Love in the HOV lane

Five days a week, Vivian DeZouche gets into her car and spends 45 minutes, sometimes longer, getting to her job.

Then, when quitting time arrives, she gets into her car and spends 45 minutes, sometimes longer, getting home.

That’s 20 days a month, some 220 days a year. And she can hardly wait.

“It’s good quality time,” she said of the commute she and her husband make from Villa Rica to Smyrna and back again. “It’s so nice because I get to relax and chill.”

Forget road rage and bumper-to-bumper frustration. For some couples who choose to carpool together, time spent in the car is not time lost. The time spent getting from point A to point B is used to catch up, connect and even nourish a marriage.

DeZouche and her husband, Chris, started commuting shortly after getting married five years ago. They say the 34-mile commute (each way) gives them an opportunity to unwind and discuss dinner plans or vacation dreams.

They make pit stops to pick up groceries and, sometimes, Chris DeZouche emerges from their Kroger with a long-stemmed red rose in his hand.

Could carpooling with your spouse and fighting traffic side by side be the key to marital bliss?

Commuting could indeed help spouses connect, but it’s not for everyone, according to Dan Martin, an Atlanta therapist who specializes in relationship and career issues.

For some busy couples, the commute could provide a refuge of one-on-one time, free from the distractions that get in the way at home. No barking dog. No laundry. No dinner to put on the table. Just the two people — and gridlock.

“Time is a precious commodity. By sharing a commute, a couple in Atlanta could reclaim an hour or so each day to strengthen their relationship,” Martin said.

But for others, commuting with a spouse could be a bumpy ride, he said. Some people use the commute to and from home to transition from work mode to home life and may do better carpooling with someone else — or by going solo.

“I have clients who use that time to sing, yell or cry and to let go of the stress they have at work so they don’t take it out on their loved ones at home,” he said.

About 11 percent of workers living in metro Atlanta carpool, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey conducted between the years of 2006 and 2008. Just under 4 percent take public transportation. The vast majority of workers — 77 percent — drive to work solo.

The DeZouches said they’re saving a bundle of money. They save $45 a week in gas, plus save the wear and tear on a second car commuting every day.

“We saw such a difference in our savings, it’s one of the reasons we are able to go on the cruise,” said Vivian DeZouche.

Rachel Fowler of Atlanta also enjoys time in the car commuting from the Northlake area to downtown Atlanta with her husband, Matthew Fowler. They got married in 2005 and have been carpooling ever since.

“Sometimes, when you get home, you put things down and decompress,” Rachel said. “I feel like we do that in the car, and we chat in the car. It’s almost a bonus to be stuck in traffic.”

She said she and her husband enjoy talking about how to spend the money they save carpooling.

They estimate their savings at $85 on gas every week and a half. They are currently saving up to buy a new sofa.

Rachel said she used to be one of those carpoolers who dreaded the drive home. But now, being trapped in the car isn’t so bad for her.

“Laughing with a loved one in traffic makes it more bearable,” she said.

When the Fowlers leave a little early from home, they do a “back-roads commute,” skipping highways and taking side streets.

Rick and Marilyn Lynn met and fell in love while carpooling. It was the summer of 2006 and they met at an outdoor concert. After learning they both lived in Peachtree City, they agreed to carpool to their jobs in Atlanta.

“To say carpooling accelerated our romance would be an understatement. Spending an hour commuting each way, five days a week, gave us a lot of time to get to know each other,” said Rick Lynn.

The couple got married in 2008 and continue to take the 38-mile commute in stride. He drives in the morning. And she gets behind the wheel for the leg home.

The commute is something they eagerly anticipate. “It gives us uninterrupted time to communicate and support each other,” Rick Lynn said.

Martin said anything that makes Atlanta’s gridlock more tolerable is worth trying.

“It’s really making lemonade out of lemons to use that time to invest in your relationship,” Martin said.

Consider a carpool if ...

• You work similar hours and near each other.

• You enjoy zipping along in the HOV lanes

• You’re looking for a way to go green.

• You’re looking to save money. Driving just one family car can help cut down on gas, car maintenance, parking and car insurance.

• You want to make money. If you and your significant other currently drive alone but you want to give carpooling a try, register with the Clean Air Campaign for commuter rewards. You and your spouse can each get $3 a day, capped at $100.

Source: The Clean Air Campaign