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#952: “Respect and learning to drive.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I hope you’ll be able to help me out with this one, because it’s driving me batty. I suspect I already know what I should do, but wouldn’t mind confirmation.

To be succinct, my boyfriend who is learning to drive has a problem with receiving my criticism when he is driving my car. To the point where I do not want to say anything and want to just drive the car instead of giving him the experience.

Backstory: Boyfriend got his driver’s learner’s permit about 2 years ago (it’s at least a 2 – 5 year process where we live). He’s in his late 30’s, and he never got it before because he felt that he could walk everywhere, and, as he worded it, “Didn’t want the responsibility at the time.” Fast-forward to now, and he got the learner’s permit because he is realizing that in a rural area a car is a necessity.

I have had my full license since I was 18 (in my 40s now). I’ve owned multiple cars since then, and have paid for car insurance. Because of his type of learner’s permit, Boyfriend does not need to be on my insurance policy when he’s driving the car. He will pay for gas for the car, but that is about it for financial contributions.

When I was learning to drive on my parents’ cars, it was understood that driving was a privilege, not a right, and that if I adjusted the car for me, then I was to put it back as best as possible for either of my parents. When I ask my boyfriend to do something similar, I get pushback. Likewise, if my Dad told me to stop riding the white line, that was my cue to stop it immediately. I never gave them lip about it in return.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in my requests/critisms, but I’m at the point of stopping the driving training with him because it frustrates me and irritates me when he gives me this pushback about a request.

Am I being unreasonable? Any advice to try to stop the lessons?

Thanks,
Driving me crazy

Dear Driving,

I think that your boyfriend needs to take lessons from a professional driving school and should arrange those as soon as possible. I also think that he should get his practice through the school and/or use a friend’s car when he’s not with the instructor.

My dad tried to teach me to drive when I was a teenager. It sucked. Everything he said put my shoulders up around my ears and made me more anxious, which made me worse at driving. My Driver’s Ed instructor, Mr. Ferdella, was a calm, relaxing presence and his critiques didn’t ever feel personal. I drove better when I was with him, and as I got more confidence, I drove better when my dad was in the car, too. It doesn’t mean my dad and I didn’t love each other, or that my dad was doing anything wrong in his feedback (I’ve seen him teach other people how to do stuff, and he’s pretty good at it!)(I was a teenager full of feelings and was most likely a giant pill about things). Feelings and driving did not mix.

Your boyfriend needs to be instructed by someone who is Not You. You need him to learn from someone who is Not You. Sometimes when people pay for expertise they respect it more than when they get it for free, and a professional teacher can take all of this out of the realm of Complex Feelings About Rites of Passage (almost definitely) And Gender (maybe – I don’t know your gender but if you’re a woman or feminine-presenting person, don’t discount the Men Are Already Supposed To Know Everything About Cars cultural conditioning at play).

Script: “Our driving lessons are really stressing me out and I don’t feel comfortable being your teacher anymore.”

Once he signs up for driving lessons and gets his license, there is still the question of your car. It’s okay if you don’t want to share the car at all. If you do decide to share it, is the car going to be a shared resource between you? Or is it always going to be Your Car that he is Borrowing as a Privilege? Whatever you decide, it’s time to negotiate some ground rules, together, about who pays for what and how things should be left. Safety issues are non-negotiable, like, “If I see you doing something I think is unsafe, I will speak up, and I need you to listen to me. Can we agree to that?” Other issues might be more negotiable, like, I always put my dad’s car seat back how I found it because if it was up far enough for me to hit the pedals, he physically couldn’t get into it without having to move the seat. If you’re sharing the car, you might need to adjust to the fact that you’ll both have to readjust seats and mirrors whenever you trade off.

Whatever you decide, negotiate the specifics of your agreement in a way that works for you now. The way you were taught was probably a really good way, but a parent-child relationship doesn’t 100% fit the model of two partners. For example, his pushback to your corrections isn’t ok, but also it’s not about “giving lip” to an adult and authority figure, it’s about respect for safety and for your knowledge and experience. “If you were teaching me to do X [where x=thing he’s really good at and has done for 20 years but that you don’t do], and you corrected me, the right thing would be to listen and follow directions, yes? Then do me the same courtesy.

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211 comments
  1. Jade said:

    Absolutely 100% this. Feelings and driving do not mix.

    When I was a teenager learning to drive, I quickly instituted a rule that I was not going to drive with my mother in the car. My mother was incredibly offended by this, but I was like “nope, cars are big scary things with really serious consequences, this is about safety, I love you but I can’t bring our emotional dynamic into me learning how to drive.”

    I’m now trying to imagine my partner teaching me how to drive and…nope, not happening, not happening ever.

    It’s absolutely okay to set emotional boundaries when it comes to driving.

    • espritdecorps said:

      Agreed!

    • rkhorserider said:

      Absolutely! I started drivers’ ed when I was almost 15, as most kids do. I didn’t get my license until I was 21. My mom tried to teach me to drive and it was so traumatic that just her saying “We’re going to town later and you’re going to drive” would send me into a spiral of panic attacks. I’ve been driving for a couple years now on my own, I’m quite good at it, and I still avoid driving with her in the car as much as humanly possible.

      • Saira Ali said:

        I’m thirty five years old and have been driving a 50-mile-a-day commute for six years, and have had my license since I was 18. I still refuse to drive with my parents in the car. I’d rather let them drive (they are terrible scary bad drivers) or pay for a cab than deal with their criticism of my driving.

      • Fog said:

        I started driving nearly ten years ago and to this day refuse to drive with my mother in the car.

        • stellanor said:

          I stopped driving with my dad in the car when I was halfway through learning to drive at age 16 and I still won’t do it unless there is literally no other choice, like he needs a ride home from the hospital.

          If he doesn’t stop backseat driving when he’s too old and senile to drive himself anymore he’s gonna have to be old and senile in an Uber cos I’m not driving him.

    • Oh, that’s an excellent point. I love my mom to bits, but she is intensely critical about driving things, and our shared neuroticism turns into a very bad feedback loop. We could do a bit of driving together, but in general I got my practice through Divers’ Ed at school and occasionally, driving around the neighborhood with my stepdad (mostly because he wanted me to have practice driving several types of cars and thought I should drive his pickup sometimes to get comfortable with the size). Now that I’ve been driving for ten years, my mom and I can drive together, even though she will still point out “that light’s about to change!” “someone’s coming!” and I have to remind her that I’ve got this.

      • Kitty said:

        Ugh, critical mothers. What annoys me the most is that even though she used to criticise my driving all the time, now often when she’s giving me a lift I notice that she’s doing really unsafe things like just drifting across lanes without indicating, and when I point it out she just dismisses me.

      • Oh yes, I can relate – my dear mum is now legally blind, so I drive her around a lot, which I don’t mind, we generally enjoy shopping together etc. But she can’t stop herself from backseat driving! “Watch out for the…!” “It’s ok, mum, I’ve got it” is a conversation we have a lot! I just bite my tongue and remind myself that I’ll most likely be doing this to my children one day! (Which I also threaten them with!)

    • Remy said:

      I wish I had been mature enough to institute that rule. More so, I wish my mother had been. Trying to learn to drive with her was a nightmare. (I still don’t drive, although I’ve gotten much better about setting boundaries with my mom.)

    • My mother, who is an emotional abuser who loves (LOVES!!) to corner me in vehicles and unload on me, has tried to get me to carpool with her on a four to six hour trip to another city every year in recent memory, and I REFUSE to carpool with her, to the point where I will arrange that our schedules are incompatible (e.g., I might “have to work” some days that I do not actually have to work, or I might want to leave a day or two before she is off from her job for the holidays).

      I absolutely could not have learned to drive from her, so I didn’t learn until I was 25 years old. I’m allegedly a very good, calm, safe driver NOW, but I would have been a sobbing, dangerously inept MESS if she was teaching me. It was for the same reason you cite: our emotional dynamic is bad (so bad, currently, that she has been giving me the silent treatment for almost a year and a half, which I am actually HAPPY about).

      It is OK to set boundaries when you know yourself and your personal limits well enough to avoid what you see as an obvious issue looming.

      • Cora said:

        I think when your mom goes to sleep she becomes my mom, and vice versa.

        My GOD the drama as I was learning to drive. Re:the silent treatment, I had it for two years. Most restful two years of my life. I would never actually tell her how much I enjoyed myself during that time, because unnecessarily hateful, but still.

        • Yeah, I am not telling her I am LOVING the silent treatment, because then she might STOP DOING IT, which: PLEASE PROCEED / Don’t throw me in the briar patch / et cetera.

          I am all for the continued silent treatment, and yet I will profess to be EXTREMELY WOUNDED by it, so she’ll get a kick out of ostensibly hurting me (for whatever reasons a narcissist ever hurts other people), while I (in reality) bask in the peace and quiet.

    • Kitty said:

      Oh gods yes. I once went on a road trip with my Dad out to see relatives in a rural town, for what I now refer to as The Worst Christmas Ever.

      (Side note that I was about 30 years old at the time and had been driving by myself since I was 19, with only one minor accident in the first two years of my driving.)

      Couple my dad’s dislike of not being in control and my burning resentment at anyone trying to tell me how to do something I already know how to do, and you have a recipe for disaster. I made what I now admit was a genuine mistake in travelling too close to the car in front and had to brake hard suddenly, which gave Dad a scare. But the way he told me off for the mistake and yelled at me got my hackles up so much that I gave him the silent treatment for the rest of the drive. This set off his anger issues and when we got to the motel he screamed at me and slammed my car door so hard I thought he’d break it. I honestly considered just throwing his luggage onto the ground and driving all the way back to my city and leaving him there.

      So for the rest of the trip I just got him to drive my car to calm him down, and resented the fuck out of it. Most awkward and horrible holiday ever. Woo! Sure as shit never going on a road trip with him ever again.

      • Drew said:

        Ten years ago, my dad and I went on a road trip. It wasn’t as awful as I had feared, although he vocally did not care for my music choices and I flatly refused to listen to sacred cantatas and Willie Nelson the entire trip, so that was fun.

        But we discovered two incompatibilities around giving directions that nearly got us (a) killed and (b) to call off the trip on the spot. Dad is a “west-east” navigator and I am a “left-right” navigator, so his saying “exit here and go north” was utterly useless, and my repeated “is that left or right?” just drove him batty because it didn’t matter – just go NORTH.

        Worse still, however, was when we were driving into Los Angeles and he started giving me all the directions he thought I needed right in the middle of the worst traffic I had ever seen in my life. THAT one turned into, “Dad, tell me the next turn I need to make and STOP. If it’s two quick maneuvers, warn me that the second direction will be right after the first but don’t tell me both of them. I can think about one thing at a time before we risk getting killed, and right now it’s the next turn. ONLY the next turn.” He got sulky and said if I didn’t want his help, I could just get there on my own, which was super mature, thanks Dad, and so I pulled off the highway at the next exit, parked the car, and said, “Give me the entire route from here, now, and then remind me about each turn as we get to it, but not before.” Surprisingly, that worked – he got to scratch the “I must be a good navigator by plotting the entire route in advance” itch and I got to ignore him for five minutes and then got the turn-by-turn directions I needed.

        GPS is so much easier. (Although Dad manages to make even that challenging, both by blindly trusting his own GPS – which is how we ended up on a golf course cart path because “turn left in 200 feet” became “there’s a road turn NOW” – and by not understanding that the rest of us also have GPS and trying to continue to give us directions we do not need. “Dad, what’s the ADDRESS, that’s all I need” is a common sentence my sibling and I have to use. “I’m telling you how to get there” is the usual snotty response, and we’ve more or less given up trying to get him to give us the address before the directions because he’s old and not gonna change. I just watch the pretty clouds until he’s done.)

    • MadDissector said:

      Your comment about mothers and driving made me smile. It reminded me of the first time I drove after passing my exam, when mother was assigned as my first copilot. I was driving in a route that we as a family drove every weekend and therefore I was very familiar with the crossings, roundabouts and signs. It should have been an easy first experience with the family car, but my mother spoilt it completely.

      First 100 meters in a residential area (limited to 20km/h, I was driving at 15km/h), still 50 meters away from the first crossing, she felt the urge to tell me that “that red octogonal sign with white letters means that you need to stop”. I muttered “I have seen it, I know”.

      Next crossing, she commented that “the inverted triangle there means that you need to let the cars coming from either side to pass before you enter the intersection”. Me: “Seriously, mom?”

      Next, she tells me that I should be driving at max. 50km/h. My answer was “the velocimeter says that I am driving 45km/h”. She answered “funny, it felt faster for some reason” in that tone that implies “you liar”.

      At that point I asked if she would refrain to make me feel more nervous that I already was (again, first time), she muttered something in the lines of “how did you pass the exam if you doubt so much in your own abilities”, which encouraged me to ask my father, who was sitting behind me, if he would mind to be my official copilot.

    • I wish I’d been as smart as you were when I was a teen; would have saved a lot of pain and driving anxiety down the road, I think.

    • Angel said:

      On the flip side, when I was 17 and staying to drive, my mother rode with me exactly long enough for me to get my license and then never again. Would she send her other kids with me as driver? Yes. Would she let me drive other people’s kids? Yes. Would dad still ride shotgun? Yes. But if Mom and I get in a car, she’s driving. And I respect that. No need for her to be stressed out unnecessarily.

    • Turquoise Dragon said:

      Oddly, perhaps, my partner taught me to drive stick shift (I already had my license). I say oddly because in the dozen years we’ve been together, and they’ve mostly been really good years, that’s the only big thing I’ve been able to learn from him. I can’t even let him give me pointers on bowling, which is about as low stakes as it gets. We love each other dearly, but we are pretty careful by now NOT to set ourselves up as teacher and student for anything remotely important.
      Being students together, however, works perfectly well, as does being skilled in the same thing and doing it together.

  2. Cal said:

    Honestly, when I read the bit where you compare your boyfriend’s behavior with your behavior/expectations when your parents taught you how to drive, my shoulders just came up to my ears. Driving may be a privilege when you’re a teen, but your boyfriend is not a teenager and you are not his parent. I wonder whether your boyfriend isn’t reacting so badly because he feels like you are treating him like a child. Many adults, in my experience, react very badly to being treated like a child — for instance, by refusing to ‘obey’. (I know I have this tendency.) I would *not* be happy if my partner always expected me to put the car seat back in his preferred position, for instance.

    Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of teacher-student dynamics within a romantic relationship. There’s just this power differential within a teacher-student relationship that should not be present within a romantic relationship. Much better to avoid the issue by paying for professional driving lessons!

    • Andie said:

      “Driving may be a privilege when you’re a teen, but your boyfriend is not a teenager and you are not his parent”

      Driving most certainly is a privilege when you are driving someone else’s car (aka large financial investment capable of doing great bodily harm if misused).

      My car, my rules.

      • Cal said:

        I agree with you to the extent that I think LW could definitely say that they do not want their boyfriend driving their car while he is still learning (or even after he gets his license). And I think this would be a great idea in this situation, actually. So perhaps that was badly formulated on my side. But if they do choose to let him drive the car, I don’t think they should be trying to emulate the dynamics they had with parents. Parent-teen dynamics are extremely unlikely to work well for an adult relationship.

        • H.Regalis said:

          “Parent-teen dynamics are extremely unlikely to work well for an adult relationship.”

          YES. I have had this problem on and off in my relationship and it is not a road you want to go down. Few things will cause resentment faster.

      • Mary said:

        I think this depends on the nature of “boyfriend” – is this a casual relationship or a permanent partnership? I also have a car and a 20-year-old licence and a partner who does not drive. The car is “mine” in that it was my mum’s and I inherited it, and I’m currently the only one who drives it and I also take responsibility for making sure it has insurance, MOT, petrol and so on.

        But it’s definitely not “my car, my rules”. For a start, we’re married with a daughter and on some level all our property is held in common. Secondly, if and when my partner starts learning to drive again (she has had lessons and taken the test in the past, has had a couple of years off, and will hopefully start learning again soon), that’s an investment in our family. It’s good for all of us if she can drive, and I want to support her learning to drive. For me, that means supporting her using the car in a way that learning to drive easier and more accessible for her. Obviously I’m not going to support her driving in ways that put her or anyone else in danger, but “put the seat back in the position I like it in” is not in any way a safety feature.

