When she married her husband, she didn't expect him to change, and while they didn't share politics he was open-minded and willing to listen to her. For Nikki, that respect was the more important that agreeing on politics. "If my husband had not been open-minded to my beliefs, we would not have gotten married. However, I never expected or actively forced him to change. I just kept showing the examples and he came to change on his own terms. He's more radical than I ever was now. But I could not have predicted this outcome. I accepted him for who he was and have had to keep altering that ideal as we've gone along."
Nikki suggests that the key to deciding when to bring up politics in a relationship is knowing yourself, and understanding where politics fit in your identity. "Know your own boundaries and use them to evaluate new relationships. Know how important politics are to your internal compass," she states. "The more important it is to you, the more you will need a partner who is either on the same page or open minded. Or you may enjoy debates. For many people, politics are a very passionate subject and we want to share."
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For Kate Matthews, 27, a law student and political activist who has worked on several campaigns in the state of Minnesota, it's important to bring politics up early in a relationship, but she notes that agreement isn't always necessary. "Politics are hugely important to me, since political activism will always be a part of my job and/or life. That being said, it's only important to me that someone is politically informed and tolerant of others' views, not necessarily that we have the same beliefs," she says.
Conflict is a part of all partnerships, so finding out how your significant other handles hot topics early on can help you gauge the potential success of your relationship. When my husband and I were dating, we got into a huge fight over religion. The fight lasted almost two weeks, and every night we would sit down and discuss how we had reached our conclusions. Although he got angry, he never raised his voice or insulted me and when I recommended books to him, he read them carefully and discussed his thoughts with me. By the end we had reached some common ground, but not much. However seeing how he handled the situation showed me that he was a man I could fight with for as long as we both shall live.
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If politics are important to you, talking about them early will show you how you and your new partner handle potentially divisive issues. Keep in mind that having different opinions is OK—it's impossible to agree about everything, so how you talk about your disparities is more important than the fact that you have them. If politics aren't a key part of your identity, you may not need to talk about them at all. And if you do disagree about politics keep in mind that, as Kate Matthews says, "political arguments are nearly the best foreplay there is."