Am I being a snob?
October 13, 2011 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend does not keep up to date on current events. This bothers me. Can I say something? Am I being a snob?

My boyfriend and I have been together for just over a year, most of which has been spent long-distance due to my research abroad. I am in my late twenties, he in his early thirties. I love this guy so much and feel very fortunate to have found him, but have been really bothered in the last few months about how little he pays attention to current events, politics, etc etc. I really enjoy reading the news, listening to pod casts, and he just doesn't seem very interested. When we first met, he seemed so passionate and opinionated about his studies and work, and so I figured this would also translate in discussing current events. Several months ago there was an election in my country (which I tend to get quite excited about and spend hours reading blogs and articles about the debates), and he had no interest in reading up on it or even voting. This completely baffled me... I then got upset and we got in a fight. I felt like such a jerk. I know I came off as condescending, and I know I hurt his feelings. I felt awful and just tried to end the discussion with "I love you so much, I guess I just have a strong desire to talk about these things and it makes me sad to know that I can't talk about them with you"

I understand that people in relationships should have different interests and hobbies and should be supportive of such interests. He has many interests that I don't share, so this should just be one those things, right? I honestly don't expect him to spend hours a day reading up on such-and-such. He is a brilliant guy, extremely confident, and I value his opinion so much, which is why I wish i could hear his thoughts on these things I suppose.

Now of course he is a very busy person. I try to always take this into consideration. He doesn't always have the time to sit and read, and often when he comes home late at night he is just too exhausted and would rather tune out to a tv show or movie. I do this a lot, too! There are days when I just don't care to read things, am so exhausted from work, so I veg out and relax. I can completely understand where he is coming from on that front, so again, maybe this is just me being snobbish?

I guess the real issue is that deep down I always envisioned my future husband/partner as someone I could turn to and discuss these things with. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert on politics or economics or anything of the sort, but I am curious, and I feel like I'm being condescending when I ask "did you hear about...?" and he says "no". Since our fight I've stopped asking, but maybe I shouldn't?

I have always been told you can't change someone, they are who they are who they are. I blame myself for seeing this disinterest fairly early on in our relationship and choosing to ignore it. I told myself he is just really busy and doesn't have the time to read the news. I guess I like learning from my partner, I like sharing information, or coming to conclusions on things, and I feel like I can't do this with him. Since I've been away these past few months, this issue has festered a lot in my thoughts.

I know this is MY problem, not his. Please don't get me wrong. I know that this is my hang-up, my issue, and that he is just being himself and I need to either accept this or move on.

I guess my question is: Am I being too harsh in expecting my partner to take an interest in current events? I am asking him to change for my benefit, aren't I? And this is going a bit far; I should love him for who he is, and not who I want him to be, right?

Ugh, just any advice to get these thoughts out of my head, to quit being such a snob, would be very, very helpful.
posted by hollypolly to Human Relations (57 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of your jobs in the relationship is now this: Read up on current events, find the stuff that you think your SO would be interested to know and tell him about it. You can be his personal metafilter for news.

Busy people have to make decisions about how they spend their time, and a lot of people cut out 'reading the news'. Which isn't the same as not caring about it. It's just a matter of priorities.

There are 80 billion places online where you can talk to people about the news. There's probably only a few people in your life that you can share stuff with that's mostly important to you personally.
posted by empath at 7:11 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would not say it was a problem in any way, but my wife and I did discuss this exact issue while we were still dating. She agreed to change her homepage to a news aggregation website, but was under no obligation to read anything. But, as I suspected, the headlines sparked her interest and she just blossomed from there and we now share news stories all the time. It is awesome.
posted by 2legit2quit at 7:13 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with empath. If he's not interested, he's not interested — and your acting as his personal metafilter for news may just seem like constantly wheedling him on this issue.

If this is a dealbreaker, attack it now. But it probably shouldn't be. Is he alert and aware and invested in other things? Are you passionate about his interests/studies/work? Are their any social causes that motivate him, and can you two maybe dive into those?
posted by thejoshu at 7:16 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I being too harsh in expecting my partner to take an interest in current events?

Yes. People have different interests. Personally, I can't stand to watch the news, read newspapers, etc. Mostly this is because they focus on the drama, the bad things, and I just don't care to read about how many people dies in Zimbabwe today (or whatever it is).

If there is something I hear about that interests me, such as Occupy Wall Street (or really, Occupy Philadelphia), I take a bit of time to find out about it, but I don't go in-depth. I just don't see the point -- I get what they're trying to accomplish and what they're doing, but why do I need to go into an in-depth debate/discussion with my S.O. about it?

