Lessons on relationships I learned racing sports cars

In sports car racing, there are times when your intuition fails you.  This issue is greatly compounded during the fast-moving and confusing situation of a near or actual crash.  I’ve been reflecting on relationship dynamics tonight and their similarity to race car dynamics.  This is especially poignant as tonight it appears that one of my relationships is crashing and burning…

Racing Lesson #1

When you lose control and leave the track, your instincts might be to slam on the brakes.  Instead, you should keep steady and begin to slow down gradually.  Major deceleration will upset the car when on an uneven surface and will likely result in a full-scale spinout.

Relationship application: This strategy initially worked very well.  Slowed things down a bit.  Had lots of conversations about the foundation.   Along the way, we uncovered miscommunications that resulted in resentment.  We worked on our ability to communicate difficult things with less acrimony.  We were even able to accelerate once we got back on track.

Racing Lesson #2

If you begin to slide, instead of adding more steering input to get back in the direction you wanted to go, you must steer into the slide to regain traction before trying more steering input. Adding steering input in the direction away from the slide increases the slip and control cannot be regained. 

Relationship application: even with much progress on communication, we still lost traction and started to slide off track again.  Early on this year, we discussed my interest in dating again and the specific two people I planned on asking out.  The go ahead I thought I got without reservation turned out to be more equivocal than I had received.  Damn! Another miscommunication derailment. And, I remembered “steer into the slide.”  I had to stay in the fire. We had to complete the argument.  We couldn’t let go of getting to understanding just because the slide was very unpleasant and stressful.   Staying with the slide allowed us to uncover the fears behind the intense reaction and deal more fully with previous issues that had remained unresolved. We regained traction and were able to steer back in the right direction.  Our relationship deepened.

Racing Lesson #3

Sometimes despite an abundance of skill and good driving, you still find yourself in the act of crashing and bouncing off of hard things.  In an actual crash, you need to give up control.  Don’t hold tight onto the steering wheel.  If you do, the only effect you’ll have is breaking some of the bones that might not have otherwise been broken in your hands and/or arm.  When crashing, take your hands off the wheel and put them close to your body. And, apply the brakes, hard.

Relationship application: Despite my best efforts, I’ve just had to take my hands off the proverbial steering wheel… and I’m modulating the brakes. Crashing and hopefully not burning.  Sometimes you just have to let go when hurt recurs with high frequency.  When the trust built daily is presumed to have been betrayed because of transparency itself.  When the transparency that’s supposed to build and reinforce trust destroys it, the possibility of repair seems remote.  I’ve taken my hands off the steering wheel.  If I’m lucky, only my heart will get broken.  If I’m very lucky, I’ll walk away scot-free.

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