        If the OP simply doesn’t want their boyfriend driving their car, that’s absolutely fair enough! It’s fair enough if the OP wants to support the boyfriend in learning to drive in other ways and doesn’t actually want to share their car at all. “Borrow my car and accept the same rules and power relationships that I adhered to as a teenager when my parents were financially and emotionally responsible for me” is not a reasonable proposition in a relationship of adult equals, IMO.

        • Mary said:

          ack, sorry, I started off not gendering the OP as female and then a couple of “hers” crept in there! Darn and botheration. Apologies if I’m misgendering you, OP.

          • JenniferP said:

            I fixed it – double-check me, though.

          • Mary said:

            thank you!

          • It’s fine. I’m female and my Boyfriend is male. I wasn’t explicit about that in my letter to the Captain. Thank you for changing it.

        • Halpful said:

          That reminded me of something – my husband and I have plenty of issues with feedback on both sides, but one thing that went fairly well was him teaching me to lift. 🙂 And I really appreciated that he did the majority of the weight-swapping so I could focus on learning (and keeping anxiety under control). It probably helped that neither of us owns the squat racks, though 😉 (and omg, having the kind where you don’t have to unscrew things to change heights is so important)

      • “Driving most certainly is a privilege when you are driving someone else’s car”

        A favour, sure. A privilege, though, is something granted by an authority to a subordinate. Not a helpful construction to put on a relationship between two adults: it implies a hierarchy based on who owns Stuff. It’s reasonable enough to put conditions on using your car, but putting them in parent-to-child terms is going to make it look unreasonable, because it imports a dynamic that has implications far beyond the issue of the car.

        • Nanani said:

          Isn’t the owner of the car the authority on it though?
          It doesn’t make CAR HAVER the ultimate authority on everything, just on use of the car, but it’s still true.

          I understand where you’re going with avoiding hierarchy between equals, but that doesn’t mean there are no boundaries around an expensive piece of property, either.

          • That’s why I said ‘It’s reasonable enough to put conditions on using your car.’ 🙂

        • Am I the only one who finds the boyfriend the only unreasonable party here? If someone gave me shit about an immediate safety issue, it would not be pretty for them, and they’d have to really sell me on ever letting them drive my car again. That is not negotiable. You put us both in danger, you better fix it if you want to be trusted again.

          • JenniferP said:

            The boyfriend is being a pill, for sure.

          • Mary said:

            I don’t know what “riding the white line” means, but I’m assuming it means you’re too far over and that’s a reasonable thing for an experienced driver to correct a learner on. But getting shirty about someone not putting the car seats back in the same place isn’t a safety issue. That says to me that neither of these two people are able to reasonable about sharing a car.

          • Parenthetically said:

            You’re definitely not. I’m surprised at all the criticism OP is copping. This is OP’s (thousands of dollars worth of) car, their generosity in giving up their time to help BF, and they’re getting flak for saying, “Stay off the center line”? I’m legit confused about how, “Teach me how to drive” is never supposed to result in OP telling BF what to do.

          • It wasn’t clear to me from the letter that the BF had asked the LW to teach him to drive. If he had, that changes my reading significantly, but it seems like he’s just practicing using their car.

          • No, I’ve got to say I’m with you on this. It is OP’s property. It is not unreasonable to insist on 1) basic safety and 2) respect for the owner’s preferences. In the same way that I would say “Don’t touch the radio presets in the car” or “No smoking in the car”, it is perfectly reasonable to say “Put the seat back the way it was” after someone has finished driving, in the same way I would wash an item of clothing I borrowed before I returned it.

          • Shiara said:

            I have some amount of sympathy for the boyfriend, having been in somewhat of a similar position. He is being unreasonable, but learning to drive is incredibly stressful, and until you have experience there’s so many things you’re trying to focus on at once, and having someone you love dearly and want to have respect you constantly telling you what you’re doing wrong/missing is a pretty miserable experience, even when they are always objectively correct. And it’s hard to be objectively correct about driving, particularly from the passenger’s seat, which has different blind spots, etc.

            It’s especially galling when someone’s correcting you on things you’ve seen them do, and if they’re failing to notice when you do things well, or that sure, you’re riding the white line, but that’s because you were doing this other thing right for once.

            All that to say, boyfriend is being unreasonable, but understandable. OP is probably being reasonable, and understandable, and overall the best solution is probably stop trying to teach boyfriend to drive.

          • You are not the only one.

          • espridecorps said:

            I’m with you.
            Boyfriend is plenty old enough to take on the logistics of how he is going to learn to drive, and he should go ahead and do that.

          • slythwolf said:

            Where I live, the white line isn’t the center line, it’s the shoulder.

          • To a certain degree, yes. But if you’re learning to drive and hugging the shoulder/center line are being held up as problems equal to forgetting to move the seat back, I can easily see getting frustrated and feeling overwhelmed! Especially if the OP is putting the pressure on the boyfriend to get his driver’s licence and become independent (reasonable) but at the same time putting up fairly high barriers to him learning – you can put up any requirements you want for using your car, OP, but expecting him to treat your car like you treated your parents’ car is a very big requirement and not particularly reasonable in the light of a romantic relationship.

            Your parents were providing a lot of social, financial, and emotional support that you are (hopefully) not giving your boyfriend. In return, they were able to direct you very specifically on how to treat them and their things, probably in hopes of instilling values and skills in you that aligned with their values Your boyfriend is (hopefully) not at a stage in his life where those types of interactions are either needed or appreciated, and even if he were, as his girlfriend, you’re not the one who can determine what values he should hold.

            I’m also in the camp of “moving seat and mirrors back is a big, unusual ask.” The only person I move the seat for is my brother who is a foot taller than me and that’s only when I remember – he’s never asked or complained.

          • aebhel said:

            Nah, I’m with you on that. I can definitely appreciate that the teacher/student dynamic absolutely does not work for some relationships, and that a lot of adults get twitchy about being shown how to do things they may feel like they should already know, but if my SO was driving my car, while on a learner’s permit (ie, not yet a qualified driver), I would expect them to listen to me when I corrected them, especially on safety issues. And I don’t agree that he ‘didn’t necessarily ask’ for lessons; if you’re a licensed driver riding with someone who has a learner’s permit, you are the de facto teacher. The whole point of requiring a licensed driver in the car is having someone there who knows what they’re doing to correct any errors before they become fatal.

            And in general, I think if you’re using someone else’s property, you should respect their rules about how it should be treated. Right now, the car is not a shared resource; it belongs to the OP, and they are entitled to set rules around its use.

      • Hell, it’s a privilege, period. No one has to give you a license, and I would imagine in plenty of places, being insured is a requirement. You can lose your license a number of ways. It. Is. Not. A. Right.

      • I agree that “my car, my rules,” but I also think there are rules a person could instigate that are unreasonable–for a fairly unambiguous example, someone who only lets people of their preferred gender drive their car if they give them sexual favors may be within their rights, but are being a creep.

        To my view, “you can drive my car on the condition that I treat you like a teenager” is not a great condition to place on letting a partner drive one’s car. It adds a weird dynamic to the relationship, and I think it would be better for everybody if the boyfriend just never used the car than to have him be allowed to drive it, but in a position of subservience.

        • Alex said:

          How is requesting that he leave her property the way he found it (seat postition) treating him like a teenager? I used to borrow my boyfriends rifle to shoot targets and I always had to clean it and leave it in the same immaculate condition I found it. I think that’s totally reasonable.

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          But he *is* in a position of subservience. He’s on a learner’s permit and she’s a licensed driver. Even disregarding who owns the car, the reason that, by law, someone with a learner’s permit can’t drive without a licensed driver in the car, is that the licensed driver is there to oversee the learner and make sure they don’t do anything stupid.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good dynamic to have in a romantic relationship though!!

          • Traffic_Spiral said:

            [replying to BarlowGirl]

            Yeah, sure, and it would probably be better for him to get professional lessons, but so long as she’s teaching him how to drive he really does have to do what she says. It’s literally life-or-death.

    • According to the government, driving is indeed a privilege. Always.

      • Charlene said:

        As it must always be.

    • Stephanie said:

      Cal, there was something that didn’t sit right with me about this phrasing as well. (and also the giving lip) These are two adults, and so the dynamic is CERTAINLY going to be different than a parent teaching a child to drive.

      Unrelatedly, this article was a fun eye opener to me, because I usually consider myself easily irritable, but my husband and I both drive my car, and we never readjust the seat for each other, just do it ourselves, and it’s never occurred to me for a single second to be particular about this. ADD IT TO THE EXTRAORDINARILY SMALL LIST OF THINGS THAT DO NOT BOTHER ME. 😀

      • MollySunshine said:

        Yeah – it’s a bit like if someone had entirely legitimate complaints about their partner not doing housework, but explained their issues by saying “this isn’t a hotel, young man!”

    • Willow said:

      But he IS a child – for this particular task, driving. He does not know how, it is new to him, other people have more experience.

      • Willow said:

        Oh, this did not post anywhere NEAR where it was meant to go!

      • ShannyL said:

        He’s not a child. He’s an adult who has no experience doing this particular thing.

      • Not knowing how to do something does not make you a child. Or equate you to a child. It just makes you a beginner.

    • slythwolf said:

      This was my thought as well: there’s a huge difference between a parent teaching a teenager (who is a child) to drive and an adult teaching another adult to drive, and there’s a huge difference between a child driving their parent’s car and an adult driving another adult’s car.

      I can say that I have borrowed my dad’s car multiple times as an adult (I go to school in a town about an hour’s drive away, and for a while the car I owned wasn’t really reliable enough to take on a regular basis) and while I did try to make a habit of readjusting the seat and so on when I was done, if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t a big deal, because we’re both adults and he knows how to pull the little lever and move it himself. Also when he moves my car to mow the lawn or whatever he doesn’t always adjust my driver’s seat back either. It’s just one of those things. (Maybe if we also needed to readjust the mirrors it would be more of an annoyance but for some reason other than just moving the seat about six inches forward Dad and I drive with all the things the same.)

      I was also trying for a while there to put his radio back on the same station as when I got into the car, until once I realized I had forgotten and apologized for not doing it and he said he literally didn’t notice.

    • Charlene said:

      Driving is a privilege for everyone at every moment and under every conceivable circumstance. No exceptions, no discussions. EVER.

      I am adamant about this because when driving becomes a right and not a privilege, people who shouldn’t be allowed to drive feel it’s their right to be on the road and that most absolutely must never happen.

      • Inca said:

        I’m a bit wary about this too though, because it may mean that perhaps people do not get to drive, but worse: do not have access to transportation, while it could be reasonable. If you make it all about privilege… it is also easy to take it away. And here we have had people being denied licenses or being required to pay for additional tests, while actually already having shown they could navigate traffic safely.

        It’s not unreasonable to deny unsafe people to drive. But there’s still a grey area, and denying people driving will also deny them mobility and access and opportunity to work, education and activities.

        Also, driving is a risk. It’s a risk for anyone. “Absolutely must never happen” is a very strong stance and not workable. (If you want no unfit people in cars, abandon cars until we’ve perfected autonomous cars. Until then… it’s a judgement call who should and should not drive, and errors both ways will have negative consequences, but are also fact of life.)

      • sarah said:

        Of course, but that doesn’t mean OP should treat her boyfriend like a kid. In this scenario, they BOTH exercise the privilege of driving as granted by the state, rather than OP granting her boyfriend a privilege like in a parent-teenager scenario.

        That doesn’t mean she’s forced to lend her car/give free driving lessons, but I think the best solution is what Jennifer suggested, namely to remove the whole dynamic from the situation and hire a professional instructor.

        • Cor! said:

          I was really taken aback by the LWs family rules.
          As someone who drives a family car, and still lives at home as an adult, I’m aware of the privilege I have and I take care of the car as best I can, but our family dynamic is totally different around the car. We don’t have any routine around gas, the person who notices fills the tank; I often help out with car maintenance because I want to, I actually find the mechanics interesting; and as far as seat position, each person moves it to their liking, I mean that’s the part I don’t understand, I don’t have my family members proportions memorized, I wouldn’t know how much further or closer someone would want their seat, my father’s a bit taller, but we like the seat at about the same height, my sibling’s as tall as me but likes the seat a lot closer to the wheel (I get a hip ache just imagining it), that’s as much as I know, but I can’t predict their comfort for them.
          All I can say is that, dayuuuum, LW’s parents were strict (compared to mine); maybe that’s what worked out for them at that time, but repeating this structure with an adult partner is probably not a good idea.

          • winter said:

            Yeah, I honestly don’t understand how you would be able to put the seat (and even worse: mirrors) back because they usually don’t have numbered settings that you could … write down to remember them later.

            Maybe it would make sense for the OP to consider whether she’s feeling resentful about parts of this situation which in turn means smaller things annoy her more than they otherwise would. I can imagine her boyfriend not taking her feedback on safety issues or if he’s not acknowledging that getting to drive OP’s car and getting driving lessons is an imposition (after all, OP could be doing something else with that time) that might lead to feelings of resentment.
            The examples are just speculation, but that’s a scenario I can come up with.

          • Jadelyn said:

            Well, if you’ve got several people sharing a car, that makes sense – but, for example, when I borrow my mom’s car I know I always have to move the seat back a little bit because I have longer legs, or when I borrow my boyfriend’s car I know I’m going to have to adjust mirrors downward a bit since he’s taller than I am. It doesn’t take measured notation to know “push the seat up a click or two on the tracks before giving Mom back her car” or “nudge the mirrors up a little before giving Ozz back his car.” It’s different when it’s a single-driver vehicle than a family car that several people drive.

          • hc said:

            And also, assuming BF is taller than OP (she says in the comments she’s a woman), adjusting the seat would also require that he either get out and try to adjust it from outside the car, or scrunch himself up in the car. It does make sense for a much shorter person to adjust the seat back so the taller driver can get in it, but not really visa versa.

    • Driving: still a privilege. Not a right.

      Driving someone else’s car: a privilege which they accord you at their pleasure. Not a right.

    • karnemelk said:

      Totally agree with the Captain’s advice, and also this comment resonates with me. The fact that not adjusting mirrors/seats/etc back is being given as the only example of the egregious things the boyfriend has done makes me think the LW has some issues around control. LW never actually says that boyfriend was “riding the white line”…only that LW did it when LW was learning to drive.

      It’s totally fine to not want or allow someone to drive your car! But it also might be time to examine the relationship for instances where LW knows the One True Way Things Should Be Done.

      • As someone who has struggled with knowing the One True Way Things Should Be Done, this. If you can’t do a favor for someone without treating them like a supplicant who has to bend to your rules, don’t do the favor for them. Better to just say no than to say yes and spend the entire time on edge and/or resentful.

      • The_Other_Hand said:

        Word limit in original letter may be swaying what you see. I feel talking with LW for half an hour would give a better picture. But the limit is why you’ll see responses cover a wide range of possibilities.

    • Phil said:

      I agree with Cal – this isn’t anything like a parent-child learning to drive experience, or at least it shouldn’t be. You aren’t his mom. Not sure the script will work as boyfriend may respond “I don’t need a teacher.” In any event, this is setting the foundation for your future vehicle/driving experience and relationship – if he is driving your car, he should respect your rules, return the seat, etc. But what happens when he has his license and owns a vehicle, and you don’t like how close he drives to the center, or the side, of the road? Couples usually have a primary driver for a variety of reasons, including the things you have already noticed.

    • goldenpeanut said:

      > you are not his parent.

      YUP.

    • Jadelyn said:

      How is it not okay for the *owner of the vehicle* to expect that someone else put the car back the way they found it when they return the vehicle *to its owner*?

      If it’s a shared vehicle, I get that, but this isn’t a shared vehicle. This is the OP’s car. The general rule of “give someone back their stuff in the same condition they lent it to you” applies here.

  3. Jodiwadi said:

    This really resonates with me. I didn’t teach my. Oufriend to drive, but he has only relatively recently got his license (after 6 or 7 attempts) aged 30. I find his style of driving really anxiety inducing – he brakes really late and really hard, doesn’t always look before pulling out, regularly gets distracted etc. I can no longer drive due to illness, so he does all the driving. I reallly struggle as I feel I have to say stuff when I’m genuinely worried about safety, and I’ve definitely prevented a few accidents doing so. But he reacts super badly whenever I ask him to slow down, or to not pull out as it’s not safe etc. I try and do it in the most positive/constructive way possible, but he always reacts super angrily. It’s now a struggle against my anxiety to actually get in the car with him. I’m now at the stage where I try and avoid getting in the car with him whenever possible – as you can tell, I have no further advice for you, but I get where you are coming from. As always the Capts advice is spot on, so good luck!

