Relationship Rifts: What Happens When Partners Have Divergent Socio-Political Views?

When people take their wedding vows and commit to loving each other ‘for better or worse,’ it’s not likely that they consider the ‘worse’ to involve partisan politics. As people are dating, the question of what each party’s political affiliation and views are has become increasingly prevalent and relevant in the past seven years since the ‘Trump era’ began. Regardless of where you stand socio-politically, as you read this, it is difficult to deny that this issue is a factor in dating, mating, and relating.

An article entitled “Explaining the impact of differences in voting patterns on resilience and relational load in romantic relationships during the transition to the Trump presidency” proposes, “Romantic partners are more likely to be satisfied and committed to their relationship when they have similar core values and beliefs (Davis & Rusbult, 2001Schul & Vinokur, 2000). One context in which these core values and beliefs are challenged, and with increasing frequency, is politics. Given the political polarization surrounding the 2016 presidential election, couples who voted along different party lines likely experienced a significant amount of conflict during that election. In fact, Wakefield (2017) found that 11% of couples ended their relationship after the 2016 presidential election due to deep political disagreements, with that rate rising to 22% among millennials.”

A book called I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics by Jeanne Safer, is a guide through the morass when couples see the world through a different lens. She explains that it is quite possible to be married to someone whose beliefs are not in alignment with yours. She, who identifies as Liberal and her husband, Conservative, are coming up on their 41st anniversary and have had their difficulties with regard to politics.

If you have entered the online dating world, you can make it clear on your profile on where you stand socio-politically. You are likely to see the same distinction on the pages of those who attract your interest. It is a non-negotiable for many.

A screening technique you could use when you are in dating mode, is to come up with your own criteria by which to determine compatibility with regard to social and political views. It could be a discussion as you are getting to know another person. Be willing to be open about your core values too. Remember, that it isn’t meant to be an interrogation, but rather a way of being curious. Chances are, you will learn a great deal about yourself as well.

What are the three top values you hold dear?
What were you taught about politics growing up?
Did you embrace the beliefs of your parents/parental figure(s)?
What shapes your views now?
How do you manage disagreements?
Can you see yourself with someone whose perspective is different from yours? 

If you decide that a certain person is the one for you and there are enough points of agreement to deepen your relationship, be mindful of the triggers to disagreement. Is it a news story or a comment made by a family member or friend that sets your teeth on edge and sends you tumbling down into discord?

Can you see past the differences and build a healthy union? There are therapists who advocate agreeing to disagree if you get along so well in the other areas of your lives. For some, that is a challenge because who a person votes for reflects what matters most to them and what their personal priorities are.

On a winding suburban road in an East Coast ‘Blue State,’ is a driveway that has two signs posted at the end of it. One reads ‘We Support Our Local Police’ and the other proclaims ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It would be interesting to have a conversation with the people who live in that house.

One essential rule in negotiating disagreement in the political realm is NO NAME CALLING. No use of the words ‘Libtard’ or ‘Rethuglican,’ to refer to folks on the other end of the polarity.

If your partner becomes immersed in conspiracy theory and ‘alternative facts,’ it would be helpful to find out the catalyst. As hard as it might be, do your best not to demonize those whom your partner may be following, even if you do believe the message is destructive. It may cause him or her to become more entrenched.

Don’t paint everyone who votes for a particular party with the same brush. Voters are not monolithic. There are some who call themselves ‘pro-life/anti-abortion’ who are in support of contraception and social programs that help prevent unwanted pregnancy and offer services for families.

Evaluate what are deal breakers for you. If your partner uses bullying tactics to intimidate you to believe as they do, you have the right to stand up for yourself. If the relationship feels like it is beyond repair, be honest with yourself and your partner and agree to go your separate ways.

If the relationship can be healed, remember why you were attracted to this person initially and know that they are “still in there”, beneath any changes they have made in their socio-political perceptions.

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