My Husband’s Driving Terrifies Me
Before I begin, let me say that I adore my husband. He is a kind and generous man. He gives the most thoughtful gifts and writes the most beautiful love letters. He cooks and does the grocery shopping. He makes me laugh every day. He lets me do what I want with the house and he knocks himself out to make sure I am happy. He is a wonderful father and grandfather. He is a lovely man in every way.
We went on a road trip this past weekend. I knew at the outset that there would be tense moments. Our history in the car together holds many instances of terror on my part and frustration on his part. I braced myself for it to happen again.
The trip to our destination was surprisingly calm and uneventful. Traffic was lighter than usual and he was relaxed and happy. When the road is open, he’s a good driver. I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The return trip was a different story. From the moment we left the traffic was heavy. There were hundreds of motor homes on the road as everyone was getting in their last summer trip before school starts.
From the beginning, my husband’s calm, relaxed energy changed to what I call tense and angry and he calls focused. For some reason, when the traffic is heavy, it triggers his “road warrior” persona.
He drives way too fast — as in 15-20 miles over the speed limit. The fact that a lot of other people are doing this, too, doesn’t make me feel any better. He tails the car in front too close. If they tap their brakes we are toast. I am tensing every muscle in my body, bracing for impact.
He says he follows that close so no one will move over into his lane. He is very protective of his lane. It infuriates him that people have the audacity to drive slower than him in the passing lane. He pushes and pushes, and the whole time my foot is slamming on my imaginary brake, nearly going through the floor trying to slow him down. I am rigid with fear.
It is as though he is in a chariot race. Helmet and shield donned, he is gripping the reins with one hand and a long, braided whip in the other. He sees every other vehicle on the road as the enemy. He is going to win this race at all costs. Like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. When I told him that he laughed.
So here’s my dilemma. I can sit in the passenger seat and bite my tongue off. I can have my panic attacks quietly, without gasping and gripping the arm of the door, I can look down at my book and pretend I am not terrified…OR…I can say, “You are scaring me to death, please slow down, please back off the car in front” and thus start an argument.
Either way, I lose.
His normal response is “Let me drive.” He recites his good driving record. He has never had an accident. Until a couple of years ago he had never had a ticket. Then it was for going 10 over in a 35 mph zone in a one cop town, not for going 85 in a 60.
The way I see it is he’s the luckiest man I know. It doesn’t have anything to do with being a good driver.
We have come home from a trip before so mad at each other that we were not speaking. We unpacked the car in silence and went to our separate corners and did not speak the rest of the evening. This is NOT sustainable.
There have been times when I thought that in order to preserve our marriage and my sanity that I was going to have to take my car every time we go somewhere. Not only is this a terribly inconvenient prospect, most of the time it’s impractical.
So, sometimes I just drive, instead. This isn’t always a good solution either, because he feels like me wanting to drive is a commentary on his driving (well? it kind of is, you know). But because I am a cock-eyed optimist, I still climb in the passenger seat when he insists on driving. This time could be different, you know?
The real problem is he is perfectly comfortable with the way he drives. He commutes to work in heavy interstate traffic every day. He knows how it’s done.
“I’ve got this” he tells me. “I drive, you ride.”
But what about those times I truly thought I was going to die right there on the highway in a horrific car crash — the kind that ties up the interstate for hours and hours?
Is it really just me? Do I need to just chill out?
This weekend, the anxiety was so bad that I finally said, “When we stop for lunch, I am driving the rest of the way home.”
He got a little mad about it, because I was making a comment about his driving, which is against the rules. But I insisted, and he relented, and we made it home still speaking to each other.
When I drive, I stay in my lane, going no more than 10 over the speed limit and usually just 5 over. If the speed limit is 70, I drive the speed limit. I am pretty comfortable that I will get there fast enough without having to go 85. I give a lot of room between me and the car in front of me. I drive with the idea that I will get there when I get there. Does this make me a better driver?
I don’t know the answer to that question or the solution to our problem. This is really the only thing we consistently argue about. At times, when he is feeling generous, he drives me around like he’s driving Miss Daisy. I am grateful for those times. But the times he is driving like he is going to a fire, and he is the only one who can put it out, I would just as soon stay home.