Can People With Different Political Views Make A Relationship Work? Here's An Expert's Take
Would you ever consider dating someone who doesn't share your political views? In these polarizing and contentious times, it's a fair question. Deal breakers used to be things like smoking, religion, or a difference in life goals, but it seems like now, more and more often, owning a particular red hat factors into our dating choices. So, the question is, are people across the political spectrum undateable now? Can people with different political views make a relationship work?
To answer this question, I reached out to Julie Spira, an online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships. She's spent the last few years studying this exact question. If you've started to feel like politics have taken on a greater significance in your dating choices, Spira says you’re onto something. "In Trump’s America, singles with different political views are finding it more challenging than ever to date across party lines," Spira tells Elite Daily. "In conducting research for my book... and in interviewing close to 100 singles and couples, I’ve found that nine out of 10 singles felt strongly about the political views of a potential date." In fact, she continues, "Politics has become a top deal breaker, higher on the dating totem pole than dating a ‘smoker who can quit’. If someone feels strongly about politics, it’s going to be difficult to change their mind."
Politically incompatible partners are getting vetoed more than ever
Spira notes that this change in priorities is becoming increasingly evident in dating profiles. “Politics is showing up front and center on dating profiles, where it’s common to see verbiage saying, ‘swipe left if you voted right,’ or someone wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat to show their support for our current president.” The reason daters are being so open about their disinterest in people across the political aisle, says Spira, is not about party lines, but rather, about “the values associated with each party in our current political climate. If someone walked in the Women’s March and supports women’s and immigration rights, they aren’t going to be happy in a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel the same way.”
Spira found this to be especially true for single women. “Single women were less flexible in dating across party lines, where a majority of the single men I spoke with would prefer not talking about politics at all on a date,” she says. Millennials in general share an extreme reluctance to bipartisan dating. In fact, Spira says when she's coaching millennial singles, questions about politics have replaced “questions of smoking and religion at the top of the list.”
Is it possible for a bipartisan relationship to work?
What if politics are important to you, but you've fallen for someone who doesn’t share your views? Is the relationship doomed, or does it stand a chance? The answer, according to Spira, is that these relationships can work, but only if “couples agree to disagree on some issues, and agree on others.”
“Perhaps someone is socially liberal, but fiscally conservative," Spira says. "Perhaps someone voted for Donald Trump for president, but feels different about their vote now that he’s been in office for almost half of his term.” In scenarios where the partners aren’t too deeply entrenched in their views, there is some hope for finding common ground on which to build a relationship.
On the other hand, Spira's advice for “couples who are polar opposites on the political spectrum is to have a certain amount of time to talk about what’s happening in the world. Then limit the chit-chat to perhaps 10 minutes a day, so politics doesn’t go from the kitchen table to the bedroom.”
While it is possible for these relationships to be successful when carefully navigated, Spira still recommends asking your partner about their political beliefs early on. “These conversations will help you understand the person you’re romantically involved with, and will help you decide whether to stay together, or go your separate ways,” she says.
The benefits of reaching across the romantic aisle
Many people would argue (myself included) that in order to heal some of the polarization in our current culture, we must find ways to humanize people — including those with opposing political beliefs. Romantic relationships with people across the aisle might help bridge that gap.
“I think discussions about politics and what’s happening in the world are important to discuss in a relationship,” says Spira. “It shows you’re paying attention to current and government affairs. Hearing another person's point of view can enlighten you on a topic that maybe you didn’t have all of the facts on. Having a lively debate is healthy in a relationship, and so is having your own opinions on important issues.” However, she does warn that “if the gap is just so wide and one person is wearing a hat that says #notmypresident and the other is wearing a red ‘MAGA’ hat, it’s unlikely the relationship will succeed.”
The emotional filibusters this type of relationship will face
Spira notes that as political affiliation further aligns with our values, it can create a major impediment to romance. This is something she learned firsthand. “As one who was in a long-term relationship that ended due to differing politics, I can say that strong and vocal support for a candidate and policies that are completely opposite of what your core values are can kill even the best of relationships,” she reveals.
The reality is that we are living in very politically charged times; times where “#MeToo, climate change, immigration issues, and a time where humanity, or lack of, is at the forefront of people’s minds,” says Spira. Naturally, of course it would have a profound effect on the dating pool. But can love conquer all?
Spira says that in some cases, it can. But because politics are so intrinsically linked to our values, the reality isn't as optimistic. “If your friendly debates keep turning into arguments, you just won’t be a romantic fit."
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