Marriage lessons from the passenger seat

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

When I was a teenager I learned how to drive, and before I turned 30, a medical condition caused me to relinquish my license and put on the brakes. That was circa 1990.

The big news of 2016? I got it back. Zoom zoom!IMG_3272

As much as I wish I could be credited for the many years of driving experience I have, too much time has passed, and I am considered a brand new driver. It’s frustrating, but just. I require a co-driver for eight months, need to take certified driver training, and won’t be able to drive solo until 2017 starts. Oh well. Last year at this time, it wasn’t even something I considered possible so there are no complaints here.

My husband, brave soul that he is, has taken on the role of co-driver. There are a few things to know about him:

  1. He’s amazing, kind and generous.
  2. He has been known to suffer from motion sickness, so he prefers to be the one in charge.
  3. His relationship with vehicles is such that he never (as in never-ever) gets in without first doing a walk-around to ensure no new scratches, dents, or dust mites have appeared.

Nothing in our marriage, therefore, has provided a better opportunity to evaluate communication skills than this new adventure.

For example: I respect his time at work so unless the matter is urgent, I send him a text asking him to call me when he’s free. One week after I got my license, I needed him and he didn’t answer the phone. He did, however, send back a text saying he’d call in five minutes. “Okay,” I replied, “But I have to move your (1993 IMG_3269 prize) mustang off the driveway.” My phone rang in twelve seconds.

See how quickly I was able to convey the message that talking later was less desirable in that circumstance? Our communication had already improved.

The garage is a precise fit for our everyday car. He coached me through parking it the first time, and I’m glad he did because it’s impossible to sneeze without pushing the boundaries.

I didn’t, however, ask for his guidance the second time. I didn’t even tell him what I intended to do. Instead I pulled into the driveway, reached for the remote control and calmly proceeded.

Somehow my husband missed my confidence, my calm demeanour, my “I’ve got this” determination.

“Stop. Stop before you hit something!” he said.

He will not accept that he shouted, but we have agreed his tone was emphatic. I can understand that, because I wasn’t looking frontwards once I got the car halfway in the available space. I was looking out the driver’s side window. Furthermore, he is aware of the fact that when I was a teenager, one of my first solo accomplishments was to ram my father’s pickup truck directly into his immoveable beast of a hunting wagon in spectacular fashion. Dad needed to purchase a different pickup truck, though the hunting vehicle was fine.

“Calm down,” I said. “It’s perfect.”

And it nearly was. He stepped out of the car, and though I think he is loathe to admit it, there was just enough room for each of us to get out, just enough room to walk around the car, and just enough room to close the garage door afterwards.

“I lined myself up with this paint splotch on the wall,” I said, pointing to where someone had sampled a colour once upon a time.

He chuckled and shook his head. “I never noticed that before, and I couldn’t see it from the passenger side. It’s a completely different point of view.”

Ah yes, in every relationship there is a season–a time to be the driver, and many times to look at things from the other person’s point of view. I’ve been the passenger for most of my life, yet it’s clear to me I can never be reminded of that lesson often enough.


15 thoughts on “Marriage lessons from the passenger seat

  1. Oh, this was fun to read! I just can’t wait to meet you in person. Both of you. ?

    1. We are looking forward to it as well. It will be a short visit, but we will make the most of it, for sure!

  2. What fun! Looking at things from a different seat offers us all a different point of view and if we are observant we can learn so much from the shift in perspective. God bless M for his willingness to give you the driver’s seat as you regain this independence. I’m laughing in my head because I can just imagine how terribly anxious he must have been in the back of my van in January and what a trooper he was!

  3. “I never noticed that before, and I couldn’t see it from the passenger side. It’s a completely different point of view.”

    When I read that line I thought to myself. That’s a problem we all have. We respond as if we have all the information, and yet, we don’t. Light bulb moment. I want to remember those who disagree are seeing it from a completely different view and that doesn’t automatically mean they are wrong. They may be, but there’s also a chance though hard to believe, that I may be the one who’s wrong.

    1. it’s not easy! I have been wrong so many times, but discussions are always an easier thing if I can just take a peek from another point of view. I loved “there’s a chance, though hard to believe…” isn’t that the truth for us all!

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this fun little adventure mixed with your own unique insight. Very nice!

    1. Thanks, Via. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. We were in Berlin. I’ve learned I’m not ready to drive the Autobahn yet!

  5. Oh I can relate to this in so many ways. Such a nice anecdote, I especially enjoyed the part where he phone you in twelve seconds when his Mustang was involved, men have a strange sense of priorities…
    Highlighting what I appreciated about your post, your gratitude towards your husband is obvious, not just because you stated it, but also in how you speak about him. The second thing, the love you two share for each other is pretty obvious, and I like it 🙂
    Thirdly, I find communication to be one of the BIGGEST challenges in relationships, I understand what is going through my mind so why shouldn’t everybody else? This shows me how beautiful of a thing learning to communicate with your partner (or any person for that matter) can be.
    Thank you Crystal! and good on you for relearning how to drive!

    1. Communication is the biggest challenge, I agree. I’ve learned that both my husband and I often have a preview of the conversation in our heads before we have it with each other–but sometimes we jump into the middle of it as though our partner attended the preview too! We are learning to laugh at those moments (we used to argue about them). And yes, we do love each other. He’s pretty fantastic, no doubt about it!

  6. It’s *always* different from the passenger side…and from the driver’s side. I love this piece–the fact of the story itself and the telling of it. I’m still laughing about dust mites, which I only noticed on my second read. M would HATE my car and my attitude toward it. LOL!

    1. BTW, I think it’s just communication lessons, period–any relationship or friendship, not just marriage. 🙂

    2. He is much more forgiving about other people’s cars than his own, so you needn’t worry, friend.

  7. I LOVE this!!

    I spent our entire vacation in the passenger seat of a rental van–an entirely different point of view, especially when the driver (my husband) hasn’t seen something he should. Like a stop sign? Or the FasTrak lane for a toll bridge…that we shouldn’t be in?

    A test of diplomatic, yet urgent, communication skills.

    1. Haha, I totally hear you! So glad you and your cargo made it home safely.

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