Should You Divorce over Political Differences?
Can a Democrat and a Republican have a successful romantic relationship? In the past, signs would point to yes. But in the current political climate, differing opinions can strain even the strongest of relationships.
You and your spouse may have diametrically opposed political leanings. If you do, it can be difficult to navigate life together, especially nowadays. But are your political disagreements enough to warrant a divorce?
Political tribalism, a deep-seated loyalty to a political group, has seen a marked increase in recent years. It’s common for members of opposing political parties to see anyone embracing the other party’s stances as “the enemy.”
Not only has today’s status quo of political “us vs. them” caused intense disagreement and polarization between individuals in general, but it has also caused serious conflict and disconnect within families and marriages.
According to a recent Wakefield study, 11% of respondent couples reported their political differences were a significant factor in the break-up of their relationship. The numbers were even higher among millennial married couples.
If you and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye politically, it may (or may not) point to other serious issues in your relationship.
Are political differences affecting your marriage?
There’s no doubt that escalating political polarization can affect a marriage when partners are at opposite ends of the spectrum – especially during times of more intensified political activity such as an election.
But while political harmony shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all to marital harmony, disharmony can shine a light on other fundamental differences in a relationship.
Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that guide your actions, choices, and feelings about many timely issues. These values are often shaped by a person’s early upbringing and cultural background. They may affect your views on everything from your religion to your day-to-day conduct.
If you and your spouse diverge politically, you may diverge in your core values as well.
Your political identity reflects how you align with political ideologies and core values. Depending on how strongly you align with your political views, it may even reflect your worldview. So, if you and your spouse have differing political identities, it can create tension not only with politically driven issues but also at a more fundamental level.
But while differing political identities can create divisiveness within your marriage, they can also present an opportunity for understanding and growth.
Finding common ground
The cornerstone of a healthy relationship is respecting each other’s differences and finding ways to understand each other despite them.
Because today’s political beliefs are so inextricably interwoven with core values, political divisiveness in your marriage could be destructive … unless you and your spouse can find some shared common ground instead of remaining entangled in your differences. Finding common ground isn’t about trying to change each other’s political affiliation. One person doesn’t have to “give in” or even compromise to do that. Rather, it’s about locating that sweet spot that allows for independent opinions coupled with mutual respect, growth, and understanding.
If you and your spouse can support each other despite your differences, political or otherwise, you remain on the same team. You may even learn new things from each other because of your differences.
- Communication and respect are key. Making both of these things priorities creates an environment where you both feel safe to be yourselves, even if you have different political beliefs.
- Don’t dismiss each other’s perspectives. There’s always something to be learned from a differing viewpoint. Approaching differences of opinion with curiosity and asking open-ended questions can encourage deeper insight.
- Focus on shared values and goals. You may belong to different political parties, but you can also care about specific issues, like healthcare or education. Finding and focusing on shared values is a great place to begin constructive conversations.
- Keep your communication respectful. When your partner expresses their opinions, give them your full attention instead of just focusing on formulating a rebuttal. When responding, use “I” words instead of accusations and blame to keep the dialogue open and respectful.
- Confront disrespectful comments. There’s no doubt that political conversations can get heated. This is often why people avoid talking politics with those they don’t know well. But spouses can be altogether different. Either you or your spouse might feel free to let your perspectives fly fast and furious, with a lot of interruptions and belittling comments thrown in. If you feel disrespected by your spouse during one of these conversations, it's important to address it immediately. When you do, take the respectful tack that you were looking for yourself. Suggest ways you could address your opinions without resorting to anger or disrespect.
- Consider counseling. Despite your best efforts, politics can unearth disharmony in a relationship. Getting professional help could be an option. Counselors, therapists, and even mediators have tools to facilitate better understanding between spouses when they’ve hit an impasse. But even with professional help, when significant core values don’t mesh, your marriage may be in trouble.
If you’re considering divorce due to a difference in core values – or for another reason – let us help you sort through your options. Visit our free resource library to gain ideas and perspective, or head on over to our divorce plans page, which is all about us helping you get the outcome you want to live your best life.
And, if you want to chat with someone first, we invite you to schedule a free 15-minute phone call with an account coordinator.