Last week, my husband delivered the terrible news that he wanted to go on a road trip. The very words coming from his mouth — Road Trip — sent me into an anxiety tailspin that had me grinding my teeth for hours. I tried every excuse I could think of to change his mind. “You know me, I hate to sit in the car for long,” I told him. In response, he suggested multiple stops to break up the trip. I punted with another made-up excuse, “The kids just don’t do well on long car trips. Remember when we drove two hours to that beach resort and they complained the whole time? They’ll be miserable driving for more.” But, he dismissed my concerns. “It’ll be an adventure,” he told me. “The kids will survive.”
Practically speaking, he’s right. The kids will technically survive, but I’m not sure I will because the stress of sitting in the passenger seat while he’s driving is just about too much for me to take. Because here’s the thing: Every time I sit in the passenger seat while my husband is driving, I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands. Gripping the armrest as if it holds my future in its hands, I white knuckle it as my husband seems to be in a contest to get as close as possible to the back bumper of each and every car. Sitting there in the Death Seat, as I’ve come to call it, I feel like I’m sitting in the inside of a video game with someone else at the controls. It feels like any minute we’re going to run out of quarters and I’m going to go sailing through the windshield while screaming, “I asked you to slow down!”
See, my husband isn’t a terrible driver, but he is an aggressive one. When other cars are slowing down, he’s still speeding up only to slam on the breaks when he gets within screeching distance of the car in front of us. He doesn’t get in accidents, but he gets close a lot. That may work for him when the kids and I aren’t in the car. But sitting there, I can’t help but feel terrified for our lives. All because he got too close to the car in front of us.
I’ve tried various techniques to help myself cope with my husband’s scary driving. First, I’ve tried acceptance. He never actually gets into an accident, I’ve told myself. Clearly it’s my problem. When he drives I feel out of control. So I close my eyes while he drives, hoping that if I don’t see how close we are to other cars I won’t wince and beg him to slow down.
Next, I’ve tried talking to him about it. I’ve told him that he makes me incredibly nervous when he tails other cars and that his freeway driving makes me feel like I’ve just been pushed out of an airplane without a parachute. But these conversations always lead to a fight; my husband feels criticized and defensive and I feel like I’ve got no choice but to put up with it.
Now I just try to…deal. I practice yoga breathing or try to distract myself. It rarely works, but at least we don’t get into a fight. But, I just don’t have it in me to go on a road trip that will involve five hours of windy roads and crowded freeways filled with summer travelers. So as much as my husband wants an adventure, I don’t want the stress. Either I’m driving, or we’re flying. Otherwise, I’m staying home. It may not be as fun, but it sure beats feeling like I’m constantly going to become one with whatever car is in front of us.
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