Written by Jessica Shelburne
In a culture that seems to become more divided with each breaking news headline, politics exists within the midst of most disagreements and discourse. This is true for the public as a collective as well as for personal relationships. As Americans, we are free to express strong opinions and beliefs (which is why it is important to remain informed about current events). The media is incessantly broadcasting information that is taken and presented differently from one news platform to the next.
How, then, can we escape from the overwhelming circulation of politics and the stereotypes attached to what it means to identify with a particular side or none at all? Moreover, how can we maintain peace within our personal relationships while also remaining passionate about our affiliations?
As a communications major, I feel naturally inclined to say primarily that communication is the first way to understanding your significant other’s political beliefs. However, it is important to be aware that successful communication is a two-way process. More precisely, real communication is a rational discussion in which all participants are given equal opportunities to both express and listen to one another’s perspective.
Approaching a political discussion with the goal of speaking and listening can lead to an informative conversation about how and why people think and feel the ways they do. Often, strong political defenses are significant for reasons beyond their legislative impact. Therefore, elaborating on your opinions and values in an open, honest manner (and encouraging your partner to do the same) can be enlightening.
Differing political beliefs between you and someone close to you is not a bad thing. In fact, having a mature conversation about these beliefs can incite knowledge. Learning more about a person whose political affiliation is unlike your own is a gateway to understanding other perspectives and can inspire thoughtful reflection about your own sentiments.
Talking about politics can be done in a respectful fashion, but more often than not, fuels an antipathetic debate. Involving political opinions in a relationship is not entirely necessary and may do more harm than good.
If it is best for you and your partner to avoid political subjects altogether, verbalizing an agreement to exclude such discussions from your relationship (especially if your beliefs differ) can help maintain peace and pleasant interactions.
It is worth mentioning again that strong political defenses sometimes have a greater meaning than their legislative impact. Educated people feel and think how they do for reasons that align with their identity and experiences. These are vastly different for everyone, which fuels intellectual diversity.
Considering politics in a personal relationship becomes necessary when an issue related to political opinion affects the future or well-being of the relationship. Some decisions are influenced by political affiliation, and when making important decisions together, a couple must consider which they value more – the relationship or the opinion. It is possible to feel so strongly about something that you are willing to end a relationship over whatever it may be. Conversely, compromise can be an efficient method to maintaining the subject of politics in a relationship. The term compromise can be viewed positively, as a balanced agreement, or negatively, as a sacrifice. Truthfully, compromising can benefit both parties and sustain a healthy relationship, making it a useful avenue to explore upon encountering a disagreement or decision that is affected by a political value.
There are numerous methods for managing the presence of politics in personal relationships. The amount to which it is discussed or involved must ultimately be determined by both partners in a way that is considerate and respectful, while equally receptive to free thought and individuality. Addressing political matters is not exactly comfortable, but doing so discerningly can foster a productive, stable relationship.