One in four domestic bust-ups happen in our cars, according to new research
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The stress of being on the road leads to more bickering and bust-ups than anywhere else in our weekly lives.
These ‘carguments’ range from falling out over directions (the most common with 33 per cent admitting to it), your partner’s driving skills (32 per cent), going too fast (17 per cent) and what’s on the radio (eight per cent) to non-motoring related topics that could happen anywhere.
Classic topics include finances (17 per cent), family (16 per cent), children (14 per cent), and chores (11 per cent).
Research conducted by independent car buying site carwow revealed that the fall out from an in-car bust-up can last longer too, with one in eight of those surveyed admitting they can go anything from three hours to more than a day before speaking to their partner again.
Women admit to starting more in-car arguments than men (45 per cent vs 42 per cent), with those aged under 24 most likely to lose their temper.
One in 20 of those surveyed even say they have stormed out of the car following an argument and walked the rest of the way, rather than stay in the vehicle with their partner.
Arguing in the car was top of the pile for locations of our domestic strife, just above the kitchen , the bedroom and the bathroom.
Asked why they believed things got more heated in the car than anywhere else, 26 per cent of those surveyed reckoned it was down to the added stress of having to cope with traffic at the same time as having the conversation, while 23 per cent believed it was down to the confined space.
Arguments are most likely to occur on journeys somewhere new or unfamiliar (25 per cent), long road trips (18 per cent) and short trips, such as the supermarket or a relative’s house (five per cent).
Dr Sandi Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire, says the survey of 2,000 people confirms that the car is a hotspot for domestic disagreements.
She says: “The act of driving brings stress of its own and a driver can already be stressed and frustrated by so many triggers on the road such as traffic, inconsiderate driving, roadworks etc. So throw another person into the mix and it’s always going to have the potential to be explosive.
“The triggers for an argument are far more prevalent in driving situations, too – your partner’s individual habits come to the fore; perhaps in their lack of willingness to ask for directions, their tendency to drive too fast, or aggression towards other drivers. All of these things can wind another person up.
“And once an argument starts, neither of you can go anywhere until the journey is over, so it’s only going to go one of two ways – a dramatic silence or, far more likely, a spin-off into other topics where one or both of you are harbouring a grudge.
“The ways to avoid arguing in a car are the same as anywhere else – one side can just stop talking as it’s impossible to argue with yourself. Or once you realise a row is brewing, you can take deep breaths and count to 10 before speaking again in an attempt to calm your thoughts.
“Car specific steps that couples can take are to listen to soothing music only while on trips and to keep the car clean – create an environment that isn’t conducive to squabbling in the first place.”
Mat Watson, resident motoring expert at carwow, comments: “Drivers face so many distractions on the road today – but our research shows that distractions can be just as dangerous inside the car as outside.
“Passengers should try to put themselves in the driving gloves of the person behind the wheel before kicking off an argument. It’s hard enough to drive on our roads in 2018 without added stress.”
Dr Sandi Mann, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire gives her top tips to diffuse a cargument;
1. Be aware that car journeys are a trigger for ‘carguments’ – being forewarned is being forearmed.
2. Identify your own cargument triggers. For example, if directions get you in a fluster or concerns over speed are a regular catalyst, you might be able to navigate a cargument more easily. If it’s triggers outside the car, such as money then avoid discussion while on the road. Once these are identified, it’s easier to try to avoid them until you get out of the car.
3. The car is a confined space, so avoid piling additional stress on to a journey. Keep stress levels as low as possible by making sure you have plenty of time, are not in a rush and trying to avoid the busiest times on the road.
4. If a cargument is brewing, keep your cool by practicing vagal breathing; breathe in slowly through the nose, hold the breath for a few seconds then breathe out slowly through the mouth.
5. Put a relaxing piece of music on the ipod or CD player if things get heated – it really can make a difference.
6. Make sure the car is cool and comfortable and you’re not cramped in (if you’re arguing about the temperature of the car then this might not be possible!).
7. Stop for a breather at a roadside café or service station – this will diffuse the situation and switch your attention to other things (as well as getting you out of the close confines of the car and into a more public space).
8. This is perhaps the hardest one for some, but diffuse anger by apologising – even if you are in the right.
9. Use equivocal language as it is softer – ‘it may be’, or ‘in my opinion’ rather than ‘it is’.
10. Find common ground, especially in terms of finding something that unites you; for example, join forces to moan about another driver, find a car you both like on the road or admire a house that you are passing that you know appeals to both of you.
Dr Sandi Mann, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire explains why our cars are the perfect breeding ground for a fall-out;
1. The first is fairly obvious. Our cars are enclosed spaces which of course makes them useful for their function but it means when things get heated, there’s nowhere to hide!
2. You might love your own car, but hate your partner’s or vice versa. Generally, cars are not terribly comfortable, especially for prolonged periods and they can get hot, stuffy and cramped, providing the perfect setting for a row.
3. The environment in a car is one that affects each occupant so each person wants to control it to suit themselves. Temperature, music volume, windows up or down, the list goes on – but the impact of these elements being controlled by one person can be irritating for other occupants. We may even feel unsafe due to speed or other drivers – which can all add to the stress.
4. For the most part, a car journey is a means to an end and everyone wants the end as quickly as possible; but there are so many barriers to reaching that goal quickly, that temperatures can flare. There are so many frustration factors that can be blamed on the other person. Speed, route, resulting traffic, arrival time etc can all lead to finger-pointing.
5. We all like to be in control, but we cannot control our progress which raises stress levels. Sometimes one partner may not even want to be there – perhaps going on an unwanted journey or to an undesired location so resentment builds. There are often so many things we would rather be doing than sitting in a car for a long journey which breeds stress and resentment between passengers – especially if there’s already a reluctance to travelling in the first place.