Would you ever consider dating someone across the political spectrum? Do you feel like the answer to that question has changed in recent years? If so, then worry not. More and more people, particularly Millennials, are discovering they either don't want to date someone across the aisle, or that their bipartisan relationships are not working out. If you and your partner can’t get over your political differences, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, Julie Spira, says you're not alone.
"The divisiveness we see now is very real in today’s political climate. I believe most singles want to date someone with similar political views or find their political love match. Just saying the word 'Trump' can cause a visceral reaction to so many singles, especially Millennials," says Spira, who has the data to back it up. "In researching for my book, I asked singles if they would date someone who didn’t vote. The majority, 87 percent, said they wouldn’t even go on a date with someone who didn’t exercise their right to vote, so politics is showing up on a date. Women feel strongly about not dating someone who didn’t vote." She adds that another poll on her site, which asked "Would you date across party lines?" had similar results, with almost 80 percent answering no. "Donald Trump has become so toxic and polarizing to relationships that singles are asking a potential date who they voted for before meeting IRL. I’ve known plenty of singles who canceled dates, or went on ones where it became so tense while talking about politics, that it abruptly ended."
What if you started dating someone with differing political views before 2016, when the divide really became more pronounced? Is there any hope for your relationship? Spira says there is, but with a caveat. "Depending on how strongly you feel about politics, you can certainly make a relationship work, and there’s no need to break up if you have other values and hobbies in sync," she explains. "Some bipartisan couples met before the 2016 election, so it’s easier to let differing politics slide, but if you’re a newer couple, it’s hard to have a completely free no-politics zone since Donald Trump won the Electoral College, unless you’re apolitical." That begs the question: How do you know if you are the kind of couple who can weather the political divide, or if it's time to accept that you need to veto your relationship? It's all about looking for the red flags that you're likely not going to be politically compatible. Here is what to look out for, according to Spira.
Part of being a team is sharing a general world view, explains Spira. While you don't have to agree on every detail, there should be a shared idea of what the facts are, and in today's increasingly fuzzy view of reality, if you can't agree on something basic, it’s going to create fundamental issues in the relationship. “If you’re watching MSNBC and prefer Rachel Maddow, and your partner is blasting FOX news and is watching Sean Hannity, you’ll be getting completely different perspectives to what’s happening in the news cycle, and it’s often hard to get over these differences," Spira says. "If you’re finding these news shows are monopolizing your time together, it’s time to take a time-out, take a walk, go on a bike ride, do anything that neutralizes the situation.” Left unaddressed, this problem will only grow, says Spira. “If you find you’re getting resentful about your partner while in the no politics zone, it’s going to come to a head."
As Spira explains, the level of political passion you both have, when it is in opposition, is directly related to the likelihood that you’ll be able to make a relationship work. “If your boyfriend is proudly wearing a MAGA hat, and you’ve been walking in Women’s Marches with a tee shirt that says #notmypresident, chances are you won’t be in a supportive partnership,” says Spira.
How do you feel when you see your partner has posted something new on social media? Does it make you anxious because you don't know what they may have said or what meme they may have shared — and who saw it? If so, Spira says this is a major red flag that your relationship probably can't survive the political divide. “If your partner is posting political rants on social media about the government shutdown and the wall, and they're making you cringe, it’s going to be tough to co-exist as a couple,” she says.
How we align ourselves politically is a complicated process, but at its core it's a reflection of our values and morals, explains Spira. That said, if you don't agree politically, this likely means you share diffident values, which might be pretty rough on your relationship, politics aside. “The most important part of a relationship is shared values and being supportive of each other. Since the issues at stake are about humanity, separating or keeping families together,” says Spira. “If one of you supports the ‘big, beautiful wall,' and the other feels strongly about gun control, how do you co-exist?” she asks. For there to be any chance of a relationship working, Spira says we "need to remember that relationships are about mutual respect and compromise, but they’re also about how to survive daily, which includes caring about the environment, gun safety, and family values, with or without political influence.”
It’s one thing to weed out folks who disagree with you politically at the dating phase, but it's a lot more complicated if you’re already in a relationship. If you are with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, but you want to try and make it work, Spira does offer some helpful advice.
First, Spira says to focus on why you love you partner. “If you’re in a relationship with your political opposite, it’s time to take inventory on why you fell in love in the first place. Are you a news or political junkie, or do you prefer to watch rom-coms together?” she asks. From there, it's all about setting real boundaries and finding ways to de-escalate tension when it does occur. “To thrive as a couple, it’s important to decide how much time you’ll devote to talking about politics in your relationship," Spira states. "If you set a timer for 15 minutes, and it can only occur in the living room or kitchen, when the time runs out, it’s time to change the conversation. Take the time to agree to disagree on minor issues, and if you get into a flow that works for you, then your relationship can survive.”
Oh, and definitely keep the politics out of the bedroom. “You’ll find yourselves not only as opposites on the political spectrum, but you’ll be sleeping on opposite sides of the bed, with or without the political swag,” Spira adds. Ultimately, it's about finding things you do enjoy and agree on together, and focusing your energy into that. “Make sure to do things together as a couple that you enjoy, such as hiking, binge-watching movies on Netflix, planning your next vacation, or creating a home-cooked meal together," suggests Spira. "If you devote a minority of the time to discuss politics, it won’t take over your life.”
The takeaway here is that, in today's political climate, it's very likely that politics are going to be a part of your relationship — if you agree, and definitely if you don't. Whether or not a difference in politics is survivable depends on how passionately you both feel about politics, and about each other.