Opposing political views in a relationship can be challenging. What if you are hoping for Trump to win the election, but he wants Sanders? How do you talk to each other? Is it better not to talk about it? In this week’s Love Essentially, published today in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I address this issue.
Can True Love Sustain a Clash In Political Views? by Jackie Pilossoph
We all know the old saying about never talking politics with friends. But nowadays, with the presidential primaries well underway, it’s hard not to opine on the candidates and tell others who we want or don’t want running our country next year.
If you happen to disagree politically with a coworker, a friend or an acquaintance, it probably is best to respectfully agree to disagree and move on. But when it comes to your spouse, what happens if you just can’t see eye to eye? What if one of you is wild aboutHillary Clinton and the other wants to see Donald Trump in the White House? Do you avoid the subject, fight it out, simply stop watching TV?
Gary Hill is a North Shore-based clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with a focus in relationship counseling. Hill said it’s perfectly OK – and even healthy to discuss opposing political views with your spouse.
“If you don’t talk about it, resentment can build up and misunderstandings can start occurring,” said Hill. “When couples are in conflict and not communicating, they are making assumptions, which can increase the chance of distance and a lack of connection.”
Hill said the key to productive political discussions is debating in a friendly way and looking for core commonalities in each position.
“Saying ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ is a recipe for conflict,” he said. “Instead, look for agreement on certain issues. For example, maybe you have a similar stance on immigration.”
Hill explained that being open-minded will not only reduce tension, but can provoke stimulating, interesting conversation which might lead to a shift in views.
“You don’t have to agree, but if you make an effort to understand why the other feels the way they do, you might find yourself saying, ‘I never thought of it that way,'” Hill said.
But what if you can’t agree on any issue, and you’re starting to wonder what planet your spouse is on?
“If you find the discussions unproductive, the happier place is to leave it alone and instead talk about things you do have in common,” Hill said. “What got the two of you together? Was it parenting values? Sense of humor? The same hobbies? You’ll probably discover that politics wasn’t in the mix, but that you have other similarities that keep your relationship strong.”
I have been fortunate in my romantic relationships when it comes to politics, so I can’t say I understand firsthand what it would be like to passionately disagree about politics with a boyfriend or significant other.
That said, I have many friends whose political views are polar opposites of mine, and over the years I have realized that trying to change someone’s opinions can only lead to anger, frustration and stress in the friendship. So, all you can do is voice your opinions in a constructive way, remain calm in discussions, and try to be respectful of others’ beliefs.
But what if you’re on a romantic dinner date with your spouse and politics comes up? After secretly or openly rolling your eyes or becoming confrontational, is it possible to drop it and keep eating? Probably not.
My advice is, from now until the election in November, forget about political issues and the men and woman trying to become our next president. I’m not saying pretend your spouse doesn’t love Clinton or Trump, even if that drives you insane. But instead, focus on the things you love about the person you are with: the way she looks in her beautiful dress, his kind eyes, how she kisses you when you walk in the door, his adoring, funny way with the kids or the way she plops her head on your shoulder while you’re watching TV.
Aren’t those things a lot more valuable than bickering over why a Republican would make a better president than a Democrat (or vice-versa)? In the end… (click here to read the rest of the column, published today in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.)