My wife was in a horrible car accident about 10 years ago. She refuses to drive anymore, which is okay with me. What I find irritating is that, when I’m driving her anywhere, she gasps and recoils at every single thing. I’m typically a nervous wreck after 15 minutes in the car with her. I’ve gotten very angry with her over it. I think it’s time for her to grow up and drive her own car. Am I being insensitive or reasonable?
Driver in Dover
Dear Mr. Dover:
I am sorry about your wife’s accident. You said it had been more than 10 years, which is about as many years as I am old. I still remember when I was a puppy and a mean Chihuahua bit me. I still get nervous around yapping Chihuahuas, even though I am much bigger than them now. Mom says that this is called, “Once bitten, twice shy,” and that makes sense. Your wife got bitten by a whole car, so it is probably even worse for her.
Mom was in a terrible car accident once, and she said it really affected her for a long time. She says that she still gets nervous when people drive up behind her too fast at stoplights. She said that the twice shy never fully goes away. You did not mention if your wife was hurt in the accident. Mom wants to know if she may have hit her head. This could be part of the problem. We both hope that she got medical care right after the accident and everything is OK.
When I was little, we lived near a military base and I heard lots of booms and pops all of the time. Mom said I never acted scared, and that was even during the Fourth of July. I love parties, and I used to like the big celebrations that people would have at the park and near the lake. Now that I am much older, the Fourth of July is my very least favorite day. The sounds are too loud and very scary, and mom has to take me far away from them. This means that I cannot go to the park or be part of the party like I used to, but I would rather give that up than be so afraid all of the time. I do not know exactly what changed, but that is just the way I am now. Driving is a type of freedom that is difficult to give up once you have had it, so your wife must be very afraid if she has done this willingly. It sounds like she may need to talk to a counsellor and come to terms with how she feels now. If she still does not want to drive, there are many other options out there. Lots of people do not drive. Mom drives for Lyft sometimes, so she meets oodles of these kinds of people.
You also said in your letter that you are OK with your wife refusing to drive, but then you say that she needs to “grow up” and drive herself. It seems that you are a little confused about how you really feel. It sounds to me that you DO mind, and maybe that is something you need to work on for yourself. I would recommend that you talk to the counsellor, too.