SPLIT DECISION OR A DECISION TO SPLIT?
Dr. Deb would love to answer your burning relationship questions.
Today’s Advice Highlights:
Can a relationship sustain differing political views?
What happens when there’s no middle ground?
Why political views do not equal personal values – not entirely, anyway
Used to be I could talk politics with people closest to me without both sides getting heated. I don’t know how this happened, but it’s a different world now. It seems like expressing political beliefs almost always devolves into a fight.
My partner and I have been together for three years. We’re both seriously committed and, I had hoped, in it for the long haul. But my hope ends where our political beliefs split.
I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes when my partner expresses her views, I feel sick to my stomach. We end up in ugly shouting matches. I end up wondering if we should continue to work on it or go our separate ways.
I know there’s still some love and respect between us, but I don’t know how to navigate our political differences.
I see and hear that this seems to be happening to more and more couples, so I know I’m not alone in this struggle. What’s missing is helpful advice about how to resolve this.
Dr. Deb, please let me know if there’s another option other than throwing in the towel. What am I missing here?
Mr. Bitter Half
You and your partner are facing a very challenging question: Can two people with divisive political views ever fit together?
This is an urgent and complicated issue, and there really isn’t a definitive answer. Each couple must come to the resolution on their own terms.
But here’s the biggest question you might want to ask yourself: Should political beliefs be the primary and dominating focus in choosing a life partner? In other words, if two people love each other, should their politics really matter?
I think it’s quite common for people to want to choose a partner whose political views align with theirs. My patients have told me that on dating apps, for example, you can state your ideologies on your profile and, in some cases, use it to filter out people who don’t match with your values and beliefs.
Let’s face it, how one feels about politics is more than just table talk. Political views can influence everything from how children are raised, how money is spent, to the kinds of friends one chooses.
The bright side is that there are many more factors than politics that contribute to the longevity and success of a relationship. In order for you and your partner to build a strong relationship and successfully tackle life’s road blocks, your core values must align to a significant extent.
Think about how you got this far in the relationship. Are you fulfilling each other’s emotional needs? Are your values, deep down, compatible? Is there a strong level of trust between you? Do you share interests? Is there sexual satisfaction? Most importantly, are you both ready to take care of each other through all the major life events you have yet to encounter?
Quality relationships are built on a healthy fusion of differences. Any attempt to make your partner ‘just like you’ will doom the relationship. I’ve seen it happen many times. You each have your own maps of the world, which, by the way, are right for you both as individuals. Try using your political differences as an opportunity to learn more about each other rather than pull you apart.
Navigating your political differences comes down to how well the two of you communicate. When discussing politics, I suggest you disagree with respect, approach your girlfriend with curiosity, listen without interruptions, and accept that life isn’t black and white.
Mr. Bitter, your heart wants what it wants, and in your case, it may want someone with a political outlook different than yours. I don’t see this as irreconcilable. It will simply come down to recognizing if the relationship is worth fighting for.
Finally, two very important things to remember in the process: Don’t drink and talk politics. And whatever you do, keep politics out of the bedroom.