Are you a donkey married to an elephant? Do you engage in healthy discussions with your spouse, or do you have the discipline to simply “not go there?” We are living in an era of extreme partisanship, and tolerance isn’t always at the forefront, especially within our closest relationships.
A few years ago, I volunteered to register voters. I was assigned to an age-restricted suburban community near my house, and boy oh boy, was that enlightening. Having grown up in a household where my parents were politically on the same page, I was, and continue to be truly amazed at how many long-term marriages survive their divergent politics.
Take James Carville and Mary Matalin, for example. Carville is a well-known political strategist for the Democrats and Matalin was a prominent political consultant for the Republicans and served in the administrations of Reagan and both Bushes. Back in the day, their on-air spats were kind of legendary. They’ve been married since 1993.
Fast forward to Kellyanne and George Conway. Although both Republicans, their conflict has to do with the present administration. Unfortunately, their political feuds will forever be documented on Twitter. They’ve been married since 2001.
How do they do it? How do relationships thrive when their political views are 180 degrees apart?
In my experience as a divorce mediator, I can truthfully say that I’ve never once heard that a political divide led to the end of a relationship. Not one time! When I began researching for this blog, I discovered that statistically, more than 80% of marriages are between couples of the same political party. Not terribly surprising. However, in today’s political climate, with social media taking a starring role, the Republican/Democrat relationships don’t look the same. We tend to be much more passionate about our opinions now than we were in 1993 when James Carville and Mary Matalin got married. Things have changed drastically, and not necessarily for the better. Given the choice, I would much rather gossip about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky than grieve for the unnecessary deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbury.
Yes, things have changed.
What hasn’t changed is our ability to love and respect our partners no matter if we differ politically. What hasn’t changed is the need for each of us to listen to one another in order to understand and not simply to respond. What hasn’t changed is that our values and our politics are two very different subjects.
I may be shooting myself in the foot here, and oh well, but I would rather talk about the importance of mutual respect in relationships than the advantages of divorce mediation. I would rather discuss the benefits of being a good listener than ask who’s going to be responsible for the American Express bill.
If you and your partner disagree about politics, please comment and tell me how you manage it. And if you don’t manage it very well, feel free to schedule an appointment!