Ah, the time of year when political news is everywhere.
The 2012 presidential election looms, and potential candidates travel the country looking for support week after week. It’s a time for thinking about where our country has been and where it should go. It’s a time when people get together and discuss the environment, health care, and unemployment. It’s a time when couples sit down and talk warmly about their hopes for the country and fill envelopes for the party they both are fervent members of.
Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? But I’m not writing about these happily politically aligned people, because they’ll agree with each other that they have no need to read this.
I’m writing about the couples who, when they talk politics, argue, yell, post competing political statements on their lawn, and slam the door on any poor fool who happens to be distributing the ‘wrong’ campaign flyer. If this is you, keep reading. If not, keep reading anyway. You’ll eventually argue with your partner about something, right?
So, you have a solid relationship with your partner. You raise beautiful, bright children together. You have the same taste in expensive fake-distressed furniture. You cheer for the same losing football team. You even agree on religion (or at least you fake it really well). But politics are an entirely different ballgame. And in your house, politics divide.
It’s important to understand that people who fight about politics are good people. They’re people who care about their community, their state, their country. They’re aware of what is going on, and they want to make things better. They’re passionate, interested, and thoughtful.
The problem is that politics are divisive in their nature. We have two main political parties, both of which are equally visible, loud, and persuasive. People claim their political party as an identity. “I’m a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat.” Red or Blue. Elephant or Donkey. And in a marriage, when two people are strongly aligned with opposing parties, things can get ugly.
The most important thing for couples to remember is that their spouse has good intentions. They don’t want to see our country fall into financial ruin, or have children go hungry, or see schools fail. So Rule No. 1 is: don’t treat your spouse like your enemy, because they’re not. You may have different ideas about the environment, or foreign policy, but in the big picture you both seek a good life for yourselves, your family, and the people around you.
The next thing to remember is that it’s not your job to convince your partner to vote the way you do. It won’t work, and it’ll just cause him or her to be angry at you. When you discuss politics, follow Rule No. 2: discuss, don’t deride. Share your insights, your passion, but keep the conversation respectful. In the end, you may have to simply agree that you can’t agree, and leave it at that.
And finally, realize that your marriage is more important than any political party. You and your spouse do not have to agree on politics. Discuss, debate, educate, and learn from each other. But when the tempers start to flare, step back and take a breather. Rule No. 3: When it starts to feel negative and bitter, stop. You can always talk later when things are calmer.
It’s possible to for an elephant to marry a donkey and survive during an election year. Understanding that difference and disagreement are not the end of a marriage is crucial for a relationship to prosper. The key is to have a foundation of trust, kindness, and respect. With these, a marriage can survive and thrive, even in an election year.