I appreciate your interest in current affairs. Lots of people are interested, but you have to respect that your S.O. isn't. As empath suggests, find the things you think your S.O. would be interested. I would mention this to him, not as a "hey, did you hear about ____?" but as "hey, _____ happened!" If he is interested, he will read up on it and you will have your opportunity to talk more about it.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:16 AM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


You're being too harsh in expecting your partner to take an interest in current events. You're asking him to change for your benefit. You should love him for who he is, and not who you want him to be.
posted by joannemullen at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Early 20s are a very idealistic and optimistic time. Although people may feel frustrated, upset, or angered about what's going on in the world, there's usually a belief inside of them that with the right politicians/systems/movements, things can/will change.

Then cynicism and disillusionment hits in. Maybe I'm projecting, but once I realized that nothing was changing and that I was wasting my precious time, I stopped being such an avid activist. Once I realized that the ills of humanity were too much for my depressed brain to handle, I stopped reading the news.

Which is not to say that I don't care anymore - I've just channelled my energies towards things that feel productive and satisfying, and I've stopped trying to fight the beast of society. If your boyfriend is brilliant, I wouldn't worry that he doesn't want to keep up on current events.

Occupy Wall Street has restored some glimmer of hope I once had, and maybe sometimes something will do that for him as well. Otherwise I'd let it slide, and keep the news talk to the friends who are passionate about it with you.
posted by whalebreath at 7:18 AM on October 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


he seemed so passionate and opinionated about his studies and work, and so I figured this would also translate in discussing current events.

To many people who care about something substantive, current events are mostly noise and posturing destined to be forgotten which others use as a form of entertainment. Current events are usually presented in a very superficial manner, which makes reading news frustrating and boring.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2011 [39 favorites]


I guess my question is: Am I being too harsh in expecting my partner to take an interest in current events?

Wanting no, expecting yes.

I am asking him to change for my benefit, aren't I?

Yes.

And this is going a bit far; I should love him for who he is, and not who I want him to be, right?

You should love him without the expectation that he will change. It is entirely okay to have things that are important to you in a relationship. It is okay to want and ask for those things, and it is okay to decide if they are sufficiently important to you that you wouldn't want to be in a relationship without them.

If this is one of those things, then you are going to be basically waiting around for him to change and your relationship is likely to suffer as a result, probably fatally.

It seems like you see his lack of interest in politics as a deficiency of some sort. I get this sense from the fact that you tell yourself (have you asked him?) it's because he's busy, as though he'd be as interested in this field as you are, if only he were less busy. I don't really feel like that's true. It could be, though - the only way to know is to ask him.

He is a brilliant guy, extremely confident, and I value his opinion so much, which is why I wish i could hear his thoughts on these things I suppose.

Present him with this angle on it, and if he still doesn't bite, let it drop.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:24 AM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


At some point in our life, you were my husband; I was your boyfriend. Actually, my husband was a professional political operative, so politics and current events were HIZ LYFE. I was working retail and he was running campaigns and yet we talked for hours and still do.

When you ask, "have you heard about X?" and he responds that he hasn't, what do you say next? Do you explain X, do you roll your eyes and sigh, do you say nothing, or do you explain X in a way that he will understand and relate to and that you are enthusiastic about?

And are you looking for discussion, or are you looking for debate? Discussion can be lively and interesting; debate is exhausting and can feel like a fight.

Is it specifically about current events, or do you feel he is not curious about anything in general?
posted by hmo at 7:25 AM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I couldn't deal with this over the long-term, but probably neither could I bring myself to break off an otherwise great relationship over it. So it's tough, but really this would be a fundamental incompatibility as big as attitudes to money or kids for me.

There's a lot of guilt and "who's right?" in your post, but that isn't how relationships work - they aren't jury trials. Think about it in terms of compatibility and work from the assumption that you can never change anyone.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sometimes I'm like him. After a long day, you get to find out that the state/local government is letting you down, the economy sucks, someone was murdered, the weather will be terrible.... It's frankly too much. And how much does it help you to know that a guy was killed in a stick-up gone wrong, or that there was a 2-alarm fire on the other side of town, or that some famous person cheated on his/her spouse? A year from now, even a month from now, will you remember these details? Or were they only a source of entertainment because you passed the time tsk-tsking but there really was nothing life-changing?

He might be like this as a self-defense, as a way to keep plodding.
posted by Houstonian at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are some differences between romantic partners that can be really hard to get past -- if you have deeply different ideas about how to handle money, or how to raise children, or whether to have children at all, or (in some cases) religion.

