7 Steps to Relationship Survival During Election Season

boxing gloves decorated with stars and stripes

Election season doesn't have a reputation for being pleasant, but this time around, it seems way more icky and affecting than usual. Political lines aren't just being drawn among Facebook friends and coworkers, but among couples, as well.


Politics is one of those hot-button issues that you've probably been advised at some point in your life to ignore -- right up there with abortion, religion, and whether Kanye West is a genius or an a**hole.

Fair enough. But you can't really ignore when your partner suddenly comes home sporting a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap and you've got a "Feel the Bern" bumper sticker firmly affixed to your station wagon.

If you're together, you SHOULD be on the same page, right?

Not necessarily.

"While it's true that politics make for strange bedfellows, it's also true that intellectual and political differences can enhance a romantic relationship," notes Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works out of New York City, Los Angeles, and Telluride, Colorado.

Over the years, Hokemeyer's worked with plenty of happy couples who simply don't see eye to eye on politics. "The two are not mutually exclusive," he explains. "The secret lies in the ability to respect your partner for the passion and logic of their beliefs rather than demeaning them or judging them as inferior."

And trouble arises, he cautions, when one "responds through fear, anger, or retaliation that emanates from a compulsive need to be right and to control their partner."

Makes perfect sense, but how do you apply this to real life, when the mere mention of ___ talking about ___  makes steam come out of your ears?

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Hokemeyer suggests taking a LOT of steps back and trying to get a deeper understanding of your personal political process. Here's how:

1. Prioritize what's MOST important to you. What is it you really want in a president? Someone who'll finally tackle gun control? Who'll address climate change? A president who'll fix the health-care system? "Rate the top three issues that you feel are critically important this election cycle," advises Hokemeyer.

2. Connect these issues to yourself. Once you've chosen your issues, give them some more weight. "How do they impact you and your family?" asks Hokemeyer.

3. NOW, it's time to pick your agent of change. Meaning: the candidate who's most qualified to address your issues. Meaning: the candidate you should support. And surprise! The "right" candidate for you may or may not be the one you've been praising on Twitter for the past two months. (Oops.)

4. Own your choice. After you've made your selection, says Hokemeyer, "focus on your own choice, rather than trying to convince your loved one they need to change theirs."

5. Respect your partner's opposing views. Respect as in "listen." "Don't react," Hokemeyer notes.

6. Find middle ground. So maybe you and your partner spent time going through steps 1-5 and you still like totally different candidates. Don't give up hope just yet. There's still got to be SOMETHING you both agree on, says Hokemeyer -- even if it's that you want the world to be a safer, better place. (Or that you wish you could agree!)

7. Vote. Maybe part of you thinks it would just be "easier" to vote according to your partner or, hell, not vote at all. Resist that urge! "Don't be passive," Hokemeyer urges. "Use your passion to make meaningful change."

So how do these seven steps lead you and your partner to a tighter connection, exactly? We'll give you a hint: It's because you're reaffirming that you both have the freedom to think for yourselves.

"Just as censorship has no place in our American way of life, it has no place in a romantic relationship," Hokemeyer says.

And we'll all vote for that.


Image via Gutzemberg/Shutterstock

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