Politics and Relationships: How to Love a Liberal

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I am a lifelong Republican. Steve is a lifelong Democrat. We love each other.

I used to wish I could be a fly on the wall in the home of James Carville and Mary Matalin. How could they could be married with such strong, opposing political opinions?

Steve and I met on match.com, and from our first email communication, I took a liking to him. He was funny and intelligent, and like me, is an artist and writer. And so, we exchanged a second email. And a third.

About then, I began to wonder at what point I should admit to him that I was a conservative Republican—kind of like wondering when I should let him know I had some sort of contagious disease. After all, he’d written in his profile that he was a liberal Democrat, so I figured he might be opposed to dating anyone outside his circle of comfort. Heck, I had nothing against liberals. Some of my best friends are liberals. 🙂

Still, I hesitated. Should I admit it in the beginning? Or wait until he’s so in love with me my political persuasion wouldn’t matter?

I decided I should tell him sooner than later, and so, I confessed.

“Steve, you probably should know something about me…I’m a Republican. A conservative Republican.”

Fingers trembling, I pressed “send,” and wondered if I’d ever hear from him again. (Okay, maybe there’s a bit of creative non-fiction there.)

He wrote back, and the rest is history.

Today, with politics growing more divisive and partisan with every passing day, you might wonder how we’ve made it through the last three years. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing—we’ve gotten into a couple of doozy arguments. (Topics included the government’s role in student debt, the role of the military, George Bush…)

But those were in the beginning of our relationship. I think we’ve learned some lessons since then. Here are a few:

  • Talk policy, not politics – When we talk politics, in other words, when we recite the soundbites we’ve each heard from our often-biased news sources, it has only served to ramp up the argument as each of us tries to outdo the other. Yet when we’ve limited our debates to policy—more in-depth discussions with details and not soundbites, we have often been surprised about the areas in which we have some agreement.
  • Appreciate your differences – I try to both respect and appreciate Steve’s opinions that differ from mine. 

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When did it become such an outrage for someone to think differently? I can’t believe the hatred and vitriol I see on Facebook and Twitter, just because someone disagrees. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been sucked into it myself. But I rarely see any benefit to the unending threads of soundbites passed back and forth. Nobody is really “listening” to each other on social media, instead, we’re all trying to think of our next soundbite. 

I respect Steve’s intelligence. If his opinion differs from mine, I may not always like it, but I’m willing to listen. Sometimes, it’s moved me more to the center, sometimes, admittedly, even to toward the left, at least on social issues.

Both Hillary and Trump bloviate about problems they’re going to solve—immigration, health care, college tuition, blah, blah, blah. What I want to know is, what is the candidate who wins the presidency going to do to get Congress to work together? The continued and worsening partisanship has brought our government to a standstill on more than one occasion.

  • Focus on what you have in common elsewhere – Too often, we use labels to describe ourselves. Just look at my first two sentences! But beyond being conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Steve and I are artists, writers, travelers, readers, exercisers (he more than I), food connoisseurs (I more than he), etc., etc. We have plenty to occupy our time and discussions beyond politics.

Our political climate reminds me of a sport–a game where everyone takes sides and there must be a winner and a loser. Politics inspires passion, and we all want to win, sometimes at any cost.

But in the big picture, this “tribalism” has only served to create a divisiveness and partisanship that’s made our government ineffective.

“If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different. You underscore your shared humanity.” ~~ Rachel Yehuda in Sebastion Junger’s Tribe.

  • Understand that talking politics doesn’t always mean you’re trying to change the other – This one is pretty self-explanatory. But it’s easy be defensive when someone brings up a highly-emotional topic like politics.
  • Realize it takes “two to tango” – In other words, there is no wholly “good” side and no wholly “bad” side. All candidates and both parties have flaws.

I began this post a bit “tongue-in-cheek,” perhaps to lighten the political feeding frenzy of recent days (which I admit to dabbling in myself). And though the title of this post is “How to Love a Liberal,” it’s really about loving (or getting along with) anyone who thinks differently, and goes beyond an intimate relationship.

More and more, I’m disturbed by our seeming inability to get along with anyone who is different from us, or who thinks differently from us.

We have so many similarities. We love our families. We love our friends. We want what’s best for our country. If we have different ideas, why can’t we share them, rather than curse them?

Think about the quote above by Dale Carnegie:

“When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary.”

I’d rather be in a relationship with someone with whom I differ. I’ve learned a lot, and we’ve had some lively discussions. Steve and I disagree on many of our political philosophies. But there’s no doubt each of us loves our country and wants what’s best. Besides. It might be boring if we always agreed.

Or, maybe not. We do, after all, have other interests. 🙂

A few other related posts I’ve written:

 

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6 Responses to Politics and Relationships: How to Love a Liberal

  1. Karen Cioffi says:

    Jan, great advice and points. My husband is staunch republican. I’m for whoever will do the best for our country.

  2. Jan, I think we’ve had similar conversations before, but I so agree with your post. In my case, it’s not my husband with whom I have political differences, but some friends. We’ve been able to disagree civilly, but because we live in different places, much of our discussions are in that most uncivil of places, Facebook. I think he tends to play a bit to his (liberal) audience but although he and I can disagree without problems, many of his friends are not so nice. It’s really rather depressing after awhile.

    I give the two of you kudos for not only making it, but making it in style. I only met Steve the one time, but I think he could easily be my favorite liberal if I knew him better. 🙂

    janet

  3. Excellent article, Jan. While my husband and I are usually on the same political page, I have many friends who are not. I don’t mind a political discussion expressing opposing views as long as the views are offered with respect and not insults to my intelligence. (And like you, I have often wanted to ask Carville and Matalin how it’s workin’ out for them. :-))

  4. Pingback: Principles Over Party | Jan Morrill Writes

  5. Pingback: I Am Who I Am (And Politics Is Just One Tiny Piece of the Puzzle) | Jan Morrill Writes

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