Does His Driving Scare You?

December 27, 2013

in Uncategorized

My gracious wife has thanked me twice for driving very slowly last night when we were on an icy, twisting, and hilly primitive road (no makers or guardrails). She knows I went slowly for her sanity. Amazingly, I did not feel frustrated doing this. In the past, I would have slowed down, but not as much, and I would have been frustrated with her. Why the change?

Icy road © dan | freedigitalphotos.net

I have figured out her being scared by my driving is not about me.

While many men complain about the driving of women, I rarely hear men say their wife’s driving scares them. I have however heard plenty of women indicate such fear.

Yes, men are generally more reckless than women (it’s a testosterone thing), and teenage boys are auto accidents looking for a place to happen. However, studies find that after age 24 men have slightly fewer accidents per mile driven than women do – although men are more likely to be involved in an accident with a fatality. I am not saying men are better drivers, but the statistics suggest they are not really reckless and scary.

All of which means nothing if his driving scares you.

The problem is most men get their pride involved in this. What they hear is “you are not a safe driver.” They think they are, and so they just get upset. They may even decide (consciously or subconsciously) to prove they are great drivers, which could result in them being even more scary. He feels you are insulting his masculinity, and that never ends well for anyone.

I have realised my wife is uncomfortable when I do things in the car which she would not do. She believes, and experience backs it up, I can safely do those things, but they still concern her. Even when I am driving, anything beyond her comfort zone makes her feel uncomfortable. I get that, it makes sense to me. Now I choose to drive in a way that makes her feel more comfortable because I love her, not because I do not want her to complain or to be uptight when we get home. Acting out of love is a great reason to do something, and we both benefit.

How, you may wonder, do you get your husband to do the same?

Find ways to communicate that your concern is not really about him. Help him see that you are uncomfortable because you would not do what he is doing, and the fact that he has the skill to do it does not resolve your discomfort. If this has been a big deal issue for many years it will take time to change what he hears. Be sure to put it on yourself – “I know you are a safe driver, but I’m uncomfortable, would you slow down a bit for me?”

~ Paul – I’m XY, and way too proud of never being in an accident that was my fault.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris December 27, 2013 at 11:20 am

It’s as if you’ve been an invisible passenger in our car!

One of my problems is that I have horrible depth perception. I therefore am a cautious driver, especially when turning corners or pulling to a stop behind another car. When my husband (who has very good depth perception) pulls up close behind another car, I experience a physiological fear response–occasionally even getting light-headed.

I’ve worked hard to put it on me rather than on my husband, but it is hard to fight biology.
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Paul Byerly December 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Lori and I have the same depth perception issue. I can pull up to about 3 inches from something without hitting it. Or I make a turn and the corner of the car misses another care by inches and she is sure I am going to hit it.

For what it’s worth, this is one of those male/female brain differences.

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Chris December 30, 2013 at 5:59 am

Ack! Just reading about how close you’re driving (three inches? yikes!) is making me try to slam my foot on the brake. Knowing it’s a biology-based brain difference doesn’t matter when reality as I perceive it is is not the same reality my husband perceives. It’s like he took the red pill and I took the blue pill and only one of us is aware of the matrix. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme–but I do often close my eyes when he is driving so I can cope.
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Paul Byerly December 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Three inches when moving very slowly, if that helps! (I know it does not.)

What you say about your perception is valid – and what most men don’t get in this discussion. Of course there are other situations where his perspective is valid, even if wrong, and the wife does not get it.

I confess I used to get a real kick out of pushing the edge and not hitting things when she was sure I would. Somehow I thought I was going to prove to her that I was right and she was wrong. On an intellectual level she knows that, but it does not change the gut “we are going to crash” reaction, and all the bad feelings that causes.

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Chris December 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm

A marriage that is more about serving and less about proving a point is a much better marriage, isn’t it?
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Paul Byerly December 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Absolutely! But it took some time for me to get that into my head. I blame my competitiveness (and selfishness, and pride…).

