Summer's Here! Time to grab your sweetie and hit the open road. What's more romantic than packing a few things, selecting a playlist and heading into the unknown? You envision roadside shopping at farmer's fruit stands and stopping off for ice cream at that place everyone talks about. But once you’re actually on the road, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. And if you're in a long-term relationship, the close quarters can be an incubator for a blow out. Your instincts go into overdrive when you're in close quarters for a long time and you start to become very territorial - boundaries need to be created.
Creating boundaries means arguing. Arguments really don’t help the situation but in these conditions, are pretty much inevitable. So while you can’t stop car arguments altogether, you can minimize their damage on your relationship. Here’s advice on how to make the best of common car fight scenarios.
An hour ago, your partner's navigation app said to take the interstate but you brushed it off saying the scenic route would be more enjoyable. Now, the traffic is backed up for miles and your partner has steam coming out of her ears.
What it’s Really About: Control. The driver says they’re the one who’s going to make this decision because they’re driving. The other partner or the one in the passenger seat is also exercising their territorialism by saying, ‘I’m in this car too, dammit. I want to have a say over this.’
Why it’s Silly: Things are going to take as long as they take. There aren’t 100 different roads to every destination on earth, so you’re often limited in how strategic your navigation can be.
Advice for Ending it: If you’re driving, be diplomatic but firm about directions. The buck stops with the driver. The driver knows how they drive and what they feel most comfortable doing, so the driver probably needs to be the one that does make those decisions.
The car ahead stops short and your passengers jolt forward when you slam the brakes. It’s clear to you that the guy’s obviously a moron who can’t drive. Nonetheless your spouse insists it was your fault.
What it’s Really about: Your shitty driving.
Why it’s Silly: It’s easy, almost instinctual, to get mad when someone tells you you’re driving angry, but maybe they have a point. You could have been driving aggressively without realizing it. Driving is stressful, especially when your family is in the car, and the stress might make you drive more aggressively to assert control.
Advice for Ending it: If someone complains about your driving, try to be understanding instead of defensive. They’re not questioning your judgment or ability; they’re expressing their feelings. It’s nice to be courteous to the passengers in your car, if you’re the driver because they don’t have control in that situation.
With podcasts, satellite and terrestrial radio, streaming services and books on tape, modern couples have a wealth of options for in-car diversions. The problem is that all of them suck—except the one you want at that moment. And if your spouse doesn’t want to listen to the history-of-fashion podcast you’re demanding, the drive is going to seem intolerable.
What it’s Really about: Territoriality again.
Why it’s Silly: How could anybody be upset about when you’re playing choice Barenaked Ladies B-sides?
Advice for Ending it: Take turns with the tunes. You can agree you’re going to listen to one station for an hour, then the other person's choice the next.
It’s only a four-day trip but still, you've somehow managed to pack a metric ton of clothes, shoes and supplies. Despite the complex game of luggage Tetris you played for an hour, you have a bag on your console and a cooler on your lap. You're frustrated, but your partner is fuming.
What it’s Really About: Anxiety and desire for control.
Why it’s Silly: Overpackers want to prepare for every situation that may arise, even though it’s impossible to foresee all possibilities. Your partner sees it all as chaos.
Advice for Ending it: Explain that you feel under-prepared otherwise and want the trip to go well for both of you. As long as there’s enough room though - If there’s not enough room, then the person who packed heavily has got to take some stuff out.
Getting the temperature right in the car shouldn’t be hard. And yet it feels like you’re presiding over the breakup of Yugoslavia, with aggrieved parties making incompatible demands and refusing to compromise.
What it’s Really About: It’s a reaction to confinement. Tensions that have been long simmering are being forced to a boil by tight quarters. Because you can’t leave, you’re kind of forced, in a literal way, to address it...You’re trapped and you can’t go anywhere. That starts a fight too.
Why it’s Silly: You’re arguing about air. That’s a step away from arguing about literally nothing.
How to End it: You might not be able to end it, actually. It’s a byproduct of being in a car with the people who know you best for long periods of time. There’s no perfect temperature when the environment you’re all stuck in is compelling you to fight.
It’s never fun to hear half a phone call. When it’s happening in the seat next to you, it’s excruciating. If you’re driving, you probably turned down the radio to accommodate this conversation, so there’s nothing to distract you from it.
What it’s Really About: To a degree, it’s about alienation: they’re doing something private while in your presence.
Why it’s Silly: People are allowed to be on the phone. It helps to pass the time and the conversation might provide valuable information.
Advice for Ending it: Suck it up and focus on the road. Remember you’re in close quarters and liable to annoy each other. If you respond to every single annoyance that comes up, it’s going to be a really long car trip. Pick your battles. If this is something that’s really important to you, go ahead and bring it up. Otherwise, just recognize that this is one of those annoyances and it’s going to be even more annoying if I do bring it up.