I'd Love You More If You Would Drive the Speed Limit
July 7, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are ending the LD part of our LDR with a 4-day road trip home. Please help us still be a loving and functional couple by the end of it.

My boyfriend and I (female) are finally going back home together after 6 months apart for different jobs. We will be in a car together for 4 days. I imagine things will be intense at first as we're both really excited to be together but I'm concerned that with emotions running so high and no way to spend time alone (after we're so used to spending lots of time alone), we'll get sick of each other. How can we mitigate this?
posted by thewestinggame to Human Relations (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First off, you should have a confab about this so you're both on the same page understanding that with such enforced closeness all of a sudden, things may get intense, so that checking-out for a little while should in no way be read as rejection.

Bring headsets so the non-driver can zone out into their own space and/or snooze for a break.

Bring music to play so you can both be awake at times without feeling you've got to chat.
posted by zadcat at 9:04 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Remember that he has changed, and so have you, during the apart time. These changes do not in any way reflect a dissatisfaction with the other person or the way they do things. Be very careful about criticizing, even playfully, even if you usually do a lot of that sort of thing.

Try to agree on the radio stations/podcasts/audiobooks ahead of time. Bring half again as many podcasts/audiobooks as you think you'll need.

Definitely agree on minimum and maximum distances for each day and time between rest stops beforehand. However, never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom if you need to. If you're nearing an exit and you kind of sort of almost maybe have to pee, take the exit and pee. I've spent more time than I care to remember at the side of a highway because apparently, if you're driving through Wyoming, you're supposed to know that it's 70 barren miles to the next exit.

Bring books, or headphones for your music player or whatever. A little alone time at the fifth hour of the day's driving will help. I would also advise packing the car so, if necessary, one of you can move to the back seat for a nap with a minimum of repacking.

Figure out before you start yelling, Is the damage I am about to do to this relationship more important than the damage that is being done to my ego? Don't be afraid to apologize.
posted by Etrigan at 9:06 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem is going to be that you'll feel like you have to fill all that time with conversation. The solution to that problem is lots and lots of audiobooks.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:19 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have a plan. Have a general plan for the travel itself: route, hours/miles per day, how low you'll let the gas tank get, driving shifts, and yes, maximum speeds. Have a plan for if you have a vehicle emergency (check your cell plans/credit cards for roadside assistance coverage details, or join AAA or whatever). Plan for what you'll do when someone gets hungry, tired, or needs a bathroom.

My biggest problem when I travel is that I get uptight and that makes me snippy. If that's a problem for either of you, plan for how to deal with that.

Assuming you'll be taking turns driving, the passenger needs to get a little rest before their next shift. Build in some nap/quiet time, which will kind of pass as alone-time.

I advise a mix of music (for talking over), audiobooks, and podcasts. One of my favorite road trip podcasts is Doug Loves Movies, because Doug and his guests play several movie title games, which you can play along with.

Be a team. Agree that you'll both work not to spiral into s/he's Doing It Wrong loops.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:41 AM on July 7, 2012

Mrs. Eschatfische and I did this, Chicago to California, years ago. It ended up being really fun.

I would spend time preparing by choosing songs that you both know all the words to, browsing Roadside America to find the weirdest or most wonderful roadside attractions along the route (or to help with choosing a particular route), getting a pack of Trivial Pursuit cards (or something similar) for the passenger to quiz the driver with, and, of course, bringing a few sexy, loose-fitting outfits for those fleeting private moments.

If you bring audiobooks, in addition to ones that the both of you would actually like to listen to, bring one a used one that you found cheap that looks awful. I Am Charlotte Simmons remains an in-joke between Mrs. Eschatfische and I to this day.
posted by eschatfische at 9:52 AM on July 7, 2012

and no way to spend time alone (after we're so used to spending lots of time alone)

Bring a set of earphones and clear out a space in the backseat. That way, someone can be driving and someone can be in the backseat listening to music, playing video games or watching a movie.

