Relationship Connection: My husband’s driving terrifies me

Photo by Carlos_bcn / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

Question

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?

Answer

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 be 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.

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.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • comments October 11, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Yup, sounds like a frickin idiot local utah driver. Maybe after he finally bashes into the back of someone and your insurance rate go thru the roof this idiot will finally start to change his driving habits

  • ladybugavenger October 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Your husband is one of those tailgating idiots. One day, when I have spare time, I’m going to let a tailgater hit me. I can’t stand looking in my mirror and seeing someone too close.

    Good job on refusing to ride with him.

  • Redbud October 12, 2017 at 2:19 am

    I also hate people who tailgate me. That being said, I still respect those who wish to drive faster than me, and I will make sure I am in the right lane so they can pass. However, if I am on a road where there’s only one lane each direction, and you tailgate me, that’s a completely different story. I am willing to go about 5 miles over the speed limit, but if you keep riding my rear when I’m already going over the speed limit, that’s when I get pissed off. I don’t slam on my brakes when this happens, but I start driving 5 to 10 miles under the speed limit to get even with them. If they back off after that, then I will speed up. But if I give you a second chance, and you start riding up on me, then I slow back down 5 to 10 under, and guess what, you are now stuck behind me at that speed for a while!

    As for the spouse who tailgates, I don’t blame her at all for not riding with him. He is putting himself, his spouse, and drivers around him at risk. Do not ride with him until he changes his driving behavior. When I was younger, I caused an accident that was my fault. I was lucky and no one got hurt, and I did not get sued. Ever since that happened, I learned my lesson, and I have been driving ticket/accident free for over 10 years. I also drive much more carefully.

    Now add some food for thought, if you drove from St. George to Salt Lake City, and drove approximately 10 miles over the speed limit, it would only save you approximately 20 minutes. Is the extra 20 minutes saved worth the increased chance of getting in an accident, getting pulled over for speeding, causing injury to someone, and/or having your car insurance rate increase? Probably not!

  • Mike P. October 12, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Since moving here, everyone’s driving terrifies me

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