With Easter just around the corner, many Brits across the UK will be planning road trips to see their relatives.
However, according to a recent study by Compare the Market almost a quarter (24%) of drivers say they’re likely to argue while driving, with our partners and spouses said to the most annoying passengers. With traffic and queues almost inevitable this weekend, Compare the Market has recruited the help of two psychologists to share insight as to why we get so irritated with our spouses and partners when driving and how to avoid ‘carguments’ this easter.
Why are our partners and spouses the most annoying car passengers?
Marissa Peer, a psychotherapist, explains: ‘Driving is stressful for everyone but particularly for the person at the wheel. Their nervous system is heightened because they are aware of the responsibility they have for themselves and their passengers. If you are stuck in traffic and getting delayed, it adds to the stress as there is nothing you can do to change that. When tension is heightened, arguments are more likely to happen and especially with your partner – the person with whom you are most familiar and spend the majority of your time with. Your tolerance capacity is lower because of your familiarity and you are more likely to argue and lose it with your partner than you would if giving a lift to a friend or work colleague.
‘Either partner might consider a car journey the perfect opportunity to discuss an issue that the other has been avoiding because they have, quite literally, a captive audience. If this is a regular occurrence in the car, it may almost prime people to be combative from the outset. Some couples spend their lives bickering and a car simply provides another perfect setting for point scoring.
‘What’s more, there is no means of escape in a car – at home you’d be able to leave the room to make a cup of tea if it feels like there’s a row brewing. The confined space and close proximity tends to magnify your partner’s annoying habits. What used to be endearing about your partner in the heady first throes of romance, such as the inevitability of making a wrong turn or always leaving late can be highly irritating and triggering after years together.’
Expert tips to avoid ‘carguments’ with your partner or spouse this Easter bank holiday
Mairead Molloy, a therapist and relationship strategist for Berkeley International, shares: ‘While we often think that road trips are going to be romantic, the car is often the last place where we have to relinquish full control in a relationship, which can make the journey emotionally bumpy. Couples can argue over everything from who packs the boot to how to change a tyre.’
If you do suffer from passenger anxiety and find that you tend to argue a lot with your partner when driving, there are a few things you can do:
- Talk to them. They might be the best driver in town, but if you’re not comfortable with things like how fast they go, it’s important that you let them know
- Keep calm. It’s easier said than done, but simply trying to stay calm and focusing on the positive can be a helpful way to ridding yourself of passenger anxiety. You may want to also incorporate various ways of calming your nerves, such as deep breathing, distracting yourself and relaxing your muscles
- Prevent trigger stresses. When you’re running late to an event, or you get lost on the way, it can often trigger aggressive driving as you become panicked. You can try to eliminate these triggers by planning your trip early and making sure you leave enough time to get to your destination. In some cases, you could also just offer to drive if it makes you feel more comfortable
‘However, it can be hard to avoid arguing all together, so it might be a good idea to focus on arguing better instead, and respectfully hearing the other person when perpetual problems come up. We all want to argue less, and it can be a huge pressure to try and actually do so, but the point is to deepen your understanding. It’s more so about focusing on communicating effectively, rather than just avoiding the hard topics,’ Molloy concludes.