I was approached a few days ago by Chaucer Direct Insurance to comment on the effect on couple relationships of commuting to work by car. From my experience of working with couples I offered these thoughts in response to their questions.
- In your experience, what effect (be it positive or negative) does frequently spending a long time in the car together have on a relationship?
On the positive side – frequent time in the car can give an opportunity to talk through small details about one’s day without other distractions. Couples are very often time poor. Couples can say things – sometimes that might be difficult – in the car without the other one being able to walk away – it’s a captive audience. The fact that there is no eye-to-eye contact can make it easier to say awkward things.
On the negative side – couples are spending time together but they perhaps aren’t having fun or having down time together. Commuting together limits the amount of time a couple spend apart and gives less flexibility for those times that they might each do chores on the way home or have ‘me’ time.
- What specific problems arise when a couple commutes to work together every day?
Anxieties about the day to come or frustrations about the day that has been, get acted out between the couple – for example through niggles about driving or choice of music.
Individuals often have different tolerance times for being late – so someone has to make a compromise to leave earlier – or tolerate the possibility of being late.
Any conflicts around whose job is more important can be acted out in terms of who should be dropped off first if traffic delays them.
Relationship dynamics about who is in charge can be played out en route.
Chaucer Direct have published an article on how time in the car affects your relationship including comments from myself and others. It also includes some interesting links to research done in this field. Does time in the car affect your relationship?