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?
Driving me crazy
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.“