How to Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store

One of life’s more boring chores is having to stand in line at the retail or grocery store, and it's made all the worse if the line is exceptionally long before receiving service. Boredom in the queue can be averted when shopping with your significant other; you can stand in line and chat or just enjoy each other’s company. However, if your otherwise trusty and reliable partner suddenly makes a beeline for the door or a more fascinating part of the store, leaving you to deal with the tedium of waiting in the long line, your feelings of resentment can skyrocket.

If your spouse has a tendency to ditch you and wander off when the store lines are long, a few things are going on here––one, your spouse thinks you have nothing better to do; two, your spouse thinks his or her own time is more valuable than yours; and three, your spouse may be behaving quite disrespectfully toward you if he or she assumes that you don't mind. If this happens a lot in your relationship, it's time to draw attention to your discomfort with the behavior and find a solution that works for both of you. Here are some suggestions to tackle your serial queue-avoiding spouse.


  1. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 1
    Make sure you have all the items you need before you get in line. One way to avoid getting stuck in line alone is to ensure you both have thoroughly explored the store and/or picked up every item you need. Otherwise, there are too many excuses for your spouse to disappear back into the store, only to resurface when you're about to pay the bill.
    • Use a cart or a basket to hold your items. In some cases if you walk into the store without a basket or cart to hold all your items, your spouse could pull the “we didn’t get a certain item because we couldn’t carry everything at once” maneuver. Don’t provide him or her with that type of opportunity––grab a cart the minute you enter the store, even if you're only there to pick up a few items.
    • Make one more sweep (mental or physical) around the store. Even if you think you have everything you need, make one last sweep to make sure you are set. This will reduce the likelihood that he or she will need to run back to another aisle to pick up an item while you wait in line.
    • Confirm with your spouse that he or she is ready to check out. Verbally make sure your spouse has browsed every aisle and is actually ready to leave and is ready to get (and stay) in line.
  2. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 2
    Identify the fastest line. This may not always be possible, depending on the amount of goods you're purchasing, but it's still worth checking. Learning to evaluate checkout lines is vital to getting through line as quickly as possible, and it's not just about how many items you're allowed––it also involves detective work on the people already in the line to see who looks as if they'll move through fastest.
    • Consider who is next in line. Check out how many items the next person in line has and what kind of items. For example, you may not want to get behind the lady with 30 cans of individual cat food. While it's not a great idea to make split second judgments about people's speed by just looking at them, see if you can assess whether they're likely to be fast payers or fussy ones who haven't even begun to get their wallet out.
    • Size up the cashier. Do they seem overly chatty or working slower than other cashiers? Look for the efficient, competent cashier who seems to move his or her line along quickly. (In doing so though, you may be setting yourself up for a less engaging service experience.)
    • Beware of the customer ahead of you with numerous coupons, codes or questions. Sometimes you can get stuck behind a customer who is chatty or who feels inclined to debate the price of a certain item––or more. While you may not be able to anticipate standing in line behind such a customer, you can often pick up the cues, such as the person with the large envelope of coupons or the person who starts to divide his or her orders in order to pay separately.
  3. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 3
    Find something to occupy you and your spouse while you wait. One easy way to get your spouse to stick with you in line is to find something to occupy time for both of you while you wait.
    • If he or she is a smartphone user, play a game together in line while you wait such as Life, Draw Something or Words with Friends. Pass the time together using one of the thousands of smartphone apps.
    • Thumb through tabloids together. Especially if you're waiting at the grocery store, grab a few trashy tabloid magazines and read up on the “news.”
    • Plan your day. If you're doing some shopping early in the morning, consider plotting out your day and make a list of where you’ll go next and what other stores you may need to hit. Or, plan other things, like the next day or the weekend or even a vacation idea.
  4. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 4
    Deploy the “grab and stay” method if he or she tries to bolt. This may be considered to be “guerrilla” but sometimes you need to make a physical statement to get your spouse to wait with you. It goes like this:
    • Firmly grasp your spouse's shirt sleeve and remind him or her that you're both waiting in line together (really emphasize the "both"). When he or she tries to saunter away to browse the aisles grab his or her shirt sleeve firmly in order to stop your spouse from taking off.