I don't think this is one of those issues. Most married couples I know, including me and my wife, have some interests in common and some interests not in common. That's not a problem. What is a potential problem, as I think you recognize, is if you look down on people who don't follow the news. Because you don't want to be looking down on your boyfriend.

Let me put it this way -- it sounds like you have a stereotype in your mind that "current events are important; people who don't pay attention to the news are lazy/ignorant/dumb." It seems like you are really, truly, aware that your boyfriend is not lazy, ignorant, or dumb. You are thus in a perfect position to extinguish this stereotype and stop looking down on people who don't follow the news -- especially the man you love. But stereotypes are pretty robust little guys and don't wither away in the face of deductive reasoning. It just takes time. I predict this is something you won't care about in a year.

If it helps, I'm more like you -- read a lot of news and blogs, think and talk about politics a lot -- and to tell the truth, I now consider this sort of a flaw in myself!
posted by escabeche at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I spend a lot of time reading about poitical news, but I'm not completely convinced that it is time well spent. That is, I'm like you in this regard, but I'm not sure that your boyfriend isn't right.
posted by goethean at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Like others mention, the 99%ers have given me more interest, more hope, than I've had in decades. If he's disillusioned, maybe he'll spark to that movement.
posted by Houstonian at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2011


I'm busy, and I'm not really into current events either, but if I were, I'd make time for the news. So it's probably not so much about being busy as just not feeling much direct involvement in current events. I don't really see this as a flaw in myself. I don't mind hearing about news stories from my boyfriend (hey, I like it, even), but only because he thinks they're interesting and I like to learn, not because he's bringing them to me to "train" me to read the news. I've tried to care more most of my life, and I think it's just something that has to happen naturally. OR you have to work somewhere with a TV playing national news all day!
posted by stoneandstar at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2011


If he's not interested, he's not interested. I don't think I could make myself closely follow elections in a country I don't live in, not even for someone I love- probably because I don't understand why they would make me. That said, I've been the more "informed" one in a relationship in the past, and it wasn't what I wanted- I wanted someone I could have discussions with. So maybe this is a dealbreaker for you. That doesn't make you a bad person.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:40 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


he seemed so passionate and opinionated

Current events are usually presented in a very superficial manner, which makes reading news frustrating and boring.

A lot of the news sources either cater to the people who already know a great deal about current events and make it a point to find out everything about a particular event, or they cater to the people that watch the news occasionally, i.e. dumbing the news down somewhat. Personally, I don't watch the news or read up on it unless it hits MeFi. Watching the news on CNN, MSNBC, etc, can be mind-numbingly boring. You say your guy is brilliant. Maybe he doesn't want to devote the huge amount of time that you do to staying current with events, and maybe he doesn't want to be talked to like an idiot by Anderson Cooper.

If this is a big part of your life, then maybe you should just chalk this up to different interests. It's not fair to expect him to completely change his interests to match yours. It's also not fair to completely give up yours. The crucial point is how you talk about these things with him, and how he reacts. You can discuss current events with him without judging his character. After all, it's just a discussion. It's not life-changing discussion. The same goes the other way, right? How do you react to his interests?
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 7:40 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, you're too harsh for expecting him to be who he isn't. You're asking him to change for you, yes, and it's not a fair thing to expect or ask. You should love him for who he is otherwise you don't love him AT ALL.
posted by inturnaround at 7:42 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


First off, thank you to everyone for their post. I should add that my boyfriend said he used to get involved in political action when he was younger, but seeing how things never change caused him to feel disillusioned and like he was wasting his time. It's almost as if he has now swung in the complete opposite direction. I think I am at a different point in my life, where this stuff feels like it matters more than ever before. I'm more interested and engaged in these debates than ever before and wish I had someone here to share the experience with.

In answer to hmo's question And are you looking for discussion, or are you looking for debate? Discussion can be lively and interesting; debate is exhausting and can feel like a fight. I can say that I am definitely looking for discussion. A sort "end of the day" over dinner type of thing. I come from a family where we used to discuss current events over dinner all the time. I don't expect to go into depth (I don't often have time to read lengthy articles, etc)... but just a bit of exchange would be nice.

But you're all right: If something interests him, he will pursue it, and I need to back off and love him as he is.