    • Sugar of lead said:

      This does not sound like a good situation for you. There was a letter a while back called something like “Life with a terrible, no good, very bad driver” that I remember being a lot like what you’re experiencing.

    • LynnR said:

      Wow, so sorry to hear you are dealing with this, Jodiwadi. Kind thoughts to you. I experienced very similar circumstances in the past, including not being well enough to drive myself for an extended period, and your comment vividly brought back the utter awfulness and toxic stress. Your boyfriend’s behaviour is not a “style of driving” to be normalized, and is physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. A driver is in a position of power, having physical care of and control over their passenger(s) and vehicle, and how a person behaves behind the wheel is, in my opinion, an even more salient indicator of who they are than how they treat service workers and restaurant wait staff. I gently urge you to consider whether what you call “my anxiety” here (“It’s now a struggle against my anxiety to get in the car with him.”) may in fact be your profoundly accurate warning bells sounding the alarm.

      Setting aside the varied degree of ideal or not-ideal teacher-learner roles / relationship combinations here, which our Captain addressed handily, this discussion thread is peppered with a range of driver-passenger dynamics describing unfair emotional labour (driver invites passenger to tend the driver’s feelings via reactions of taking feedback way personally, sulking, grouching, willful ignorance, dismissing, etc.). Not that every passenger is a peach, mind you, and there are plenty of those examples to the contrary, but the driver has the responsibility of greater power. At the “RUN, BEES!!!” end of this spectrum is abuse of driver-power, including choosing to drive in a manner that frightens passengers and blaming the passenger for being frightened, financial abuse (demanding to drive regardless of who owns the vehicle and / or disrespecting others’ property or limitations of insurance coverage etc.), road rage, and defending all of these behaviours. I stayed for over 10 years, which was way, way, way too long. My ex-partner’s insistence that I repeatedly take on the emotional labour of overriding my natural CNS activation response to objectively unsafe situations *in order that he could continue to drive abusively* severely impacted my health, but I am healing.

      Back to topic of respect and learning to drive, in addition to determining who is the right teacher, it’s important to ask: How should a driver want their passengers to feel, whenever possible? Safe? Calm / relaxed? Comfortable? Respected? That passengers trust and respect the driver? Being in the position of greater power, the onus is on the driver to learn to act in ways that encourage those states.

      • Jadelyn said:

        Wow. I strongly object to the idea that not liking backseat drivers makes one abusive. Unless it’s actively malicious, as you describe re choosing to drive in ways that scare your passengers, I think it’s taking things wildly out of proportion to claim that someone getting annoyed at their passenger trying to correct their driving or choosing to ignore a repeated backseat driver is inherently abusive behavior.

        I’ve been driving for 17 years. I’ve driven across the country, in all kinds of conditions, even done some track driving. If I have a passenger who, not just once or twice when I legit hadn’t seen something, but every time felt the need to point out various road hazards that I was already accounting for in my driving decisions, I’d get pretty frickin annoyed about that after awhile, since I’m an experienced driver and I know what I’m doing, not a child learning who needs coached at all times. Are you really saying that it’s always on the driver to meekly do whatever their passengers say, lest they be labeled as abusive drivers?

        Which is not to say that there aren’t people who maliciously use driving as a tool of abuse. My dad was like that – he thought it was funny if his passengers got scared and would deliberately drive recklessly to scare us. If anyone complained, he’d get even more reckless. I remember many times as a child and teenager looking out the window of the car and assuming I was going to die that day. So I definitely do agree that there are people who use driving as a tactic of abuse, but I think you’re painting it with an overly broad brush here.

        • Mewski said:

          Assuming this was meant as a reply to LynnR, there is no idea that not liking backseat drivers makes one abusive presented. LynnR says that there’s possibility of a power dynamic (driver-passenger flavored) issue, and at one end of a power dynamic issue spectrum (which I assume is the “mild” end) it can be an issue of emotional labor: driver reacts in ways that don’t address the point at hand but encourage the passenger to comfort the driver. Only at the other end of the issue spectrum (extreme end) it is an issue of abuse – financial abuse, physical in the sense of threatening the physical safety of the passenger, emotional abuse (as you also describe in your last paragraph).

          On the issue of “should the driver meekly do whatever the passengers say”, LynnR’s comment says “Not that every passenger is a peach, mind you, and there are plenty of those examples to the contrary, but the driver has the responsibility of greater power”. I think that’s pretty accurate. There are horrible passengers as well, but as the driver, you do have certain authority and can choose not to drive them or some other safeguard, so you have some recourse. If you’re a passenger with a driver who does some questionable or even intimidating/endangering behavior, you don’t usually have recourse. Take out the passenger and the driver can continue onwards, take out the driver and the passenger may be left without a car as well, which is what this dynamic stems from.

          I’m sorry if I’m being facetious. When I read LynnR’s comment, and got to this part: “At the “RUN, BEES!!!” end of this spectrum is abuse of driver-power […]” my eyes/brain kinda turned the words around and read “this spectrum of abuse”. When I went back to re-read, I noticed. So in case there was any misunderstanding, trying to clarify. If this was meant not as a reply to LynnR, then please disregard everything I said.

  4. Lucy said:

    I think it’s important to remember that a professional driving teacher is someone who’s decided on a daily basis that they can comfortably live and work with the stress of teaching people how to drive, which is an inherently stressful and potentially dangerous thing. Not to say there aren’t some lousy instructors, but by and large they have thought “this is a thing a lot of people find hard to do but I have the skills/temperament to do it”, which is how they make a successful career out of it.

    The odds of any individual person having the right temperament and skillset to teach their loved one to drive just seem way lower to me, especially when there’s personal property (if it’s your car or a car you had a financial stake in acquiring & there’s a risk of damage), risk of personal injury etc. involved. Everyone has a different threshold for danger & risk, but the people who teach people to drive have a lot of relevant experience in this area and there are no personal feelings involved when they’re making an assessment of risk in the course of the job. If the driving instructor tells the person learning to slow down, the person is either going to slow down or the instructor is going to slow the car down for them; if the person learning refuses then they’re being an asshole to someone they’re paying to help them learn something, but there aren’t any long-term emotional repercussions. If I were to tell a loved one to slow down while teaching them to drive, there’s so much stuff in play – would I consider not giving safety advice because it might damage my relationship with them? Maybe, and that’s putting both of us in an unsafe situation. If they decide to ignore me I’m only their girlfriend/sister/friend/whatever, not The Boss of the Road, while the driving instructor is a neutral expert authority figure.

    Both my parents drove with me when I was learning and both were very badly-suited to the job, although for different reasons – my mother was so anxious she’d scream “watch out, the light’s red!” even four or five years after I got my full licence, when I was paying full attention to the road anyway. And my dad hadn’t read the Highway Code in thirty years and would give me information I knew to be outright wrong (“you can do 40 on this road” “no I can’t, it’s a 30 zone”) based more on his own ingrained not-paying-a-lot-of-attention driving style than on reality. The month when my actual driving instructor got sick and I couldn’t take real lessons was the worst month progress-wise, and I ended up losing a lot of both progress and confidence while I could only drive with my parents, who were massively ill-equipped for the task.

    Also, if you’re helping someone learn to drive it’s probably useful to spend a lesson or two in the car with them and the instructor to get a flavour of what they’re being taught. Driving instruction moves on, to some extent, as driving technology and road use patterns change. Another thing that my parents couldn’t really handle was the difference between how I was taught and how they were taught. I learnt a lot more defensive driving in general, on roads that were much busier in the mid-00s than they’d been in the late 70s when they started driving. My parents were often horrified by things I’d been taught were entirely legitimate to do based on what my instructor told me (just going/getting out of the way at junctions/roundabouts if you could slip out, whereas they’d been taught to slow all the way down and only go if you were triple sure there was nothing else coming), and tried to teach me things that had been correct for them (moving down through the gears when slowing down, from an age when gearbox technology was different; this is all UK & manual transmission btw) but just weren’t necessary at the time when I was learning. Even if you’re a good and safe driver now, you’re working on technique you were taught 20-odd years ago and it’s likely that someone learning now is going to be told something slightly different is safer or more preferable in a given situation. Hearing and absorbing what they’re learning makes it less likely that you’ll be bombarding them with a slightly different set of rules and standards to what they’re being taught.

    • sam said:

      Also – professional driving instructors have cars that are specifically outfitted with safety features designed for the purpose of teaching people to drive, like the passenger side brake pedal and whatnot, so that they can override bad decisions on the part of a driver who is making bad decisions.

      My parents are great, but even when I was a teenager, we all decided that it would be best for me to take professional driving lessons when I needed to learn how to drive. The only accident I’ve ever been in was when someone else ran through a red light and hit me.

      There’s also a lot to be said, as noted above, for just keeping your emotional relationship completely separate from the power dynamic involved in having to teach someone a new skill with a heavy piece of expensive machinery that you own and are legally responsible for, and that could, in theory, kill someone.

      • espridecorps said:

        Excellent point!

      • Yesssss… this is a very good point.

        And not only do they have safety features, but they’ve usually had to do some kind of training on how to teach people to drive.

        Storytime: I was teaching a friend to drive for a while because their mother would cling white-knuckled to the door handle and shout at them, which destroyed Friend’s confidence. At the same time, it wasn’t exactly easy for me to be Friend’s instructor, because they were still a pretty scary driver even with someone who was good at concealing panic in the passenger seat.

        I felt like one of those academics who gets thrust into teaching at a uni with no prior teaching training or experience and has to try and work it out as they go. Except a uni tutorial isn’t a potential death-machine. I had to acknowledge that I was uncomfortable because I didn’t have that training, so I decided I wasn’t comfortable teaching Friend how to drive.

        And there’s no shame in that. Loads of us drive, but that doesn’t mean we’re all natural instructors.

    • Rhoda said:

      Yes! This! I would have been about 8 when my father tried to teach my mother to drive and it was a disaster. They got into a *lot* of shouting arguments about it. Of course, it didn’t help that he was dyslexic and would tell her to turn left when he actually meant to say right. Driving lessons are 100% worth the money.

      • Oh man, that right and left thing is a big issue–I should probably never teach someone to drive, because I do that all the time!

        • apricity said:

          It’s cool, you can just tell people to turn “driver’s side” or “passenger side”.

      • ashbet said:

        My (left-handed) Dad used to say “Turn left, left, NO, RIGHT!!” while teaching me to drive — talk about white-knuckled moments!

        (I’d be following his verbal instructions, but he would have switched the directions between brain and mouth . . . argh!)

        Needless to say, I thought that paying for my daughter to get lessons with a professional was a VERY wise investment.

        We drive together with her behind the wheel *now* . . . but we’re also not risking my/our sole means of transportation with a completely inexperienced driver behind the wheel, because she did the majority of her learning in a car belonging to the driving school.

    • Rhoda said:

      Oh, should add – my mother eventually put her foot down and demanded he cough up for driving school. She did eventually learn to drive (badly) and from then on the only arguments were the interminable ones they had on family road trips.

  5. SFC said:

    100 percent agree with the good Captain – boyfriend should be paying for his own driving lessons with a paid certified or professional instructor who is Not You. (In some places doing this can even reduce his insurance premiums, which might be an incentive for when he does have to get insurance.)

    • Tree said:

      Good point on the insurance incentives! In some places, insurance for new drivers is crazy high, so this kind of incentive is important.

  6. espritdecorps said:

    Boyfriend needs to invest his own money in his own car.

    There’s just no replacement for driving several thousand dollars of your own hard earned money around to make someone a more cautious driver.
    Or
    There’s nothing like wasting several thousand dollars of your hard earned money by destroying a car to make someone a more cautious driver.

    Either way let it be his money and his car.

    • Jess said:

      In some countries (including, I believe, my own) you can’t get insurance for a car if you don’t have a full license, and it’s illegal to drive an uninsured car. So it may not be as easy as that, depending on where the LW is.

      • espritdecorps said:

        Between money and laws it will not be easy at all. That’s the point.

        When I was young my car, that I paid for, was in my mother’s name for insurance purposes. Boyfriend is in his late 30’s. He could find a friend or family member to help with this, and taking on the responsibility of it would remove the dynamic of LW/parent and BF/child.

        I’m taking a class to learn a new skill. Most of the people in my class are younger than me. That doesn’t invalidate my competence or years of life experience in other areas.
        While BF has the same ability to drive as say a 17 yo, as a person in early middle age, his ability to handle the logistics around learning to drive and procuring a vehicle are much greater.

        • It sounds like you’re suggesting that LW’s boyfriend should, as an adult, acquire a car but find someone else put the title and insurance in their name, even though he pays for it. That to me would be solving one problem by creating another. A parent being the official owner and insurer of a child’s car is one thing (I’m in that situation now even as I’m an adult, as my parents are willing to help me out that way while I’m in school). But asking another adult to put their name on a major financial obligation while promising to pay for it yourself can get a little tricky. The financial bond it creates can easily become uncomfortable for one or both parties. I don’t think the solution here is for boyfriend to try to acquire his own car before he has a license but instead for him to do as the captain suggests and seek training with a professional driving school.

          • espritdecorps said:

            I’m confident BF is an adult and can figure out how to navigate whatever his situation is to provide himself with driving instruction and a vehicle to practice with. 🙂

          • espritdecorps said:

            I’m confident BF can navigate his situation to provide himself with driving instruction and a vehicle to practice on.

  7. Apocalypse How said:

    Longtime lurker, first time commenter because this resonated with me. I got my drivers license the summer before college, but I had a fear of driving my entire adult life. Two years ago, I finally went into therapy to treat it. My husband was eager to help me and give me advice, but I realized I needed to put boundaries on the help he gave. When we were in the car, he would correct me on things that were more about the care and upkeep of the car (for example, not keeping the key at III too long when starting the car.) When he said things like this, my mind would shift from “I am driving” to “OMFG I’M HURTING THE CAR!!!” That did made me nervous and not put me in a good mental state for driving. We made an agreement that he could give advice in the moment if it was necessary for us to stay alive, but anything else had to wait until I was back in the house and calm. I was also uncomfortable with the feeling that his guidance was introducing a “parent-child, teacher-student” dynamic into the relationship. Working with the therapist helped to give me guidelines on avoiding this.

    Then I had to renegotiate it all over again when we moved back to my husband’s hometown, with me moving there first because I was the first to get a job there. My father-in-law was also eager to help me out with buying a car and driving unfamiliar roads. After a few trips, I put my foot down and refused to drive with my FIL in the car anymore. He was losing his hearing and hadn’t yet accepted that he needed a hearing aid. If I asked a question while driving, he couldn’t hear me, so I had to shout at him. Yeah, shouting at the top of my lungs while driving did nothing to ease my nervousness, so I turned down my FIL’s driving help. My husband kept asking me to give FIL a chance, that he was a good teacher who really helped my husband learn how to drive when he was a teenager. I still refused, because I did not want to bring that tension into my driving. I have been driving by myself for over a year-and-a-half now.

    When someone is learning how to drive or getting over a fear of it, there will come a time when driving is a mundane activity, and they will have to incorporate all of the little things that keep the car in good condition for themselves and other people. (Believe me, it feels like there are hundreds of “little things” when you are just starting). Until then, my therapist emphasized that the #1 goal was to replace my negative associations of driving with positive ones. Separating driving from my relationships with other people was necessary for me to do that.

  8. BeckyLynn said:

    The real issue here seems to be LW’s frustration with BF’s life choices, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten so much exposition about them. Once one partner feels like a parent to the other, the relationship is in serious danger. I totally get it – I made a hard rule not to date anyone without a car after one relationship where I was basically a soccer mom, ferrying my guy to and from cello lessons. Especially in rural areas, a non-driving partner can signify an imbalance of responsibility and even mismatched life goals. But the car is a symptom, not a cause, of these relationship issues. I’ve since lightened up on the car rule – my current partner recently chose to go carless, but because he’s a responsible adult who never makes his choice a burden on me and my car, I don’t have any anxiety about the situation. I think the best chance LW has is to follow Captain’s advice and let BF outsource his training. But even so, it sounds like there are some underlying anxieties about BF’s reliability that LW needs to address head-on.

