It may be difficult, but spouses with polar-opposite political views can make it past voting day, said Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington and an expert on FYI’s reality series Married at First Sight.
“There are some things, including disagreements over politics, that cannot be resolved but they can be ignored or considered off limits,” she told The Huffington Post. “I have known more than a few couples that have campaigned hard for opposing candidates but still love each other.”
Below, Schwartz and other marriage experts give us a primer on how to deal with a house divided by politics.
1. Don’t look at it as a problem to fix.
Fighting over Benghazi for the umpteenth time is a no-win situation ― but using politically-charged conversations to become better communicators will benefit your marriage in the long term, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men.
“The fact is, all couples disagree. That’s not a problem. What is a problem is how they handle those disagreements,” he said. “Usually, disagreements expose deeper relationship issues, like how we communicate, show respect and love each other. Choose to use your differences to build a healthier relationship, not to fuel discord.”
2. Keep your personal feelings out of it.
While his fixation with the Clinton email probe may be driving you up the wall, keep your opinions about his very strong opinions to yourself, said Sheri Meyers, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.
“If you must discuss your differences, tread carefully,” she said. “Stick to fair-minded, provable facts. When listening, don’t look for openings to prove your point or change your spouse’s beliefs. Instead, try to understand those views. You can understand something without agreeing with it.”
3. Like Trump and Pence before you, dig deep for common ground.
Election years reveal fundamental differences in what we believe ― and differing belief systems can be a very scary thing in a relationship. When you’re struggling to find common ground, don’t get defensive. Instead, remind yourself of the values you do have in common, whether political (concerns about the shrinking middle class) or personal (your kids and partnership) said Leslie Petruk, a marriage and family therapist based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“You may even find that there are some ideologies that your candidate supports that you don’t agree with ― it would be hard to agree with everything any politician does or says,” she said.
4. Stop trying to change your partner’s mind.
If your partner likes Hillary because of her stance on reproductive rights and you know that’s a passion point for her, don’t try and change her mind, said Schwartz.
“What really can break you up is trying to argue each other out of your position; you will probably end up feeling, ‘how can I love this person?’” she said. “Sometimes, the best course is to just leave that issue alone and not talk about it.”
5. Remember: You’re not the only couple who has ever disagreed on politics.
When you start to get really down in the dumps about your partner’s support of a Trump or Clinton presidency, remind yourself that couples with different political affiliations can and do work out, said Los Angeles-based psychologist Greg Cason: Just look at Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Mary Matalin (though Matalin recently changed her political affiliation to Libertarian).
“While they argue fiercely in public, they bond tightly together in private — not because of shared political beliefs, but because of shared values,” he said. “Carville and Matalin likely admire each other’s intelligence, passion, political acumen and commitment to make a better world, even when their solutions looked quite different.”
6. Try to respect your spouse’s views, even if you find them questionable.
Take a long view on this election: This likely isn’t the first or last time you’ll disagree on big issues, said Karyl McBride, a therapist and author of Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.
“Although it is great to have compatibility in world view and especially value systems, there will be times in relationships when we just see things differently,” she said. “The most important element is learning to listen and hear deeply, exhibiting emotional nurturing for your partner’s feelings.”
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