Long car journeys can bring out the worst in relationships. No, really, they do.
Dan and I love each other dearly and have been married for over 10 years but somehow, over time, we seem to have fallen into an inextricable pattern of behaviour that rears its head every time we go on holiday by car.
It’s ludicrous, really – we’re both reasonably educated people with plenty of emotional intelligence to see us safely through the ups and downs of a mature, loving relationship. But it all seems to suddenly go out of the window when a long car journey looms.
You would not believe the things you can argue over. By sharing some of our innermost vulnerable relationship dynamics, I am secretly hoping that we’re not the only couple to be fighting over stupid stuff in the car.
Dan’s idea of packing for a holiday is throwing a toothbrush, a spare t-shirt and some clean pants into a bag 5 minutes before we leave. While I secretly admire his aptitude for spontaneity and his refusal to overthink what may or may not be needed while we’re away from home, I will have been packing for days, for the both of us. It takes a great deal of mutual respect and admiration to maintain domestic peace under these conditions, and it’s easily blown away by seemingly innocent comments such as ‘Do we really need all these bags?’, ‘Did you pack any toothpaste’ or ‘Are you just taking a pair of trainers?’
Car fully loaded and fuelled up (his job), house checked and locked (my job), we’re off – except when things take a little longer than planned. Dan will have been keenly checking weather and traffic updates in preparation for our departure. He will have calculated the most convenient route to get us to our destination in minimum time. And he will by now be sitting in the car, probably with the engine running, waiting for me to get a bloody move on. Where’s the hurry? Does it really matter if we get stuck in traffic on the M25 an hour later than planned?
Who’s the better driver?
I gave up arguing for a share of the driving many years ago, chiefly because my blood pressure couldn’t take the well-meant advice that was being freely dispensed by my darling husband whenever I was behind the wheel. Despite an unblemished 20+ year driving record and no points on my licence, some battles are just not worth fighting over. Now, I quite enjoy being in the passenger seat, having given Dan the illusion of being in charge. It means that I get to choose the music (The Jam, not James Blunt – and no Radio 2!) and I dole out the snacks – sometimes we even share a laugh and a joke.
Detours and stop-offs
If you ask me, the trick to long car journeys is being sufficiently relaxed in mind while making steady progress towards your holiday destination. However, if, like Dan, your working life involves a lot of driving, you’re used to getting from A to B as fast as possible. It does rather spoil the vibe when he suggests a Drive Thru McDonalds while I’m looking forward to a leisurely country pub lunch just off the M1. Especially if he then adds insult to injury by suggesting we might go off piste to go and see a business contact near Nuneaton when my earlier idea for a spot of designer outlet shopping at Bicester Village was vetoed!
We should count ourselves lucky that SatNav has done away with the need for paper maps. Just input your destination and off you go – brilliant! It does, of course, presuppose that one has faith in the accuracy of the directions being given as well as the capability to work the damn thing in the first place. Dan has neither, bless him. And while I can set the SatNav to gently guide us on our way in dulcet tones, I do wish the subsequent conversation about where the hell it’s taking us could be just as sweet-tempered.
With the car parked and engine switched off, the storm clouds are gone. We hug, we kiss and marital harmony is restored. Let the holiday begin.
Article provided by Dakota M, a freelance writer partnering with the AA Garage Guide for this and a series of driving issue related articles.