The Hook Up: My wife is a backseat driver



Hi Anna, I have been married to my wife almost a year and dating her for seven years. I have always thought of myself as a decent driver, but my wife would disagree. She often gets very angry and belligerent when she feels I’ve made a mistake and didn’t follow the rules of the road. When I let her know that it hurts me when she screams at me, she tells me she is disappointed that I didn’t know better. I should add this problem is compounded from the menopause she is going through which makes her moods very unpredictable. I love her, we have a good relationship otherwise and she is a kind-hearted and generous person. Usually, I just let her drive to avoid the issue, but I would like a resolution. Any advice?—Tired Of Being Screamed At


Unless you are running over kittens on purpose or driving backwards while high on mescaline through a school zone, it seems unlikely that your driving is the real problem here.

If this is a recent development, and not something that’s been happening for years, I’d surmise that menopause is indeed at the root of it—when we feel out of control in our own bodies, we try to exert control elsewhere, say toward our partner’s three-point-turn capabilities.  

I’m not saying it’s a good excuse or that you should continue to take her verbal abuse, but it’s helpful to understand the underlying emotions that might be prompting these outrages.

Bring up the screaming again, in a place that is not the car, somewhere where you’re both calm and relaxed, so you can have a conversation not influenced by rage. Emphasize again that screaming at you is not going to produce the desired result—and indeed, many studies have shown that backseat driving (or passenger interference) causes accidents rather than deters them, which you might remind her of—and tell her that if she has a suggestion about your driving to express it to you calmly.

Then dig deeper into how she’s feeling. Does she have any insights into what might be triggering these “unpredictable moods”? How has menopause affected other areas of her life? Hormone fluctuation plays a role, no doubt, but maybe there’s something specifically about driving that sets her off. Which “rules of the road” is she most upset by? If it’s something specific, such as, going the exact speed limit, you might try to pay extra attention to it to appease her. My guess is it’s a control issue and not, say, how excellent you parallel park, but you never know. Sometimes making small compromises helps both people feel like they’ve been heard/listened to. If you’ve noticed other settings or contexts that send her into a rage, make note of them, and inquire about them gently.

What’s underneath the anger? Powerlessness? Fear? Mortality? Try to stay open-minded and curious, and to remind her that screaming is not going to make you drive safer.

Another question to ask is: What helps her calm down when she’s in one of these moods? How can you better support her when she’s feeling off? Some people like to be soothed, some left alone, some like to scream and punch things (which is fine, as long as it’s not you!), some to cry or take a walk to cool down. Obviously you can’t easily walk when in the car, but having coping mechanisms at your disposal when anger strikes can sometimes work to stem the tide of emotions.

And if she’s really feeling out of control, there’s also HRT (hormone replacement therapy), for which she should consult her doctor, or herbal remedies that can soothe menopause symptoms. You might suggest talking to her doctor anyway, to see if it is indeed menopausal symptoms, and not anxiety, depression, or something else that’s setting her off.

Keep advocating for yourself and trying to figure out what works best for both of you. If you need to blindfold her while she’s in the passenger seat, so be it. Address the larger issues and keep talking about what’s going on, but also recognize that it’s probably not going to be a “problem” forever, and if you need to rely on a temporary shortcut, like letting her drive, that’s OK, too.

888098-001via Getty

What’s the first thing I should text when I get a girl’s number? Does “Hi” suffice? Or is that lame?—Call Me Maybe

Dear CMM,

Text her immediately when you get her number, preferably while you’re still together in person. Say, “Who’s that hot woman standing next to you?”


This is one of those “don’t overthink it” issues. “Hi” is fine, but not the most alluring prompt. Per online dating etiquette, if you give her something to respond to, she’s more likely to respond in a way that prompts a conversation.

“How was your weekend?”

“How was the rest of the party?”

“Are you bored at work right now?”

Or if you want to cut right to the chase, tell her about a cool activity and ask her to join you.

“Hey, remember that cool sushi place I was telling you about? You should come with me this Friday.”

Anna is a freelance writer in Oakland. Get overly personal emails and haiku from her at Or Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at 

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