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My husband thinks I am a big baby when I complain about his driving. Our biggest fights are over his driving. I am a cautious person, granted, but I think my husband should be more considerate of me and not follow so close when driving. He thinks I should just quit being a “backseat driver”. I finally told him I am not riding with him anymore. He feels like if he keeps a big space between him and the next driver, people will just keep passing over in front of us. There have been a couple of times we had to slam on the brakes and just missed hitting the person in front. Are there other options I can try besides not riding with him?
As a driver, your husband certainly has a responsibility to protect you and other people on the road. If he continues to drive recklessly and he’s unwilling to hear your pleas to drive more responsibly, then refusing to ride with him is an immediate solution you can take for your peace of mind.
I recognize that it won’t be very convenient, especially if you’re taking longer road trips. However, sometimes taking a stand like that may the only way to create a conversation when all other efforts to communicate have been blocked. If your husband can’t hear you when it comes to personal safety, then you have to protect yourself.
Now, having said that, once you set that boundary in place, watch and see if you can start a new conversation with your husband. There are two issues here. The first is that you feel unsafe when he’s driving. The second issue is that he doesn’t care that you feel unsafe. You’ve addressed the first by choosing not to ride with him. The second issue requires the ability for you to send a clear message to him and have him respond with compassionate concern.
If he wants you to ride in the car with him, then hopefully he will be motivated to respond to your plea for safety. With your boundary firmly in place, you will likely feel less desperate and reactive when talking to your husband. You don’t have to be in a hurry to get this resolved. Your safety is taken care of, so now the focus is on helping your husband hear your concerns.
While you can wait to let him bring up your driving boundary, I encourage you to calmly explain your boundary with him, why you’re keeping it, and that you’re interested in talking more with him about how to resolve this when he’s ready. When you talk with him about it, stay calm and clear about what it’s like for you when he disregards your experience. There should be a mutual spirit of respect and understanding as you work to express what you need.
Use this time and space to evaluate how you’ve responded to these interactions between you and your husband. Have you been a difficult “backseat driver”, criticizing and nitpicking his every move? Even if these safety concerns are serious as you describe, are there other ways you could have responded to him that would have helped him respond better? You’re not responsible for his responses, but it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re not contributing to the tension and conflict. Make sure you’ve looked closely at your part before you decide you’ve done everything possible.
President Howard W. Hunter reminded couples to be careful with the tender bond between husband and wife. He said, “Tenderness and respect—never selfishness—must be the guiding principles in the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Each partner must be considerate and sensitive to the other’s needs and desires.”[i]
You always have a right to protect your safety. You also have an opportunity to see if your husband can hear your concerns while you examine your own reactions to his choices. I see these impasses as opportunities for couples to take to their relationship to the next level. It can cause both of you to slow down or shut down. I hope you can both find a way to grow closer through this crisis.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at email@example.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.