You don't have to spend every minute talking to each other. Y'al have a camera, right? One of you can be hanging out of the passenger window, taking photos.

Make it interesting by one of you not wearing pants, while in the car. Keep'em around your ankles for quickly pulling at rest tops. Photos of this are optional.

Is it going to be all day driving or will y'all stop at times to see a few sights? Take 5 or even six days, if it's time spent on vacation, if you can.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:10 AM on July 7, 2012

Over the years, my spouse and I have done this several times. Sometimes it has been great, fun, and easy; other times it was very stressful and we were barely speaking by the end. In hindsight, the difference was where we were in the relationship - if we were both on the same page about the next step, and if we had been talking about these larger issues openly and honestly ahead of time. If we hadn't (it's easy for us to neglect that stuff when we are apart, esp if we're overwhelmed with prep for the move), inevitably these issues surfaced.

Nowadays we are pretty good at maintaining a team mentality. We both try to have a good attitude, be relaxed, and have fun as much as possible (games, roadside attractions, and podcasts or audiobooks are all excellent suggestions).
posted by seachange at 10:16 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Decide who is the better navigator, and that person gets to have the final say on whether you turn left or right at the stop sign. The other person promises not to hold it against the navigator if you've gone 20 miles out of your way. Most of this can be allayed with a GPS, but bring paper maps just in case. Getting lost definitely leads to frayed nerves.
posted by desjardins at 10:29 AM on July 7, 2012

Biggest thing I've found, having done a lot of spousal road trips, is whoever has the weaker bladder/bowels gets to dictate bathroom stops, whoever gets hungry first gets to dictate when we stop for food, and at all food/gas/bathroom stops, everyone gets out of the car and goes to the bathroom and stretches their legs. Basically, it eliminates the outburst that's partially "you're being an asshole" and mostly "I've had to pee for a hundred miles but you won't stop because we're 'making good time' or whatever and I've been stuck in the same position for six hours."

I bring my iPod and have a 500 song playlist that I throw on when we're on the road, so no one feels the need to talk if they don't want to. Wife usually sleeps or reads.

The other thing is after driving through Kansas (and deciding to stop and finding it was three hours until the next exit) on one of these, we've informally agreed that 8-10 hours of driving a day is a reasonable stopping point. I use a thing on Holiday Inn Express' site to book hotels along the route, so we know we have a hotel for the night, it's a decent place to stay, and we'll be able to get food and stuff around there.

And the night before we embark on the next leg, we usually poke around on Google Maps so we know, okay, we're going through Hooterville, Farmertown, Tractorberg, etc., and it looks like JohnDeereVille is probably about the halfway point, so we should be thinking about lunch there.

That's assuming this is more of a straight-through trip, not a wandering-around kinda trip.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:22 AM on July 7, 2012

Recorded books are great for this kind of trip, especially unabridged ones. John McPhee's Coming into the Country took my wife and me most of the way from Chicago to Yellowstone. They allow you to is in companionable silence and then give you something to talk about. On another trip we listened to Barb Savage's book about cycling around the world.

Podcasts aren't bad, but for the long, open road I much prefer a sustained narrative. And I find travelogues and their ilk are good because they rarely have critical plot points. If the driver misses a few sentences due to traffic, he or she can still follow the work.

On the other hand, books with difficult names are bad. Our worst ever: John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World. Too many unfamiliar Russian names and too intricate a story, at least for the New York Thruway.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2012

Darn iPad! Read: "They allow you to sit in companionable silence..."
posted by brianogilvie at 3:10 PM on July 7, 2012

Did this last year for two weeks.
Didn't think about it beforehand, or plan much other than stops.
Didn't even have music or audiobooks or the radio (because not all rental cars can play off the iPad and we didn't have CDs).
Loved it.

Not to discount the ideas here, but you don't need to over-think it either. You probably won't get sick of each other. Just roll with it.

Planning in some alone time, even if it's half an hour wandering through shops in small towns, may help.
posted by Mezentian at 7:35 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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