I feel like election season might tear apart my relationship. I’ve always been passionate about politics, but my husband never paid much attention to it. In the last few years, however, he has become a supporter of the current president even though he knows I think this person is mean-spirited and a true threat to democracy. I’ve tried to have calm conversations about our different viewpoints, but it always falls apart when he accuses me of being a “snowflake” or crazy liberal. I’m actually an independent voter and have supported candidates from both parties in past elections. The other day, my husband joked that he is “sleeping with the enemy,” which really hurt. But I admit that I’m beginning to feel the same way about him because I resent how he dismisses my views. I can’t even bear to read his posts on social media anymore. As the election heats up, how can we repair and protect our relationship?
Response by Rachel Bannert, LCP
It makes perfect sense for you to feel anxious about your connection with your husband during this season. Most of us hold political views we feel are in alignment with our values, priorities, and sincerely-held beliefs of what is true. For someone to dismiss or even outright attack our political leanings can feel like an assault on our character and can cause us to react defensively.
Similarly, it can be easy for us to label those with differing political views as a certain “kind” of person and to make assumptions about their nature. Both are entrapments. This election season seems like a good time to practice healthy differentiation from your partner. Differentiation is the ability to balance your needs for attachment and autonomy. It’s the capacity to say, “Even though I love you, I can be okay no matter what is going on with you.”
David Schnarch (1997) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist who writes extensively on this subject. He says, “Giving up your individuality to be together is as defeating in the long run as giving up your relationship to maintain your individuality. Either way, you end up being less of a person with less of a relationship.” (p. 55). Attempting to fuse, balance, or compromise your political ideology with that of your spouse can set you both up for frustration and disconnection.
Instead, take time to remind yourself that your attachment is to your husband, not his voting record or his Facebook posts. Practice vulnerability by letting him know how the current political climate makes you feel distant from him. Clarify that, although you may be “against” some of the political policies he holds, you are “for” him and “for” your partnership.
Brainstorm ways you can support each other’s differentiation through good boundary-setting – such as agreeing not to watch election news coverage together, avoiding triggering conversation topics at the dinner table, or nixing the use of sweeping labels or stereotypes in conversation.
Lastly, give both your husband and yourself the space to get it wrong, because you will. Differentiation is hard work, but the security it brings is worth the sweat and the tears.
Source info: Schnarch, D. (1997). Passionate marriage: Keeping love and intimacy alive in committed relationships. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click here to read more questions and answers in the On Your Mind category. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.
Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.