Coping With Political Differences in Your Romantic Relationship

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While political differences have always been difficult to manage in romantic relationships, the past few years have really exacerbated this challenge.

From the angst of the election to the fact that political differences have factored into how different countries have approached mandates around COVID-19, it can be a lot to navigate.

If you've found yourself in the middle of a political disagreement in your relationship, it can be hard to know where to turn. Verywell Mind spoke with Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, a relationship therapist and author of the book First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, to find out more about how couples can work past political differences.

Chlipala explains how couples can handle it when one person's views have changed over time, and even when to know if it's time to end the relationship.

How to Talk With Your Partner About Differing Political Beliefs

If you're looking to find common ground or to simply better understand your partner's side of things, it's best to be honest and upfront about that from the beginning.

Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT

It may take more than one conversation, I recommend [having] brainstorming sessions where you throw out ideas without judgment. Both of you can determine what your areas of flexibility are and see if any overlap to determine common ground.

— Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT

By this, Chlipala means that while you and your partner may never agree with one another 100% of the time, there are still ways for you both to bring your beliefs to the table while demanding mutual respect.

When Your Partner's Views Have Changed Over Time

One of the hardest aspects of long-term relationships can be watching a person grow in a way that isn't in accordance with your own beliefs. That said, it's an important detail to take note of, and it doesn't always mean that you're nearing the end of the relationship.

"It’s inevitable for people to grow and change, and couples need to be flexible to accommodate the ways that their partner changes throughout their relationship," says Chlipala.

While you obviously need to make sure that your partner's beliefs haven't veered in a direction that could cause anyone harm, it's important to prioritize understanding. It's also important to make it clear that honesty and vulnerability are priorities. Chlipala notes that the same goes for the person whose views have changed.

Chlipala also mentions that the person whose views have changed should be mindful that their partner can't be expected to suddenly be on the same page.

Finding Common Ground

This may seem impossible, but if you are with a partner that you love, it's definitely worth giving it a try. Chlipala suggests that couples spend time trying to understand the other person's point of view. She's quick to point out that this doesn't mean that you need to agree with them. Chlipala suggests asking your partner a few questions that will hopefully help you understand why they believe what they believe:

  • What does your position mean to you? 
  • What values/experiences have led you to feel and think this way? 
  • What is your ideal dream? 
  • What do you want/need? 

The idea is to identify common ground and build on it. "Sometimes people think they’re farther apart than they really are," says Chlipala. "Through conversations, talk about your values and how your political view influences your day-to-day life."

Also, see if you can find some middle ground. Just because you have opposing political views doesn't mean that those views will have any impact on your relationship or day-to-day life.

When Political Beliefs Are Hurting Your Relationship

If you've found that your political beliefs are starting to interfere with your relationship bliss, it's time to talk to your partner about it. This especially goes for those that have already tried to work through issues to no avail.

Chlipala says it's time to consider ending the relationship "if you feel criticized or feel like your partner has contempt toward you, and they are unwilling to accept your perspective."

Make sure you realize if you're constantly criticizing your partner or vice versa. It's important to take note and either tell your partner you're holding yourself accountable or talking to your partner about this behavior toward you.

"Criticism and contempt are toxic relationship behaviors, and if they aren’t stopped, [they] can create irreparable damage," says Chlipala. "Also, if your non-negotiables oppose each other and you and your partner exhausted all options in terms of trying to find [a] middle ground, [it might be time to consider breaking up]."

It's also important that you make sure you're honest with your partner, even if you feel like the things you're being honest about won't be accepted.

"Sometimes people can minimize or hide what they really need because they don’t want to lose a relationship," says Chlipala. "It’s important that the person you are dating knows the real you, even if it means that your stance is a deal-breaker for them."

If Your Partner Has Been Manipulated By Propaganda

If you feel that your partner is suddenly acting out in ways that are beginning to impact other areas of their lives in a negative way, it might be time to have a serious discussion with them.

What to Look Out For

If your partner begins to exhibit the following behaviors, they may have been manipulated by propaganda:

  • Your partner suddenly integrating politics into more and more conversations
  • Your partner exhibits anger in a way that feels unnecessary or frightening
  • They are spending an increasing amount of time alone in chat rooms, watching videos, or reading message boards surrounding their newfound ideas
  • Your partner starts to make friends with other people online, or people with whom their only commonality is their political beliefs
  • Your partner starts to mention conspiracy theories regularly

First off, it's important to note that propaganda works because something about the message communicates with people's inner hopes or fears. Keeping this in mind is critical when it comes to communicating with your partner about their beliefs.

In the book Beyond Your Bubble: How to How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work, Tania Isreal describes how to start conversations that promote understanding:

  • Don't shame them: Don't make your partner feel ignorant for believing propaganda.
  • Don't overwhelm them with counter-evidence: It might be tempting to send article links that you think debunk their beliefs, but this isn't the best way to start a real conversation.
  • Ask genuine questions that promote critical thinking: Instead of telling your partner they're wrong, ask questions that you have about some of their dicier beliefs. Tell them you'd be receptive to hearing more about it, and then ask the same from them.

A Word From Verywell

If you've recently found yourself disagreeing with your partner due to differing political opinions, don't throw in the towel just yet. Remember that understanding can take you pretty far, and as long as both of you are committed to being empathetic toward one another, you'll have a better chance of moving forward in your relationship. 

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  1. Chlipala AA. First Comes Us. Relationship Reality 312; 2017.

  2. Hobbs R. “A most mischievous word”: Neil Postman’s approach to propaganda education. Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. Published online April 22, 2021. doi:10.37016/mr-2020-65

  3. Israel T. Beyond Your Bubble : How to Connect across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work. American Psychological Association; 2020.