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Marriage and Politics

How to Keep Your Political Discussions Healthy

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Signpost of Political Parties
Photo: David Johnston / Getty Images
Many of you are attracted to and marry partners who have very different beliefs when it comes to religion, politics, and other issues.

These unions have been romanticized in classic movies such as The Cowboy and the Lady, Adam's Rib, and The Key to the City.

Marriages like the James Carville-Mary Matalin marriage give credence to the idea that married couples on different sides of the political fence can be successful. The key to these marriages is the fact that these couples obviously have a lot in common in other areas of their lives. They know how to focus on what they agree on and to accept their differences and they don't dwell on their different political views.

Unresolved Issues

Most married couples have approximately ten issues or disagreements that they will never resolve. If you are faced with ideological divisions, you need to work together to have healthy, challenging debates.

How to Keep Your Political Differences From Hurting Your Marriage

  • Bridge your differences by agreeing to disagree.
  • Stick to unbiased, provable facts.
  • Don't ridicule one another's opinions.
  • Allow your partner to have his/her own convictions.
  • Do not try subtle politicizing in your comments about budget planning or when you remind your spouse about needing to get gas in the car.
  • Remember to use your listening skills when discussing politics.
  • Remind yourselves that when talking politics, your friendship with your spouse is what is important.
  • Show respect for each other's political views.
  • Don't try to change your spouse's opinions. Instead try to understand those opinions. You can understand something without agreeing with it.
  • Look for what the two of you have in common on the political issues.

Areas in Your Marriage That Can Be Impacted by Differing Political Views

Areas of your life that may be influenced by the two of you having differing opinions on political and social views include:
  • Charities -- Which ones will you donate to? How much? How often?
  • Volunteering -- Where will you give your time and talent? How often?
  • Jobs -- What if he wants to work in an industry that she considers threatening to the environment? Or if she wants to work outside the home and he wants her to stay home?
  • Friends -- Whose friends will you spend time with? His, hers, both, or neither? What if your friends' lifestyle choices are in direct opposition to the way you two have decided to live your lives? Can you reconcile this difference for the friendship? Will involvement with these individuals harm your marriage?
  • Parenting -- Do you both want children? What if one of you, out of a social conviction, thinks it would be better to adopt or to not have children at all? Do you agree on parenting issues such as allowances, spanking, bedtimes, teens working while in school, age of dating or getting a driver's license, etc.?
  • Family -- What if one of you believes in caring for aging parents and the other doesn't?
  • Residence -- What if he refuses to live in a large home because of the utility usage and she is set on having a big house? If he wants to live in the city, and she wants to live in the country, will you be able to compromise on a location that suits both of you?

Sometimes You Can't Compromise

There may be times when your differences will make it difficult to reach a decision in your lives. Some areas of life such as the role of women or differing parenting beliefs cannot be compromised. One spouse will have to let go of strong convictions in situations such as if she wants kids and he doesn't, or if she believes in spanking and he doesn't, or if he wants the kids to have an allowance, and she doesn't. These differences can create major problems in a marital relationship.
Ten Marriage Deal Breakers

Mismatched Couples

Some couples may be mismatched. If one of you is indifferent to social or political issues and the other is very passionate on these topics, you may face a very difficult journey together.

Some warning signs that your marriage is in trouble include:

  • Disagreeing intensely.
  • Arguing a lot.
  • Refusing to discuss the issues.
  • Increased distancing from one another.
  • Showing a lack of respect for one another and one another's opinions.

What Others Have to Say About Different Political Views in a Marriage

Thomas Haller, Chick Moorman: "Lack of agreement in a political discussion does not mean that your relationship is doomed. It does not mean that you have poor solution-seeking skills. It does not mean that you need to sign up for six weeks of conflict resolution classes nor that counseling is necessary. It only means that you do not agree."
Source: Thomoas Haller & Chick Moorman. "Helpful Phrases for Political Arguments in Your Relationship." HitchedMag.com.

Lyz Baranowski: "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.'"
Source: Lyz Baranowski. "Can opposite politics kill a romance?" MSNBC.com. 10/30/2008.

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