By this point, we all know it and feel it, so I won’t belabor the point. The last several months have been…a lot. Between a pandemic, simultaneous at-home crisis schooling and working, toilet paper shortages, and social isolation, we’re also just beginning to emerge from the ugliest election cycle in recent memory.
Over the last year, we’ve seen most members on both sides of the political spectrum band together in support of their favored candidate, leaning on one another for mutual support and encouragement. Most likely, that mutual support and encouragement has bled over into your marriage or primary relationship, as the majority of couples tend to see eye-to-eye politically. But what if, like me, you live in a house divided? What if you are sleeping with the (political) enemy? [Insert overly dramatic soundtrack here.]
In our house, one of us leans left and the other leans right. This doesn’t mean that either of us were overly thrilled with our parties’ candidates this year—we weren’t. It just means that our political philosophies on platform issues tend to align straight down traditional party lines, candidates aside. This being the case, even in better days, it’s always been a delicate balance and takes hard work for us to maintain the marital peace when political issues come up.
But after 10 years of marriage across the political aisle and lots of trial and error, my husband and I have come up with a few strategies to keep the health of our relationship as the primary goal, rather than trying (and failing) to win the other over to our “side.”
If you are also sleeping with the (political) enemy, I hope you find the strategies we use to put our marriage first and politics second helpful.
Advice for Politically Divided Couples
Just Don’t Talk About It
As our old friend Thumper says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Over the last 10 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned that the easiest way to avoid strife and conflict is to simply not talk about politics. I’m not a psychologist, but even as a lay person I realize this is probably not the healthiest approach. But I also know from experience that getting upset and resentful toward each other about the same things over and over is not healthy or productive either. So in a situation like ours, where neither partner is likely to cross the aisle or come to political enlightenment any time soon, not talking about politics is a good rule of thumb to maintain personal and relational peace.
But Keep Lines of Communication Open
After I just advised you not to talk about politics, I’m now going to advise you keep the lines of political communication open. If something of a political nature is truly heavy on your heart and weighing you down, as so many issues are in this dumpster fire of a year, it’s natural to want to go to your partner to talk about it and let him or her know that you are struggling. If this is the case and you need to delve into a political discussion, here are a few ways my husband and I try to diffuse any potential political landmines…
Have Political Discussions on Neutral Ground
I say “neutral ground,” but I really mean “in a public place, surrounded by people.” I can only speak from personal experience, but I know that my husband and I can quickly lose the thread of the conversation, and respect and decorum, if we’re having a political discussion behind closed doors.
So, take it into the open! We’re both less likely to say unnecessary and hurtful things or use less-than-desirable tones when we’re in a public space, be it lunch at a favorite restaurant or a stroll through the mall, I’m definitely less likely to lose my cool and yell at my husband in front of Sbarro at the food court. A public setting just reminds us to use our manners and keeps things civil when tempers flare.
Prioritize Having Fun Together When Politics Get Heavy
On Election Day this year, my politically opposite husband and I decided to have a day of fun together, rather than watch any election coverage or results. We both voted early, so on Election Day, we got the kids off to school, had coffee at our favorite local shop, and did some early Christmas shopping; no political coverage or conversation allowed.
We ended up with a beautiful new Christmas tree, full bellies from lunch at another favorite spot, and one of the best dates we’ve had in years. Sure, the political stuff was still waiting for us on the other side, but our day of fun had built up a lot of grace and positive feelings for each other, which led to a more neutral and respectful post-election discussion.
Focus on Other Areas of Respect
I know it’s hard to believe right now, in the midst of it, but national politics are not the be-all and end-all, y’all. While I disagree with my husband politically—and he with me—there are so many other qualities and actions that are worthy of our respect and celebration. My husband may be my political opposite, but you know what else he is? He’s a solid provider, a generous and caring partner, and a damn good father. We may not see eye-to-eye on issues of politics, but I know he has our family’s best interests at heart and strives to be the best man he can be every day, and for that alone, politics aside, he is worthy of my respect and admiration. Even if that does mean I’m sleeping with the (political) enemy…
As the 2020 election cycle draws to a close, it’s important for couples who live on opposite ends of the political spectrum to find safe and productive ways to talk about the things that matter to us. The next several months of transition may be difficult, but they don’t have to be detrimental if we keep mutual respect—and an occasional trip to Sbarro—as the end goal.