Perhaps what bothers me is that I look at him as a potential life-partner, and therefore this feels important to me because I'd like to have these exchanges (not every night!) but more often than not. I definitely use news as a form of entertainment, I am well aware of this, so then I think I need to remind myself that this is not his form of entertainment. Not his cup of tea.
posted by hollypolly at 7:42 AM on October 13, 2011


People's engagement with the news changes as circumstances change. By the time he's 50, he'll probably be a cranky old republican watching fox news, and you'll be wishing he didn't care so much.
posted by empath at 7:45 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should be thankful he is: "brilliant," "extremely confident" -- and doesn't waste his time feeding on the neverending parade of infotainment.

Find out the real, deeper reasons why you find it so important to "debate" "get excited about" the news AND why you got MAD (enough to fight!) when he didn't.

He sounds like a "bigger picture" type of person - but yeah, you're being too harsh. Hopefully your reaction isn't a deal-breaker for HIM.
posted by mrmarley at 7:45 AM on October 13, 2011


I understand; you want him to be interested in the world. You want him to care about it. You feel like he doesn't.

I don't think you should try to get him to read the news or feel that it means something when he doesn't. I do think that you two should get involved in something positive together; maybe even cycle through volunteer activities. You could start by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. You'll both feel good about the activism and he won't feel bad for not wanting to read articles that don't change anything. I bet he'll respond to the second part of the think globally/act locally kinda thing. You can have the deeper discussions you crave, but they will be sparked by actual actions in your lives. When you volunteer at an art museum, you can discuss art and the government's lack of funding. When you volunteer for a homeless shelter, you can talk about the level of aid needed to help people get back on their feet. When you volunteer to stuff envelopes for the local elections, you can discuss the candidates and the good that they will do the community.

Does that seem like a good compromise? You'll be doing good for your relationship and for the world!
posted by 200burritos at 7:51 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do you think he should keep up with current affairs? What do you think it says about him as a person? You imply that this means he's superficial or apathetic, is that it?

At one time, my father was a journalist, and he quit. I was raised with a default cynicism about news agencies. Additionally, at a time in my life when I was particularly overburdened with nonviolent direct action chores, visiting friends with cancer, and dealing with an anxiety disorder, I was also being badgered by my friend who accused me of being superficial because stories about Iraq's nuclear capability weren't as sexy to me as they were to him. I didn't agree, and all he did was convince me he was a self-righteous jerkoff.

Reading the news is not activism and not everybody sees it as a form of entertainment, either, so what you're really arguing about is his choice of hobby rather than the depth of his character. If this is your main hobby, I don't blame you for wanting someone who will participate in it with you, though. Just, you might have to find someone else for that.
posted by tel3path at 7:51 AM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sometimes, even people who ARE interested in current events aren't interested in talking about them, so even if you got him to read the headlines, you might not be able to get him to talk about it.

Look at it this way: as long as you have SOMETHING to talk about, and you enjoy conversations with him, you're fine. Just because he doesn't want to talk about "the news" doesn't mean that he has nothing to talk about.
posted by yarly at 8:10 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


my gf is similar to your bf, and i am a current events nerd like yourself. at times it gets a bit frustrating. my solution is basically 3-fold -- 1) i still email her articles that i think she will find interesting, even though i know she won't necessarily read all of them. 2) i turn on our NPR-equivalent radio station before she gets home, and we listen to it while we cook dinner together and chat about the day. it's just there in the background and the more she listens, the more she learns and the more she talks about it. 3) i've learned not to push it -- early on in our relationship i said something along the lines of "i wish you were into poltiics more; it's important!" and that of course did not go down well, and made her think every time i asked her a question about something in the news it was some kind of 'test'. the collollary to #3 is that i realise i have many other outlets for my interest in current events, including online and with other real-life friends. the rest of my relationship with my gf makes up for the fact that we don't share this particular interest quite as in depth as i would like, but that's only fair b/c i don't share all of hers either.
posted by modernnomad at 8:13 AM on October 13, 2011


Does he follow sports? Tech news? Maybe there's some niche news you could both follow?
Does he have any down time, such as a commute or workout time, where he could listen to a newsy podcast?
posted by at at 8:19 AM on October 13, 2011


You have a need to discuss current events. Instead of asking your boyfriend to change, why not go and talk politics with some friends? This is the kind of need that is completely valid to satisfy outside of your primary relationship.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:32 AM on October 13, 2011


Thank you, modernnomad, that is very helpful! I like the 'radio on in the background' idea. I am currently out of the country, but will try that when I get home. I too said that same line to my boyfriend, in my case when the election rolled around, and of course it did not go over well. I've been afraid to bring things up or send him articles ever since because I don't want him to think I am testing him, like you said. I think listening to a radio program together is a great compromise.

