How to deal with the difference in political preferences in marriage
As election season rolls around, we’re bound to engage in debates with friends and family in group chats and comments sections. But what if it’s your spouse who has a strong, differing political belief?
The campaign period has not officially started but the election is now becoming a hot topic among Filipinos. Different colors, represented by political parties, are flooding the streets and several media platforms. Social media has also helped increase the awareness of voters to exercise their right to choose a qualified candidate. However, some political differences are straining the relationships among relatives and friends. Others have unfollowed and unfriended some friends on their Twitter and Facebook accounts to declutter their pages from toxic posts. This has also affected some romantic relationships. A 2017 study showed that US Elections resulted in an end in a romantic relationship over political differences in more than 1 in 10 Americans (11%). Moreover, 22% of Millennials also broke up with someone over political differences.
But what if it is your spouse who shares an opposing view with you? How will you handle it? Is it a deal-breaker or is it something that you can just ignore? There are some healthy ways in which you can cope with the political differences in marriage.
Focus on the values, beliefs, and ideas that you share.
Don’t allow politics to be the center of your marriage. For sure, you have a lot of other things in common. What do you enjoy doing together? What are the things that are important to you as a couple? You commited to marriage for many reasons. It is good to ponder why you got married in the first place. What is it that you liked about each other then and up to now?
Remember to always understand and empathize.
Why is this political belief important to your spouse? Where is he/she coming from? You don’t need to agree, but understanding is critical in resolving any conflict related to political differences. You can use the “I statement” by stating your feeling, the circumstance, the context, and your request. You can say, “I feel curious when you say that your candidate is qualified. I don’t have enough information about it. Can you please tell me what made you admire that candidate?” You can also practice active listening by clarifying and summarizing. You can say, “What I’m hearing from you is….” or “What you are saying is…” By doing this kind of dialogue, you may discover that despite the difference in opinion, you share the same aspiration - to live in a better world for your family. This is also an opportunity to practice empathy in the relationship.
Respect. Respect. Respect.
Disagreement doesn’t mean disrespect. Instead of judging your spouse’s choice, ask questions for healthy discussion and critical thinking. Don’t shame your spouse. Reconsider sending information sources that challenge their beliefs. Will it start a real conversation, or will it just start a heated argument? You can show respect by not trying to change your spouse. Encourage respect in the relationship. Both of you need to be heard and understood.
Ask yourself the hard questions.
It is also good to ask where you are coming from. Are you becoming emotionally reactive? Is it a trigger of a deeper issue? Why does it affect you? What makes it a big deal in your relationship?
If it cannot be helped anymore, keep your cool and let it go. Make your home free from political conversations. Get help from a professional or counselor if you find your marriage is in danger because of this issue.
It may take a dose of sensitivity and awareness to find your common ground, but a recent study showed that when couples took time to maintain the relationship, the relational stress associated with the difference in political view is minimized. There are other areas where you will have different views, so this can be an opportunity to learn to agree to disagree. What are you doing to strengthen and enrich your marriage?
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• Rodman, S. (2017, December 6). My Husband and I Disagree About Politics and It Enrages Me. Retrieved from Huffpost: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/my-husband-and-i-disagree_b_6554844
• Afifi, T. D., Zamanzadeh, N., Harrison, K., & Torrez, D. P. (2020). Explaining the impact of differences in voting patterns on resilience and relational load in romantic relationships during the transition to the Trump presidency. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(1), 3-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407519846566
About The Expert
MA. ISABEL SISON DIONISIO, MA, Family, Relationship & Marriage Expert
Maribel, a Relationship and Parenting Consultant for over 25 years has co-authored books, like “Helping our Children do Well in School, Growing up Wired” and “I’ve been Dating…now what?”. She was a contributor and the Parenting Expert of Wyeth’s Nurture Network from 2010 to 2018. Maribel is a regular Parenting Expert for various TV and radio programs, like Radyo Singko’s Relasyon and ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda. Maribel served as a Judge for the Jollibee Family Values Award.
In 2008, she set-up AMD Love Consultants for Families and Couples. She worked at the Center for Family Ministries and trained as an Imago Therapist of the Imago Relationships International, New York. Maribel and husband, Allan, are both graduates of the Family Ministry course, Ateneo de Manila. They prepare couples for marriage in the Discovery Weekend and are columnists for the Feast Magazine. They have co-authored two relationship books, Thinking of Marriage and Teen Crush. Allan and Maribel, happily married for 36 years, have 3 children, Rafael, David, and Angelica.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.