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Can your relationship survive commuting together?

Chaucer Direct Insurance contacted me recently 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. The stress of sitting in traffic can exacerbate this.
    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. More generally, relationship dynamics such as issues related to power and control 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

  • Book Review

    ‘Committed’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

    ‘Committed – A Love Story’ is indeed a love story of the author Elizabeth Gilbert and Felipe, a Brazilian-born Australian citizen. However it is so much more than that. It is a study of the institution of marriage. Interwoven into their story Gilbert explores different cultures, both Western and Eastern, and their differing traditions regarding marriage. She argues powerfully that marriage has been constantly adapting over the centuries and that some of the characteristics that we take for granted in the West are very different when looked at from other temporal and cultural perspectives.
    All of that may sound a bit heavy but this is a book that anyone can relate to as it is very much her story. Her previous book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ told the story of her divorce and all that followed from that. ‘Committed’ takes that story a step further as she and Felipe tentatively explore the requirement of marriage being laid on them by the US Homeland Security Department.
    This is a book for anyone who is married or thinking of it, as it opens up all kinds of questions about our expectations, hopes and fears about what marriage means to each of us. The old cliché that this is a book which you will find difficult to put down is actually true of this one – it’s extremely readable and very thought-provoking.