Written By: Rebecca Hirsch
It is no surprise to anyone that the recent election has shown us what a divided country we are. This election felt incredibly personal to so many people, and when something feels close to our hearts, our emotions are on the line. Dialoguing about contrasting political views can often be filled with emotion and defensiveness. Many of my clients in individual and couples therapy have spent time discussing how to talk to family members with opposing political views after the election during the holidays. It has been extremely difficult for so many of us to hold these conversations and dialogues and remain calm, respectful, and compassionate. Since many of us cannot avoid these conversations with family members or other members of our communities and friend-groups, how does it impact those of us who are dating or married to someone with opposing political beliefs? It is one thing to attend a family dinner or a night out with friends and have a heated discussion and then go home and decompress, and it is quite another to live with it. Are political beliefs impacting our dating pools? Yes, they absolutely are.
Recent polls show us that many singles will not date someone outside of their political party. While this may have been the case before the election as well, it is particularly highlighted now. It is clear that most single people do not want to enter a relationship with someone who they do not share political beliefs with. I believe that this is the case because many people believe if they stick to dating within their party they are more likely to find someone with shared values and beliefs. Finding someone with a similar value-set is an important factor in determining potential relationship success and compatibility. While I absolutely believe in “non-negotiables” and firm boundaries about your beliefs and values when it comes to dating and finding a good match, I also believe in openness and not making judgments about other people. I would encourage daters to not only think about a political party when dating, but to also think about the person and his or her character as a whole, which may surprise you.
We often make judgments about what kind of person is associated with a political party and assume what their character and values would be. When thinking about issues that are important to you politically and personally that have become highlighted during the election, think about which values of yours they are associated with. Some examples of values that could be especially highlighted is believing in fairness, equality, compensation for hard work, having your voice be heard, and so forth. While it is easy to focus on politicians and political parties, it is more helpful to hone in on particular issues and values of yours that are being especially touched upon. Many of us, within all political parties, share similar values and goals but have different ideas about how to accomplish them. If you are single and have a firm boundary on not dating someone who doesn’t share your political beliefs, then hold your boundary. However, if this is the case, I would encourage you to question yourself why this is so important to you and which values of yours this touches upon.
If you are dating, partnered with, or married to someone with different political beliefs than yourself, it is important to maintain an open-mind and be respectful to each other. Ask questions and maintain a curious attitude when discussing sensitive topics. Ask about each other’s personal experiences that have contributed to or influenced their beliefs. When we listen and show respect and curiosity, we are less likely to become defensive and escalate. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
If you are having trouble navigating dating or being in a relationship with someone who has different values, it is always useful to have a safe and an open space to discuss your differences with an objective third party. Contact Symmetry Counseling to set up an appointment with one of our individual or couples therapists.