Get over your need to be right and realize your partner longs to be heard.
Is there anything more awkward and uncomfortable than listening to couples argue about politics? That was the scene we endured at a recent dinner party. Frank, a lifelong bleeding heart liberal, and Julie, his wife of 15 years (and fan of Rand Paul), exploded into a wine-fueled brawl over Obamacare. The fight quickly escalated in nastiness, complete with name-calling and below-the-belt pot shots.
At one point Julie said, "How can I be with somebody who thinks like you?" Frank glared at her, calling her a Neanderthal.
Beyond the surface anger and frustration, their conflict revealed deep fractures in their relationship. We could all see the lack of respect, mutual contempt, competitiveness, and lack of tolerance they have for one another. Their failure to accept each other's deeply held beliefs was threatening their relationship.
When couples refuse to tolerate differences in opinions and ideas, their love and connection can quickly disintegrate.
Every person is unique, with his or her own values, opinions, and experiences. A common mistake couples make is assuming their partner will share their core beliefs and expecting them to surrender any ideas that fall outside that parameter of thinking. When couples discover that their beliefs are not as aligned as they thought, they often feel that their relationship is at risk. They begin spending considerable time and energy trying to change their partner, foolishly believing that effort will safeguard the relationship.
Having opposing political beliefs does not have to be a deal breaker in a relationship (though it does make things more challenging). Couples who rise to the occasion, navigating the diversity of ideas between them, end up with a richly rewarding relationship in which acceptance and respect for who you really are is the essence of that love.
But, that's easier said than done, right? What's the best way to put political differences aside in your relationship?
Here's a start:
- Cherish the Diversity: Your partner's ideas are not a reflection of you. Your different beliefs and opinions simply prove that you are individuals, not that your relationship is weak.
- Your Partner is Not Your Property: He is a person entitled to his own beliefs about the world, just as you are.
- Avoid Bickering About Political Differences in Public: (Unless you agree to cool-headed debate and can disagree with grace and respectfulness). That said, few couples do this well, especially if they are competitive, controlling, lacking in mutual respect or feeling insecure about their partner's love.
- Agree to Disagree: Insist on a culture of respect and acceptance in your relationship. Ensure that each person's point of view feels protected (even if not agreed with).