Republican, Democrat or Partner?: How political differences can affect our relationships

Partners and Politics A trend that I have been seeing as a society is that political arguments are at an all-time high. I see politically fueled arguments over social media, between friends, and between family members. As a Couple’s Counselor, I have also noticed that political differences can create a wedge between romantic partners.

I am the third generation in my family to be in a relationship where we vastly disagree on certain political issues. My grandparents have been married for over 40 years and they still disagree on key political topics and I often hear my parents arguing over gun control issues. A common argument with my significant other since late last year has been which candidate had more integrity (for a politician).

It is important to have a partner who is different from yourself in the way they think about things; otherwise, the relationship would get dull and neither partner would grow. However, with political tensions and differences causing heightened emotions, we need to learn how to respect our differences, listen with an understanding mind, and convey our opinions with the goal of speaking our minds, not to shame or change the thoughts of others. Here are a few tips on how to have healthy conversations concerning politics with your significant other:
Educate yourself on the issues– It is impossible to have a productive and well-informed conversation on topics that you do not fully understand. Check your facts, read up on the issues, and share your informed thoughts! No alternative facts allowed!
Admit when you’re ignorant– If a hot-button political topic arises, it is alright to say that you could know more about the issue than you do. We all have lives outside of politics and being informed on every topic is almost impossible.
Establish boundaries– If you know that there are some subjects that are too emotional for you to discuss, turn it into a boundary. Personally, I cannot talk about certain feminist issues without getting riled up. I am still learning that it is a topic that I need to either keep to myself or discuss with people that think the same way that I do about feminism. If someone tries to bring you into a conversation about politics that you feel will get emotional, it is okay to safe word and walk away!
Take time-outs– If you notice that a subject is too emotional or the discussion is escalating into a fight, ask for a time-out. When emotions run high and both partners have the goal of proving the other wrong, there is a good chance political conversations can become personal. Basically, stop before you call your partner an idiot. (Am I the only one guilty of doing that from time to time..? Oops! Sorry, honey!)
Take a break from politics– I know that everywhere you look there are kick-starters for a political convo, but find other things to talk about! Do not turn your date into a Trump/ Clinton debate, because we know that those were a hot mess..
Put your partner first– it is important to be an advocate for what you are passionate about, but you are a partner first, not a Democrat or Republican. You can turn this experience into learning more about your partner and find ways to respect them, even though they think differently than you do. Appreciate your partner’s passion while respecting your stance.
This election season has been emotional for a lot of people and has become more emotional than any election season that I have seen. This means that people are taking a stand on social and political issues more than I have ever seen. This is encouraging to me, because we need to care and become impassioned about the issues in our country. The beautiful thing about America is that we can have different goals and viewpoints. I think we realized that, as a nation, we were much more divided on the issues than any of us had previously seen. However, this does not mean that our relationships need to become divided. Follow these tips and I know that you will be able to have a healthy relationship while disagreeing on political issues. As my grandma tells my grandpa, “Since we’re both voting for different people, our votes are cancelled out anyway.”

Megan Farley, M.S., LMFT-Associate is a couples therapist. She practices in all of CCD’s office.

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