Hi, Carolyn: My husband does not drive. He's had his learner's permit multiple times over the years but always let it lapse. He's taken exactly one driving test, which he failed. He told me he would have his license before we got married . . . oh whoops, wedding plans overwhelmed him but he'll TOTALLY get it after the honeymoon . . . oh whoops, work overwhelmed him but he'll TOTALLY . . . etc.
I don't want to have children with someone who can't drive them to the doctor in an emergency. I don't want to stay married to someone I don't see as a competent co-parent.
He finally booked another driving test last night — after I prodded him and he saw the look on my face when he tried to brush me off — and I'm telling myself to hold on till I see the results. But I'm fed up.
I know he's struggling with severe anxiety over this and that's mostly what's holding him back, but he's also not doing anything to address his anxiety because he has a severe mistrust of therapists and doesn't see the value in self-help books or self-directed treatment workbooks or . . . anything except just not doing anything. I don't want to divorce him, but at some point I might have to do it anyway. But when do I hit that point?
Dealbreaker?: This is much bigger than a license. A parent needs to do what a parent needs to do, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable or unwelcome or targeted straight at a person’s biggest vulnerability. But a parent needs to get it done anyway. In a way, parents are first responders writ small, and they need to barrel through their own needs and fears and reservations to do what their kids need sometimes.
For non-drivers, there are multiple options. For people too unyielding or paralyzed to address their own health, there are almost no options. Parents owe it to their kids — and co-parents — to find ways to manage their emotional health well enough for it not to become a major obstacle to the family’s ability to function.
So I suggest you make that the topic of your talk with your husband. Not, “It’s time to discuss getting your license,” but instead, “It’s time to talk about your emotional health, and what you’re willing to do to manage it.” I feel for your husband. If his answer to this query doesn’t improve on “just not doing anything,” though, then that’s your crossroads: Stay or go.
Re: License: My father basically bullied my mother into getting a license. She was a lousy driver — timid and nervous, she had several accidents, she would have had more if it hadn't been for the good sense of other drivers. I really think she was better off the road. We managed fine. My father was occasionally resentful but mostly just got on with it. A network of friends collected me in a pinch and even rural 1970s Long Island had taxis.
I would talk to him more about why he's so reluctant to get a license. This might be a dealbraker for you, but if he's like my mum, you probably don't want him driving your children around. It would not be safe.
Anonymous: Excellent — thanks especially for “dealbraker.”