crazycanuck, this is true. I think I need to seek these opportunities out more often and not rely so heavily on him for this. I guess because I have been away from home for a while now for my studies, and do not have as many close friends here as back home, I must be pushing too hard on this issue with him because he is one of the few people I talk to everyday. I will try and actively seek more outlets!
posted by hollypolly at 8:37 AM on October 13, 2011


Keep this in mind, as you mull this over:

Even though all this seems to be central to your life right now, and therefore not being able to share it with your partner seems like it would leave a big, gaping hole in your relationship--ten years down the road, your life may look very different than it does right now. You may be be overburdened with additional responsibilities like owning a home, raising children, all the burdens of a mid-career job, etc. etc., and even you yourself may no longer be as strongly interested in following and debating/discussing current events. (it may continue to be of some interest to you, but it may not be such a priority).

People's interests invariably wax and wane, and it would kind of be a shame to mess up an otherwise good relationship over different interests that may not even be permanent.

I guess I like learning from my partner, I like sharing information, or coming to conclusions on things, and I feel like I can't do this with him.

Of course you can do this. Just not about current events.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:45 AM on October 13, 2011


And along the lines of modernnomad's practical suggestions, I'm the uncurrent current-events person in my marriage. What has helped somewhat in our case is watching The Daily Show together during dinner. I know that it is a delicious irony that I get my news from a parody news show, but that way I at least know when earthquakes strike and so on.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2011


I made a decision several years ago to stop listening/reading/watching the news because what is reported on the most is how crappy things are. Since then, my life has gotten measurably better because I'm not hearing about all the shit that doesn't really end up mattering in the end anyway. If my husband decided that me not knowing what shitty thing happened to someone/some country/some group was a deal breaker we would not be married right now. I still get some news from mefi and twitter, but it really is on my own terms and small part of my life and that is what I'm most comfortable with.


You could look at this as an opportunity to expand your interests by finding common ground engaging with your boyfriend on topics that actually interest him. Find friends to talk politics with.
posted by Kimberly at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2011


Could you convince him to watch things like The Daily Show with you? Personally, that's about all of the 'american' news I can stomach, but it's funny, Jon Stewart hits the political highlights, if inclined there's always enough there to spark discussion or follow up, if he is so inclined. If you're not in the US (or Canada, as I am), perhaps there's something similar where you are thats more satirical than "regular" news your boyfriend may be interested in.
posted by cgg at 8:54 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, I used to be like you - total news junkie, blogs, podcasts, etc. Now I'm like your boyfriend. I don't read any news blogs, and I even skip the This American Life podcast when it's about current events.

What changed? I got burnt out. I was spending so much time and mental energy on things that I couldn't do anything about, and that generally made me furious. So one day I decided to try an experiment: I would disconnect from all news sources and politics for a week, and see how I felt. I've never looked back.

This is all to say that he may not be apathetic or unengaged, he may just be like me. The fact that he's a little older than you makes this more likely.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't necessarily a right vs. wrong situation.

If it's important to you, it's important to you.

That doesn't mean to try to change him, but maybe he's not the best person for you.

People can be great and still not be perfect for each other.
posted by maurreen at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2011


I'm someone like your boyfriend, I think. I gave up on following televised news several years ago. Here's the thing. In my personal life, I find that people are generally good, and kind, and understanding, and helpful. In the news I find that people are often portrayed as stubborn, argumentative, cruel, and thoughtless. Following the news too closely tends to color my perceptions and make the world seem like a vastly more discouraging and threatening place than I find it to be when I look around at the people I know. I choose not to let that into my life.

That doesn't mean that I don't try to keep up with headlines and stay informed about what is actually happening in the world, but it does mean that I seldom want to read someone's rant on why everyone who doesn't agree with them is wrong. (And it doesn't matter whether that rant is coming from someone whose politics I agree OR disagree with.) News reporting often lacks nuance, and I find nuance and moderation to be the most important qualities for living a happy life.

So it's not that I don't care about what's going on in the world, it's just that I don't care about it in the same way that you do, and/or think the same things are important. I would view your desire to discuss news the same way I would view it if I had a significant other who wanted to discuss their fantasy football lineup in depth: it's great that it interests you, I'm happy to listen for a bit, but fundamentally, I don't care. So I think if you can separate in your head "the way people show that they care about the world is by discussing current events" into "my boyfriend cares about the world and people around him" and "my boyfriend does not express that care in the same way I do", maybe it will help defuse the issue a little for you.
posted by MsMolly at 9:07 AM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Your partner doesn't have be the only resource for all your interests. You want to discuss politics--find friends who also want to rant and rave about politics. I think it's putting a huge burden on someone to expect them to reflect all your interests--politics, fashion, sports, snuggles, and love of Dr. Who. He's not your only friend. He might be BBF as well as lover, but you need other people, too. Otherwise, you're wrapped up in a little world o' two and that can suffocate.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:15 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you concerned because he doesn't talk about this with you? Or do you not respect his level of informed participation as a citizen? The first is your problem, the second might be a deal breaker. Did he not even bother to vote in a small local election? (e.g. BF didn't take time away from work to vote for county dog >>catcher
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2011


I'm someone like your boyfriend, I think. I gave up on following televised news several years ago. Here's the thing. In my personal life, I find that people are generally good, and kind, and understanding, and helpful. In the news I find that people are often portrayed as stubborn, argumentative, cruel, and thoughtless. Following the news too closely tends to color my perceptions and make the world seem like a vastly more discouraging and threatening place than I find it to be when I look around at the people I know. I choose not to let that into my life.

This. A lot of posters remarked that the news gave them a feeling of powerlessness, and I'm sure that that's by design. Mindset is essential to effectiveness and if I'm reading or watching something that's doing me no good at all, I turn it off.
posted by tel3path at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding the meat robot. (I'm the uninterested one.)
But, as something to maybe explore: I hate most pop music in general and like a fair bit of what's on NPR that isn't explicitly news, so it's just sort of on in the background whenever I'm driving. The result is I end up taking stuff in "passively" even if not necessarily paying attention to it. (This also means at one point I knew more about what was going on in Poland than the US because of when I go out, but I can't control their programming schedule.)

Anyway, if the problem is just that he doesn't pay attention rather than actually refuses to discuss the topics(this is a bit vague in the question), this might be a small wedge.
posted by Su at 9:34 AM on October 13, 2011


Oh look someone already said that. *sigh*
posted by Su at 9:38 AM on October 13, 2011


@Lesser Shrew: It was a federal election and he had no interest in voting or learning about the candidates, etc. He told me he doesn't believe voting does anything, that nothing will change, he flat out told me it wasn't important to him. We bickered because I just wholeheartedly do not agree with that statement. But is that really a dealbreaker? I didn't quite understand the last bit of your post... I wasn't sure if it was intended as a sarcastic comment... but in any case, if it were a small local election it would not have bothered me quite so much. But it was federal, and that did bother me.

@Su: He does not refuse to discuss things, I guess it is just more that he is not very interested and therefore does not read up on them, or pay attention. I think the radio is an excellent option, to have on in the background at the apartment, I'll try that for sure.
posted by hollypolly at 9:38 AM on October 13, 2011


Just be careful trying to hide peas in his mashed potatoes, er... you know what I mean.

It's okay to not share interests. But it is also okay to be actively disinterested in a significant other's interests so long as you can do it without being resentful or sabotaging. (It's also okay for interests, or lack of interest in them, to be a deal-breaker.)

I will gladly record Wimbledon for my boyfriend when he's traveling and not able to catch a match. I will even PLAY tennis with him, occasionally. But I would probably jump out of a window if tennis became our default background noise. It just doesn't interest me. And my general apathy turns to antipathy if I have to be exposed to it with any huge frequency. I feel my skin start to crawl. I'm probably enough of a hypochondriac that I could manage a slight allergic reaction - hives or something - if I really wanted to. That said, if my boyfriend said tennis was a dealbreaker, I'd go right out and buy a terrycloth headband and tiny shorts and I'd learn to love it.

Is it more important to you to know how he feels about the three new free-trade agreements or to know how he feels about free-trade in general? He may be able to talk about things more abstractly than specifically. In that case, you'll just need to reframe things. He might not care about Senator Grassley going after big pharma with new regulations - but he might have opinions about how big pharma is influencing doctors. Have you tried that?

Finally, I just have to put in a plug for his perspective. Not voting IS a political action. Voter apathy gets a pretty bad rap, but imagine if you felt that your system was corrupt, broken and possibly irreparably so. Furthermore, what if you felt like your voting system itself was the problem. Maybe you don't have all the words to describe that. Maybe you don't have all the answers for how the system could be fixed. But maybe you have some serious misgivings. Voting - even paying attention to the horse race - could feel like legitimizing a system that you have deep misgivings about. Cut apathetic voters some slack. They may not be sophisticated enough to vocalize WHY they lost interest in participating, but that doesn't mean they're just lazy or too narcissistic to see the larger implications of engaging politically.
posted by jph at 10:00 AM on October 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Try recording Frontline and watching it in front of him? I'm not all that interested in politics, etc but every time my husband starts watching a Frontline, I get pulled in.
posted by kirst27 at 10:00 AM on October 13, 2011


