One of our clients recently emailed us an urgent request for help a few days in advance of an upcoming three-day weekend. Susan (not her real name) asked if we could suggest a way to prevent the tension that built between herself and her husband during weekend trips out of the city.
While Susan appreciated the hours her husband spent behind the wheel, she was dismayed by his adamancy against making even a minor, unplanned detour. We responded with the following advice, which we hope you’ll also find useful in your own travels.
Long weekends are a wonderful time for a trip to view the sights, do some shopping or visit a romantic country inn. While these trips begin with the best intentions, they sometimes end with frayed nerves and hurt feelings. In many cases, the cause lies in being unaware of the instinctive behavioral differences between men and women.
By understanding why certain behaviors can be highly perplexing to the opposite gender; we can embrace the differences, find harmony and enjoy a relaxing weekend getaway.
Men and women have markedly different—yet complementary—instinctive behaviors. Many of our problems are caused by assuming that our opposite-sex partners operate the same way we do, yet they don’t.
One major instinctive behavioral difference between men and women is something we call single focus. Men focus on producing only one result at a time. ‘Producing a result’ can be illustrated by describing a visit to the department store where the husband is ‘hunting’ for socks. His wife might point out a nice sweater, but he has no interest in the sweater because it’s not socks. If there are no socks at the first store, he’ll move to the next until he finds socks.
The husband is intent on, and committed to, getting those socks. For women, it’s a totally different story because women are almost always multi-tasking. When shopping, this involves ‘gathering’ information about everything that is available, regardless of the initial reason to be in the store.
Single focus could cause problems during a trip whenever a woman tries to have a conversation at a time when a man’s full attention is on driving. Often a man won’t be available for more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. His focus is on his driving, and the result he’s producing is getting there safely. The worst times for talking are when he’s pulling onto or off the highway, approaching an interchange or destination, or if he’s in unfamiliar territory.
Women, on the other hand, relish the extra time they get to spend catching up, getting into deep conversations, and swapping juicy tales with their mate. For many women, road trips equal an opportunity for quality bonding time. So, in order for both sexes to feel comfortable on the trip, they should wait until the car is on the open road and cruising along before raising any topic of consequence. The couple can then savor some good conversation as they head up the highway.
The next most frequent area where single focus causes problems on a car trip is when the woman hears the word ‘no’ when she wants to stop at a fruit stand or an interesting-looking shop. When a man has a result to produce, he creates a plan. His trip plans might involve arriving by a certain time or trying a different route.
Where it gets tricky is when his unspoken plan for producing the result, getting to the destination, and his partner’s ideas about the drive differ. If the man’s plan to take no detours doesn’t mesh with the woman’s unspoken plans of stopping at anything that looks appealing along the route, then there could be more trouble in road-trip paradise.
It’s important that both the man and the woman get their needs met on the ride. If the woman wants to avoid hearing that ‘no,’ it’s a good idea for the couple to chat about how the drive will go before they start on their journey. Finding out what each other has planned will avoid disputes along the way. As long as the couple talks before they begin packing the car they’ll have time to discuss what they both need. She can suggest something like “Honey, if we see an antique shop along the way I’d like to stop for 20 or 30 minutes. And, if we see a nice Mexican restaurant, I’d like to spend an hour for lunch.” He can then build some time for a stop or two into his plan.
By considering the different ways both sexes approach road trips, and by keeping the lines of communication open, couples can get to their getaway vacations and still be in the mood for romance.
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