In our modern world defined by advanced technology and opinions plastered all over social media for everyone to see (and comment on), tough discussions, especially about politics, can ignite strong emotions and fiery debates. There’s a famous phrase that says “Opposites attract” but when the “opposites” in question are in terms of a couple who share opposing political views, then the differences might not be as intriguing all of a sudden.
According to Match’s 2022 Singles in America survey — a survey of more than 5,500 singles ages 18 to 70 in the U.S. — 58% of respondents said it’s now more important than ever to know a partner’s political views. The results of the survey also revealed that 37% of singles say that a potential partner not having an opinion on key issues at all would be a bigger deal-breaker than a potential partner having different views from their own.
With that said, what should you do if you disagree with your partner on their choice of political party or a particular policy? At what point do you determine if that means the relationship is doomed vs. something you two can navigate? If you find yourself asking these questions, here are some suggestions on how to handle political differences in a relationship.
Discuss politics within the first few dates
People might have a tendency to avoid uncomfortable conversations during the first few dates, but people could benefit from leaving the “Don’t talk about politics on a date” rule out the window. Because politics generally hold as much importance to people as other things, like religion, kids, and lifestyle choices, it’s better to disclose that information sooner rather than later. By revealing that information, you’re able to rule out any obvious deal-breakers as early as possible before you become too invested in the relationship. For example, if you’re on a first or second date and you find out that the person you’re going out with believes that people of certain demographics shouldn’t have rights, then it’s safe to say that there won’t be another date after that. However, if they have political beliefs that you don’t necessarily agree with, but you can respect what they believe, then it’s probably not a non-negotiable.
Approach differences with a curious tone instead of a judgmental tone
Because political topics can quickly go from calm to heated, try approaching your conversation with respect and curiosity instead of accusations and judgment. This approach requires that you listen for the sake of understanding rather than listening solely
for the chance to respond. Keep in mind that the goal of these conversations is not necessarily about swaying the other person’s views to align with yours. Instead, these conversations should be initiated with the intention of giving your partner the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings.
Understand what a debate vs. an argument
When we hold a strong opinion about something it can be easy to see that opinion as fact. When our partner opposes that opinion, the knee-jerk reaction will often be ‘you’re wrong’ – which is what leads to arguments. Agreeing to debate political differences in a calm and adult way can help to take the heat out of the subject by allowing each partner to explain their beliefs without interruption.
Focus more on the similarities, if any
Although you may have conflicting opinions on a political topic, there’s a good chance that you both agree on at least one aspect of it. For example, you may disagree with a political party’s policy to decrease the crime rate in your local city, but you both likely at least agree that rising crime rates are unacceptable and need to be resolved. Finding common ground like this helps alleviate the intensity of the conversation.
If all else fails, limit the discussion altogether
Avoiding politics entirely isn’t realistic, but for some couples, limiting political conversations, especially until after the election is done, is the only strategy that works. This means watching speeches, debates, or political news on your own time rather than consuming political content together as a couple.
Generally speaking, sharing a different political viewpoint from your partner isn’t automatically a death sentence for your relationship. If you’re already aware of your dealbreakers ahead of time and you’re in a relationship where both of you understand how to approach your differing political views with empathy, respect, and open communication, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to work through your differences.