Can Political Opposites Attract in a Relationship?
What if the man of your dreams is leaning toward voting for Trump. And you’re firmly in the Bern camp. Does this mean your relationship is doomed or can your differences be ironed out?
As political adversaries James Carville and Mary Matalin proved long ago during the 1992 presidential campaign when they were on different sides of the fence, some relationships can work even if you’re a liberal Democrat and he’s a staunch Republican. Here’s how to find out if yours can go the distance and whether opposites really do attract.
How to handle political differences
Colin Christopher, author of Manipulate The Date, and a clinical hypnotherapist specializing in relationship counseling, said, “There is no need to break up over politics because couples can learn to accept and respect their partner’s views.”
A few of his tips:
- Don’t bring politics to the bedroom - The bedroom may be the one place on earth that is designed to be a private refuge away from the world for a married couple. Let it be the space where you focus only on each other and let all the other issues take a rest. Don’t let differences, political or otherwise, intrude on this sanctuary.
- Know when enough is enough - Be able to have a boundary and abandon the discussion when things get too heated. Healthy debate is one thing, getting angry and nasty with each other is something else.
- Find common ground between parties- Whatever side you and your significant other take with politics, there will surely be at least a few things your respective parties have in common. If you remove finger pointing and try to look at things a little differently, you may find that both sides actually support things that you both are in favor of.
- Find nonpolitical activities - It’s great to be passionate about causes you believe in, but find time to enjoy each other’s company doing other things. Take a walk through a nature reserve or go to the restaurant you both love with one rule. No politics! Just focus on building the emotional connection between each other.
- Listen to political shows with headphones - You can still watch or listen to the political shows you like, but you don’t need to impose on everyone else. You can still get as fired up as you like while letting everyone else off the hook for a while.
- Turn debate into something fun - Debating opposing ideology doesn’t always have to be a red-faced, emotional catastrophe. Try turning it into a contest, such as “whoever’s candidate loses buys dinner,” or see who can come up with the best campaign slogans.
What do singles think
Online dating site Zoosk recently polled nearly 6,000 singles to see how politics impact relationships, revisiting a topic they looked into in August 2015 to see how views have changed after 8 months of the presidential campaigns. The findings include some interesting topics:
- Singles are sick of talking about Trump. In August 2015, 77%would begin a lengthy, productive conversation about politics if their date brought up Trump's campaign; in March 2016, only 29% of singles feel the same. In both August 2015 and March 2016, female singles were twice as likely as males to report “wanting to run in the opposite direction” if Trump was brought up on a date
- As the campaign moves forward, singles are increasingly open to dating across party lines. 84% of singles are willing to date someone from the opposite party, a 9% increase from the August poll on Zoosk.
How deep is your commitment
Whether or not you should break up depends on your communication skills and commitment. “To have politics sway to one or another's perspective can carry some level of co dependency, fear and lack of self esteem,” said Lisa Bahar, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist. “Therefore, if there are two different perspectives based on each individuals idea of who represents the change or political point of view they are most committed to and that commitment is in an area that the individual feels would be compromising their self esteem if they are to be involved with another who does not agree or finds another way more effective, then in that situation, there would be hopefully some processing, pros and cons, willingness to see issues from another's perspective and admitting or accepting it is too difficult to be around that individual for their own reasons.”
“On the other hand, if the couple is able to talk and explore each perception of politics with no judgment (hard but doable if willing) then having two different perspectives can enhance one another's awareness. Political position may have an effect on income, business, job, occupation, heath care, relatives, gender, etc. Being prepared to explore versus react is the key,” she said.
When to break up
Bahar said it’s time to break up if the arguments are escalating to not being effective (degrading, judging, attacking, reacting, etc.) and turning into more of a power struggle versus effective communication of seeking to understand, but maintaining own values then maybe break up might be an answer.
But if things are not violent, destructive or demeaning, then trying to work it out is best, since the opportunity for growth is key with any relationship, she said.
“A lot of people do swing both ways when it comes to politics; they may not be completely Democratic or Republican on all issues, but they have to pick a side,” said Stef Safran, owner of Stef and the City dating service in Chicago.
“If the issue is more significant such as you feel differently about how we should handle the economy, reproductive issues, church and state; those can be bigger issues play out in a marriage and are not just regular politics,” Safran said, and might indicate that the relationship has played out and is coming to as quick of an end as Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign.