It’s on everyone’s mind these days. And, let's face it, conditions of polarization and disagreement haven’t just intensified in government, society, and the media. They've also intensified in marriage.
Some couples experience the most extreme form of these political conflicts, with one partner representing the far Left and the other the far Right. In the US right now, this looks like an ardent Biden supporter and an ardent Trump supporter, struggling each day to figure out how to talk about politics without fighting constantly.
But even for those who support the same candidates, political conflict often still looms large. You may find yourself disagreeing on specific issues (climate change, racial justice, or local politics). Or maybe it's just that you have a slightly different vision for how things ought to be in the world.
The point is that, even if you agree on most things, there's always room for political conflict over something.
So how can we stay in love and connected in the midst of inter-marital political conflict?
Long before we started writing about marriage, Nate spent years working toward his PhD in political philosophy. In fact, his dissertation focused on this very question of how to improve political conversation. The big takeaway from all these years of research? When talking about politics your intent matters.
The moment we engage in conversation with our partner with an intent to win the argument, the fight has begun and conflict is inevitable. When this happens, you may feel your blood pressure and pulse rate rising. You may feel a surge of anger.
The good news is that there’s an alternative, more effective, strategy. When you shift your intent from winning to understanding, everything changes. Instead of trying to score points in an imaginary debate, you’re now working with your partner to better understand their views.
To do this, all you have to do is change your mindset. The moment you sense a political disagreement arising, make this shift from defensiveness to curiosity, from winning to understanding.
There’s this widespread myth out there that connection in marriage requires agreement on all things, especially politics. The truth is that agreement is often boring. Difference, it turns out, makes marriage far more interesting.
So if one of you thinks Trump is the greatest president in the history of the U.S. and the other thinks he’s destroying the very fabric of democracy, you may not ever be able to reach agreement. Nor do you need to.
What you can do is accept and even embrace your differences in the realm of politics. If you really want connection, then instead of arguing with each other, see how your conflicting views of the political world can actually enrich and enhance your life together.
In short, stop trying to persuade each other. See what happens instead when you agree to disagree on the most contentious political issues in your house.