    • laina1312 said:

      “Especially in rural areas, a non-driving partner can signify an imbalance of responsibility and even mismatched life goals.”

      To be fair, it can also signify abuse from parents (withholding ability to get a licence is a fairly common abuse tactic), poverty, and disability. Let’s just not paint this stuff with too wide a brush – it can be a sore spot for sure.

      • > To be fair, it can also signify abuse from parents (withholding ability to get a licence is a fairly common abuse tactic)

        +1 to this.

      • sarah said:

        Sure, that’s why she said “can” and not “always does.” 🙂 And in any case, people get to make up whatever arbitrary rules they want about who they want to date, since no one is owed a romantic relationship with anyone else. Regardless of the reasons for non-driving, “I don’t want to be the person solely responsible for driving in my romantic relationship” is a reasonable boundary to set for oneself.

        • laina1312 said:

          And… I did not either said “always does”. I said, “let’s not paint this with too wide a brush”. Please do not put words in my mouth.

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      Oh my God, Becky, look at this comment. It is so good. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

      Seriously, though, I just wanted to second your observation about the apparent underlying exasperation in LW’s question. Feeling like you have to parent your partner is a sure fire way to slowly drown your relationship in simmering resentment on both sides.

      LW, is it possible for you to just take a step back all together from Boyfriend’s life choices re: transportation and let him handle them? Even if you think he’s totally doing it wrong, it’ll be a lot easier to manage if he’s the only one who has to deal with the repercussions. Good luck!

    • efmather2006 said:

      Yes. To reiterate that feelings and driving don’t mix, I have an elderly mother who DOES live in a rural area and will probably not ever drive again due to health issues and bad eyesight. Though she insists she will. I don’t argue the point with her, because I’m her daughter and trying not to become her parent at this stage. I hope to be able to leave this to the state and her physicians, if at all possible. If not, then I will have to use those avenues.

      The underlying issue is, of course, that she WANTS to live in a rural area and depend on her grown children to give her rides that is probably not feasible for the future, but I think she needs to come to that realization on her own.

  9. spargle said:

    Definitely agree that LW needs to step back from being the driving teacher. If Boyfriend is ready to learn to drive, then it’s really up to him to pay for driving lessons, and maybe his own car down the line.

    I also agree with Cal above, and had the same “shoulders to ears” reaction. Presumably you and Boyfriend are partners in many things, and equal in many things, and I can easily imagine him feeling a little infantilized when you (also understandably) introduce the parent/child dynamic into your relationship. (And I’m wondering if there’s a little bit of age insecurity or “I’m older and know better” on either side that would impact.)

    Save the relationship, stop teaching him to drive. You’ll both be happier.

  10. Squirrel said:

    I definitely, wholeheartedly suggest lessons and/or a friend teaching him how to drive. I learned how to drive a stick shift on a friend’s old truck that she used to teach multiple people before me(it was a back-up, old thing rather than their primary vehicle). And I did it in exchange for helping her organize her house and the cost of gas. And I have to say, after dealing with the high-strung constant criticisms of my mom, the fact that my friend felt comfortable knitting while I drove was a huge reassurance. I think that having an equal footing (friends trading help) and being with a calm person who was not related to me was a huge help. If your boyfriend has anyone like that in his life, I think it would also be a good option for him.

    • Catherine from Canada said:

      Ha, “being able to knit” while someone else is driving.
      I took up crocheting again when my boys were learning how to drive, to distract me from the terror of it all, and keep me from – it would not have been helpful at all – screaming or clutching the door handle.

  11. I’m 35 and still can’t drive, mostly because of my dad’s Number One Rule: Never, ever teach anyone you love to drive.

    Where I live, learning to drive is prohibitively expensive and that was the only way I could have done it. I beat him absolutely no ill-will for this though, because he was right.

    • Bear, not beat. Stupid autocorrect.

  12. Nanani said:

    Let me preface this by saying I’m a car-free adult – though I definitely don’t live in a rural area.
    Unless you and I have very different definitions of rural (which might be the case. No rural area in my country would qualify as “could walk everywhere” even if “everywhere” is just like, ONE spot), it’s hard to see how car-free can work without involving some degree of dependency on a car haver.

    Which leads me to suspect there might be some dynamic along those lines going on.
    Were you previously his go-to ride giver when there was something he couldn’t walk to?
    Was he expecting getting the learner’s permit to MAGICALLY solve all the problems so he would no longer be dependent? And is now having trouble because, at least in the short term, it actually made him -more- dependent on you (for lessons, for practicing in your car, and for listening to your expertise)?

    It might be worth having a conversation, outside the car and away from any driving related business, about deeper issues, if you suspect they are there.

    Only if you want to, of course. You can also make your car off limits to BF and wish him the best with his lessons before you Change the Subject.

    • That’s an excellent point. It seems like, in addition to the immediate issues of car usage, there might be other challenges surrounding a sense of power imbalance in the relationship that are worth paying attention to.

    • TO_Ont said:

      I read it as he always lived in a city before and only recently moved to a rural area. Though I guess the LW didn’t explicitly say that.

      • Nanani said:

        Oh yeah, that would make a lot of sense too.

      • OP here… He had previously lived in a city with a population of 30,000+, and now lives with me in a town of about 10,000.

  13. Jill said:

    I learned how to drive later, closer to age 21. And I was under the gun, since my dad was counting on me being a driver on a long-distance road trip. I agree with Captain. Have him hire a driving instructor. Less stress on you both. Nothing creating an unfair imbalance in your relationship dynamic. The teacher will be used to the stress of dealing with a student.

    And the biggest plus I got out of it, the instructor will be well-versed in the types of things that will come up on a road test. Those of us who’ve been driving awhile probably forget a lot of the nit-picky things they have on both the written and the road tests but a professional instructor will be able to give Boyfriend a lot of insider tips.

  14. LYNN said:

    That feeling of resentment is a clear indicator that it is time to set a boundary. I once gave driving lessons to a male friend, who culturally had some trouble taking instructions from a woman, particularly if it involved immediate compliance. It was our third lesson, still in a parking lot, when I told him to stop, then told him again, and then shouted to STOP, and when he blew me off he hit a concrete barrier and left a permanent souvenir on my car. I refused to let him behind the wheel of my car ever again. Not too long after he got his license, he caused an accident, and only got away with it because the other guy had no insurance and couldn’t report it without getting in trouble himself. I felt vindicated, didn’t sacrifice my car, and the friend has continued for decades since.

  15. Tree said:

    I didn’t get my license until I was in my 20s, at which point I hired a professional driving school to teach me. There was too much emotion wrapped up in having my parents (either one!) teach me to drive, and we both sort of subconsciously acknowledged that. Nothing wrong with it. Some people aren’t good teachers. And some people are good teachers for specific kinds of learners and not others.

    Without knowing more specifics in this case, I think the OP should give up on teaching the BF. It’s not working. It’s just going to result in, at best, hurt feelings and damage to their relationship and, at worse? An accident that results in more than feelings being hurt. Being emotional *while* driving can be dangerous for an experienced driver. For an inexperienced one? It’s especially so. Save both of you the hassle, OP, and hire someone else.

  16. Smithy said:

    In addition to all of the issues fraught around bring a parent-child dynamic to a romantic relationship – I would also bring up that placing the seat back to the position/settings that one person likes is……not necessarily an automatic task. Now, perhaps this is just my experience with cheaper, older cars where you couldn’t necessarily replace a seat to 2 or 7 but where it was more by feel.

    When I was sharing a car with my mom (who’s shorter than me) there’d be some fiddling in moving it back – and if I readjusted it for her…..I’d just move the seat forward without really having an idea on exactly where she’d want it. It’s not exactly the same as putting the toilet seat up or down where it really is just one or the other.

    I understand that the OP mentions adjusting the seat as best as possible and not exactly….but aside from having been asked to do that as a child, I just question why that kind of detail is important when the new driver will still potentially need to fix the seat adjustment? And if this is the kind of pushback that the OP’s partner is providing (i.e. Why should I have to move the seat up/back, when you’ll still need to adjust it?) – if the only response is one from a parent-child driving lesson or “my car, my rules” – that can feel confrontational.

    • hbc said:

      Yeah, that’s a task based on a good idea in theory (“return it in the condition you found it”), but in practice doesn’t make a lot of sense. Unless your mind is 100% focused on memorizing exactly how crunched your knees were and the exact part of the roof you can see through the rear-view mirror, you just won’t be able to replicate it. A new driver is going to be going through the mental startup checklist, not cataloging positions to remember at the end of a stressful drive.

      What I would expect in a more healthy situation is that the car owner let’s that kind of inconvenience go as part of the favor, and the new driver, say. tops off the gas more frequently than necessary as a general acknowledgement of the favor. Not tit-for-tat, just…mutual benevolence. The fact that it’s not happening here doesn’t have to be an indictment of anyone’s generosity, though. There might be too many other Emotions around the driving/teaching/car-sharing for anyone to be at their best.

      • BBot said:

        Yeah, in many cars, it seems like it would be impossible to return the seat (and mirrors?) to their original position. When I drive my spouse’s car, I will push the seat back a bit to give him room to get in (since I’m so much shorter), but he still has to refine the positioning. I can see, if the LW is significantly taller than their boyfriend, that him not moving the seat back a bit could be an issue. It’s quite painful for my husband to try to get into the driver’s seat if I’ve been using the car but forgot to adjust. But it seems like the LW is more annoyed based on principle, instead of physical comfort.

        • Indeed! When any of my family drives my car, I end up going way back and waving my feet around nowhere near the pedals. When my roommate drives, it’s just a little farther forward, so it usually takes me five minutes to realize why I’m so out-of-sorts driving! But – it’s my car, I’ve had it for ten years, and if you lift the bar, it’ll fall into my preferred spot with barely any encouragement.

          Having your car’s setting changed is just the price of admission for sharing your car. If that’s unacceptable to you, you probably shouldn’t let other people drive your car.

        • onyx said:

          I’m so thankful that despite my SO being taller, we have the same length legs. All we have to adjust is the rear-view mirror.

          That said, I agree about principle. My SO has a bad habit of leaving trash in the car. He also doesn’t pay attention to the fuel level, so he’ll assure me there’s plenty of gas in it when it’s running on empty. There is definitely an element of feeling outright disrespected at times. It’s not even that it’s technically my car–it’s the fact it’s a shared space.

          • winter said:

            Fuel and trash is different for me than car seat and mirror settings because they are easily actionable no matter the party and (in case of the gas) cannot always be easily remedied. The trash part is just basic courtesy.

      • Kactus said:

        I was coming in to say this. I had no idea that some cars had labels on the seats to aid in returning them. I slide the seat back so that my partner can get in, but it is pure luck if it ends up where he prefers it. Ditto the mirror (side mirrors don’t usually need adjusting), which he stopped complaining about when i asked him how I was supposed to know where to put it back to.

      • Smithy said:

        Exactly – not to mention, one of the most stressful pieces in driving when you’re new can be parking. Even if it’s just pulling into a garage or alongside a curb, and not something more tricky, that can be particularly high stress and attention pulling.

        I haven’t owned a car in years, but when I visit my parents about twice a year I drive their car – and pulling into their garage the right length as well as not hitting or scraping anything is a mini achievement and a bit of an exhale after it all happens. To then have to think “ah yes, must now adjust the seat” – it seems so much less important that to remember it every time……

        Decades after learning how to drive, I still don’t like driving when my mom is in the car – she still white knuckles the entire time which makes me tense and miserable. Therefore, if I am driving her – even if we’re the only two people in the car – she has to sit in the back. My parents had great intentions when I was learning to drive, they just wanted me to be safe (full disclosure, I did fail my driving test 3 times before passing) – and I’ve never been in an accident, but it also doesn’t change that the lasting effect is that I hate driving with them. And I’d be horrified if that ever happened to me with my partner.

      • apricity said:

        I adjust the mirror for my Mum when I’m done driving her car. I have learnt the exact way it is wrong for me, and then adjust it to that (if I can see into the back seat, I’ve set it right for her to see out the back window). My dad’s preferred seat position was “one click back from where I have it”. Pretty straightforward.

    • TootsNYC said:

      “It’s not exactly the same as putting the toilet seat up or down where it really is just one or the other.”

      The one “toilet seat” setting is: seat all the way back.

      That’s what we’ve evolved–in a way, it’s lucky that my husband is so much taller than me, and that I’m so short.
      I find it annoying to fight with the steering wheel to climb out of the car with the seat in my own driving position, so I just pull up the level and let the seat slide ALL the way back. Then I have plenty of room!

      If the OP’s boyfriend is taller than her, even by only a little, it might create SO much awkwardness for him in getting out of the car, if he tries to put the seat where she wants it. I can’t imagine trying to get out of my car, with the seat in short-me’s preferred position if my legs were longer! And it’s really hard to adjust our seats from the outside.

      Also, I cannot possibly put the mirrors anywhere close to where he wants them–that’s just not physically possible.

      So we each just assume that we’ll have to adjust before we start.

  17. Agreed, though, that a professional should be the primary teacher. Friends, relatives, whatever, can be helpful for practice. But there are enough crap drivers on the road, we need people who know their stuff teaching it!

  18. Dear LW,

    I’m with the Captain on this: don’t teach your boyfriend to drive, and do get buy-in on whatever rules you have for using your car in the future.

    Driving schools are an infinitely better choice

  19. sam said:

    On the moving the seat thing – I think this is really different depending on the family/relationship. In my family, no one does this, and no one cares. We all just adjust the seats and mirrors for ourselves when we get in the car – besides, we’re never going to be able to adjust things back to how anyone else actually likes them exactly right, so it’s almost better to leave things REALLY out of whack so they know they need to adjust, rather than getting it close and having someone realize ten minutes into their drive that they can’t actually see out the rearview mirror.

    Of course, in my family, you’re also never sure who is going to be next to drive the car, so readjusting is kind of a crapshoot, and the next person could be:
    -my brother who is 6’3 and ALL legs so that he’s practically sitting in the backseat when he drives,
    -me or my stepmom, both of whom are 5’4″, but who have different length legs (and stepmom wears orthotics), or
    -my dad, who is 5’8″ on a good day, but who adjusts the seat like Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets – if you’re getting in the car after him, you have to turn the car on and adjust the seat BEFORE trying to sit down because you WILL NOT FIT between the seat and the steering wheel.

    (I should, of course also note that my brother and I are rarely actually in the driving rotation these days – this is all on the occassions when we’re visiting my parents’ weekend house – my folks and I spend most of our time non-driving in NYC, and my brother lives in the middle east and comes home maybe once a year – if we were driving full time, my brother (age 37) and I (age 43) would probably have our own cars).

  20. vvwolfe said:

    I have taught 3 other people to drive a car using my vehicle 2 romantic partners and a roommate
    1 of those partners ended up buying his own car to finish lessons because he could not be respectful of mine

    While i think her wording possibly expectations her partner should behave like she did for her parents is off I dont think her requests as phrased are too far off.
    If it is my car and you are paying for nothing but gas I do not think it is too much to ask that you put things back how you found them or as close approximation as you can I think that is just a respectful thing to do if requested similar to requests like please dont eat in my car or please dont smoke or please take all items/trash you brought in to the car out of the car with you and I don’t see why so many people here think that request is sooooo over the top
    As far as following instructions this is gray area because what some people find important or dangerous others do not and sometimes particularly if someone is driving a vehicle they don’t have a personal financial stake with they are a lot less careful with it whether this is intentional or unconscious I do not know. But i think when you are driving someone elses vehicle whether privilege or favor adhering to reasonable requests to drive the car in a manner the owner prefers is not unreasonable and if you do not like that you should find a different car to drive. It is not about my car my rules its is about being respectful of someone elses property

    I think captain is spot on he needs to find someone else to teach him and some other vehicle to drive because often romantic partners/family/friends do not want to be corrected no matter what you are teaching them

    • Re: adjusting seats and mirrors, the car owner is infinitely better able to put these things where they want them than someone else guessing at where they were. I’ll move the seat back for someone taller than me to get in the car, but I wouldn’t want someone else trying and failing to guess where I need the seat and mirrors.

