm a busy person; my schedule is always jam-packed with tons of social and work obligations. Things come up that I have little control over. Let's take the play with his parents, for example. I was cat-sitting, and couldn't leave the apartment until the owners returned. I called Jesse to tell him the problem—I always call if I think I'll be late—but he just didn't seem to care a bit. I sincerely apologized to his parents, and we had a good time afterwards. That's the thing, it always works out in the end. I just wish Jesse could learn to go with the flow more. I'm not that I don't care about him, it's that my life doesn't revolve around his strict schedule. In my mind, Jesse needs to loosen up.

Judge Marilyn Weighs In:
Miss the opening to an $80 Broadway show? With your boyfriend's parents? All due to a cat who doesn't like to be alone? Sounds pretty flimsy to me, Samara. Unless you're a surgeon in the middle of a heart transplant, there's really no excuse for this. You say you're busy. But I'm sure Jesse's busy too. He doesn't have half an hour to kill waiting for you at a restaurant. To me, this shows you have no respect for his time. If Jesse were flipping out about you showing up a few minutes late, then he's gotta chill. But if you're chronically ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes late to things, it's not his problem. It's your problem.

The Verdict:
I rule in favor of the plaintiff. The evidence against the defendant is overwhelming. Samara must learn to manage her time, to look at her schedule and allot time for transportation and the possibility of traffic. If you need to be somewhere at four, don't leave at ten to four if it's a 25-minute drive. People who do this know it's a 25-minute drive—it's not like the traffic is a surprise to them. They're just doing whatever they're doing and think it's so important that they just can't leave until they're done doing it. Clearly, these people think a little too much of themselves.

My advice for the plaintiff: While it may be tempting, don't start lying about what time things start—for example, by telling Samara dinner reservations are for 7:30 when they're actually for 8:00. The minute Samara catches on to your trick, she'll take that into account. My parents often lie to each other about what time something starts, then they'll take that lie into account, and then end up being late anyway because neither of them can remember what time anything actually starts. Bottom line is, lying is only a short-term solution. Make it known to Samara that you consider her lateness a sign of disrespect. And if she keeps doing it, it's time to stop wasting your time and drop her like a hot potato. Case adjourned.

In 2001, Judge Marilyn Milian became the first female judge to preside over The People's Court (, the original court TV program now in its 20th year. She lives in Miami with her husband and three daughters.

Got a relationship problem you need Judge Marilyn to solve?
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