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I’m Right, She’s Left. Are we Doomed?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - October 20, 2008

You have fun together, there's great chemistry, but you don't vote the same way. Actually, you can't agree on politics at all. Are you doomed?

Arnold and Maria make it work. Can we?

There are a few subjects that make people more emotional than politics, but not many. For whatever reason, discussing whom we will vote for can get most of us pretty riled up.

So what do you do if the person you’re dating—a person who is usually reasonable, insightful, logical, and full of sanity—for some reason can’t see the light when it comes to the upcoming election? How in the world do you two make it during these last few weeks and still maintain some semblance of a loving and respectful relationship?

Well, it’s a tough situation you’re in, but plenty of couples have weathered this type of storm in the past. In fact, a lot of very compatible people with opposite political views can have successful marriages. What’s important is to agree on a strategy for how to address the reality that one of you is a donkey and the other, an elephant. Here are a few different approaches you might consider.

Declare the Subject Off Limits

This may not seem like the most mature approach, but it’s at least somewhat safe. In other words, it might be more ideal if you two could discuss all the issues in a loving and respectful way, and then simply agree to disagree on the points where you diverge. But that’s not always possible. Some people just have such strong feelings when it comes to certain political issues that they can’t calmly and reasonably discuss their opinions and feelings with someone who disagrees with them. (Especially if that person usually seems so smart and reasonable but on this issue has willfully chosen to be blind!)

So what do you do if yours is one of those relationships where the two of you have a hard time discussing politics without infuriating each other? This option is to put a moratorium on all political conversations. No discussions whatsoever. You don’t even watch coverage of speeches and debates together, lest one of you lets out too heavy of a sigh or guffaws at what the other partner considers to be an out and out lie by the other partner’s candidate. One of you can watch FOX News, the other Keith Olberman. But you don’t do it together. And you focus all your conversations on other worthy topics, like sports, religion, your relationship, what’s happening on Lost, and so on. But not politics. Sure, you’ll miss out on knowing each other as well as you might otherwise, but at least you won’t kill each other.

Listen and Learn

This approach to political differences in your relationship may be the most difficult one to pull off. It asks you to genuinely listen to each other and to more fully understand where the other person is coming from. The goal in this case is not necessarily agreement or swaying the other’s opinion. In other words, you aren’t trying to win an argument or to convert your significant other to your positions and perspectives. Instead, you two are trying to come to a place of mutual respect and understanding. And that’s not easy to do, especially when it comes to an emotionally hot topic like politics.

There are a few main steps you two have to take in order to make this approach work. First, you must find a way to express your points from a place of respect and sensitivity. Name-calling, clichéd labels, and an unfair use of sound bites should be strictly forbidden. Also, you both have to be willing to listen to each other. And we mean really listen, with good motives and in good faith, so that you each feel that you are being given the opportunity to express your thoughts and feelings. Then, once you have both said how you feel and have listened hard to each other, you should each repeat back the other’s main points, demonstrating that you really do understand where the other person is coming from.

This kind of conversation, where you both remain on a respectful and adult level, can strengthen and deepen the connection you feel for each other. You might even find that the other person has well-thought-out reasons for his or her position that you respect, even if you don’t agree. And even if you simply agree to disagree, you will have achieved a much fuller understanding of each other, as well as a stronger bond in your relationship.

There’s no reason you can’t bring your strong emotions into this approach. Kindness and respect are required, but you shouldn’t feel that you have to check your feelings at the door. Talk about how you feel and express your strongest opinions. Just do it in a way that keeps in mind that you are talking to a person you care for and whom you want to treat in a way that he or she deserves to be treated—no matter how wrong or blind you think that person may be.