Almost every couple has a car story- be it good, bad or ugly.
Romance unfolds in cars. Given the privacy, small space, music, heat or lack of it, cars invite emotional connection and events to remember- the first chance of intimacy, the car you both loved, the road trips you cherished.
If you are a couple, you also know that as relaxing and romantic as being in a car with your partner can be – there is the other side. Driving together can go from cherished to challenging- sometimes in the same trip!
- “Didn’t you see that guy- he almost hit us.”
- “I didn’t cause the traffic!”
- “I want to get there alive – what is the speed limit?”
- “Why get a GPS if you won’t follow it?”
- “You put our lives in danger because he cut you off?”
In fairness to anyone who can relate to the comments above, driving in this culture is stressful. When you consider the number of interacting factors that add to the situation, it is amazing that any couple takes up the challenge, much less enjoys it.
- There are the external factors like the destination, the time, the distance,the car’s performance, the reaction of other drivers,the road conditions etc.
- There are the differing emotional feelings and expectations triggered in each partner by the reason for the trip- be it a vacation, a family visit or a medical appointment.
- There are the internal factors i.e. the pre-existing physical and emotional state of each of the partners, often exacerbated by the fact that only one is in “control of the driving,” regardless of where the other is sitting or what they are saying.
Clearly, the situation is complex and given that no one can control all of these factors, an important area of focus for partners is the handling and regulating of their emotional reactions as individuals and as a couple.
Styles for Regulating Emotions
Researchers tell us that people have different styles for regulating their experience and expression of emotion. Often partners are not only reacting to the road condition or the tension about the family visit, but the way in which each regulates stress.
Some use concealing strategies. They suppress their feelings and try not to …