Wow, thank you jph! I really, really appreciate your response. It was difficult, at times, not to feel like he was being lazy. I just could not understand not wanting to be informed. He did mention to me something along of the lines of not participating in a system he does not agree with. I think perhaps I jumped the gun and judged him too harshly for it. I find the hoopla surrounding an election very exciting, and I was eager to talk to him about it. His reaction really shocked me, and I don't think it helped that I was away at school, and we could not discuss our tiff in person. In any case, thank you for your insight, I think he would wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote, and that's a tremendous help to me.
posted by hollypolly at 10:17 AM on October 13, 2011


This also might help to give you some perspective on the differences between the two of you:

Politics as a Hobby
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:11 AM on October 13, 2011


I am asking him to change for my benefit, aren't I?

Yes, but an informed citizenry is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, which is why we don't have one.

Informing him will benefit the world just a little bit.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:36 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is nice to be interested the people you care about, even if you are not interested in the things they care about. I think he should be able to have a non-dismissive discussion with you about subjects you are interested in, however, I think you should not expect him to share your passion. I pay attention to current events, but would quickly tire of having that discussion every night. Mix it up.

As an aside, I don't think I would have much patience at all for someone who thinks they are not "participating in the system" by not voting. If your country is like mine, you pay taxes and then your monies are distributed based on politics. You utilize things like streets and electricity and subsidized food crops and energy systems that exist in their current form due to "the system". It's fine to not vote, but I think that people who believe they are somehow opting out of the system are misguided at best. They're really just opting out of voting. This may be a conversation your boyfriend doesn't want to have if in some way they feel they can't justify their point of view to you. Personally I am fine with people who say "I don't like to vote" and leave it at that, but "the system" excuse makes no sense to me. You may be a person who demands a thorough examination of their motives, and that might be a place he doesn't want to go, and is saying the easiest thing he can to get out of it. It's up to you to decide if you can just ignore this point of view when you care about politics.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:49 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to agree with coolguymichael (2 posts up) and say that this is a problem. If he takes being a citizen in a democracy in the least bit seriously, he needs to be informed when he votes. Alternately, if he doesn't vote, he needs to realize that in doing so, he has forfeited the right to complain about political decisions that affect him. Every time he doesn't vote, or votes without understanding the issues, he's effectively giving half a vote to the people he disagrees with. Does he complain about politics? If so, then it's not unreasonable to point out that he's being hypocritical.

I'd reframe the question: how can he most efficiently get the grasp he needs on important news in order to be a responsible citizen? I don't think reading a daily newspaper is the best way to do this, though I normally read two or three. Rather, I'd suggest reading a reliable weekly. If I had to choose one, it would be The Economist, not because I agree with its editorial line but because it actually tries to cover the world and it's clear about its editorial bias. I also read The Nation and The New Yorker regularly, and some biweekly and monthly or bimonthly magazines too.

And while you can't change someone, you can make them want to change. If being informed about politics is really important to you, so important that it's a dealbreaker, and he wants to stay with you, then he can choose to change. Of course, as he gets older and (most likely) accumulates more assets, especially property, and puts down roots in a community, he's likely to start taking more of an interest in politics because it will be more important to him personally!

If it's not a dealbreaker, though, what about a compromise? You agree not to talk about politics, and he agrees to vote, and to vote the way you tell him to, because he has outsourced his political thinking to you.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:38 PM on October 13, 2011


if it were a small local election it would not have bothered me quite so much. But it was federal, and that did bother me.

Now this I find kind of interesting, and it does suggest to me that you're being a bit of a snob and using politics/your position on current events to define your self-view. I think lots of people do this in their 20s--I certainly did--but I think it's somewhat likely that over the next 10 years your relationship to politics will change.

Here's the thing: voting in a local election for school board and local dogcatcher and mayor is INFINITELY more effective in creating change and being involved in civic life. It just is. Your vote has something like a million times more weight (it could actually decide an election, which will never happen on the federal level). The issues that local candidates run on, and campaign on, are the ones that actually affect you and your neighbors and your community in a real way; federal issues might affect you but it tends to be quite indirect and take a long time and the issues that most people feel the most passionately about on the federal stage tend to be signaling issues rather than stuff that impacts their day-to-day life.