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Chris December 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

My husband blames his Y chromosome . . . :)
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Chris December 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

…which would much harder to deal with if he weren’t also working on driving differently out of care for me.
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Paul Byerly December 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm

What I said – Y chromosome is has a lot to do with competitiveness, selfishness, and pride. (Not that women are immune!)

Lori December 28, 2013 at 6:27 am

Rob loves speed.
I’ve known this since we were first dating at 15 and 17.
It’s funny, though, that over the last 3 decades this has gone from being a fun, exciting thing – to a scary thing in my mind. Poor Rob. He’s had to deal with being lauded as a fast (and thoroughly competent) driver, to being reminded to slow down…
We had a serious discussion about this a few years ago, and came up with a phrase – a code – that would be my way of addressing MY fears, yet wouldn’t trigger a negative response in Rob – or make him feel attacked or critiqued.
When we drive, and I am concerned, I just ask,
“Are we cruisin’?”
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Paul Byerly December 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I like it! Great way to communicate.

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LatterDay Marriage December 28, 2013 at 8:29 am

When I’m driving I have a very good sense of what kind of traction I have on the road, the various forces acting on the car, my own reaction time etc. and I drive at the best possible speed within those limits. It isn’t about taking risks because I’m a guy, it’s about being able to evaluate the situation well so I can maximize speed without undue risk. Because my wife doesn’t have that sense of being ‘one’ with the car she sometimes feels like I’m taking risks when I’m not.
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Paul Byerly December 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Her reality is wrong, but it is still her reality and it can still scare her. That is the issue that needs to be addressed.

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Christine December 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

Driving can be an issue for us. I always think I’m not asking for much??? — I *just* desire him to obey the standard rules of the road (drive the speed limit, make turns from and to the appropriate lane, follow at a safe distance…) He works as a corporate pilot so I try to take into consideration that he’s used to flying airplanes, which start and stop a lot faster than cars and make very wide turns. And, he’s a great pilot! Regardless, I can experience some anxiety when he’s driving the car.

I have found that the “atmosphere” in the car can have a positive affect on his driving — such as the kind of music we’re listening to, what the conversation is about, etc. He loves when I read aloud, so lately I’ve been reading a marriage book-of-his-choice to him while he’s driving. Keeps me distracted, as well. ;)

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Paul Byerly December 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Great thoughts on making the atmosphere better – thanks!

A lot of men feel the traffic laws are too restrictive, and some take it personally as if it is designed to keep them from having fun. A teenage boy lives in every man!

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Rosemary December 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

One thing about public roads is that, even if you are the world’s greatest driver, you do not have any control at all over the other drivers around you, few of whom are as good as you are. When you speed, tailgate, pass very closely, etc., you are taking a chance that the other driver will not suddenly swerve, hit the brakes, or do something crazy that you can’t avoid because of your speed and proximity. It happens all the time, as demonstrated by the traffic incidents we see or read about regularly. I don’t doubt my husband’s driving skills any more than I doubt mine (I’m a good driver with an excellent record, too), but I don’t trust the other drivers on the road. I want him to drive carefully, not because I think he will make a mistake, but because I think someone else will.

I have been hit in the face with an airbag (it knocked me unconscious and ripped the skin off my chin) in an accident that was 100% the other driver’s fault, as verified by witnesses. The fact that my husband made no mistakes didn’t save me from injury. He knows how I feel about the possibility of being seriously injured, and he has seen firsthand what can happen, so when I remind him that I’m uncomfortable, he backs off.

By the way, most people consider themselves to be above average drivers, even though this is statistically impossible. http://www.cheapcarinsurance.net/above-average-driver/
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Paul Byerly December 30, 2013 at 1:28 pm

You are so right!

When I was teaching my son to drive I told him “Every time you drive there is at least one person who is trying to hit you.”

I’ve also said I do not want “He had the right-of-way” on my tombstone!

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