But Kerry Patterson, coauthor of Crucial Conversations, notes that it's important for couples to discuss these issues early and often in a relationship and not to shy away from tough topics. "The amount of disagreement does not affect your satisfaction within a relationship. Rather it's how you disagree that predicts your satisfaction," says Patterson.
For some couples this political season is bringing new issues to the forefront of their relationships, issues they've never discussed before. Cynthia MacGregor, 65, had been living with her boyfriend for over a year and had never discussed politics until recently. "I did not know if he was a Democrat or a Republican until the current political season got going in earnest." They are both voting for Obama, but previously even hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage had never come up before. "Luckily we are like-minded," she says. But MacGregor doesn't think that it's important to talk about politics in a relationship, noting that their passions lie elsewhere and those are the issues they care most about.
But for other couples, politics are a crucial aspect of their relationships. Jennifer Grangaard, 28, a seminary student notes, "I can compromise on politics with parishioners and my family, but if [my husband] was a republican, I think I'd have questioned his morals." She recalls having a conversation on their first date where they both agreed, if they couldn't see things the same way then it was no use to continue. For Grangaard, having the discussion early on helped her decide whether she wanted to pursue a relationship with her husband.
Nikki Maxwell, 39, a self-described liberal has been married to her husband for 20 years. When they married he was "a short-haired Republican boy"—although his politics changed over the course of their marriage, their approach to their relationship has not. "In general we live by the pick your battles rule of thumb. We've learned to let a lot of little crap go within our marriage."