Unlikely Fact Number Eight:

The passenger in the car gets to control the brake and the throttle.

I can imagine someone reading that last sentence and scratching his head and thinking, “Doesn’t the driver of the car get to decide how fast or how slowly to drive?  Surely, Dr. Bass, you’re not suggesting that I should allow my passenger to yank the steering wheel away from me.  And if I see the cars up ahead slowing down then surely I, the driver, should be able to slow down or speed up in order to avoid an accident.”

Yes. All of that is true.  But there is more to the matter than may at first seem obvious.  It is my assertion that the attitude we bring to our approach to driving a car is an excellent predictor of the attitude we bring to our relationships.  If we really love the person we are with, we want them to feel safe in our presence. We don’t serve hamburgers to vegetarians.  We don’t tickle people who are very ticklish.  If we were giving our spouse a backrub, we would likely, I hope, ask him or her how we are doing.  Are we touching too hard or too softly?  Should we use more lotion?

And, I would argue, we can and should bring that same loving attitude to our interactions with the passengers in our car. If we truly care about the person we are transporting, we want him or her to feel comfortable in our car. We therefore don’t drive faster than our passenger feels comfortable with. (You would be surprised how many of some couples’ marital therapy sessions are devoted to complaints about a spouse’s driving.)

In short, the consideration we give to the passengers in our car can be seen as a barometer of the way we treat the important people in our life.  It is my belief that we would all be happier if we were willing to listen and act on the concerns about our own behavior that they bring to us.  And so what does that mean?  That “the passenger in our car gets to control the brake and the throttle.

Click for Unlikely Fact Number Nine