      • vvwolfe said:

        I am very tall often I cant get in the vehicle if they seat is left in a different position in most cars My seat is on the furthest back position So if my partner or friend or family borrow my car and leave the seat up I cannot physically get in the car often I dont think the lw said they want exact but a close approximation is usually good enough

  21. Shiara said:

    Through a series of circumstances I never got past the learner permit stage of driving until I was in my mid twenties. My roommate graciously allowed me to use her car to practice, but the only person who had the time to help me learn to drive it without compensation was my boyfriend. Three days after I got my driver’s license, my boyfriend and I rented a uhaul and moved states. A decade later my mother STILL comments on how the fact that our relationship survived that made her pretty sure we were going to get married (which we did).

    If it is at all a possibility to have your boyfriend learn to drive from a professional, I HIGHLY recommend taking that course of action. My boyfriend was extremely laid back, judicious with his use of corrections, and had no personal attachment to the car, and there were still moments where I had to quell urges to ignore his advice out of spite, or felt he was nagging me about things that were simply not priorities when I was trying to focus on one of the other aspects of maneuvering a heavy metal death machine safely down the road. Also I was somewhat touchy about the lack of driver licence, which didn’t help.

    It also set up a really stressful dynamic for several years after I received my license, where, whenever I was driving him, because I was anticipating his judgement and corrections, I was a noticeably worse driver than with literally anyone else. Also, he wouldn’t trust me, and would recommend merging or something at times when I had legitimate reasons for not doing so, because he was so used to needing to do that when he was teaching me. It took multiple conversations, and work on both our parts, to reset our dynamic when I’m driving back to a more equal relationship. Even now he still does the bulk of the driving when we’re going somewhere together (although some of that is that “his” car is newer/nicer)

    You also don’t need to let him practice in your car, or with you in the car. But if you do, I’d suggest trying to set the same rules you would have for a friend borrowing your car. Up to, and including, only offering criticism your boyfriend asks for explicitly, or what criticism in the moment you might give if you happened to be riding with (ie, is there imminent danger). (One thing to consider, does he consider these “practice” sessions where you are along to satisfy legal requirements and alert him if necessary, and you consider these “teaching” sessions where you are teaching him how to drive?)

    In general, if there wasn’t imminent danger, I found that after a certain point it helped boyfriend and I to keep conversations about driving out of the car. “Hey, I’ve noticed you sometimes do X while driving, and then Y happens. If you try Z next time, I think it’ll go smoother.” while we were eating dinner tended to go a lot better than “You’re doing X right now, do Z instead right now!” in the moment.

  22. CynicallySweet said:

    I know this question is about teaching him to drive, but I can’t stress enough how much you need to not put off having a conversation with him about what the deal with the car is going to be when he gets his licence. This ended up being a HUGE contributing factor the the end of my relationship with my ex. Trust me SET THESE BOUNDARIES. And do it before he gets his licence with a clear understanding of how YOU (because it’s your car) want the situation to play out!! What would happen often with me is that he would take the car without asking because I wasn’t using it and I would end up trying to set boundaries during a yelling match…this is a very inefficient and stressful way to do it. Learn from my mistakes. If you’re not comfortable with the way he drives your car you need to be able to tell him that AND have him listen/respect when you say you don’t want him driving it!

    • Reader said:

      And reiterating: “My car is not for sharing and you may not drive it” is a perfectly valid boundary to set. My and my fiance’s cars are both registered and insured in my name (because I paid for both of them), and my stipulation for that was that nobody but he and I drive “his” car (and I never do because I hate driving his car), and absolutely nobody but me drives MY car, not even him. Nobody else uses any of my computers either. Those may both be finicky boundaries for some people, but they’re non-negotiable to me, and that’s okay.

    • HopefullySmarterNow said:

      Yes, yes and yes! This so much.

      I also learned this the hard way, thinking I was being ‘nice’ by sharing the car that I bought and paid for and maintained (and not understanding that I didn’t need any justification beyond, “No, I’m not comfortable with that. End of discussion”)… and the story ends 2 years later whereby he suddenly up and left town one night for good, leaving me to pay the $250 fee to get his court-mandated breathalyzer back off of MY CAR. Clearly there were other issues going on than just problems sharing a car, but that we couldn’t have a discussion about how a shared car might work, and who was responsible for what, and set some general guidelines first is a big red flag.
      Like CynicallySweet points out though, you can’t set boundaries during a yelling match, so your best bet is to do it long before you think you need them and if you can’t come to a generally peaceable agreement, let that be a sign that maybe you oughtn’t to share a car. (My old self wants me to point out also that maybe you oughtn’t to share much else with them either, but that might a little more pessimistic than this thread requires.)

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      1000 upvotes for setting boundaries re what use he is allowed to make of your car.
      You really need to know and trust anyone you allow to use your car, because if something bad happens, the legal ramifications could be terrible.

      As the owner of the car you are potentially liable for any damage or injury he causes while driving the car. Please understand what your insurance does and does not cover, and decide accordingly. If you think he’s an unsafe driver, consider whether you want him using your car to do it.
      Even crazier is civil asset forfeiture, where police *confiscate* a car that is “connected” to a crime. Some cities use a very broad definition of “connection”*, because confiscated goods are sold and the money goes into the city – often police – budget. You don’t have to be the person accused of the crime, you don’t even have to be there, you don’t even have to know your car is being used, and the police can confiscate it. (*like a passenger has a joint in their pocket.)

      LW, I am *not* accusing your BF of being a criminal! I’ve just got one of those brains that immediately goes to legal pitfalls and want you to be aware of issues that you might want to consider.

  23. Rose said:

    My boyfriend and I were both late drivers, and going the professional route helped us bunches.

    Having a professional instructor helped him both with his anxiety around learning to drive and with learning more quickly.

    For me, I tried having a friend teach me then flunked the driving test because of how visibly nervous I still was. YMMV, but having a couple of quick lessons with a professional helped us both learn faster and took some of the emotional fraughtness out of the whole “everyone in this country learns to drive at 16 but I am only doing it now what is wrong with me” social conditioning.

  24. ShannyL said:

    Definitely encourage your boyfriend to get lessons from a professional. My father taught me to drive standard, and despite the fact I’d been driving for a few years by then, it was a nightmare experience. I felt like I was going to ruin his car, I didn’t trust my instincts, I second guessed everything I knew… mess. Keeping it separate from any preexisting relationships is a really good thing.

    I’m also going to echo a few other comments and say that there seems to be a dynamic around sharing your car that isn’t great for the health of your relationship. Even after he completes lessons with a professional and gets his full license, there are going to be things he does differently than you, and that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Obviously if something is unsafe, that’s an issue, but if it’s just a matter of different techniques, him refusing to do it your way doesn’t mean he’s “giving you lip.” It’s your car, so if that’s something you can’t put up with, I think you just have to say he’s not allowed to use it (which is totally fair!). I brought a car into my marriage, shared it with my partner for nine years, and took it with me when we divorced. I didn’t always agree with some of the things he did while driving it, and we had a few arguments, but in the end, I made the choice to let him use it and I had to accept that by giving him the keys I was saying I trusted him with it.

  25. H.Regalis said:

    I’m not saying your boyfriend isn’t being a bit of a jerk about stuff, but you guys are supposed to be equals, right? The dynamic y’all have around driving seems to be a lot more superior-subordinate. I’ve unfortunately been on both sides of that sort of problem. For example, right now my boyfriend pays all the bills and I do the cooking and cleaning, but I am NOT okay with him standing over my shoulder giving me detailed instructions on how to load the dishwasher, which has happened, and my reaction was to tell him to do it himself and walk off. Whatever needs to happen—your bf gets professional lessons, you stop loaning him your car, etc.—to get out of that dynamic, do it. Where you are now is not a good place to be.

    • Ainomiaka said:

      It doesn’t sound like the LW thinks they are equals. “Giving lip” is the phrase parents use to force submission out of children, not what you say about an equal. Even one that is being annoying.

  26. pixel said:

    Oh dear gods, LW, have him hire a professional. The dynamic you’ve described is not a good one for him learning to drive on your car, or for him learning to drive from you. There’s just too much baggage there.

  27. Willow said:

    My BF for 14 years told me I was riding the clutch and was going to wear it out. In MY car. But when I sold the car after 160,000 miles, it still had the original clutch. Which the mechanic said was fine.

    The BF was also a dashboard clutcher/gasper/let me help you parker. Gah.

  28. lisakoby said:

    My husband taught me how to drive 15 years ago. Yeah. I never drive when he’s in the car, the sound of his voice when I’m in the drivers seat makes me want to ram the car into a wall. After 15 years. Get someone else to teach him.

  29. Tea Rocket said:

    Something to add: even after the boyfriend gets his licence (as a result of the lessons he’s going to get from a professional instructor), the LW will still be the more experienced driver and it will still feel more “natural” to them than it does to him. And critiques about the boyfriend’s driving may go over even worse after he gets his licence, since he’ll a driver in equal standing to the LW in the eyes of the state. All of this is to say that it might be good to have a blanket policy that when the two of them are in the LW’s car, then the LW is the one who drives. It would also be good if the boyfriend got his own car once he has his licence (if that’s economically feasible).

    My dad taught my mom how to drive (at least, how to drive a stick) and for all of my childhood, my mom insisted that she couldn’t drive well if he was also in the car and awake. It’s odd to think about in retrospect, because of the two of them, my mother is by far the safer driver. As a result, on long roadtrips, my dad was the one who drove and when he got tired and wanted to sleep, my mom took over. My point is that the LW may never feel comfortable driving with their boyfriend (or the boyfriend may never feel comfortable being the driver with the LW in the car), but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world in an otherwise healthy and happy relationship.

    • ShannyL said:

      Good point! I think it’s also worth noting that we all tend to have blind spots about our own driving. My mom will grip the “oh sh**” bar whenever my dad or I drive, but she’s the one who speeds way over the limit and has a hard time staying in her lane. My dad could spend all day standing at a stop sign, judging if drivers have stopped long enough, but he forgets to signal half the time. I… don’t know what I do, but I bet someone else could tell me.

      Keeping that in mind really helps me when I’m a passenger. If I think the driver is doing something genuinely dangerous, I’ll speak up. Anything else… well, I can decide if I want to accept a ride from them next time.

  30. wondering said:

    The rule I instituted for my sister, when she got her Learner’s was “take a minimum of 4 lessons from a professional, and then you can practice with me in my car”. My explanation was that she could get a good grounding from a professional so would be less likely to pick up any bad habits I may have developed over the years. I am a good driver, but there’s always something – for example, I drive a standard, so it’s common for me to have only one hand on the wheel, which has never caused me any issues but is not the ideal habit. Plus it would assuage the worries I had about a newb driving on our streets. Sis never took the lessons, so she is driving with her boyfriend’s family instead, who didn’t institute the same rules.

    On the other hand, I did teach my sig other to drive when he was an adult. It went reasonably well and he respected my guidance at the time. Fast forward a decade and he became the most annoying passenger/backseat driver ever, constantly shoulder checking (and by turning his body sideways to do so, blocking my view on that side of the car), pressing imaginary brakes and gas pedals, bracing for impact, commenting, and so forth. To be clear, am a safe driver and have not been in an accident since I was a teen and even in that accident the other driver was at fault. Particularly annoying because I was always expected to drive when the streets were busy or we were in a strange city or it was a rental car, and his antics in the passenger seat were very distracting and aggravating. It took a long time to get him to stop being an ass as a passenger. He’s gotten better though.

  31. A boyfriend taught me to drive after my grandfather failed at it. That said, if he is already acting resistant IN YOUR CAR while you are TRYING TO DO HIM A FAVOR when you could literally be doing almost anything else instead and enjoying your time more, it is time to look up several driving school phone numbers or website addresses and resign from the job of “Person getting Attitude while lending expensive possession to person who is not skilled enough to use said possession safely or properly.” Because fuck that noise.

    Letting someone with just a learner’s permit (if that’s the situation) drive your car MIGHT not even be something you can legally do and still be covered by your car insurance policy if he makes a rookie driver error and dings up your vehicle in the process, so, at the very least, check and see if it covers just you, or is the bare legal minimum for your state, because that might not be enough if an accident occurs.

    It is also time to ask him what cars he is looking at when he has his license, because sharing one car is THE WORST when your schedules do not conveniently coordinate, your area has crappy public transport / expensive ride-share and taxi options, etc. Don’t let him just assume that your car is his to use at whim, especially if he’s not going to pay part of the insurance and car note or cost of tune-ups, gas and minor repairs along the way along WITH you.

    Good luck.

    • Mary said:

      >>while you are TRYING TO DO HIM A FAVOR

      That depends on the relationship. My partner is partly learning to drive as a favour to me, so that I’m not responsible for all the driving. Her learning to drive is a joint investment in the family skills and abilities. If I asked her to learn to drive and then started acting like I was doing her a favour by allowing her to drive “my” car, it would not create a harmonious situation.

      It might be that the boyfriend wants to learn for his own reasons and LW is helping him as a favour, but that’s not necessarily the case.

      • I feel like this gets at the crux of the discussion in a couple of ways. It kind of doesn’t sound to me like the LW and boyfriend are a “family” in that way. I’m not saying they should be, but intertwining like that may require the LW to let go of some things they don’t want to let go of right now.

        • Ainomiaka said:

          It sure sounds like the LW doesn’t consider them family or the boyfriend learning as much other than a burden.

          • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect an adult partner to carry their own weight in this way. Since this is his project, not the LW’s, it seems totally reasonable to me to keep the understandable stress of learning how to drive out of their transportation as a couple.

            Not every partnership is the “we share everything, life partners” kind, and they don’t have to be that to be caring or valuable.

          • Ainomiaka said:

            Since replies can’t nest to reply to eleanor377- no, not everyone can, has to, wants to, or should share everything. I think that the level of resentment I am picking up from the reader is not a good thing for the relationship. It’s more in the phrases-I responded to someone else about the term “giving lip”. It sounds to me like LW resents and thinks boyfriend should already know this.

        • Mary said:

          Yeah, I’ve made basically the same comment in two places because I feel like the big undiscussed thing here is what the relationship between LW, her boyfriend and the car is going to be in the future. The whole question of ownership and “it’s mine, follow my rules” feels to me like it’s the same dynamic as when a couple move in together but into the house or flat where one has been living for years, and you get really understandable tensions around “but it’s MINE and you can’t use it like that” versus “if this is my home, I need the right to actually live here.”

          It’s absolutely fine if the LW’s long term expectation is that Boyfriend will get his own car and her car will be hers and his will be his! But I think a clarifying discussion around how that will work is absolutely Step One, rather than assuming that her parents rules are the only possible rules and that anyone who doesn’t get that is unreasonable.

      • Ainomiaka said:

        This!

  32. My partner was actually the one who taught me how to drive because my parents teaching me was just TOOMUCHFEELINGS. He was a very good teacher and he really only ever said something if I was doing something really wrong, like drifting into the other lane or I was about to take a turn too fast. Contrary wise, one of the only times I drove with my mom she yelled stop at me repeatedly for about a minute straight without giving me time between shouting to actually perform the action before she said it again, and my dad gave me way too much anxiety about screwing up whenever I was with him. I think it really depends on the feelings, when you really want to please someone it makes you so much more anxious, or if you think you should be farther along than you are, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and then snap at other people for trying to help you because Ishouldknowthisdarnit.

  33. mf said:

    Hmmm. This one is a bit tricky because I can see both sides.

    One one hand, it’s your car and your life (when you are in the car with him). And that means you have the right to insist he drive the car in a reasonable manner so that he is not putting your property or your life in harm’s way. Maybe you could say something like: “I don’t want my car wrecked or our lives put in danger, and I’m sure you don’t either. So can we discuss some ground rules for the use of my car? Can we agree on: no texting and driving in my car, no drinking & driving in my car, no breaking any traffic rules in my car (like veering over no-passing lane lines)?”

