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Remember when cars were romantic? As teenagers, they represented freedom and first kisses.And as adults, many couples say they have their most intimate discussions on long drives, because they are trapped together yet not forced to face each other directly.


But, sadly, automobiles too often become flashpoints for the power struggles and personality clashes going on elsewhere in our relationships.


Beverly Floyd will never forget the worst argument she ever had with her husband--a fight that saw the couple screaming at each other and hurling insults of "crazy" and "psycho."


A spat about finances? The kids? Work? Nope. It was about which one of them should gas up the car.


The fireworks started when the couple pulled into a service station while on a return leg of a road trip. Already silently fuming that he hadn't offered to do his share of the driving, Ms. Floyd was astounded when her then-boyfriend didn't lift a finger to pump the gas. So she did it herself and paid for it. As she got back into the car, he handed her a $20 bill.


Bad idea. She threw it at him. He tossed it back at her. She ripped it up. He shredded the cash she kept in the ashtray. She ripped up the money in his wallet. All told, they destroyed about $200 in a matter of minutes. (They spent their evening trying to match serial numbers and tape the shredded pieces of money together.)


"Although we've gotten better, we still argue every single time we get in the car," says Ms. Floyd, 41-years-old, a corporate trainer who lives in Kennesaw, Ga.


Sure, road trips can be romantic, but the car is often the last place where we have to relinquish full control in a relationship. And that can make the ride, well, emotionally bumpy.


Couples argue over everything from who packs the trunk to how quickly to run the windshield wipers.Who drives? How fast? When is it appropriate to pass an 18-wheeler? Should you take directions from the GPS system or your spouse? It's amazing anyone gets out of the garage.


Consider the ride Marjorie Greenwald and her husband took one recent Sunday while running errands. Ms. Greenwald tried to pull out of a gas station. "All of a sudden, he was screaming like I had taken him down a rollercoaster," she says.


The problem? Ms. Greenwald was attempting to make a left turn across four lanes of oncoming traffic. The maneuver--which she calls 'stealth' and he calls "suicidal"--prompted an argument that ended with 20 minutes of "silent treatment" and started up all over again hours later when the couple got home.


Both husband and wife agree that the spat was really about control--and Ms. Greenwald's need for it.


"The car is the only place where my husband and I argue," says Ms. Greenwald, 31, a media and communications consultant in Washington, DC. "We have our own domains at home and work but this is the only place where, no pun intended, only one person is in the driver's seat."

“汽车是我和丈夫唯一发生争执的地方”,31岁的格林瓦尔德说。她是华盛顿特区的一位传媒和公关顾问。“我们在家里或工作的时候有各自的领域,但汽车是唯一的一个只有一个人能坐在驾驶员座位上的地方──这不是个双关语(driver's seat除了驾驶员座位的本义外,还有“统治地位、控制地位”的含义)。”

So what's a peace-loving couple to do? Fly. It worked for one friend of mine. Last Christmas, she packed her three kids in the car for the six-hour drive from New York to New England and let her husband, who was stuck at work, take a plane. "It was so blissful," she says, a little too cheerfully. "I'm going to do it every time."


Did you drive somewhere with your beloved? How'd that go for you?

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