Sometimes, whatever kind of relationship a couple has, they have an on-going disagreement that never seems to get resolved. One common issue is about driving. Often, one person loves to drive assertively, and perhaps also in such a way as to attract speeding tickets on a regular basis, while the other drives in a very relaxed, measured way and cannot understand why anyone ever needs to ‘waste money’ getting speeding tickets and paying through the nose for increased insurance premiums.
Each feels that the other is not taking them seriously, not listening to them, and that the other should act differently from his or her preferred way. What to do?
I sympathise with both sides of this problem. I would really not like it if someone were to try to get me to drive in a less assertive way. My father teaches “Advanced Motorists” and when he taught me to drive, he was always telling me to be more assertive. “He who hesitates is lost!” he used to say. You have to drive assertively in London, or you might cause an accident; and although I rarely drive in London any more, learning to drive there seems to me to have been good discipline and useful for driving anywhere. I also like driving fast, though these days I tend to stick to the speed limit. But still, I would really find it quite objectionable to be told to change my preferred way of driving. I really enjoy driving assertively, and I think my driving would be less safe if I were harangued into driving less assertively.
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| 2. Accept it as just the way they a|
I sometimes get driven to places by one or other of my friends – men who drive very ‘non-assertively’, shall we say. I used to have a very strong urge to tell them to stop being such wimpy drivers, but obviously that is not something one can say, and eventually, the urge to tell them to ‘get a grip and drive like a man’ passed, and these days I just smile inwardly and accept it as just the way they are – and it now seems endearing.
Conversely, I have one friend who is a racing driver, and whenever I am mad enough to get in the car with him, he makes a point of completely terrifying me with his driving. I know he is very skilled, but it is still such that I am literally weak at the knees and white-knuckled with fear on the rare occasions I let him drive me somewhere. And I have another friend who so enjoys speeding that he was banned from driving altogether, and even before that, what he spent on his insurance premiums would rival the GDP of a small country. I can only get in his car if I take copious quantities of diazepam beforehand. (I jest! But I'm sure it would help!)
So I can totally understand and sympathize both with those who have a desire to tell someone else how to drive, and also with those being told to change their driving style. But since the most common desire to tell someone else how to drive is the desire to tell someone to slow down and drive less assertively, let's look at that.
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Suppose you are a woman in a relationship, and your husband drives like a maniac and gets lots of speeding tickets and pays a large proportion of his income in insurance premiums. Suppose you have asked him to slow down, and you have repeatedly tried to persuade him to see sense and drive less aggressively, but he won't listen. You are worried that the ever-increasing costs of his driving are going to put your car ownership at risk, because you simply won't be able to afford the insurance premiums. You think that he is being completely irrational, unreasonable, and wasteful with the family money. You feel that he is not taking you seriously, and that if things were reversed, he would have made you slow down and not accepted any excuses. What can you do in this situation?
My advice, for what it's worth, is that, unless your man really is putting your car-owning at risk, you should try to back off and desist from trying to persuade him. Actually, you could presumably continue to own a car as long as he was not on the insurance, so however he is driving, it is presumably only putting at risk his own driving and car-owning status, not yours. Keep that in mind.
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| 4. Be prepared to pay for it|
Even if your man is putting your family car insurance up dramatically, I still suggest that you back off. Why? Because if this has become a big issue between you, your man is probably feeling harangued, and when people feel harangued, they tend to do the opposite of the thing the other person wants them to do. So it might be counter-productive to keep trying to persuade him to change his driving style. He has probably already noticed how much you are paying for insurance. He probably already knows the risks. So reminding him is haranguing, and whether you are dominant, submissive, or anything else, haranguing is generally a bad idea.
That is all very well, but if you are in this situation, that doesn't help you to feel better. So what might? Here is a suggestion:
Can you think of your husband's speeding, getting tickets, paying more for insurance, and so on, as his hobby, his interest, his passion – something he loves, something he wants to spend money on – his one extravagance? Most people have one extravagance in their life – something they spend a disproportionate amount of money on, because they love it. In my case, it is my computer. My computer is ridiculously expensive – I spent six months' income on it – but I don't regret it for a moment. I expect to spend this amount every three years, and for me, that is a vast expense given that my income is usually very low. I no longer own a car, because I simply cannot afford to own and run a car as well as being an early adopter in terms of computers. Is your husband spending two months' earnings on speeding tickets and increased insurance premiums each year? Perhaps if you stop seeing it as an unnecessary expense, and start seeing it as something that matters to him, something that he wants to do and is prepared to pay for, it might help you to smile indulgently about it instead of feeling bad.
