Conflicts — 04 December 2012
Do politics impact your relationship?

With the election looming large and emotions running high, it is interesting to consider the impact of diverging views of couples who do not share the same political opinion. Is your political perspective a potential source of marital stress or bliss?

Research about marital success found that similar backgrounds, values and preferences enhance the chances for a happier marriage. Yet, Kent Jennings and Laura Stoker found that “the vast majority, 77 percent, of couples report some political disagreement in their marriage, with 9 percent saying they frequently disagree. Forty-four percent say they occasionally disagree, and 24 percent say they seldom disagree.” They also discovered that “partners’ political perspectives tend to converge over the course of their relationship.”

Republican Mary Matlin and Democrat James Carville are a famous pair with strongly opposing political views. Mary ran George Bush’s reelection campaign and James ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 election efforts. Their joint television appearances reflected their intensely divergent political views bordering on animosity. Yet, in their private life, including parenting, they reported being quite compatible.

In a 2009 CNN interview with John King, Mary and James were asked about their secret of compromise. Mary responded, “Well, we’re not a democracy. We’re an enlightened MOM-archy.” James, perhaps equally flippantly remarked, “I don’t have a position on anything domestically. So I just say yes, and then go on and do it.” He added, “I would say the three ingredients to successful marriage are surrender, capitulation and retreat.” The audience laughter may have been tinged with some deep sadness and embarrassment.

If the choice of one partner is to regularly capitulate to the other, it may preserve family harmony or it could be disempowering, destabilizing to the family structure and may tip the marital balance as well.

Respectfully, some couples report solving their differences by agreeing to disagree and avoiding discussions about politics, religion, or any other topic about which they hold opposing views. Other mates feel blessed to share similar opinions and beliefs, which they credit with facilitating their ease of connection. Some unmarried individuals seek congruency in political, religious and lifestyle preferences to maximize their emotional comfort in their future marriage, while others do not give this variance great credence.

George Levinger of the University of Massachusetts stated, ” What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”

If you and your partner ascribe to opposing political views, you need to regard this area as a sensitive one and always treat each other’s being and opinions with the utmost respect.

Dealing with your mate’s opposing political views:

  • Treat your partner’s political opinion, as divergent as it may be from yours, as equally valid.
  • Abstain from using derogatory descriptions of your partner or those who share his/her political views.
  • Know that for some, views converge with time.
  • Be kind. It eases most differences and promotes love.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.