    That being said, if you are criticizing his driving when he is not doing anything intentionally wrong or because you think he’s a bad driver and you’re trying to “teach” him, then I strongly recommend you leave that to a professional instructor. I’m LW 674 (https://captainawkward.com/2015/03/03/674-anything-you-can-do-a-dude-can-patiently-and-logically-tell-you-how-you-should-have-done-it-better/), the lady with a husband who used to mansplain a lot of stuff to her. We’ve mostly gotten that behavior under control, but for a while, it was particularly bad when I was driving. Let me tell you this: it’s REALLY distracting to have someone criticizing your driving while you are driving. It didn’t help me become a better driver–it just made me more anxious and distracted, which in turn made me a WORSE driver. And it made me resent him for being such a know-it-all, so even when he was right about my driving, I didn’t want to listen to him. In other words, it’s possible your criticism could be making the situation worse. (Or maybe not, but it’s something to consider.)

    And while I think your request to move the mirrors and seat back are reasonable in theory, that’s actually harder to do than you’d expect. If I move the mirrors & seat in my husband’s car and then try to move them back, I can at best approximate where they were in the first place. I’m not gonna get it 100% right because I’m six inches shorter than he is and don’t have a perfect memory.

  34. ladybear said:

    I have just learned to drive (passed my test on Tuesday!) and while I was learning I had lessons in my instructor’s car and also went out with my mother. I love my mum, but my god she was so difficult to drive with. My instructor was almost eerily calm, and even reasonable corrections from my mum seemed harsh and panicked in contrast. But she didn’t have a) years of experience teaching driving or b) her own pedals in case things got hairy.

    LW, I don’t think you should teach your partner to drive. My mum wasn’t wrong about the corrections she gave me, but the professional instruct was just plain better at it, which makes sense since it was his job. I agree that your Partner shouldn’t be a jerk when you’re correcting, but as a recent learner, I’ll remind you how nervous learner drivers are! It is scary as hell being in charge of a car when you know for a fact you aren’t doing it right. Correcting someone in that mindset is a skill.

    It also sounds like you are correcting on things which aren’t actually about driving better, but are about your preferences. There’s only so many corrections a person can take at a time, and ideally they would all be about driving better and safer. I’m not surprised that a probably scared, probably frustrated-at-their-own-mistakes older learner driver is not keeping composure when hearing about your preferred seat position.

    And I’m sorry, but it’s fully your job to adjust the car to your needs before you drive, it isn’t your Partner’s job to *guess* where you want your seat/mirror/headrest, you should be checking and adjusting for yourself anyway. That’s exactly the kind of thing I might get a teen to do as a way of reinforcing respect for the car and for me as the owner and ultimate car authority. You probably don’t have to do that with a grown person, unless they are impulsive and boundary stomping by nature in which case I wouldn’t let them drive the car at all.

    Should your Partner be nice and listen attentively when you’re teaching them to drive? Yes.

    But is it easier for a learner driver to respond positively to a competent instructor, who knows what to correct, how to correct and can offer a degree of safety while they’re figuring it all out? Oh my lord yes.

    • Congratulations ladybear!

      • ladybear said:

        Thank you!

  35. tuxbox said:

    I’m lucky in that my parents were decent teachers when I was learning to drive as a teenager (which is surprising since my mother is so *HIGH STRUNG* as a driver, to the point that she literally yanked on the wheel when my dad was driving a few years ago because of something she saw and felt the need to interfere with… I let her have it both barrels for that stunt since that was so *not ok to do ever ever no matter what you see*), but I wanted to comment on the ownership of the car thing, since it triggered a memory for me.

    I lived with a partner for a few years that had lost his license a few years previously (no nefarious reasons, just not paying non-serious tickets, let it lapse, etc). When we moved in together, I came with my own car. I was more than willing to share the ownership and use of the car, as this was something I was comfortable with in general… I’d let friends borrow and use my car in the past, and since I was living with someone that I loved and shared everything else with, it seemed totally reasonable that he’d also be able to use the car (once he got his license back).

    Well he refused to get his license and the main reason was that he didn’t want to use my car. One of the major factors was that my car was manual transmission, which he never learned how to drive in the past, which meant I’d have to teach him (and that seemed to be kind of a roadblock, having his female partner teach him how to drive manual? That…. wasn’t done was it???) And the other factor was that he saw it as *my* car. Despite moving in together and sharing almost everything, he had walled off the car as “mine” and while he had no problems riding in it, he would never be comfortable driving it himself, even with me in it. It was something that wasn’t to be shared between us. No, if there was to be a car that he drove, it was to be “ours”, that was the only way he’d be comfortable with it.

    Eventually my car did need to give up the ghost and we were in the market for a new one and we purchased one together (automatic transmission so he wouldn’t have to learn stick shift) and he fixed his license up and he happily drove the new car because it was now “ours”, but yep, he never once drove my car that all my friends had driven at least once for whatever reasons came up.

    • Nanani said:

      The moral of this story seems to be: Masculinity Preservation can get expensive. (:

      • Ainomiaka said:

        Or doing what the OP and commenters above seem to want-have no risk for OPS car- is also expensive.

  36. Cyberwulf said:

    My dad was my first driving instructor and he had so little patience when I made a mistake that every lesson was stressful. (Once I got the hang of it he encouraged me to drive alone and didn’t mind if the car got dinged or scratched as long as I told him right away.) Get a professional to give your partner lessons. Not only will it be better for your relationship, I guarantee you’ve picked up bad habits over the years.

  37. Musette said:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. I just wanted to nth the Captain’s advice!

    Learning to drive is stressful in most environments. I remember my mom made all of her children learn on a manual car and there were tears involved when I couldn’t get it to go. However, she was always very calm and supportive. My dad, on the other hand, has always been critical (he rarely drives now, whoever is available drives him to where he wants to go) so I’m thankful I learned with my mom!

    As far as the seat/mirror thing goes, I’m the resident shorty in the family so I try to move seats back but I’ve never been miffed on having to adjust things in someone else’s car or my own. I think this just comes with having multiple people having access to your vehicle.

    I think just try to keep in mind that he’s learning and probably not trying to agitate you with his beginner behaviors. I think it’s nice of you to offer your car and time to help him learn but it’s not your responsibility and having him learn from someone who teaches on a regular basis would be best for both of you.

  38. My mother taught me to drive. I was really lucky in that she’d had my three older sisters to practice on before me, she was about as laid back about it as it was possible to be (even when I coasted the car ever so slowly into a ditch it was something she and I laughed about for years afterward 🙂 ), and we had lots of little straight roads out in the country (a legacy of federal land surveying in the 19th century) to practice on. My father got in the car with me *once* when I was learning, and that was that. It was against my better judgement — this was the man whose attempts to help me with math homework inevitably ended up with him shouting at me and me in tears — but he felt the need to give it one try, at least. I did take driver’s ed in high school because it did help with insurance rates, but the teacher later got fired (for good reason) because he got too handsy with his female students. Oh, and it took me three tries to pass the driving test, because the first two were on busy city streets which made me horrifically nervous, and the third time Mother and I drove out to a small town in the country to take the driver’s test there. I passed with flying colors that time.

    Oh, and my first husband taught me to drive a stick, and I later taught my second husband the same skill, and all three of us actually survived and I and my second husband both learned successfully.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it’s not so much a pro vs. amateur teacher thing as it is a student/teacher compatibility thing, and if he can’t afford a pro it’s not hopeless. But he definitely does need to find someone who isn’t you to teach him, because an incompatible driving teacher (for whatever reason, *any* reason) is worse than no driving teacher at all.

    • LW here… Just wanted to let you all know that I’ve been reading your replies and have been considering the Captain’s advice as golden as well as others and the lessons from someone who is Not Me. There are some financial considerations – he doesn’t have the money atm to buy lessons – but I was considering gifting him some just so he had a different opinion, and could feel less stressed about doing it.

      As mentioned, he lived in a larger city prior to moving in with me, so he was able to walk elsewhere when needed, and often did. He was also learning to drive -albeit sporadically- from the person he was living with at the time (a relative). I’m given to understand that he had the same attitude when receiving criticism from that person – basically a questioning “why” to what the person said and a justification of his actions if questioned, as he does with me. IOW, I have to present a logical explanation why I am saying what I am saying as I observe his driving.

      From a job perspective, not having a license where we live is a liability as the availability and quality of jobs diminishes. He has a job that he can walk to, and does. The location of my job requires me to take a commuter train, so the car is parked in the commuter parking lot all day. When he moves from the first to second level of the graduated licensing program, he could use the car when I’m at work and our work schedules aren’t in sync (he works shift work whereas I have a m-f desk job).

      Just as I’d sent my letter to the Captain, I realized that I was, more often than not, asking him if he wanted to drive so he could get enough experience to progress to the second level of the graduated license programme we have here. I just decided to stop asking after sending my note. I’ve felt much better ever since, and will leave it up to him to ask to drive. And at that point, have a discussion about what I expect in terms of listening to my critiques, using the Captain’s script about being an expert in a field and listening to the advice.

      I should mention, since it has generated so much discussion, that the only thing I asked him to put back in the car was the seat buckle next to the middle console (he likes it all the way back; I like it all the way up front). That’s it. I’ve told him repeatedly to change the mirrors to suit him – because he had to be able to see – but as he and I are the same height, he hasn’t done that. I just have felt a lack of respect towards my property as I am paying for the car (car payments, insurance, and maintenance), and I wondered if I was being unreasonable in asking for the minor thing.

      Thank you all for your valuable feedback and words of wisdom. I have great scripts and advice to consider.

      • Halpful said:

        “questioning “why” to what the person said and a justification of his actions if questioned, as he does with me. IOW, I have to present a logical explanation why I am saying what I am saying as I observe his driving. ”

        ooh, that sounds familiar. :/ me and my husband both tend to do that. on the one hand, sometimes the “why” is important and useful. otoh, with a moving vehicle it might be safer to save the why’s for *after* driving. and it can get exhausting trying to get past a wall of defensive/dismissive responses for Every. Little. Request. 😛

        one thing we’ve come up with so far is that asking for a result is a reasonable thing that shouldn’t be dismissed, whereas asking for it to be done a specific way is not a great idea. but that’s not for things that involve teaching, it’s more for stuff like “I want this to be *this* level of clean” or “I need this to not contain residue from products-I’m-allergic-to”. if I was going to teach something (which might happen soon)… I think I’d be fine with explaining *why* I do things a certain way. what I’m not okay with are alternative facts (you don’t get your own personal definition of wet and dry!) or blanket statements like “that won’t work” (especially when it works just fine for me). if it doesn’t work for *him*, then that’s something to be investigated and solved, not an excuse to never try.

        actually, I just remembered a time when he’d been teaching me something and I wasn’t getting it… I’d been trying, and was frustrated to the point of crying, and Jerkbrain was trying to convince me I was just hopeless, but he came over and reassured me, and we went over things extra-slow a few more times until one of us spotted what he was doing differently. 🙂 things go so much more smoothly when we’re in the mindset of “how exactly is this happening?” instead of “this shouldn’t be happening!”

      • apricity said:

        Personally, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the person borrowing the car to put things back for the owner. As you say, you are paying the bills.

      • winter said:

        Hi OP, in that case I guess it’s not too much to ask, but I still come back to the question: Is this what you really need from him? Because it sounds what would be more helpful for you would be if he chipped in with the costs. So I’m not sure asking him to move stuff back isn’t just shifting the issue.

        As for the why: This sounds incredibly obnoxious. I can see that asking why might be sensible in a lot of circumstances, but if it’s a matter of safety while riding the car the action should come first and the why later – ideally when the car is parked. So if you’re not asking for inconsequential things (“sit up straight” e.g. – which I guess you are not doing), instructions shouldn’t be taken as an invitation to argue.

  39. beyond_belief said:

    Late to the party, but this is a Big Issue for me and I had to jump in.

    I flunked my driver’s license test twice. The only reason I passed the third time is that my parents paid for private lessons (I realize that that was a privilege and that many people don’t have that opportunity).

    When I started the lessons, I hadn’t driven in at least five years. The only thing that made me more anxious than thinking about getting behind the wheel again was thinking about whether I’d be able to get a job and move out from under my parents’ rood if I didn’t have a license. (I was a recent college graduate and aspiring journalist living in an extremely rural part of the US.)

    This was about 30 years ago, but I still appreciate the instruction I received. instructor was utterly chill, warm, funny and nonjudgmental, even when it came to my biggest nemesis — PARKING.

    To pass the test in my state, you have to show that you can parallel park. Not my strong point. I didn’t grok that to reverse into a space, you have to turn the steering wheel to the left. Or, as my father told me once, “NO NO NO! The ASS END of the car is going the WRONG WAY!”

    To be fair, Dad had put up with a lot by that time — including my pulling into the garage and striking a beloved old sports car he’d parked parallel to the back wall of the garage. Yeah.

    • I’m pretty sure the only reason I was able to back into a space for my test was that it was opposite a giant reflective window, so I could see where the spot was in the reflection!

    • sam said:

      ugh. I failed my first driving test because the instructor decided that, while my parallel parking lined up fine with the curb, I wasn’t lined up correctly with the car behind me.

      The car “behind me” was on the other side of an intersection. The sidewalk on my side of the intersection did not line up with the sidewalk on the other side of the intersection because of turn lanes.

      Afterwards, while he was driving me back home, my instructor (who took me to the exam) told me that the examiner had spent ten minutes before she got into the car ranting about how she hated having to come all the way down to my town to give the test. He knew I had failed before we had even started.

      Same examiner failed a friend of mine because he failed to follow her instructions because he didn’t hear them. He didn’t hear them because she had forced him to roll down the window to use hand signals. This was after he had informed her before the test began that he wouldn’t be able to hear her with the window open because he had hearing loss in his right ear (he was actually born with no outer ear on the right side – he had surgery as an adult to correct the issue).

      We both took our second driving tests in the next town over and passed without any issues.

    • Just to make everyone feel better, it took me seven tries and four years to pass my driver’s test. The only reason I passed it that time was because the test facility was being moved from one location to another, so the parallel parking portion was skipped.

  40. Malia76 said:

    I’m 40 and I learned to drive in Texas when I was 17 1/2. Originally my parents said I could take drivers ed when I was 16, like my friends, but they reneged. When I got to the driving portion of the course, I was the only one in the class who didn’t know how to drive. My class partner taught me (he was 16, son of a judge). My parents tried to supplement my lessons despite me asking them not to. After dad grabbed the steering wheel for the second time I halted the car in the middle of the highway and started walking home. I’m a okay driver, but I try not to drive my mother anywhere during daylight hours (she’s night-blind dark gives me cover).

  41. Jenny Islander said:

    It looks like there are two issues:

    1. You seem less than pleased that BF is only getting lessons now, instead of as a teenager, and

    2. He is giving you lip.

    The solution to both of them is to tell him that you aren’t going to teach him how to drive anymore and recommend a professional instructor.

    If you run into any other situations where he starts learning something from you as an adult that you learned as a teen, and the same dynamic starts happening, it is perhaps worth thinking about whether he is reacting to being treated like a teen. (Although a grown man getting his back up about being juvenilized while navigating a rapidly moving, expensive, and dangerous object through traffic should take a hard look at his priorities.)

    If he dismisses your knowledge even when you aren’t teaching him…that may be a subject for another letter.

  42. Greg M. said:

    I’m 31 with a learner’s permit. I have anxiety problems when driving and my parents don’t understand the fact that I need them to be quiet so I can focus on the road. So I kind of understand some of this guy’s issues. he is being a jerk about it with some of it though.

  43. gmg said:

    Pretty much the same story as many others here, with a twist. My driving lessons with my parents were predictably fraught with emotional peril, but I got the hang of it anyway, with one exception: driving stick. My family had one manual-shift car and one automatic, so I tried to practice on both. But when it came to trying to get the hang of the clutch and the shifter, forget it. My dad would just freak out and yell, and my mom wasn’t actually able to translate her knowledge of how the car worked to me via words that made sense (“Give it more gas!” “Mom, I have it floored in first gear.” “Um … give it more gas?”).

    My dad recognized this wasn’t working and arranged for an extra private lesson from my driver’s ed teacher, using our car (we didn’t learn on a stick-shift car at school, so everyone was left to their own devices for this). One hour up and down some quiet hilly roads outside of town and I had it DOWN. But our crucial mistake was we all apparently thought one lesson was enough and then I could hop back in the car with my folks. WRONG. The very next time out, with my mom, I was back to flooring it in first and crying in frustration.

