My friend Catherine is in love again.
My friend Catherine is in love again. “He is perfect,” she muses. “We agree on practically everything. He likes hiking, loves ethnic food, movies, just about everything I like, except his politics. Actually, we are considering moving in together.”
"Really?” I ask. “Can a lifelong liberal like you and a conservative make good bedfellows?”
“I don’t know,” she replies. “What I do know is that sex is great, and so far we haven’t had any political discussions in the bedroom or out. However, he is a true conservative, and you know what I think of them! I don’t understand these people!”
Adamant statements expressed in such an absolute and fierce manner are often red flags. Catherine has been married twice before. She’s never been shy presenting her viewpoint. Possibly her rigid belief system may have caused her breakups. It is well known that politics is one subject that triggers unusually fierce disagreements when partners are on opposite sides. Lovers who are otherwise totally reasonable and mostly caring, they suddenly act like warriors from different armies defending their party line.
Is there a way that politically opposed couples can avoid skirmishes from becoming major battles? The answer goes way beyond politics. It is a core issue in every relationship: finding common ground.
Politics, like other sensitive relationship subjects such as money or religion, may challenge or derail a harmonious life together if not discussed and resolved in an open and mature discussion. When embroiled in battle, the question partners have to ask is: how important is the political subject that pushes each to the brink? Is it really a stay-or-leave matter? Are the issues that divide them more important than seeking to rescue the relationship?
Can they own up to recognizing their part in sabotaging the relationship and find a way to move forward? For Catherine, can she explain her political preference in a civil way that Kent can understand and consider? Can Kent participate in an authentic, caring discussion rather than withdrawing into his man cave where he feels safe? If they reach a state of crisis, can they recognize what ails the relationship is a lack of understanding of each other’s fundamental positions regarding politics or other important issues? Are they willing to hear each other’s grievances and needs rather than rebutting?
The revelations each partner is willing to share at this point may create a feeling of intimacy and sympathy. Loving someone with opposite political or other views doesn’t mean there can be no happy ending. It comes down to working out a solution that both can live with. Agreeing to avoid certain incendiary subjects such as politics works quite well for many and may be the right solution.