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!
Guidelines for Driving Out of This Holiday Season With Less Stress and More Safety
Account for the compounding factors–Driving involves external factors like the distance, time, car’s performance, the reaction of other drivers, time of day and road conditions etc. It also involves internal factors like the physical and emotional state of each of you. Make decisions based on as many factors as you can. Driving when you have taken prescription drugs or are exhausted can be as dangerous as driving and drinking.
Respect Driver vs. Navigator Roles- given only one of you is driving at a time try using your role to “ add value” to the other’s performance. She can’t help it if the GPS is crazed and there is no map. He is trying to control his reaction to the man who cut him off.
Respect Your Styles for Regulating Emotions – Research suggests that it is the flexible mix of different regulating styles that is the most effective in stress management.
Plan ahead to Pre-empt Tension and Stress
Differing from stress-reducing strategies or styles, some strategies can be used to pre-empt tension and stress before it erupts. These can be very valuable in the short term like “driving together.”
Mission Focused- If you are headed out for New Year’s Eve or headed home after the holiday, do not use the drive to clear the air from an earlier fight – it does not clear the air –it contaminates it.
Preparation- Planning ahead by giving yourselves extra time, directions, maps, and phone numbers alleviates potential stressors. Music, audio books etc. can reduce the stress of traffic or the strain of long distance driving.
Recognize the Context- Central to preventing tension when driving is recognizing the reality that a car is a confined space. No one (hopefully) can just get out to clear their head. Build in a pause button to diffuse an argument. Sometimes the passenger partner brings an iPod, book, puzzle, or phone game to escape if needed. Sometimes the driver has a certain CD or sports station that predictably engages and even relaxes him/her.
Allow for Psychological Space- Give each other psychological space. If one or the other says they really can’t talk about something upsetting – this is the time to listen. Postponement of discussion, even silence, may be a constructive step toward diffusing feelings in the car – not a dismissal.
Making Meaning- Recognize that much of the anger that unfolds between couples when driving is a secondary reaction to anxiety.
Recognizing the Dangers- Road Rage and DWI are both illegal and potentially lethal circumstances for any individual or couple. They represent a break-down or lack of regulatory strategies.
Use Your Strategies As A Couple... And Drive Safely Together Into The New Year.
For more research and references – see blog ” Regulating Stress When Driving as a Couple.”
Photo by Alan Vernon, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.
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