I will never marry or even get engaged to a guy without first going on a massive road trip. You do not know somebody until you have been stuck in a car with them for at least 32 hours. Sure, there’s other ways to do it. You can live with them, go through a crisis with them, but for me I have to know I can travel with them. But I also know that isn’t always easy.
Whether it’s your sister, your best friend, where your significant other, being stuck in such close quarters for so long can be trying on any relationship.
In ninth grade my best friend and I drove to Canada with my parents and my uncle. By the time we were coming back through Washington we were about ready to snap. Luckily, though somewhat of a cliché, a giant pillow fight broke the tension. Beating the crap out of each other with giant fluffy pillows allowed us to release our anger and frustrations in a constructive, non-confrontational way
The truth is, knowing what I know now, I would never let it get so far that we needed to beat each other senseless with down. There are so many things you can do to ease the tension and give each other psychological space.
Think of when you’re in an elevator with a bunch of strangers, where does everyone look? At the numbers, right? Did you know that part of the reason they’re there is, if you need to call for help you can tell them what floor you are on, but for the most part, those numbers exist for the purpose of giving people something to look at. Watching the numbers, looking at your phone, listening with headphones, are all ways to establish psychological space within a small physical space.
1. Don’t be afraid of silence. I love my best friend to the moon & back (above, years ago!) but there are some days that boy will just not shut up!! His psychological response to being in a small space is to talk. Actually his response in most any size space is to talk, and I love that about him, until I’m in a car for five hours and he can’t bare the silence through even one of my favorite songs. Don’t be afraid of the silence. It’s not a bad thing. If the conversation’s natural and comfortable, cool. If not, don’t force it. Silence is ok!
2. Mix up the music. Sometimes even bands I love, or genres that I love will suddenly drive me insane in the car. It just doesn’t go with the rhythm and feel of the moment or something? I don’t know. But if I’m already stressed and anxious, the wrong music can send me over the edge. Set up a system of radio sharing, or a veto system. Don’t be afraid to say, I’m going to put my headphones on for a bit (or in the drivers case, do you mind putting your headphones on for a bit and giving me the radio?).
3. Take separate walks. Even just a ten minute walk around the campground, or a five minute run down the street to a coffee shop can do wonders for your psychological fog. Give each other some physical space. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, or give it without taking it personally.
4. Balance out the activities. There are only so many antique barns in the Midwest one can see, before completely going insane. Balance out the activities to fit everyone’s enjoyment. Feel free to split up at times when things of diverging interests are located close together, and make an effort to find at least a couple things that both like to do.
5. Sleep while the introvert drives. I have a couple friends who always apologize for falling asleep in the car, like it’s rude to leave the driver alone… Those people are insane. If I’m on the verge of falling asleep myself, then yeah sure talk to me. But honestly, go to sleep and leave me in peace!! For the most part road trips and driving in general has always been a solitary activity. It’s different for me to have someone in the car, and often feels like work. Give the introvert time to recharge, and catch some zzz’s so you’re not to cranky and more well rested.
6. If you really start feeling stressed, break and do some physical activities. Hit a batting cage. Run a trail. Shoot each other repeatedly at Laser Tag or paintball. Find something along the way and take advantage of the opportunity to get the mental anxiety out with the physical.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk it out! Set ground rules in the beginning. It’s very easy to just acknowledge that hey, even for people who dearly love each other, this can be a hard thing to do! Allow for the grace to just express your needs without bringing the other person into it, and if someone says to you, “I just need quiet for awhile.” “This music is making me really anxious right now, do you mind if we change it for a little bit?” “I need to get of the car for a few minutes and just run around.” Don’t take it personally!! They’re just trying to manage the psychological balance the best ways they know how.