How Political Differences Can Affect Your Relationship

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couple arguing on couch

Why are political differences in a relationship so stressful?

The answer is simple — not unlike water, politics runs much deeper. It’s not just about politics; it's about your beliefs and values, as well as a reflection of your essence.

When these philosophies become combative, your relational space can suffer and you can easily become estranged.

The expression "United we stand, divided we fall," is applicable to relationships when beliefs and values are challenged. You can feel the divisiveness on every level. You see it, sense it, and fear it.

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Political differences can wreak havoc on a relationship.

The tone of our country is palpable and it cascades into our personal lives, leaving similar reactions. When political differences come up, anger percolates, violence breaks out, and chaos and crisis become our state of living.

Just as the country has been so deeply divided, the rippling effect cascades down to couples and friendships.

Never before has there been such vitriolic exchange in your social connections affecting how you feel about your partner, your family members, and friends who don’t see it your way.

Your very sense of being feels threatened, especially when your partner challenges your deeper feelings, making it a right or wrong issue.

Relationships can be difficult even in the best of times, and politics can make your marital bed a hotbed. They require time, effort, and work.

Relationships are even more stressful in the worst of times. Between the pandemic and the collateral damage of the election, it's challenging to bear when your life and environment feel so threatening.

Remember: Everything you see or hear is an opinion, not a fact.

It’s only a fact when you have statistics and evidence of proof, otherwise it’s a perception or perspective — not the truth.

But what do you do when you're living under the same roof with kids? How can you save your marriage when the very core of your soul has been challenged?

Never before has there been this much contentiousness in your relationship over political preference. Your parents voted for the same party, whether they liked the president-elect or not.

Occasionally, there may have been a time when the person mattered more than the party, but these choices never caused serious threats to your relationship. Perhaps because there were never such extremes before.

Philosophy and religion are personal matters. Everyone has the right to self-determination.

However, when living together under the same roof, having oppositional political beliefs can be risky business. What are the answers and solutions to tone down the rhetoric and dissension that could ostensibly cause a breakup or divorce?

Here are 10 ways to improve the quality of your relationship when you have political differences.

1. Remember this is not forever.

Remember, this too shall pass. You're going through a rough patch, longer than ever expected, but the election is now over and you'll soon forget about the party differences and go on with your lives.

Wins and losses are also part of the human experience. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your relationship on the line over political differences and the pandemic.

You need each other now, more than ever! Eventually, you'll come to acceptance and move forward; hopefully, not at the expense of your relationship.

Life goes on, despite the hard knocks and uncertain times you're in now. Hopefully, the vaccine will take care of the COVID-19 issue around the corner.

Be conscious of what matters most: The election or your relationship?

2. Take time to talk about your blessings with each other.

Learn to respect the differences in your partner, rather than criticizing and judging them. Remember why you fell in love.

Restore human kindness to each other and be willing to accept and negotiate the differences, rather than finding fault and criticism. Let your love lead you to forgiveness and gratitude, instead of loathing and uncompromising.

Practice mindfulness before you act out your feelings. Share them with understanding and tolerance. Be patient! There is a silver lining.

3. Give it time.

As soon as your life returns to some semblance of normal, your relationship will be restored, but not without effort on each partner’s part. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”

Heed the good advice given centuries ago!

RELATED: Why Talking Politics With Oppositional Family Members Is A Bad Idea

4. Practice loving behaviors.

Sleep closer together. Spoon and embrace each night. Make your amends and give hugs and kisses.

Make love! Lots of it. It’s nature’s best tranquilizer. Stretch your emotional muscles and follow Nike’s advice: “Just do it!”

5. Compromise, communicate, and cooperate.

Adversity breeds either strength or weakness. Choose the one you want. Allow yourself to go beyond your growth’s edge and fight for what means the most to you.

Don’t give power to politics and COVID-19. Fight hard for the most important things that matter most to you — each other. How you handle yourselves will be role models for your children.

6. Exercise compassion and restraint.

It’s easy to act out. It’s harder to watch your words and behavior, but if you're seeking relational maturity, you must practice mindfulness and think of the consequences of your behavior.

Be gentle with each other, especially in these difficult times. You need love when you deserve it least. You need love most when you're suffering. You need each other!

7. Whatever you can enjoy together, find the time to do it.

Enjoy activities like reading a book together, exchanging reading chapters with each other aloud. Find books that will support your relationships, like The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman or Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix.

Watch a fun show together, talk a walk, or just talk about things that make you happy.

These and more can give you tools and resources to support your relationship through these difficult times.

8. Do activities that stimulate discussion and introspection.

Find common interests, like bike riding or taking walks together. Send love notes to each other. Surprise each other by doing something you know your partner will appreciate.

Play board games together and with your children. Engage in conversation with your kids and allow them to express their feelings. Listen! Pray together with each other and your children. Be creative!

9. Don't talk politics.

Put that conversation in a container where the genie can’t pop out. Why talk about a hot topic only to find yourself frustrated, irritated, and defensive? Find other things to talk about that will keep you safe!

Remember, life is short and you don’t want to be around anyone who sucks the happiness out of you. Time is like toilet paper. The closer you get to the end of the roll, the faster it seems to go.

10. Seek professional help if you can’t find ways to resolve conflict.

You wouldn’t avoid testing if you had symptoms of COVID-19. Don’t wait until it's too late to seek a therapist who can be a support to your unsuccessful efforts.

Reach out! Zoom is the new frontier for therapy. It is easier than driving to an office. You can even stay in your pajamas, and so can your therapist!

How can you manage oppositional feelings in a relationship?

You can have oppositional feelings co-existing simultaneously, which means you can experience love and hate as if it were one feeling joined together.

It takes courage to separate the person from their behavior and political beliefs. No one said it was going to be easy, but to preserve and protect your relational space, you must commit to trying your best.

The world is changing rapidly. Between COVID-19 and the election, you've suffered greatly. Your routine has been altered, your life has been disrupted, and you have a recipe to disconnect when you need connection the most.

It's become a huge challenge to maintain peace of mind and a sense of pleasure without having the things you took for granted.

The combination of this and the political differences can create a chasm in your relationship.

Your relational space can become easily polluted. It's up to each partner to get through the gauntlet without destroying what's so sacred.

Adapt! Make good choices and protect and preserve your most precious asset—your relationship!

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Joan E. Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, and author. For more information on how to create and maintain a conscious relationship, order Joan’s new book, I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success.