Meg Luce: State of the Union: Red and blue couples
You know that great old Etta James song called “At Last”? The lyric says, “At last my love has come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song.”
Now picture that perfect scenario of love and then think…record scratch sound effect, “But you’re a Liberal!” Or on the other side, “You’re a Conservative! How could you?” Such is the case for many couples that believe they have found their soul mate and then realize they have profound political differences. Is it time to break up, or is there a way to get along and create a more perfect union?
First of all, let’s acknowledge how intensely politicized everything is at the moment, from voting to viruses, and this puts even more pressure on red and blue relationships. Couples probably can’t have many conversations without stumbling over some sort of political landmine. Every situation is suddenly fraught, even something as simple as, “Do you want to sleep on the right side of the bed or the left?”
For some couples, political differences didn’t play that big of a role in the past, but now politics is center stage. More than ever, especially with the election upon us, couples must figure out how to navigate these challenges, or it’s going to be nay votes all around.
All couples must learn to accept differences at some level. For example, there are many basics to negotiate, such as whether to spend or save, sleep or have sex, work or play. Of course, there are many things upon which couples disagree, and there must be a reliable process for resolving dissenting opinions for a successful relationship to function. Are there any tried and true strategies from relationship therapy to help couples with political differences? You can try out the following ideas and see for yourself.
1. Look for similarities and celebrate those. There are probably some similarities with most red and blue couples, and if you can stop arguing long enough, you can figure out what they are. Linger there. Magnify and enjoy those things. Your similarities may include common values. Your differences may lie more with how these values manifest. Whether you are more in line with the elephant or the donkey, you may both share the core value: love of country. You might even say, “While we go about expressing it in entirely different ways, I appreciate your love of country.” If partners (as well as friends) can do this, it goes a long way to each party being valued and treated with respect. Wow, treating each other with respect might be a core value worth championing!
2. Acknowledge your partner’s objections about your view: “I can see how such and such could bother you.” You might even confess that a few of the things on your party platform bother you as well. This may help each of you relax and open up to a more authentic dialogue. In this way, you don’t inadvertently polarize each other. You might find out that one or both of you are a little closer to the center than you thought. Hey, it’s possible.
3. Compartmentalize your political discussions. It is probably stressful for both of you to have intermittent political conversations pop up all day long. Rather than springing it on each other during a romantic dinner or a request to pick up your socks, let your partner know when you want to have a political conversation, and everyone can first put on their patience pants. During the rest of the time, focus on the things you both love, whether it’s kayaking, rock climbing, or making the world’s best barbeque. Whatever it is, politics doesn’t have to wiggle into every activity.
4. Instead of an attack-and-defend approach, take turns listening to how each of your views developed over time. Don’t forget, the more you aggressively push your point, the more your partner will defend theirs. If everyone can get curious about each other, this can be quite interesting. Who were the people that most influenced each of your views? Why were these people so important? Did they play a pivotal role in your life? Each person has a story about how their values and affiliations formed. Even if you disagree with the perspective, you can appreciate the important piece of history from your partner’s life. Just listen and learn about them. You don’t have to agree.
Some people may think, “This is impossible; you can’t find similarities, commonalities, compartmentalize politics or treat the other side’s ideas with respect!” That is probably true for some people, but hopefully, those aren’t the people already in red and blue relationships. That said, there might be loved ones, friends, family members, neighbors, or bystanders with opposing views that might benefit from at least the respect part. Plus, we know anything is possible when we look to the famous friendship of Chief Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia to know that fondness, differences, and deep respect can coexist.
So if at last, your true love has come along but champions the wrong political stripe, I hope these ideas can help you find domestic tranquility. If your core values are too far apart, you may ultimately decide to secede from the union. Whatever you decide, good luck and God bless the red and blue couples, especially during election season!
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com
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