Two-thirds of polled voters ages 18 to 65 confess they dread family gatherings yet to come, knowing politics will be on the menu.
The New York Times took those concerns to heart and published a list of topics for civilized conversations. Therapist and relationship counselor Jeanne Safer went a step further and wrote a book based on conversations with those seeking her guidance, sharing observations on how to avoid a poisonous political climate between couples and friends.
She has walked the walk. A liberal Democrat, married to a lifelong Republican who writes for The National Review, she aptly named her book, “I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics.”
Hard to believe, but she discovered parents have actually ‘unfriended’ their own children on Facebook because of differing political views and disagreements over the Trump presidency.
Social media and 24-hour news cycles add fuel to the fire of partisan political rantings. Marriages crossing differing political party lines have almost ceased to exist, only 9% are now liberal and conservative matches. Twenty-five years ago, 20% of married couples did not share the same political party loyalties.
Looking for love in all the right or wrong places now means political party affiliation is valued over that old honey pot, physical attraction!
Once the ogre of a couple’s marital strife, decisions over how money is spent has taken a breather as a husband and wife square off to defend their political choices.
Safer, who works with couples on relationship-building, writes of political squabbles born of a secret need to feel the power of changing the mind of our husband or wife who disagrees with us. She calls our fruitless ventures into political persuasion a “national bad love affair.”
“If someone we love votes differently than we do, we feel we have to do something about it,” she explains in her book. “We won’t win, but we refuse to give up.”
The danger is risking the loss of a relationship and one we dearly value. We talk ourselves into believing we can only have meaningful connections to those who agree with us.
In fact, Safer believes, isolating yourself into one set of political tenets can lull your sensibilities, bring on an ease of convictions. Her example is a man who declares himself a feminist and still enjoys a secret life of watching porn.
He needs a friend to remind him he cannot see women as packaged goods and call himself a liberal or a traditional conservative.
As far as lasting friendships go, she suggests looking beyond political affiliations and choosing caring personalities and those with empathy as lifelong companions.
Empathy is a gift in dealing with opposing political loyalties. It is not an endorsement of a friend’s voting preference, but it does offer a listening ear.
Safer reminds us: “You can be made for each other, except in the polling booth!” She sends us forth with a few rules for keeping the peace, politically. Do not drink and discuss politics. Do not raise your voice. Do not send negative text or email messages to a political adversary who is also a friend. Do not thrust a newspaper article supporting your political views at a husband or wife who is enjoying a quiet breakfast.
I confess to being a “thruster.” Worse, I not only thrust, I add a black line around the article I want my husband to read. Luckily, he is even-tempered and the response I earn is an eyebrow raised and a quiet, “Not until I have had my coffee.”
As we head into a political season with the important work of choosing and supporting a presidential candidate, keep in mind the words of a crusty English policeman in an old TV series.
Each day, he gathered his men together and went over the day’s work to be done. As they scattered to go out into the community to keep the peace, he had a few last words of caution and concern: “Mind how you go,” was his benediction.
No “thrusting,” good people. Disagree, but with respect. Mind how you go!