Some say opposites attract, and others note that differences make couples stronger. But when social and political views differ between partners, things can get tricky, to say the least. In our increasingly divided nation, with our rampant social media posting, and leading up to the midterms, politics is none too easy to avoid.
According to a survey of 18 million American couples, 30 percent of marriages are between a mismatched partisan pair. But you don’t have to tie the knot for things to get complicated. These six people know just how challenging it can be to navigate strongly held opposite political views with a partner.
Skylar, 24, engaged
“Politically, I support most major democratic stances such as pro-choice, legalizing certain drug categories, and enforcing gun control. My social views are very liberal and I’m particularly invested in the LGBTQ community. In general, my partner, Ben, who considers himself a ‘conservative liberal,’ and I have a lot of overlap. However, Ben voted for Trump and, more often than not, supports the president’s decisions, especially those regarding military actions, whereas I’m often distraught over his impulsive and seemingly childish actions.
At the end of the day, no matter what we’re disagreeing on, be it political and social [views], where to go to dinner, or who’s driving, our relationship has been built on a solid foundation of both trust and respect. In order to deal with these blips of confrontation, often related to the transgender community (I am supportive of it and Ben is not), I just remind myself that even though I think he’s wrong and that his opinion falls under bigotry, he deserves respect. Everyone has the right to their own opinions, and I feel that should be especially true in a relationship.”
Precious, 28, previously in a four-year relationship
“Once upon a time, I had a long-term relationship with a born-again Christian who described themselves as such. They were an artist and had counterculture tendencies of their own, so I think they made an exception to their dogmatic judgements. [However], they adhered to the standard views of their church — abortion and homosexuality are sins, and I was going to hell, for example — and voted Republican. I expended a great deal of effort to try to understand their experience, including what they believed and why they believed it. Despite this seemingly large sticking point, we were compatible in many ways. I ended up appreciating their fanaticism as I viewed it as a form of passion.
I attempt to keep an open mind and consider my views, prejudices, biases, and judgements in a context beyond myself. I believe that people deserve to be heard, considered, and respected regardless of their beliefs. In the end, we argued most about standard issues like communication and our boundaries, not politics.”
Mandy, 27, previously in a three-year relationship
“I am very leftist and an incredibly proud feminist. I believe in fully intersectional feminism with equality for all races, genders, orientations, and social classes. I am pro-reproductive rights, anti-gun, anti-war, anti-capitalist, and am very concerned with the direction that our country is heading. I sometimes get called a little extreme, as I am very unforgiving of people for accepting racism, perpetuating racist stereotypes and jokes, and defending microaggressions.
Back when I was with Dan, I still held all of the same ideals that I do now, just to a lesser degree. I came to discover Dan thought that feminists were dim somehow, that women faced no inequality, and that every person in this country has the same exact amount of opportunity regardless of their gender, race, etc. He defended capitalism as a proud system and made a lot of jokes at the expense of my views. I cannot say that it ever caused an actual ‘fight’ by the standard definition. However, it caused a lot of discomfort for both of us, as well as many instances where we avoided each other a bit because of our differences. I convinced myself that having opposite views from your partner was actually good for your relationship [and] would make you learn about the other side. In retrospect, all it actually did was silence my ideals.”
Lee, 31, in a relationship
“I am an educated, right leaning, fiscally conservative business owner. Socially, I’m pretty liberal. I tend to support the [current] administration in a lot of its positions. I thought the Trump campaign was one of the most brilliant political wranglings of our era. My partner is a left leaning, highly educated immigrant who came here for her education. Because of her upbringing, her politics vary from mine. She tends to despise everything the administration does. When Trump won, it seemed to cause a level of tension, as I was ecstatic to see what America would become and she was scared Trump could deport her even though she has been a citizen for more than eight years.
If we get really heated, we just agree to disagree and, oftentimes, don’t speak for an hour or so while we recover and cool down. I enjoy the discourse; I don’t like arguing, but I was a high-school debater so mental sparring is a sport to me. I take zero offense to having my position attacked. I think it is a healthy thing for partners to have differing views. For us, it has led to many good conversations that have allowed us to get to better know each other and our upbringings. Communication is key. I have naturally felt the need to check my privilege and be way more sensitive to someone else’s journey.”
Aaron, 29, in a relationship
“I was raised in a Baptist church without much political influence. As I got older and more comfortable in my gay skin, I found myself more spiritual [and] liberal in my beliefs. My partner, on the other hand, was raised in a heavily political home. I’m now an independent and he is a Republican, although he hates our current president. The last time I voted was for Obama’s second term. Since then, I’ve lost almost all respect for the voting system within our country. When [my partner] found out about that, it almost caused us to no longer speak, let alone date.
We genuinely love and respect each other, so my feeling is, why fuss over our views toward a sick and corrupted system when we have so much beauty and love in the world? He challenges my spirit and allows me to see things from a different perspective sometimes. Our relationship is interracial, and we have a large age gap, so it makes sense to me that there are so many differences — cultural, psychological, physical, and political. Because I love and respect him for being open-minded enough to even consider me, I haven’t felt much of a much of a need for [changing] his views to match mine.”
Jordan, 23, engaged
“I don’t identify with a particular party, but I tend to disagree with most Republican views. I strongly believe in the equal rights of all sexes, ages, races, etc. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, even those who are not born in the United States. [My partner] is your standard Republican and [supports] a lot of what Trump does. It has caused arguments in the past, more so since the 2016 election. Whenever Trump pours stupidity out of his mouth, [my partner] somehow finds a way to justify it, and that’s where the argument starts. This includes stern voices and a whole lot of attitude.
But in the end, we usually agree to disagree. I’ve known my partner since long before Trump was elected, so our opposing views don’t change the things that made me fall in love with him. I would 100-percent [prefer to be with someone with the same political and social views as myself]. It would make raising our children a bit easier, and it would be nice to have my partner alongside me in local marches, for example. I don’t think my he will ever change, though. He’s very stubborn and a lot older than me, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try. My advice is to learn to accept not everyone is perfect and not everyone will have the same views. Part of it has to do with age and how you were raised, and that’s important to consider, too.”