You likely have different political views than roughly half of the country. And when things get heated and extreme and make you SO ANGRY YOU COULD EXPLODE!…you can turn off your phone or TV.
But what if the person with different political views is your spouse? And what if they are just as passionate about their views as people on the internet? What if you’re struggling to bite your tongue in the midst of their ranting and raving?
Can relationships with different political views survive our current political climate? Can they last a lifetime in spite of anxiety-inducing presidential elections every four years?
Politics are a deal-breaker for some; they cannot and would not marry someone who didn’t vote for the same party. And that’s okay! But for those of us whose political associations aren’t necessarily the driving force in our relationships, I believe there are several things we can do to help survive and thrive despite our different political views.
First of all, remember that social media and news outlets want to create conflict and division.
The fact is, the more clicks they get, the more heated and judgmental comments, the more money they’re making. In fact, many of the inflammatory comments you see there were created by bots or by people being paid to make you angry and keep the interaction going.
That should be in the back of your mind when perusing social media, but especially when discussing different political views with your spouse. Unless your goal is division, don’t allow the media’s financial agenda to drive a wedge between you and loved ones.
Secondly, avoid character assassination.
Anyone married for even a short period of time has learned that wording is everything. And the fastest way to shut down your spouse and ensure they don’t hear a word you say is to insult their character.
“I can’t believe you would fall for that stupid stuff! Anyone with half a brain would know better!”
“Wow, I’m not really sure how you could have any morals if you support that person. They’re evil!”
One of my favorites? Insult the other party, call them every name in the book, make it clear they possess zero redeeming qualities.
Then say something like, “I guess you’re one of them now!” Now your spouse has taken to heart every ugly thing you’ve said about that party and made it personal.
The fact is that even if you sincerely believe your spouse has been duped or is compromising their values, saying so out loud will ensure they don’t hear anything else you say. It might feel satisfying in the moment, but will sabotage any chance of peace or unity.
Are you on the receiving end? It’s fair to set boundaries if/when you decide to discuss different political views with your spouse. No name-calling, either direct or indirect, or you will need to leave the conversation until they can speak more respectfully.
Third, focus on your feelings.
Some people just won’t see what you believe to be black-and-white facts. You could present research, but they would tell you it’s manufactured by the opposing party. You could site a specific incident, but they would tell you it’s been taken out of context.
This is an area where you will likely not win your spouse over to your point of view. So shift your focus to how things make you feel.
Rather than saying, for example, “That candidate is a womanizer,” try, “The way that candidate spoke about women made me, as a woman, feel disrespected and patronized.” Or instead of saying, “That candidate is a socialist,” try, “The socialism claims really worry me for our finances and future.”
Remember, though, using the word “feel” doesn’t necessarily qualify as focusing on your feelings. Saying, “I feel like you’re overreacting to what’s happening,” is less about your feelings and more a judgment of their intelligence or state of mind.
Instead, ask yourself how it makes you feel. “It really stresses me out when you’re yelling about politics and prepping like it’s the end of the world. It would make me feel much better if we could prepare without so much panic or anxiety.”
By shifting away from judgments on people or situations and focusing on how they affect us emotionally, we can more easily connect with our spouse. After all, it shifts the focus from people we’ve never met to the people we love most and how they’re personally affected.
There’s a chance your spouse might tell you that you’re stupid for feeling that way or that a situation shouldn’t make you feel that way, that you should get over it. Speaking from past experience, that’s likely an attitude that expands beyond politics and is worth further discussion.
Fourth, change the topic.
If you find it’s impossible to hold a civil conversation with your spouse regarding different political views, it’s probably time to change the topic or end the conversation altogether. One of the most effective ways to truly change the topic is to switch to a subject that requires their input or help. “On an unrelated note, it’s time to sign the kids up for baseball. Is there a certain day/time you prefer for their practice days?”
Or walk away! You can be more obvious – “I need to step away if we can’t have a conversation without name-calling.” – or just move on with your day. Walk to the washer to move clothes in the dryer, tell them you need to check the mail or help the kids get started on their homework. Shift the focus to something else.
And finally, focus on the big picture.
Why did you marry your spouse in the first place? Remind yourself of all of their positive attributes.
Think about your goals as a couple and family. You both want to raise good kids, play cards every night, and retire to the country.
Should your different political views hold enough power to wreck those plans? Are they important enough to trump your other values and goals?
And will every day for the rest of your lives have this sort of tension? Or is this a temporary state during election season? Don’t allow temporary circumstances to derail long-term goals.
It is perfectly possible to have different political views with your spouse and still maintain a healthy relationship! By avoiding the media trap, holding a respectful conversation focused on feelings, and concentrating on your big picture, your different political views could even make you stronger as a family! You’ve got this!
P.S. Do you want to more consistently pray for your family, but struggle to know what exactly to pray for them? Download free reference cards HERE!
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