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Why Men Feel So Hurt When Their Partners Criticize Their Driving

Probably because they’re basically criticizing your ability to take care of them

Statistically speaking, in a hetero relatonship, the man does the driving. “A 2009 study reported that in nine out of 10 households that identify themselves as ‘feminist,’ the man did most of the driving when both partners were in the car,” we reported last year in a post about why men always drive on dates. “A year later, the Institute of Advanced Motorists found that when partners drive together, men are four times more likely to take the wheel.”

I mention this because I’m a man in a relationship with a woman and nine out of 10 times, when we’re going somewhere together, I’m the one piloting the car. For the record, I don’t necessarily want to be the driver as often as I am but this is just the way things seem to be. And according to Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist and sexologist at the University of Washington, this is but one example of “cultural lag,” in which “things continue beyond their functionality or beyond their meaning,” she told me last year. “Because they were done a certain way, they continue to be done that way.”

So fine, I suppose I’ll keep on driving until the culture catches up. But here’s the bigger issue: If my girlfriend comments on my driving skills one more time, I’m going to drive myself off a cliff.

I should also note that I’m a fairly level-headed guy. In other words, I’m usually very receptive to criticism. (And God knows there’s plenty to criticize.) Except when that criticism comes in the form of sighs, sudden gasps or a suggestion that I should, “change lanes” or “slow down.”

Of course, I’m not alone. Here are just a few related headlines:

Not to mention that sometimes the issue of dealing with criticism about your driving becomes so severe, that it leads to some seriously vindictive shit. “I was driving us to church yesterday, and the entire time the wife is complaining about how I drive,” writes one redditor. “Knowing that her advice would result in our fiery deaths, or at the very least, us being late, I decide to listen to her. I begin following every recommendation to perfection, and before you can say, ‘Men are better drivers than women,’ we’re 30 minutes late and going the wrong direction. The look on her face as she began realizing my driving superiority was truly supreme. Now I am on the couch, worth it.”

Obviously this redditor is a shithead, but he does at least convey the level of sociopathy that can stem from having your driving criticized. So what is it about being judged for the way you drive by way of your significant other in the passenger seat that feels like an alternate Top-Gun narrative where Goose kills Maverick for all the crazy shit he does at Mach 1?

According to Allen Wagner, a licensed family and relationship therapist, the issue of criticizing the driver is related to trust and safety. “Being responsible for your partner can instill value in many people,” he says. “The act of driving is almost like taking responsibility as the person who is escorting and is now transporting very valuable cargo. It’s similar to men who will always walk the street side of the sidewalk. There’s a protective nature that many men feel, and will act out.”

So in that way, Wagner says that when your significant other criticizes your driving, it feels as though they’re criticizing your ability to take care of them. “I do think there’s an unconscious feeling of failure,” explains Wagner. Basically, he tells me, that it can feel like the equivalent of being told that you’re not competent in your protective nature.

Luckily though, there’s a solution. “Instead of riding in the passenger seat, the passenger might sit in the back seat, where he or she can text, call friends or listen to music,” reports HuffPost. “Think of it as having a chauffeur-driven limo, and it might not feel so weird.”

On second thought, that’s a terrible idea too.