Roadtrips: A Relationship’s Ultimate Lab

March 2, 2010 at 10:05 am | Posted in Dating Tips, Relationships | Leave a comment
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Tristan Coopersmith is the author of MENu Dating: Taste Test Your Way to the Main Course– a single girl’s guide to falling in like, falling in love and falling into bed. Check out her book in retailers nationwide, online and on her site: http://www.menudatingonline.com. For musings on dating, follow her on twitter: @tristan_coop.

I remember my first roadtrip with a semi-BF. I was so excited envisioning me and my lover boy – the wind in our hair, the perfect playlist in rotation, the open road all to ourselves in pursuit of a destination to somewhere wonderful. I had every detailed planned out from cool places to stop along the way to a cooler filled with supreme snacks and enough CDs (dating myself here) to last us so we’d never have to listen to any song twice. I even imagined the photos we would take, the laughs we’d laugh, the memories we’d collect. This was going to be the trip he fell in love with amazing me. Or so I thought.

It actually turned out to be the trip I fell into hell. I fell into hell with a guy who it turned out hates Taco Bell (WTF?!), doesn’t say excuse me when he burps, thinks girls aren’t worthy of driving long distances, and who knew, has a fondness for horrifically freestyle rapping when on the open road. It was misery from point A to B but I wouldn’t take the experience back for anything because it served as a relationship lab and in this lab, I discovered that me and he were definitely not meant to be a we.

The idea of a roadtrip is idyllic – hours and hours to enjoy each other’s carefree company, swap stories, play silly games, eat junkfood and get lost in the scenery, but in reality stressful situations can arise and an environment that was designed to be harmonious can quickly become one whereby you get on each other’s nerves, fight about where to eat and sit in silence staring at the highway counting exits instead.

Which is exactly why a roadtrip is a perfect relationship proving ground and a mandatory take-it-to-the-next-level exercise. It can, in many ways be the ultimate compatibility test. If you pass, you have an excellent chance of a thriving relationship, if you fail, you should think twice. Here’s why:

Conversation (or lack thereof): In my mind, my roadtrip with the Taco Bell hater was supposed to be filled with enlightening conversations. I’d tell him about my embarrassing childhood moments, he’d tell me about his first heartbreak, we’d talk about our future. But no, he wasn’t a talker. He liked reflective time in the car. And after 4 hours with 3 more to go, I had nothing left to reflect on other than how much I didn’t want to be with this guy anymore. This test showcases how in sync you are with one another, meaning do you know inherently what kind of atmosphere the other needs at what moment (quiet vs. chatty) and how curious each of you are about the other – this is found time to get to know each other better – do you take advantage of it? Look to see what your conversation pattern is like? Does it feel like an uncomfortable first date where you are just trying to fill the space to avoid awkward silence? Does it flow naturally with interesting dialogue that strengthens your bond, but also has a balance of personal reflective time? Or is one of you on auto-pilot, non stop talking while the other is silently wishing for noise cancelling headphones?

Music: This was the area of no concern for me when it came to compatibility for me and my semi-BF turned ex. Our cars had the same radio stations programmed and we made mixes for each other all the time with similar music. But listening to professionals and listening to him freestyle was two different things – one I could deal with, the other I couldn’t – and the test here was that I didn’t care about him enough to enjoy the fact he was enjoying himself. On your roadtrip, assuming each of you came to the journey iPod in hand, ready to plug in, are your music tastes like-minded? Or at the very least can you lovingly digest each other’s choices? Are you willing to compromise by holding off on anything you know the other loathes? This is bound to come up and the test here will be how you can compromise, share and be tolerant of each other’s choices.

Navigation: North, South, to the mountains, to the beach, city getaway… figuring out where you are going and how you are getting there can be the most exciting part of a roadtrip. It can also be the most stressful… especially if you have different approaches to how it should be done. Are you two map followers and destination driven or non-planning adventure seekers? If you are not on the same page about where you are going, be it a direct route to a certain place or on a scavenger hunt to nowhere in particular, your roadtrip will end up super anxiety ridden for the planner or boring for the thrill seeker. This will unveil a profound personality trait (planner vs. spontaneous) that if different is likely to divide you in many future life choices. I’m happy to say this is the one test that rookie rapper and I actually passed.

Driving duties: You can imagine what an eye opener it was to learn that my man who appeared to be living in modern times was actually Ward Cleaver in disguise, not letting me drive, thinking I would slow us up. Funny thing was, he middle/right laned it the whole way capping 70 as I daydreamed about flying at 120 weaving in and out with a real man. Figuring out driving shifts is often a point of contention on a roadtrip, particularly when one roadtripee isn’t willing to drive, or for as long, or one doesn’t want to give up command. In your case, who is taking the reigns of the wheel? Is this to be a shared responsibility? Do you approve of the way each other drives? What other responsibilities come with driving? This test will indicate how safe you feel with the other in the driver’s seat, literally and figuratively.

Stops: I’m the in-and-out stopper, let’s take it to go, but my chauffeur liked to eat his Big Mac leisurely, claiming he needed to rest up for his next shift, passively complaining about his driving duties (insert eye roll here). Although you are bound to need to stop for gas, bathroom and food breaks, it is what happens when you get there that counts in this test. There tend to be two distinct styles of roadtrip stoppers. The “can’t you just hold it so we can get there faster?” road tripper and the likes to browse in every rest-stop souvenir shop for that perfect piece of memorabilia roadtripper. This test will illustrate differing personality traits (impatient vs. enjoying the moment) that while not a dealbreaker, will need to be understood and appreciated to move on in harmony.

All of these circumstances (along with others such as road temper, car tidiness, handling bodily functions and more), in concert help to determine if your life can be intertwined with your man’s on a really intimate basis. When the ride ranges from smooth to windy to pot-hole ridden, the question is, “how do you co-pilot together?”

So grab your man, pack a bag and buckle up for an open road adventure that will surely be telling of you and your guy’s potential. Score each area with a pass/fail mark. When issues arise in these categories the real test is how you work them out. Do you communicate effectively to resolve the problem existing in a peaceful place, wanting the journey to continue on and on, or are you scrambling to hitchhike home?

Live and love largely,
Tristan

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