Savvy Minds: Politics is Ruining Our Relationship!

Dear Dr V ~

I’ve just started dating this guy, we’ve been out several times and had a lot of fun. He’s a gentleman, very attractive, smart and funny. The problem is we TOTALLY disagree on politics. The last time we were out at dinner the conversation turned to politics and we ended up arguing the rest of the night. It was awful. I just got a voice mail from him, he wants to go out again. He seemed like such a nice guy! I don’t know what to do.


Dear Jenelle,

One line in your question really stands out for me: “He seemed like such a nice guy!” Is it really that surprising to you that someone who doesn’t agree with you on everything could still be a decent (perhaps even loveable) human being?

There’s a lot of talk of how divided the country is these days. In some ways I’m not sure how the time we’re living in now, in a broad sense, is really any different from any other time in history: Some blame the rich for everything that’s wrong, some blame the poor. Some say people should be helped; others that people should help themselves. And of course, there are the dangerous loons who think the best thing to do is kill people in large numbers because that’s what will make God happy.  Business as usual on planet earth.

Yet at the same time, it certainly does feel like we are at each other’s throats a bit more than in the past. As a society it appears we have lost the ability not just to see the other side of an argument, but to even tolerate that another valid point of view could exist.  And I gotta say, I think it’s unhealthy, bad karma and in general I’m pretty fed up with it. We are better than this.

I’m not sure which end of the political spectrum you fall into, but couldn’t your few enjoyable outings with this man be evidence enough for you that there are individuals on the Other Side who are really people like you; People who ultimately want to get to the same place as you, but simply have a different understanding of what the best route to take there is?

This of course assumes that neither you nor this guy who you’ve dated a few times are extreme in your beliefs. By extreme I don’t mean “revolutionary” in the sense of “I think if we were more empathetic and less materialistic we’d be a happier species in genera,l” but more along the lines of “If you don’t agree with me, why are you wasting air others could breathe?” If either of you suffer from that kind mental illness (and Lord knows it seems like an epidemic now), then introducing reason into this situation is a fool’s errand. And if I’m totally honest here (when am I not?), the way you’ve presented your dilemma does seem a bit extreme: It’s as if you’re saying, “We don’t agree on certain aspects of the tax code and foreign policy. How can this love ever survive?!”

That’s not to say these feelings should be discounted, but rather examined before being blindly acted upon. All of our words, thoughts and actions ultimately reflect who we are, for better or worse. If this political stuff is truly that big of an issue, perhaps try bringing it up again, but not from a place of anger. Try to enter the conversation seeking to ask, “Why do you believe that?” as opposed to “How could you think that?” You may be surprised at what you learn about each other. Who knows what happened in either of your pasts that led you to believe what you believe today? I do think there is a quantitative difference between a simple political disagreement and using external issues such as politics, religion, etc., as a way to sublimate whatever powerful emotions are actually roiling around in our emotional oceans. For someone with a lot of displaced anger from unresolved issues in their past, it’s a hell of a lot easier to channel that rage against towards public figures or worse, groups of people, rather than actually parsing out what’s going on inside.

So that’s really the nut of your problem: What emotions are stirred up within you when the political stuff gets brought up? Are you really that impassioned about these issues that you’re willing to sacrifice something with the potential to be wonderful? Pundits, blogs, and Internet forums might bring those angry feelings out, but they can’t take you for a nice dinner, they won’t ask you about your day and really want to hear the answer, they can’t hold your hand on an evening stroll.

Clearly this guy wants to see you again, and unless he’s planning some Bill O’Reilly style ambush at your next date, I would guess it means he finds you interesting enough to set aside his politics and make an effort to get to know you as an individual. The question is, are you willing to do the same?

With Love and Light,

Dr. V

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