James and Mary we're not
June 28, 2010 8:04 AM Subscribe
Help me navigated the political differences between me and my spouse!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I do not share the same political beliefs. We have known this all along, but it is becoming an issue. I am posting anonymously since I hope to avoid any responses being swayed by the respective parties' political preferences. Because it is anonymous, I will try to give as much detail as possible.
Before we dated and were just friends, we could have political debates with each other that could get quite "heated" but they were never hostile. We would debate and then it would be over. When we first started getting together as more than just friends, things started changing in our political interactions. He seemed to get much more defensive and much more hostile and personal in our political interactions. For example, when we first started being more than friends, he once said "I could never end up with someone who has ever voted for a democrat/republican/independent"...knowing full well that I had on many occasions. This hurt me quite a bit, but obviously he changed his mind since we are married now.
I am much more into politics than he is currently and spend a good deal of time listening to both liberal and conservative talk radio on XM channels (although admittedly more time on the side I agree with) and reading as much as I can on current political issues. I disagree with both major parties on many issues so I do not self-identify with either (although I agree with one on more issues than the other). My husband definitely has a party of choice.
I like to talk about politics (especially with those whom I disagree) and while my mind is rarely changed, I like trying to find out why others might hold a differing opinion. I can have these debates with other people without them getting angry and like to think I am respectful in these debates. I do not call names or think the other person is stupid for having their beliefs.
I have seen my husband have political debates with others without getting defensive or hostile. He just can't seem to do that with me and I hate it. He wants to have a no-political-talk policy in our house but I think that is a bad idea and I get resentful that he finds it so abhorrent to even listen to my opinions.
The other night, politics came up, it was going along alright when I said something like "I think the __________administration is/was brilliant/disastrous" and he got up and walked out of the room. I knew when I said it that he would not agree and that my statement was provocative, but I just wish he would have respected me enough to hear me out as to why I might feel that way.
It feels like he is so deeply entrenched in his own ideology that even hearing differing opinions from me is threatening in some way. I feel like he is completely closed off to the possibility of being even remotely influenced (not changed) by something I might say that he simply walks away. That kind of stings. I do not expect him to abandon his beliefs or agree with me, but I do wish he would be open to having them intellectually challenged and thoughtfully considered. He is otherwise very intellectually curious and the fact that he is so closed off from me on this subject hurts my feelings.
I feel like he thinks by my criticism or praise of this or that administration is a personal affront to him in some way. He reacts as though I have just directly attacked him in some way that I just don't understand. I know I have not always handled myself perfectly in these debates, but I have never personally attacked him, his intelligence or character. I have, however, gotten very frustrated because he tends to obfuscate and divert the arguments. Once he started arguing over my assessment that Massachusetts/Texas tends to be a more liberal/conservative state despite the fact that I think this is pretty widely accepted and it was merely tangential to the point I was making. I think he did this because he couldn’t argue with my main point so he went on the attack on the mostly unrelated side issue.
We otherwise get along very well and agree on most things. He can get defensive in our other rare arguments, but those are personal so I understand that. Should I just agree to the no-political-debate rule? It is the easiest solution, but it makes me feel like if we can't figure out how to discuss politics in a healthy way, it can't be a good sign in other areas of eventual discord. Are there some people that are so ideological that they can’t discuss these things in a respectable way? Am I on the receiving end of the “spousal discount factor” here? How do I not take it personally when I feel like he would rather gnaw his arm off to get away than say “Wow, that’s an interesting/valid/legitimate idea. I hadn’t thought about it that way before.”? Are there any "mixed" couples out there with practical advice?