    • Make eye contact with your spouse to non-verbally communicate that you’ll be very unhappy with him or her if you have to stand there alone. Look directly at him or her and either give the puppy dog look that says, “don’t leave me” or the serious, “something bad will happen if you leave” look. Your type of relationship will generally dictate which look you deliver.
    • If grasping and eye contact doesn’t work, simply tell your spouse politely but firmly that you don't want to stand in line alone while he or she occupies time browsing. Quietly, tell your spouse that you too are bored alone in line and want him or her to wait too.
  5. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 5
    Leave the line too. If your spouse feels that your teamwork hasn't achieved a finished cart-full yet, leave the line and peruse the aisle with him or her. In some instances, he or she may wonder why you are leaving too and actually reveal that he or she is bored and wants you to hold the line.
    • Alternatively, ditch your spouse before he or she can ditch you. Give your spouse a taste of his or her own medicine and see how they feel if you leave him or her alone to hold the line.
  6. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 6
    Consider adding more items to your bill if he or she bounces. If all else fails make a statement––financially.
    • Find something especially for you (that you can’t share) if you are left alone. Grab an impulse item in the check out (generally there will be something no matter if you are at a retail or grocery store) that you know your spouse won’t want or need (but you may fancy).
    • Don’t mention you added the item to your list; let him or her guess why the bill was higher. This may take a few rounds before he or she notices, but let your spouse try to figure out why every time you shop together the bill is higher than he or she anticipated.
    • Don’t go to an extreme in terms of adding items. Purchase something additional within reason that will get his or her attention but nothing that will bankrupt you both.
    • Be aware that this is fairly immature behavior and you may, or may not, get called out on it, depending on much your spouse cares about the bill. Also, it has the potential to hurt the bottom line of both of you as a couple and is suggestive that you'd prefer to buy comfort than communicate, so take care using this option.
  7. Image titled Get Your Spouse to Stop Ditching You in Line at the Store Step 7
    Communicate both at the time you're ditched in the line and back at home about how the escapee behavior causes you to feel. Tell your spouse how you feel. He or she may not realize that every time you go shopping together you don’t like standing in line alone. In particular, tell your spouse that you don't like the disrespect inherent in assuming that you're happy to wait in the line while he or she feels free to do as he or she pleases. Explain to your spouse that it makes you feel as if he or she treats the shopping as an optional excursion, while for you, no matter what, it's a constant responsibility. Explain that the boredom is the same for every other person in the line and that you feel it's a bit selfish to expect to be able to get out of it just because you still wait.
    • Seek compromises. Is this really a good use of your time, shopping together? Especially if it's frustrating you to this extent, you really do need to question the purpose of dragging along a reticent spouse. One excellent way around this is to divide the shopping responsibility up so that you share the burden equally. For example, you might do each weekly shop, while your spouse does a monthly shop. Or you might do one week on, your spouse the other week following, and so on.
    • Who in your household loves shopping and isn't fussed about line waiting? Send that person, regardless of who, and don't expect accompaniment.
    • Make better use of shopping lists. Less excuses for missed items and a speedier experience all round in getting through the selection of items.
    • Shop when it is quieter, such as early mornings, nighttime after dinner, or whenever there is a traditional lull for that particular store. Ask the store manager for advice on the best time to shop to avoid long lines.


  • Agree with your spouse that standing in long lines is boring, but that there’s no reason why you always have to stand there alone while he or she walks around browsing.
  • Check your own patience levels. Living in a society surrounded by many other people needing to be served at the same time is a reality. If it's something that causes you to lose patience, spend time learning to be more patient and to cultivate the art of letting go of your frustration. Also, take care not to confuse annoyance with your spouse with annoyance with your own ability to tolerate the queues––these are two distinct issues to deal with.
  • Move. Seriously, if you are both fed up with living somewhere that has excessively long queues, long commutes and long everything else, consider downsizing and changing your life to live somewhere a whole lot more sustainable and less subject to queues, waiting and putting up with industrial style food and goods providers. You never know what new lifestyle you might find you enjoy more!


  • If you feel as if you aren’t coming to an agreement while in line, avoid getting into a noisy verbal fight; it's embarrassing for you and for those who have to witness it. Reserve the seriously annoyed or angry discussion for the car, or better yet, at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Portable entertainment - smartphone, handheld game console
  • List
  • Marker to check off list
  • Phone to contact stores and ask about best times to shop

Article Info

Categories: Married Life