    I am now 42 and still can’t drive a stick shift, and that limits me (not as much as it used to, but for example when renting a car abroad, I had to pay extra for an automatic). I worry someday I’d find myself in an emergency with only a manual-shift car available — unlikely, but not impossible. I’ve thought about finding a driving school to fix this, too. LW, let the pros teach your partner to drive — they know how to do it and there will be no emotional peril involved.

    • crooked bird said:

      My dad’s line was “Smoothly! Pull the clutch out SMOOTHLY!” [stalllll]

      Turned out (I learned from my driving teacher afterwards) “smoothly” isn’t even the right way to do it. It’s how Dad *thought* he was doing it because he had ceased to think about the details. The fact is you have to pull it out smoothly *till* you feel the gears engage, then *slow way down* or even stop, and then pull it out smoothly and slower, from there. The smoother I got, under his instructions, the more I stalled.

      • johann7 said:

        The explanation I got for this was not helpful to me, either. My mom would always tell me to give the car gas as I released the clutch, and make hand motions to demonstrate. The problem was that she kept talking and showing like the pedals moved equal distances, but they very much should not (at least not in that car) unless one wants to jump quickly and dangerously into motion. It is a hard thing to describe once you get the hang of it, becasue it’s an unconsciously memorized process at that point, and that is, again, a point where professional experience can be hugely helpful.

      • I’ve discovered that unfortunately, many cookbooks are written by people who are brilliant at cooking and crap at explaining or describing things. I’m an experienced cook with good instincts, and even I get frustrated when a recipe says things like, “Heat the pan and cook the food until done.” How hot? When do I know it’s done?

        • This is why Ina Garten has a professional novice to test her recipes! She hired her personal assistant as someone who explicitly had little to no cooking knowledge, so she could make sure she had written the instructions clearly; now, the original assistant is too skilled to continue as her recipe tester and she hired someone new.

    • sam said:

      My dad always drove stick, I even took lessons on a manual and with someone else telling me what to do, I’m fine – I understand “theoretically” how a manual car works. But get me behind the wheel of a stick-shift car and I am all…left feet.

      I chalk it up to being left handed – there’s something about the coordination involved that just does not compute with my right-brained mind.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        I’ve got the full set – left-hand drive on the right side of the road, left-hand drive on the left side, and right-hand drive on both. Left-hand drive and being able to see how far I was from the edge out of the window turned out to be surprisingly useful; but the first time I switched to a driver’s seat on the opposite side (with the pedals in the same order but some of the controls switched) I floundered a lot.

        I got used to it, and I used to be _extremely_ one-sided. Since switching to a right-hand drive car, however, I’ve noticed that I am overall more ambidextrous; there was something about mirroring on a regular basis that seems to have created a few additional connections in my brain.

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      I still marvel at how well my amateur lessons on driving a stick shift went. They were totally illegal–I was in my first year of high school and too young for a learner’s permit. I was dating a boy who had his license, and he offered to teach me to drive. He taught me the basics of driving in his mother’s automatic, but his own car was a stick. He broke up the lessons on shifting into separate tasks at first–for several weeks, he had me change the gears while he was driving. Then he had me drive the car, and he would tell me when to hit the clutch while he shifted the gears. Then he had me do both after I was comfortable shifting. We also had a huge bit of luck–there was a new neighborhood being built close to us. The streets, signage, and streetlights were all in, but the houses were under construction. There was NO traffic, not even pedestrian traffic. And that’s where I learned some of the most nerve-wracking parts of early driving.

      When I got to driver’s ed and had to do my practice drives with my mom, we clashed terribly and completely stressed each other out. The only reason it wasn’t a total disaster is that I already knew how to drive and just needed polish on my techniques. That guy was not a good bf in a lot of respects, but almost 30 years later, I’m still grateful for the low-stress driving instruction.

  44. I can absolutely empathize with the LW–I’m not sure I’m comfortable having a partner or friend who’s a good driver but I haven’t known very long drive my car.

    But here’s the thing: if you can’t offer a favor freely and without compromising the respect with which you treat someone, don’t offer the favor. Don’t make them jump through hoops to earn it.

  45. MadDissector said:

    “My dad tried to teach me to drive when I was a teenager. It sucked.”

    Even if your father/partner/friend teaches you well, it might be detrimental afterwards. You need to perform as your teacher requires. And, to be honest, drivers with years of experience might not be in the last stand of the traffic code or how things need to be done to pass.

    The first time I was put behind the wheel was in my father’s car. He insisted that I should learn to use the first and second gear before I attended my first driving lesson.

    Later, I spent my first class being constantly corrected by the teacher because I was “gripping” the gear as my father had told me. To be honest, my teacher’s way of doing it was less strenuous (pushing the gear into position with an open hand instead of closing the head of the stick with my hand an moving it) and it was argued as necessary as it allowed to change gears more quickly and easily. My father never needed to pass a test to drive (he got the permit when you could just ask for the license without being tested, my father is on his way to turn 90), and had learnt to drive with cars whose gears needed to be forced into position, so, for him, gripping the gear to maximise the amount of strength you can put into it is a habit that nobody had challenged before*.

    I referred what had happened to my father after my class, and that was the reason why he didn’t teach the gears to my siblings after me. Not because he thought his way is wrong (it works for him), but because in order to pass the driving test we needed to perform as the teacher demanded us.

    *My father still owns his first car, produced in the 1950s. I’ve only driven it a few times and I swear to gosh that I still cannot insert the first gear unless I grip it with my both hands. Luckily, the others gears are fine (although the fourth needs a “special touch”, my father words).

  46. I have not thought about this in years, but when I was a teen and practicing driving with my parents in the car (mostly my mum, who surprisingly was the calmer and less reactionary of my parents about learning to drive), my (much younger) sister would be in the back seat shrieking and wailing that we were all going to die. It was not fun, but I did learn to drive while someone carried on around me about my murderous tendencies, which prepared me for driving with my late husband in the car.

    I did very much enjoy, after my sister got her learner permit, coming back to my parents’ house expressly for the purpose of riding in the back seat and shrieking that we were all going to die. My mum and I almost fell out laughing. My sister, who did not remember the causative incident, was extremely angry.

  47. Muun said:

    I didn’t learn to drive until my late twenties because learning from my parents stressed me out entirely too much. My mother panicked and yelled “STOP STOP STOP” at any opportunity and my father’s idea of ‘teaching me’ was ‘here take the wheel from me on this busy New York thruway outside of NYC while I make a call.’ Not fun, and it left me with huge amounts of anxiety and fear with regards to even attempting to get behind the wheel.

    My spouse ended up teaching me to drive. It worked, mostly because she’s a teacher in her day job, and so she was very good at adopting a very neutral, but reassuring tone in her directions. Even when I misjudged a turn and nearly got side-swiped by another car (by far the worst thing I did while learning) she never lost her cool with me–even though it was her car! We also made a point of making a ‘date’ out of driving lessons, so they didn’t feel too much like a strict teacher-student thing. We’d always go out for a nice breakfast and one of our local diners to celebrate a successful lesson.

    But that said, my spouse had ten years of teaching experience behind her, and even with her full support I sometimes felt desperately sheepish for needing this much instruction as an adult (ten years of parents shaming me for never being ‘tough enough’ to get my license didn’t help). For highway/city driving I deferred to taking a few classes at a local driving school. Somehow having a professional next to me for that helped me not wither in embarrassment for knowing so little.

    It really does depend on the personalities involved. For me learning to drive was just as much about confronting my anxiety and fear of control as it was learning to keep track of the million things a driver needs to know. I’m deeply grateful my spouse was so patient with me while I worked through all that, but I would have never blamed her for suggesting I stick to classes if it’d proved too much!

  48. Anja said:

    I learned to drive from my parents (though my mother very rarely). I lucked out, though, in having a father that taught specialty driving (boats, armored personnel carriers, etc.) in the military. Even then I’d get a bit irked at times but he’d calmly get me to pull over and tell me that if I wasn’t going to listen he was going to drive and we’d try again the next day. But having a professional (even if it is a parent) teach you really is great because they teach you the little things that you don’t think of anymore when you’re an experienced driver (eg. no matter how hard you brake if you let up a little at the end it won’t seem so abrupt – or as my dad would put it “braking is like taking a sh*t. you squeeze but you let up a bit at the end so you don’t get splashed when it hits the water”)

    We got to do fun trips like the day he decided we should visit his brother three hours away up a highway that has it’s own show called “Highway Thru Hell” about tow trucks on a pretty intense highway. I drove both ways in one day. Or when he decided I should learn to drive into the city (Vancouver, BC), which involved bridges – so my first time was in a mini van full of people, in the rain, on the narrowest bridge that many people avoid. His theory was that the other bridges would seem like child’s play after…and he was right!

    But we’re the exception. We had the lucky combo of him being a professional and also knowing my quirks and stresses. I would not have had the same experience with my mother – who I love dearly, but I still hear her gasp and see her clutch the handle on the door of the car even though I’ve been driving almost twenty years. I have taught friends to drive standard if they were already solid drivers on an automatic, but I don’t think I could teach a new driver – especially a peer.

    • Halpful said:

      LOL. that’s a wonderful explanation. 🙂 I didn’t get far enough into lessons to learn that (so glad I live somewhere driving is optional!), but I think I understand it perfectly now. 🙂 It’s something my muscles do automatically in all kinds of situations (opening jars, plugging and unplugging cables, etc), I just wasn’t aware of it.

  49. Anxiety Cat said:

    I love the Captain’s advice here. LW, regardless of whose behavior is in the wrong here, getting Boyfriend to use a professional instructor instead of driving your car is a really great idea to diffuse the emotional tension of the situation & teach them to drive at the same time.

    It’s sort of like taking a class in a topic vs. being lectured on that topic by a friend/partner. With the latter, it can feel condescending and oppressive (even if you were interested in learning about that topic and asked for help), with the former it’s something that you are voluntarily paying for (opting-in) with the emotional distance of instructor-student + learning from a trained professional.

    I don’t know that you’re doing anything wrong in this situation, but by telling Boyfriend that you want them to get official help (that they pay for) you’ll remove this emotional roadblock between you two. Bonus for having Boyfriend not drive your car before they get a license!

    And, of course, even after Boyfriend gets their license, you’re well within your rights to say you don’t want them to drive your car, or set ground rules around that use.

    Good luck!

  50. hobbitqueen said:

    Not exactly identical but some similarities: when my mom got sick, my brother and I both ended up moving home (back to my parents’) for awhile. He moved back first and took over Mom’s car – paid the expenses (insurance, etc) on it. But because it was still Mom’s car, I had the right to use it when he didn’t need it or if I had a greater need (he worked nearby to my parents, where i was going to school halfway across the city).
    But since he was paying most of the expenses, it was considered more or less his car and therefore his rules. Which were basically: (1) don’t leave it empty (or nearly), (2) reset the radio – didn’t have to be perfect but i liked the radio louder than him, and (3) reset at least the seat to more or less where he had it (we are very different heights). I did those things because, frankly, they weren’t much to ask in return for getting use of a car effectively for free.

    Adjusting the mirrors is tougher, because you can’t really do that properly without being the other person’s same height but I don’t think sliding the seat to your preferred spot in your car is much to ask when he’s done using it.

    I guess what I’m saying is, given that it’s your car rather than a shared car to me means that you’re not being unreasonable to want your preferences taken into account by the person you’re allowing to use said car.

    And to add to the echo chamber – my parents were definitively not going to teach us to drive (even though they were relatively low stress as passengers to a learning driver) because their opinion was and is that emotions and learning driving (learning anything) are non-mixy things. So we got driving lessons and only after the driving lessons would we drive them anywhere for practice. That worked very well for us and sounds like it might work better for you and your boyfriend than the current arrangement.

  51. wolf said:

    My driving instructor once told me “it’s harder to teach someone you Care about to drive because you expect more from them. But with other people it’s okay”
    LW You need to consider that learning to drive no matter how old you are can be scary. So as the the other commenters say having a driving instructor step in is a good move for bf PLUS They usually come with their own cars so your baby is safe!.
    LW losing your patience with teaching dosent make you a bad person it’s simply one of those things that JUST ARENT WORKING FOR YOU. Which totally understandable and hopefully fixable!

  52. AwesomeSauce said:

    So I’ve taught both my husband and our teenage son how to drive (my husband learned at age 26, with our 2yo in the car, so it could have been very fraught), and I have some thoughts for LW.

    1) Definitely insist that BF takes formal driver’s ed. I recommend he look for courses from large, reputable organizations like CAA (Canada) or AAA (US). This is how we ran things in my family: I took the learner out for a few laps around a parking lot so they could get a sense of how a car handles, and then I would not “co-pilot” for them again until they completed the driving course.

    2) Non-safety concerns or requests like “please put the seat back to roughly where you found it” should be handled similar to any other “you’re using my stuff and I’d like you to respect it” type request in your relationship. In my opinion, LW, you might consider letting this one go, unless you two are so different in height that one of you can’t physically get in/reach anything when the other one leaves the seat after driving. Every driving course I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken three – has indicated that it is good practice to check that your seat and mirrors are correctly positioned when you get in, even if you were the last one driving. I know it’s irritating to have to re-adjust everything every time (I’m 5’6″ and my kid is like 5’11” or something) but it’s part and parcel of sharing a car.

    3) Safety concerns like “move away from the centre line” should be stated by the co-driver calmly, and complied with by the learner IMMEDIATELY. Period. This has zero to do with the relationship between the learning driver and co-driver (supervising driver) and everything to do with safety. It’s not negotiable. LW could be teaching the second coming of Christ how to drive and should still be correcting safety issues immediately and expecting an immediate correction.

    4) LW, think consciously about what things are safety concerns requiring immediate corrections by you, which things you can let go briefly to see if BF notices and self-corrects, and which things are “finesse” or subtle skills that you would only expect an experienced driver to have. Examples of each, in order: veering towards the centre line/not slowing down enough when approaching an intersection; mild speeding or slightly too slow driving; and easing on and off the gas when negotiating hills rather than letting the speed drop off and then gunning it.

    5) How to be while co-driving, if you decide this is a thing you still want to do:
    Make sure that all your instructions are given in a calm tone of voice, are focused on the outcome you want, and address basically the way the car is being moved around rather than the way the learning driver is (or is not) fucking up somehow. (I am not perfect at this and you won’t be either, but it’s something to strive for.) The more urgent the situation, the more critical it is to be calm and direct. Some examples of phrases I have used:
    -Watch your speed.
    -Come a bit left/right (and then “watch your lane position” when the learner has a bit more experience)
    -Look well ahead (when they’re struggling to maintain lane position)
    -See the pedestrian/red light/stop sign?
    -SLOW. (while approaching a turn or line of stopped cars with too much speed. Note that this instruction is given with more volume and urgency than usual, but not with panic. Use a command tone.)
    -BRAKE. BRAKE. BRAKE. (I am not fucking around, you are about to run a 4-way stop and mow down a lady with a baby carriage or something)

    Don’t give more information than is strictly necessary at the time – you want the learner thinking only about what’s happening NOW. If you see BF driving in a way that you want to discuss at length, have him pull over. You don’t want to be delivering a lecture on the fine points of merging onto a highway during rush hour on said highway, or worse, while navigating an interchange. People can’t absorb new information when they’re task-saturated, so save it unless it’s immediately dangerous to life or health.

    There have been entire textbooks written on how to teach people things, but that’s the bare bones of it.

    Have some fun challenges every now and then that are relevant to driving – find a large empty parking lot, and do one or all of the following: get some cheap traffic cones and slalom around them forwards and in reverse. (Not too fast.) Practice backing into parking spaces on the first try. Go out in different weather conditions and experiment with things like stopping distance/engaging the antilock brakes and managing a skid in a turn. (This is the most fun if you can find a really large lot with about 6 inches of fresh snow on it.) And my son’s favourite, other than skidding around in the snow: get a few squashable pieces of trash like paper cups and thin plastic berry containers, set them out, and try to run them over with either the driver’s side tire (for beginners) or the passenger side tire (advanced!)

    • TootsNYC said:

      Signing on to say I agree with this approach, if you decide to continue to be side-seat company while he practices.

      Especially–focus less on trying to “remote control” most of the time, and go with things like, “How’s your lane position?” or “Are you drifting?”

      But one thing I wanted to say about the center line–when you are in the passenger seat, you may not be accurate in assessing how close to the center he is!
      So that’s one reason to phrase these things as questions.

