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Tags:   Relationships,   Cars,   Motoring,   Women

By The Swag Team   -  December 29, 2014

The stereotypes are true: men do drive too fast and women don't mind asking for directions. But a few simple verbal tricks can help defuse the inevitable in-car rows prompted by the gender divide behind the wheel, states SWAG’s expert on human interaction, MISS BEHAVIOUR.

Men and women think differently about cars and driving. In today’s atmosphere of equality it may seem slightly unfashionable to admit that you believe in mental gender differences, but I’ve studied communication between the sexes for more than 30 years and I know that huge misunderstandings arise when we fail to take our basic differences seriously.


To start with the obvious, men and women often have a different taste in cars. Typically men will go for more speed and larger engine size while women are attracted by space and storage. I have a great analogy to help understand this. Men usually only carry a wallet, which is just for essentials whereas women carry handbags stuffed with everyday useful items.


The basic formula for men is: “only carry what you have to carry, only do what you have to do”, which is a formula for efficiency. Whereas women like to have everything they could possibly need.


This is not to say a man can’t impress a woman by his choice of car. Women are impressed by a man’s car but it’s not the engine size that attracts them. It’s more likely to be the cost of the car – an expensive one tells her he is successful.


Equally important is how he looks after his car. A woman will look at the car’s cleanliness, which tells her he is capable of taking care of her. If a man is clearly proud of the things that he has and takes good care of his car then, she reasons, if she becomes a part of his life he’ll take care of her too. The flipside of all this is that the kind of car a woman drives doesn’t have much effect on a man.


What does have an affect on a man is how the woman acts when she is in the car with him – particularly when it comes to speed. One of the aspects I explored in a book called The Mars & Venus Diet and Exercise Solution is that men’s testosterone levels tend to be 10-20 times higher than a woman’s.


A man needs to make a lot more testosterone during the day to keep stress levels down, and driving faster makes him feel better for this reason. Danger produces more dopamine in the brain and it stimulates testosterone, which lowers the stress hormone cortisol, so it’s pleasurable to a man to drive fast.


But this can create a huge conflict between the sexes whenever they are on a journey together. A woman may start to feel unsafe at high speeds and will start giving her man driving instructions (and men always take driving instructions as criticism).


The mistake women make is to start using rationalisations to justify their discomfort. These insinuate that the man is a bad driver: “you could get a speeding ticket”, “what if we have an accident?”, “you’re cutting that person up”.


She’s only expressing her feelings but when he’s driving that kind of talk sounds like criticism to him and he will react defensively.


Often couples will decide that as a solution to this problem she should drive whenever they are together. He’ll say: “look, I’m tired of your complaining: you drive.”


But it’s a bad move for men to abdicate like that – sharing the driving is not a bad thing, but when the women will not be driven by her husband she’s affirming the fact that she doesn’t trust him and he’ll feel the criticism with her every turn of the wheel. He’ll go kind of numb, telling himself that he’s getting a bargain because he can just sit and relax. But it doesn’t empower him and it does nothing to lower his stress.


Passion in marriage can be killed when a woman gives too many driving instructions to a man. And when women are driving men around all the time you can bet that couple are not having much sex any more – that behaviour doesn’t foster increasing testosterone, which is part of the attraction between a man and a woman.


For a woman it should be more relaxing to be driven. She can’t relax if he’s driving at speed or in a risky manner, so he has to take her feelings into consideration. The challenge for her is to find an acceptable way to communicate her discomfort whenever it arises.


The couple should agree a phrase or a signal she can use to let him know when she’d like him to slow down. That way, she’s following his instructions when she communicates, so he can’t feel in any way criticised or controlled.


Men need to understand that she’s not criticising his way of driving, it’s just that her body doesn’t feel comfortable going that fast or taking those risks.


There’s also a classic area of disagreement between men and women that has been explored a lot on television and in comedy sketches – women find it far easier to ask for directions when lost.


Men stop and get directions, but they take a lot longer to decide to do so than a woman. That’s because the hormone that helps women cope with stress is called oxytocin, and asking for help increases oxytocin levels.


So the mere act of talking to someone helps a woman lower her stress and she feels better.


When a man’s lost he feels proud if he can find his way by himself. He does something for himself and his testosterone levels go up.


Whenever you rely on others to do something for you, your oxytocin levels go up, which is the stress reducer for woman but not for men. So when a woman can depend on a man to get her somewhere her stress levels go down.


But if she starts doubting him her stress level starts to increase. Being lost doesn’t affect a man’s stress straight away because he’ll still trying to work out how to get there – as long as he’s solving the problem on his own he’s producing testosterone and therefore coping with stress effectively.


So the answer for men is to recognise that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll make her happy if you stop and get directions.


You should think: “okay, I don’t really need to do this because I’d probably finally find it myself but if it makes her less stressed then I’ll do it”.


Think of it as a task at which you can be successful – pleasing the person you love the most in this world, being the big man and taking care for her vulnerability. Then your testosterone levels will go up as a result. And for women – if he has to stop and get directions, don’t make a big deal out of it. Women have no idea what destructive messages they send when they criticise a man’s efforts.


A man takes criticism as a personal attack. I remember when I decided to marry my wife – I was in a car and I’d taken the wrong exit so I pulled over to look at the map. Instead of complaining and saying “how could you take a wrong turn?” she simply said “you know, I don’t know where we are but it’s beautiful”. So I thought “yes! She’s the woman for me”. Of course there are examples that work the other way – men who have no interest in speed or engine power and women who are fascinated with fast driving.


We’re all different and I’m only talking in generalities. People have different balances of masculinity and femininity in their psyche and there’s nothing wrong with that.


But there are some differences that are simply universally true – and in may ways there is nothing so effective as a car at revealing just what those differences are.



Speed or space? What men and women really think



Like speed, power and performance

Like space and storage

Think women are attracted to the size of their engine

Are attracted by cleanliness. If he takes care of his car, he will take care of her

Drive fast, which raises testosterone levels, helping to reduce stress

Feel unsafe at high speeds

Refuse to ask for directions if they get lost

Get lost more easily but readily ask for assistance

Feel that being driven by a woman makes them submissive and ruins their sex life

Know that taking over the driving might stop the arguments but could kill the passion



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