Nothing can ruin a family dinner like a serving of opinions related to Trump, border control, or Russia — and that’s not just a knock on Trump supporters. Opposing political views are seen as red flags in relationships, especially when people take an “if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist” position when it comes to their significant other’s political leanings.
Nowadays, people tend to not want to see the person behind the political mask and end up disregarding entire segments of the population because of their ballots. We have a conglomerate of major news outlets reporting on the same occurrences, but each is replete with its own bias. Viewers are taking what they hear or see on social media sites as fact. These non-facts are the real “fake news”, and people easily regurgitate them in conversations until echo chambers and rumor mills generate extreme opinions with no room for compromise. This is where it starts to get messy for relationships.
People tend to value compatibility in their romantic relationships. The gamut of compatibility includes everything from whether both people want to have kids to whether both people want to sleep with the windows open… but it’s important to note that political affiliations don’t have to be deal-breakers.
Political arguments tend to resurface over and over again in relationships. These issues can and will erode the love and respect you have for your person… if you let them. But do you really want to sacrifice your relationship at the altar of a donkey and an elephant? Sometimes the right answer is yes — but it’s worth looking into the reasons why before making a decision.
Disagreements come from two places. The first category consists of fundamental value differences: wanting to live in suburban California vs. the heart of New York City. If, for example, your partner’s political stance is rooted in their deeply held sexist or racist beliefs, your arguments probably belong to this category. That value is a fundamental part of who they are and will show up in small ways for the rest of their lives. It’s not something you can change.
Fortunately, most political disagreements aren’t like that. They simply come from a “my way or the highway” mindset. If you or your partner have this close-minded approach to politics, it probably also crops up in other aspects of your lives together. But closed-mindedness isn’t a value, it’s simply a limitation. Oftentimes it has to do with having lived in political echo chambers (only hearing the opinions of the pundits, professors, and friends that agree with you). Coupled with a small amount of life experience that only exposes you to a narrow range of people, a self-made bubble that allows one to fabricate a non-existent political truth from insufficient evidence.
Your partner might have varying political views because they’ve had different experiences. They may have been exposed to other cultures, types of jobs, or varying socioeconomic situations, and their slice of life experience has subsequently led them to believe their own political truths… whether they be false or not.
You may not like their political leanings, but consider this: their life experiences influenced their politics but also shaped the person they are today — the same person you fell in love with in the first place.
Try turning off the TV. Tune out the voices of Jim Acosta, John Roberts, or whomever else’s views are infiltrating your living room… and actually sit down with your significant other. Have an open, honest, and respectful conversation about what each of you stands for and why. Being in a relationship with a member of the opposite political party doesn’t mean one of you has to convert or that there is a ceiling on your relationship. Not all divided houses have to crumble. You can play to your differences by offering outside perspectives. Explain your political affiliations from the perspective of your life experiences — they already love you, so hearing this personal connection from someone close to them will help them become more open-minded.
Although there is division in the details, forming a united front will strengthen the relationship moving forward. Turning a blind eye to each other’s values or thoughts on matters will undoubtedly hurt your relationship — after all, no one wants to be shoehorned into a false version of themselves. When you really accept each other it will fix your surface-level arguments and do wonders for the rest of your relationship. Understanding engenders trust and respect and gives off a freedom to express your train of thought as an individual. That higher level of communication can only help as you build your lives together.
No one can tell you whether your relationship is more or less important than your politics but one thing is for certain… your person probably cares more about you than Democrats or Republicans do.
Kaitlynn Labit is a freelance writer and editor based in Orange County who lives for brunch and believes in the power of retail therapy and extensive skincare.