      And I’m grateful, AwesomeSauce, for your other tips. My daughter is going to try again for her license at some point, and I may be needed again to be the “ride-along licensed driver” while she practices. In my earlier go at this, I tried to do essentially what you say, and it went mostly OK (though I don’t know how SHE felt about it).

      But your suggestions for slaloms, etc., is interesting!

      • TootsNYC said:

        Oh, and not that this is for the OP, particularly, but I’ve often thought that my learning-to-drive kids would benefit from riding shotgun, with their eyes on the road, as the driver narrates their thinking processes.

        Like, “OK, now I see that there’s a yellow light up at the intersection, so I’m taking my foot off the gas and moving it to the brake, but I won’t push just yet, OK now I’m getting close to the other car ahead, so NOW I’m pressing firmly down.”

        or, “My turn is up ahead, it’s a half a block, so I flip my blinker, check my rearview briefly, nobody’s running up my tail, foot off the gas and ready with the brake, nobody’s ahead, but I like to turn slow, press the brake, feel it slow, begin my turn…”

        Or to have them count seconds before an oncoming car meets you, to practice judging whether there’s enough time to turn in front of an oncoming car, etc.

        • AwesomeSauce said:

          Yes, I 100% did this throughout the learning process, and still (now that Teen has passed his first road test) point out interesting scenarios as they happen. It is a good teaching technique – demonstrate the skill, then have them practice it.

          I did find it was basically impossible to completely describe everything I’m observing as I drive along, especially not in a form that’s understandable to the learner. It’s too much – like trying to drink from a fire hose! So I started focusing on demonstrating only a certain portion of what I was doing. Like, I would teach “making a lane change” separate from “planning when to lane change.” And I would always give a briefing before going out: “We’re gonna drive up and down the main road just changing lanes. How were you taught in driver’s ed? [So I can use the same descriptions and demo the skill correctly] I will show you this first and what I want you to pay attention to is how I deal with other traffic, if there is any, and also how I turn my head without also turning my shoulders, and arms, and the car.” And then I would demonstrate the skill, commenting only on the things I asked the learner to watch. Cause even something like flipping on your blinker with your fingertips while not also moving the steering wheel is a skill that the new driver doesn’t have!

          But yes, there are lots of things you can have the learning driver monitor from the passenger seat, like “do I still have room to stop if that traffic light turns yellow,” “call out who has right of way at this busy 4-way stop,” “how’s my following distance/am I getting closer to or farther away from the car ahead,” “would our car fit in that parking spot,” etc. This seemed to be really helpful for my young driver because it freed up all the parts of his brain that were normally dealing with how hard to press the pedals, how to hand-over-hand turn the steering wheel, remember to scan the road ahead, check mirrors, check speed, etc. and he could just focus on learning ONE THING.

          Re: judging lane position from the passenger seat – it is a learned skill for the co-driver, for sure. My trick was to look at the tire tracks on the road – you can usually see an impression of them even in dry conditions – and if the passenger side tire was in (or at least near) the passenger side track, we were fine. To judge where the car tire is, I put my foot on the “dead pedal” spot near the outer wall of the car, and the tire is just about right under that. (Works for the driver side too. This is the trick to winning the “crush the garbage” game BTW.)

          Re: slaloming around traffic cones: when I took a winter/off-road driving course, we did that (at speed, on packed snow, in an ENORMOUS parking lot, with a trained instructor). I found it really helpful so I borrowed the idea and scaled it down. It is really nice for practice at backing, because the cones are so small you can’t see them out the rear window – you HAVE to use your side mirrors to manuver around them.

          Re: “it went mostly ok but I don’t know how she felt about it,” have a de-brief at the end of the lesson that includes feedback from her on your teaching style. There are SO many comments above of people saying “I couldn’t learn to drive with [family member] because our relationship was so fraught and it carried over into the car” or conversely “I normally get along with them great, but when they were acting as my supervising driver they couldn’t stop white-knuckling the centre console and sucking on their teeth.” If your daughter (or LW’s boyfriend) are going to learn effectively, you both have to be able to sort of set aside your emotions around your relationship in the car, and JUST be Learner and Co-Driver. It is really difficult to do this when you normally have authority over them, especially parent/child… I found I had to comment a bit on my own behaviour and ask for specific feedback. Like, “how were my instructions while we were driving down Main Street? I was a bit stressed cause it was our first time – did I sound stressed, or was I coming across as calm? Did my instructions make sense? Was I talking too much?”

          • TootsNYC said:

            “Re: judging lane position from the passenger seat – it is a learned skill for the co-driver, for sure. My trick was to look at the tire tracks on the road – you can usually see an impression of them even in dry conditions – and if the passenger side tire was in (or at least near) the passenger side track, we were fine. To judge where the car tire is, I put my foot on the “dead pedal” spot near the outer wall of the car, and the tire is just about right under that. (Works for the driver side too. This is the trick to winning the “crush the garbage” game BTW.)”

            This is how I gauge the lane when I’m driving–my right foot should feel as if it is above the greasy strip down the center of the road, while I’m looking far down the road.

            I love your tips, etc.–I’m going to read it again and again.

          • AwesomeSauce said:

            Ran out of nesting but wanted to reply to TootsNYC again:

            I’ve heard of that trick where you imagine your gas-pedal foot (if you live in a country where you drive on the right) going down the centre of the lane. It works pretty well for driving cars and vans, but it’s a bit misleading because it’s kind of a trick of perspective, and it starts to break down if you have to drive something large, like a full size pickup truck or a U-Haul. That’s why I really liked the dead-pedal trick when I heard it. It’s much more accurate as far as knowing where your tires are (or the driver side tire at the very least).

            Both tricks will only take you so far when it comes to understanding how WIDE your vehicle is though. 🙂 The only fix for that is practice. Especially parallel parking – you need to know exactly where the corners of your vehicle are to do that smoothly.

            I’m glad you are finding my tips useful. I can’t take credit for all of them – lots of the ideas for individual lessons I got from my various driving courses, and a couple from a co-worker who is teaching his GF to drive. And I’ve had a lot of good instructors for other things in my life – I modeled how I act in the car after them, like “calmly” and “break the skill down” and “not too much at once.”

            I’ve got one more! This was a thing we did to help the Teen understand blind spots and how to adjust his mirrors. (I was really pleased with how it worked out.) We are fortunate to own 2 cars – a compact sedan and an SUV (this matters). We also had a great practice space nearby that has lanes, stop signs, and multiple parking lots, and best of all is completely empty certain days of the week. So we took both vehicles over there. Teen and I got into the small car and Husband was in the SUV. I had Teen adjust his mirrors properly, then drive onto the 2-lane “road” area and stop and shut off the car, but pretend he was still driving – looking out the front, flicking his eyes occasionally to the mirrors. Husband got in the other lane in the SUV and crept up very slowly from behind, as if overtaking in normal driving. Sure enough, we managed to almost completely disappear the SUV in the little car’s blind spot. We got the SUV stopped in this spot (I think Husband and I had our phones on speaker or something so he knew when to stop, I don’t remember exactly) but anyway we then had Teen practice shoulder checks with the vehicles arranged with one in the other’s blind spot, and then we had him get in the driver’s seat of the SUV and look at the little car so we could say “if you’re driving here, the driver of that car can’t see you. Try not to hang out here when you’re driving along!” It was really neat, and I think it was fun for all 3 of us.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          Great idea.

    • Evan Þ said:

      It’s a week later, but let me just accentuate one part of point (5): As a copilot, do not say “STOP” unless you want the driver to literally come to a complete stop at that very moment. A month or so after I learned to drive, my mom screamed “STOP!” while I was driving down a busy freeway with traffic behind. Fortunately, I had just enough confidence to not follow that instruction and get rear-ended at 50 mph – but it was a very stressful few seconds.

      (A couple minutes later, when we were off the freeway, I explained what I’d been thinking, and she accepted the correction and clarified that she had wanted for me to just slow down.)

  53. Rhoda said:

    Reading all these comments about moving the seats and mirrors back makes me realize that I’m lucky to be about the same leg length as my partner. I have to tilt the rear view mirror after he drives, and that’s it.

    • HistorianNina said:

      lol me too! We are pretty much the same height, same leg length, so nothing needs to be adjusted at all. I had pretty much forgotten it is a common problem for most people! Now all of our car switching angst goes towards leaving the radio/fans/AC/heater on or off…

  54. I’m 33 and still don’t have a driver’s licence. The dirtbag I dated in my late teens/early 20s decided he should help teach me to drive. And that I would practice with him when he thought I should. Which was most in the late morning. That would have been fine (ish, it always would have been uncool for him to decide when I was going to practice), except that I was working night shifts from 11pm to 7am and late morning was my bed time. Trying to safely control a car when I was tired and grumpy and needed to go to bed was super awesome. Not getting my licence was the only fight I ever won with that fucker and to this day I’m proud of myself for it.

    TL;DR I can’t recommend professional lessons with someone who is not you, OP, strongly enough. While I’m at it, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask anyone to try to put your car back the way it was before they used it. Maybe it’s not possible to get it perfect, but it’s reasonable to ask them to try.

  55. LW here… Just thought I would address a few other comments since there seems to be some confusion.

    I was trying to be succinct in my letter to the Captain because I didn’t want to get into a bunch of detail and get away from the real questions: am I being unreasonable in asking my BF to respect my property and return the car’s positions (i.e., seat buckle) to the place he found it (1), and (2), that when I give critiques to his driving, he consider the criticism, respect where I am coming from in making the criticism, and not give me a flippant answer in return?

    I don’t say anything to him about his driving unless I am noticing it to be something safety related and/or dangerous to the car. For example…. I have said things like, “you should have used your turn signal there”; “stop when the merge lane runs out; don’t drive us off the road”, “stop riding the white line (shoulder)”, or “took that a little too fast”, and “what’s the speed limit here?”. He’d say stuff like, “there was no one behind me so I didn’t see the point in using the turn signal”; or “No one gave me an opening. What should I have done?”, “it just looks like I’m riding the shoulder from where you are sitting; where I am sitting, it is fine”, “Yeah, I know”, and “I don’t know what the speed limit is.” (to which I would ask, “Did you not see the sign? It said 50kms/hr”). I don’t shout at him; this is all said in a calm tone.

    I did have a brief discussion with by BF about the car this weekend, and I will definitely have to outline in more detail my expectations about him driving the car, and also what he expects from me as the licensed driver and the level of corrections. I think it’s a valuable conversation to have, and honestly, I should’ve had it when he first got his graduated license and was letting him drive the car. I don’t consider the car to be a ‘shared’ piece of property. It’s mine – I picked it out (it was new, off the lot) prior to him getting his learner’s permit, I pay for it (finance, insurance & maintenance), and I drive it. That said, I’m happy to let him drive the car, providing that he respect that it’s mine, and treat it like it is an expensive piece of property. This is what was expressed to me when I was learning to drive with my parents’ cars. I am going to have a conversation about the car so that we can mutually agree on the terms and conditions. Where we live only has 1 allocated parking space, used by my car, so we will have to discuss how we want to go about this in the future.

    My memorable “learning to drive” moment that I never want to replicate:

    When my parents taught me to drive, they initially just had a manual (stick shift). My Dad was an auto mechanic. One night, I’d asked Dad if I could drive us home. After decelerating down a hill, I was going too fast for the gear I’d shifted into. Releasing the clutch, I subsequently revved the snot out of the engine, and my Dad shouted at me, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? YOU’RE GOING TO KILL THE CAR. GET OUT. I’M DRIVING US THE REST OF THE WAY HOME.” I then got us onto a straight-away, pulled over, and with shaky legs, got out from behind the wheel so Dad could drive. My parents later bought a beat-up automatic for me to learn to drive on. But I never asked to drive with Dad again, and even now, in my own car, I always ask if he’d like to drive first, to the point where he’s now irritated by the question (“It’s your own car and you’re a good driver. Just drive the damn car.”). So I know all too well that a calm response is better than an agitated tone.

    I love the idea of CAA/AAA and recommended lessons. I had Driver’s Ed through my high school, so I’ve been looking to try to find something similar that he can use as some of the driver’s programmes (like Young Driver’s) are extremely expensive!

    Thanks for all the feedback. Definitely food for thought!

    • AwesomeSauce said:

      Hi OP! Your example comments in your third paragraph are all completely reasonable things to say to a new/learning driver, and his responses are all total garbage and don’t demonstrate a willingness to learn/improve. It’s easy for me to say this from over here, but with that attitude he wouldn’t drive any car I owned.

      The “from my perspective [in the driver’s seat] our distance from the shoulder is fine” I find especially hilarious/sad, since you (in the passenger seat) are much better positioned to see how far the edge of the car is from the curb! Amazing.

      The only one that makes me think perhaps more than just an attitude adjustment is required is the merging example. If he is running out of road, it sounds like he has farther to go in developing his skill at merging. And it for sure is a tricky one. I think a couple of focused lessons from a professional could help here (regardless of whether he goes for a full driver’s ed course).

      As for lessons, yeah, the good ones are expensive. There’s no way around it. IMO it’s an important long-term investment. If y’all can’t afford the full course, see if the local branches of CAA/AAA offer one-off or private lessons – I know the one in my city at least offers “brush up” lessons which are targeted at adults, and the content is customized to whatever skills the driver needs to work most on.

  56. E said:

    Wow. I feel like I’m diving into the big kids pool with no floaties. Hi. 🙂 Your site is very dynamic. I tried responding to the post about a dying grandmother and family pressures but the comments appear closed. That literally just happened to me in real life but thankfully I’ve done several years of codependent recovery work…I probably still beat myself up over the whole thing so it was helpful to read your post and all the comments. Your job sounds fun and I’m glad to know I’m not the Captain of awkwardness. Maybe I could be like the duke or squire or peasant of awkwardness? I like peasant. That fits. 🙂

    • JenniferP said:

      Comments close on old threads after a week or so to keep things manageable (can you imagine moderating 953 ongoing discussions? Me neither!). Hi, glad it was a help, welcome.

      • E said:

        I get like 6 comments and I’m like whoa. Did I go viral? I can’t imagine 953 😉

  57. I will quite literally not be a passenger in a car my mother is driving unless I have lost the use of both arms and legs due to a serious injury/medical emergency and cannot drive myself. She has gone through an intersection with a red light while I am telling her “Mom, the light is yellow you should stop, MOM THE LIGHT IS RED WE’RE GONNA DIE!” My dad is a lot better driver, I’m 100% ok with him driving us to lunch or anywhere else, no incapacitation of me required.

    Back when I was a teenager my parents would alternate who had the responsibility of giving me experience behind the wheel, usually the drive to/from school and church. I failed by 2 points the first time I took the behind the wheel test, my dad arranged for me to have a lesson with the driver’s ed teacher who he knew from when the guy taught at the same school my dad did, and the 2nd time I took the test I passed, though the examiner marked off 5 points because I was “overcautious” and checking the mirrors a ton (of course everyone else had said all that checking was a good thing!). A few years later I was talked into giving a friend of mine some experience behind the wheel (her mom was very persuasive – gave me some cash) which never went past the first attempt because she hit the gas instead of the brake and my car which she was driving went a little bit through the front wall of a business. And her mom did not pay for the damage to my car to be fixed. In retrospect I was an idiot for agreeing to the whole thing, but I did learn from the experience to NOT let anyone use my car to learn to drive or for any other purpose unless they had insurance that covered them driving any car not just a specific one they were the registered owner of or listed as the owner’s secondary driver on the vehicle policy.

    I did at one point have a s/o who did not have a license for a variety of reasons, and as I had both a license and my own car he quickly got into a habit of wanting me to give him a ride to various places, even if it meant I’d miss class (college professors may or may not be sticklers about the attendance policy, but they do want students there for class) to do it. Apparently he believed that as his girlfriend I should drop everything, make doctors and dentist appointments for him, and all that nonsense. If he’d decided to go get his permit and wanted to get behind the wheel experience, he would have had to do that in someone else’s car.

    LW, I’m with the others on professional instruction being the best route – you could gift him the lessons maybe? And set some ground rules together if you’re really completely and totally sure you’re ok with him using the car/sharing the vehicle once he does have his full all access to the world of driving license. If you feel you might resent things that he does or doesn’t do when he’s driving the car especially get those basic terms settled before that.

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