Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Critical Back-Seat Driving Partner

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Whenever I make a minor driving mistake, like misread a sign while driving, miss a turn and have to turn around, etc., my husband always asks, "Are you OK? Do you need to have your eyes checked?" Similarly if I mishear something in lyrics or conversation, "Do you need to have your hearing checked?"

It's starting to feel like I get criticized whenever I make normal, human mistakes. Or is missing the street sign while driving past at 30 mph actually a symptom that I need a vision check-up?

-- Critical Partner

Depends. Has he always been this way, or is it recent? If the latter, then you need to have the OK-spit-it-out-already conversation: "(Husband), you've been doing this a lot lately -- asking if my vision and hearing are OK, when I make what I believe are normal, human mistakes. What's up?" Any indication that you're making more mistakes than usual means, yes, time to have your vision and hearing checked.

If he doesn't have a larger concern or won't admit to it, then you're entitled to ask him to back off, please.

Just don't expect him to comply if he has always been controlling. If nothing has changed except your willingness to put up with his criticisms, then that's a problem with your marriage, not your senses -- and your next step is to figure out how much of the negativity you're willing and able to brush off, and how much you aren't -- and, then, how far you're willing to go to stand up to it and/or change the patterns between you.

Re: Critical Partner

Shouldn't this person be paying attention to her husband's concerns, particularly if she is older? As a relatively hale and hearty 62-year-old, I know I have had to modify my driving in response to age. Notably, I cannot multitask as well as when younger, so I am very careful not to engage in conversations, etc., when I've got some critical task coming up, such as looking for a turn.


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