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Are We There Yet?

What do you think of your partner's driving? Add to ...

When I was 16, dating a boy with his own car was a novelty, especially since the car was a royal blue MGB convertible. All the girls wanted a ride in that sporty little car.

One big problem with Jeremy, however: He drove like a jerk.

He took risks on and off the road. One time, on a day trip to Niagara Falls, Ont., he was so busy showing off, he spun out on a dirt road and nearly rolled the car. As I sat there with my heart in my throat and my face in the ditch, I knew things weren’t going to work out between us.

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While women like men who make their pulse quicken, it shouldn’t be from fear. Sara Dimerman, a Thornhill, Ont.-based psychologist, says driving habits are often a source of conflict among the couples she counsels.

When couples drive, it’s common for men to take the wheel, leaving their passengers reliant on them to keep them safe, Dimerman says.

Often men regard speed and aggressiveness as masculine, but many women just aren’t comfortable with that kind of driving.

“Men like to put their foot on the pedal and drive faster,” Dimerman says. “Women typically are afraid of that kind of speed. It can evoke a visceral or emotional reaction in her and make her feel fearful, that he’s not protecting her.”

That was certainly the case for Mary Evans, a Toronto public relations consultant, who did not want her real name used because she’s in the middle of a divorce.

Her husband’s aggressive driving contributed to their marital breakdown this past spring. They travelled several times a year to Quebec to visit family, and he would frequently lose his temper and speed up behind people he felt had cut him off.

“It made me feel very uncomfortable,” says Evans, who was injured in a serious car accident as a teenager. “There would be a lot of arguments on those long drives and it was very straining because I didn’t feel safe.”

Evans says if she tried to talk with her husband about his driving, he would discredit her feelings and it would lead to a fight.

“He said he was the driver and he knew what was safe. I didn’t have a say in it.”

When couples can’t get along on the road, it often means there are underlying problems in the relationship, says Dimerman.

“It might not be a male-female thing. If both partners are comfortable with the type of driving then it wouldn’t be an issue, but it can certainly put strain on a relationship.”

Dimerman says couples should not argue about driving while on the road, where the driver could become agitated and distracted. Instead, they should work out a non-verbal signal. For example, the passenger could put her hand on his knee to signal that he needs to slow down. Evans says she will definitely be paying attention to driving habits from now on when she goes on dates. After my near-death experience with Jeremy, I felt the same way.

A few years after I told Jeremy to hit the road, I met another guy with a car. It was his dad’s old Dodge Ram Charger, and he drove it like a perfect gentleman.

With him, I could picture our future children strapped safely in the back seat. Many years later, we’re still cruising along together.

Last I heard of Jeremy, he had totalled his sports car. I bet he’s still single.

_______________________

You are how you drive

Habitually single? You might want to ask yourself, “How’s my driving?” Your behaviour behind the wheel could be turning off potential partners, says relationship expert Sara Dimerman. Here’s what driving idiosyncrasies may say about you:

Speeding: You lack patience.

Swearing and rude gestures: You have a bad temper and are easily frustrated.

Weaving through traffic without signalling: You lack respect and consideration for others

Tailgating: You are passive-aggressive.

Making derogatory, racist or sexist comments toward drivers: You’re intolerant of others.

Ignoring signals and traffic signs: You’re defiant and don’t respect rules or authority.

Queue jumping: You’re entitled and arrogant.

Dianne Nice is the online community editor, Report on Business, and is on Twitter: @diannenice.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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