Loving Your Political Opposite

Anyone who has survived a few Buffalo winters knows what it means to hunker down during a storm. As long as the household is safe and has provisions, it can be fun to have a little down time. Curl up by the fireplace, read a good book, make some cocoa, and, before you know it, you’re back out in the world.

But, these days, it’s a whole different world. As of this writing, we don’t know when things will return to normal, or some semblance thereof. Needing a trip to the hair salon is one thing, but suffering financial hardship can make things tense, to say the least.

Wherever we are in the mix, living in proximity day in and day out to one or more loved ones can be trying. After a while, everything from the way she chews to the way he cracks his knuckles can be cause for a row.

Add politics to the mix, and fireworks can happen, especially if our nearest and dearest is on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Anyone who looks at social media (and many of us are doing too much of that these days) can see that things are getting ugly. There are wildly varying opinions on who to believe and trust and everything in-between.

So, what coping mechanisms can we use to keep our marriages and relationships intact?

For starters, we might remind ourselves that no matter how passionate we are about politics, it’s likely we are more passionate about our loved ones. Adopt the mantra, "It’s just politics." No matter how much you might disagree, political views are no reason to ruin a loving relationship.

If you have been married or in a relationship for a good amount of time, chances are you have similar values regarding family and what you want from life. The appropriate role of government in our lives may mean something different to each of us and be cause for arguments. But, how important is being "right" when it can cost you a relationship?

Discussing issues with cool heads can lead to a better understanding of the other side. Skip the yelling and hurling of insults. If we really listen to each other, we might see where the other is coming from and gain a better understanding of each other.

It’s OK to define and defend your beliefs, but remember to be patient and kind while doing so. Relationships run much more smoothly when each party respects the other’s differences.

Sometimes we need to agree to disagree. This works best when both partners feel like they’ve been heard. Couples need to know how each other thinks and make an effort to acknowledge the other’s point of view.  

If that isn’t working, there is always marriage counseling. Or else we can turn off the TV and stay away from social media.

Still looking for ways to talk things out without going for your beloved’s jugular?

The book Couple Talk: How to Talk Your Way to a Great Relationship shows us how to become "response-able" communicators with the ability to respond appropriately and effectively while encountering everyday situations. Authors Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman advise couples to encourage each other to keep talking. And no tuning each other out. We each need to demonstrate a willingness to listen and discuss the issue, rather than cutting each other off.

No matter how hard couples try to stay cool, arguments can happen. Haller and Moorman suggest talking about how you and your partner argued. Figure out what was good or productive about the way you treated each other during the argument. Disagreeing does not necessarily doom a relationship. Figure out why you think differently from each other.

Consider ignoring a party affiliation and focus on specific issues. You may find you agree on more than you realized. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect two people to agree on everything.  

When you do sit down to talk—not argue—keep a few things in mind:

Stay calm and make eye contact. No raging around the room.

Yelling does not get your point across.

Ask questions. If you really listen to each other, and care what the other has to say, you should feel more connected to each other.

Now for an anecdote. A couple I knew had completely different political beliefs. He constantly offered his opinions. She rarely said anything. When asked how they managed to not argue, she said she just let him talk. Then she would vote for whomever she wanted and never reveal her choice.

Sometimes playing it close to the vest is the best option of all.  

Judith A. Rucki is a public relations consultant and freelance writer.

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