Keeping abreast of national news and politics isn't a bad thing but it's far less of a virtue than keeping abreast and involved in local politics.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:11 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not voting in a feudal election would not be a deal breaker for me because I think it's okay that some people don't vote (and, truly, I'd rather see local election participation because with the exception of the occasional pizza mogul, federal candidates come from somewhere.) You might have higher standards. You might be unable to repect a person who holds that view in the same way I would be fundamentally unable to respect a person who had more than one DUI and tried to spin them as unfortunate and unfair.

That's really what I think your question should be - is my boyfriend living his life right (trying to live his life right.) If you don't think that he is, that's a problem. If you just wish he shared your passion, well, see the tennis answer - that's not really such a big deal.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2011



I have always been told you can't change someone, they are who they are who they are.


This is how I feel about the world.

I don't think this is a fault with your partner.

To give you a micro example, there's a program here called Q & A. It's a panel show where politicians and journalists debate the biggest issues of the day. Pretty much every engaged Aussie watches it, comments on Twitter, and hopes to get their tweets posted on the screen. I used to watch it religiously.

Then I realized that nothing I did would change anything, and all it did was making me angry. I switched to watching Superntural on Mondays and felt much happier.

You can be intelligent without caring about the wider world.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:45 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It might be interesting for you to consider how you might feel if he kept up with the news and wanted to discuss things, but had completely opposite political views to yours. I've known quite a few couples who avoid talking about politics as much as possible for this reason -- although in some cases it does motivate them to vote!

I feel like I'm being condescending when I ask "did you hear about...?" and he says "no".

Say "I read something interesting about..." instead.

That said, the only one who can decide if this is a dealbreaker for you is you. It sounds like you have some contempt for him about this, and if you can't get over that at least give him a chance to decide if you feeling that way is a dealbreaker for him. For some people it is -- for instance, someone who wants to be a politician might feel it could damage their career to be in a relationship with someone who seems uninformed on current events.

Something else to think about for you: Imagine you had a boyfriend who kept up with current events - but much, much more than you; feels that you don't care enough to learn more about issues in greater depth, and feels that you aren't participating enough in the political system because you aren't out running for office, volunteering for election campaigns, or going to protests and rallies.

What that you imagined your future husband/partner would be like are you willing to let go of to have a relationship with the reality of the person your boyfriend is? What in your life are you willing to adapt to circumstances, and in what places will you strive for life as you imagined it with no compromise? You need to think about that.
posted by yohko at 3:45 PM on October 13, 2011


Like others mention, the 99%ers have given me more interest, more hope, than I've had in decades. If he's disillusioned, maybe he'll spark to that movement.

Or if he's REALLY disillusioned he'll just snark at them.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:52 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


First off, thank you to everyone for their post. I should add that my boyfriend said he used to get involved in political action when he was younger, but seeing how things never change caused him to feel disillusioned and like he was wasting his time. It's almost as if he has now swung in the complete opposite direction.

Are you dating Tom Gabel?

In 2002, Against Me! released Baby, I'm An Anarchist

In 2010, they released I Was A Teenage Anarchist
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:55 PM on October 13, 2011


I'm smart and passionate and... generally don't have the time to follow large segments of the news. I'm also a little cynical, so that makes it especially to cut out political things, despite the fact that I care.

If I were dating you, I would absolutely be willing to talk about some of these things with you, sometimes. But if you had a general expectation that I follow the news, I doubt I would be willing or able to meet that expectation.

So, I'm more sympathetic to his position than yours, but only you can decide whether this is a deal breaker for you. I think tel3path put it exactly right above: this is a hobby choice, and it's up to you whether you need someone who shares it. You're definitely wrong to be judgmental of him, though, and that will kill your relationship.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:45 PM on October 13, 2011


My boyfriend - who's also a mefite - and I joke that though we both spend a lot of time on metafilter we almost never read the same thing. He dives into the long threads about politics and the economy and such and I read more anecdotal stuff and feminist threads. We intersect on cats & art. And though he clearly knows much more about current events, he never makes me feel stupid or ignorant. He informs me when I ask to be informed, and otherwise he gets his fill of political discourse here, mostly. People know varying amounts about various subjects, and not all intelligent people choose to spend that intelligence on understanding current events. That's okay. Diversion of interest is okay. I think you two can learn a lot from each other.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 5:56 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Keeping up on the minutiae of current events matters only if you're going to do something with your knowledge. Generally, that amounts to voting and maybe making some donations to charity. Otherwise, knowing what's happening in Ghana now is no more important than knowing what was happening in Ghana a thousand years ago.

So if he's not voting wildly and crazily and he's giving enough of his time and money to good organizations, he knows enough and you've nothing to complain about except that he doesn't share one of your hobbies.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on October 14, 2011


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