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When I got my first and only speeding ticket, I initially felt a bit upset. The policeman who pulled me over was very polite but it was very embarrassing to be pulled over. But when I told a friend about it, he said to me in a blasé way – “Just think of it as a charge for using the motorway, don't think of it as a fine. You spend money when you go to the supermarket. Now you've spent money for the pleasure of driving at 120 mph on the motorway. It's not a big deal!” This really made me feel better. It didn't make me want to spend more money driving fast, but thinking of it as a choice of mine to spend that money, rather than a punishment, helped.
Likewise, if you think of this expense as being important to your husband, like my buying my computer was important to me, it might help you yourself feel better. No two individuals are going to have the same priorities, and everyone is going to have some disagreement about spending priorities. Can you allow him this extravagance? Can you think of it as being an endearing extravagance that gives him pleasure, rather than a waste of money? We all ‘waste’ money in one way or another. This is his way. Try to see it this way for both your sakes.
The added advantage of backing off could be that when your husband no longer feels on the defensive about this issue, he will then be able to think rationally about whether this is an extravagance he really enjoys and thinks worth the money, or whether it is, as you presumably think, a waste of money. He won't be able to think about it if he is feeling harangued.
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| 6. Take your feelings into account|
But what if your reason for wanting your husband to slow down is that you fear that he is driving unsafely, and you literally fear being in a serious car accident if you get in the car with him? When I have felt this kind of fear, I have asked myself whether my fear is really justified, and have concluded that it is not. But if you think that your fear is justified, then, as in the case Marz Blak discussed here, don't get in the car with him. But ask yourself whether your husband's driving is really unsafe, or whether the real issue is that he is not listening to you.
If the real issue is that you feel unheard, and his driving is actually reasonably safe, then again, my advice is to back off. If you back off thoroughly and completely, and not just for a very short time, this will end what might be a psychological battle of wills in which he is defending his corner and determined not to be told what to do. When he no longer feels harangued, psychologically, he will be able to take your feelings into account more than is possible if there is a battle between you on this issue. But for this to happen, you really do have to back off and let this issue go.
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| 7. If you are feeling hurt|
This is difficult if you are feeling hurt, as you may well be if you are feeling unheard. But if you can find a way to accept your husband's driving as his choice rather than as a wrong he is doing to you, you may well find that he does take your feelings into account more in future.
I can imagine being the person on either side of this issue, and if I were the driver being harangued to change my driving style, I can imagine finding it exceptionally difficult to take the other person's feelings into account, even if, on some level, I wanted to. It might well feel to me like a wrong on the other person's part to be haranguing me to change my driving style! Unless someone's driving really is putting others at risk, it is, in my view, a matter for him how he drives.
By contrast, on occasions when a passenger has been terrified and has asked me to slow down but it has not been part of a battle of wills between us, I have willingly taken that passenger's wishes into account. So if you can, think of what is happening not as your husband not hearing you, or as him otherwise wronging you, think of it as an issue between the two of you. See it as something having gone wrong in the dynamics between you rather than as a wrong he is doing you. That might help you to let it go and back off. And that will end the psychological battle of wills that might be adversely affecting your husband's ability to take your wishes into account.
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Finally, if you are not sure whether you are engaging in a battle of wills and haranguing, one indication that that might be what is happening is if your arguments have shifted from one thing to another to another, such as from arguments about the costs, to arguments about safety. When arguments shift, that can be the smoking gun of a battle of wills. The good news is that if you realise that this is what is happening, it is likely to make it easier for you to do the right thing and back off. And the sooner you do that, the sooner your husband will be able to take your wishes into account. In the midst of a battle of wills, only a saint would be able to do so.
Try not to think badly of the man you love. Your disapproval is probably very painful to him. He is a human being, not a god, and human beings do sometimes make mistakes and do the wrong thing. Try to keep in mind his good qualities and not let this come between you.
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