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Rachel Bernstein is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Encino.
by Rachel Bernstein, LMFT
Democrat? Republican? Independent? Undecided? Regardless of your political affiliation, during election season it is almost impossible to avoid political conversations. Margare
Political beliefs can highlight core differences in values with couples, and discussing these can sometimes unintentionally rock relationships. So, how do people deal with the political elephant (or donkey) in the room?
Set a few ground rules. Decide together when and where it is appropriate to discuss politics. If you speak about differing political views in front of your children, be prepared to model discussion without discord. Don’t burden guests with your conflicting political opinions, especially if you are only doing so in order to see which of your friends and family are “on your side.”
Some people enjoy arguing, while others would rather be stung by a swarm of bees. Be sensitive to this in both directions. If your partner loves to spar, don’t judge it and give them opportunities to do this with others. If your partner tries to disappear by sliding off the chair and under the table when this sort of discussion starts, respect their needs for a lighter and more peaceful moment.
Show interest in each other’s point of view. You don’t have to agree, just listen to your partner’s ideas. Don’t make digs (even under your breath!), like “that’s stupid.” Don’t interrupt your partner by disagreeing or by defending your own position. Some people are driven by facts and have articles and statistics to support their positions, while others are driven in a greater way by emotion. Both are valid. Don’t demand that your loved ones “prove” their points in order for you to take them seriously.
Watch for signs of larger problems. If you can’t talk with your partner in a comfortable manner that is free of shouting or insults, there is likely an underlying issue. Politically centered sparring can be used to try to prove you are smarter than your partner, you are more socially or globally aware, or just that you are right – at the expense of your relationship. Counseling with a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist can help you sort this out in a healthy way.
Remember that the fact that you both have political positions you care about, even if they differ, says more about what you have in common than about your differences. You are both engaged in the world around you, care about the political process and the leadership of the country, and want to have your voice and your vote count. You each have your own opinions and feelings, and you know that you shouldn’t have to become just like each other in order to stay with each other. This is all very important.
Rachel Bernstein is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Encino. Learn more or find a therapist near you at CounselingCalifornia.com.
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