Couples have many normal types of arguments that can be productive, but one of the most pointless types of arguments is about driving. Driving arguments are senseless because they are avoidable and easily settled when couples are committed and respectful of each other.
Many couples spend a lot of time together riding in a car. Frequently, couples alternate driving, but it is not unusual for one partner to like to drive while the other prefers to be a passenger. It is also common for men and women to take different approaches to driving. Disagreements occur. Arguments can be avoided.
Disagreements take the form of comments or criticisms about speed (too slow or too fast), changing lanes, tailgating, road rage in mild to severe forms, rolling stops, the best route to get where you are going, and other preferences or differences between couple’s driving habits. If one partner engages in long phone/texting conversations in the car, it can leave the silent partner feeling ignored. Even conditions such as temperature control, listening choice, and volume level can be issues when couples are together in a car, especially for long periods of time.
Absurd debates about which way is better, faster, shorter, less traffic, and more convenient can often set couples up for conflict. When advice, GPS, maps, and asking for directions are ignored, getting lost becomes laced with rounds of I-told-you-so’s. These arguments are undesirable and unnecessary.
Preventing and settling all driving arguments is important for safety reasons and to preserve respect, peace, and pleasantness. So why do couples offer negative/constructive comments about the other one’s driving? Two reasons stand out above all the others: Safety or fear, and simply the I-know-better-and-am-right rationale.
Years ago, my husband and I recognized that neither of us felt comfortable with the other’s driving under all road and traffic conditions. Rather than have repetitive (and often petty) debates, we set up our own rules of the road, which became our private pact that, without question or challenge, we would respect the safety concerns (and, unfortunately, sometimes spontaneous outbursts) of our partner when riding together. We agreed to agree that any type of driving which made one of us uncomfortable (or downright scared) needed to be changed immediately.
We declared we were always free to offer a kind and gentle comment requesting a change in the manner of driving. We recognized that, on occasion, one of us might also panic and freak out with an alarmed yell because the driver of us cut a car off too closely on our side or didn’t see the hazard we saw. We accepted this instinctive response as an automatic, well-intentioned response to be forgiven at once. No angry retort was acceptable.
The request for change can be about anything of a driving nature. We have promised each other to interpret any comments from our partner as self-preserving and not critical of us. We made decisions to refuse to take offense or consider the other as controlling if he/she requests a change in our driving. If the driver begins to get testy at a comment made, the other offers a soft reminder of our rules of the road. The conversation ends smoothly. Smiles of support are offered in honor of our private collusion to end driving arguments.
We figure that despite our comfort with our own driving, our partner deserves the utmost of respect from us by driving in a way that also leaves him/her comfortable. It is a really simple concept. The driver is free to briefly explain or defend, but still obligated to yield to the more conservative approach.
Conditions inside the car are equally possible to negotiate. Neither of us smokes so that was not an issue, but we seldom feel temperature in the same way. We have learned to prepare in advance. Other than one of us being in a thermal snowsuit and the other being stark raving naked, keeping jackets or blankets in the car easily solves the temperature issue. We avoid window wars and the battle of temperature controls. We both keep comfortable.
Any courtesy limits to phone/texting conversations are important to discuss. To listen or not to listen can be a question for couples to resolve while riding in a car. When I am driving alone, I rarely talk on the phone or listen to anything but the sound of my own thoughts. My husband will normally talk on the phone or listen to music, the news, or radio talk shows. When we are together in the car, my preference is to focus on conversation and not be distracted with anything else.
His focus is different. When my husband wants to hear the hourly newscast or a sports game/show of special interest, I yield graciously to his preferences. Likewise, he lets go of his routine habit of always having the radio on while in the car. We limit phone and texting. The compromise works for us.
Our rules of the road are summarized as six tips for ending driving arguments:
1. Get rid of your thin skin about comments on your driving.
2. Offer comments about your partner’s driving with a non-critical and request-like tone, spoken mainly to address your safety concerns.
3. Agree to disagree about general driving practices and let go of the need to convert your partner to seeing driving as you do. Accept the change and don’t pester for conversion or obsess about being “right.”
4. Work out standing agreements in advance regarding smoking, sound, phone/texting, and temperature.
5. Defer to the driver’s navigation decisions, but after the driver consults the
other for ideas and preferences.
6. Routinely respect all safety concerns that your partner expresses (no matter how ridiculous they seem to you) and change your driving immediately without attitude.
Make a personal pact about your own rules of the road along the lines of these six tips. You will find your driving arguments can disappear just like low gas prices.Powered by Sidelines