Woe Is Me! “My Partner and I Have Opposing Political Views. Do I Confront Him or Learn to Live With It?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
My boyfriend and I have slightly different political and social views — I’m more empathetic, while he’s neutral. It triggers me to see him support things like victim-blaming in the name of neutrality, and he feels I’m a far leftist. This clash of views always leaves me anxious, bitter, and makes me avoid him. How do I tackle the (ideological) elephant in the room?
— Left With Center
DR: I have dated people with opposing political views in the past. It is certainly not easy. But, how difficult it is depends on: (a) just how politically dissimilar your alignments are; and (b) how much these dissimilarities permeate into your day-to-day life. Healthy debates on smaller political issues can be both wonderful and enriching. Needless to mention, these debates need to be respectful. Sometimes, when done right, they can help expose you to nuances that you may not come across within your political echo chamber.
But, if your political views lie on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, I wouldn’t know how to make my peace with that either — especially, in the politically-charged atmosphere of the present. And, from what you have said, it appears that he is opposed to certain core social and political viewpoints you hold dear. It also appears that this bothers you a lot, stifles you, and is causing you to drift away from him. If that is indeed the case, ask yourself if this relationship is worth holding on to at all. Good luck!
RD: Oooof. First, my condolences. It always sucks to be on different ideological wavelengths, especially if communication is difficult. So, in the name of discourse, I’d urge you to sit down and explain where you’re coming from, how you feel, and also understand what his deal is. Bring up specific examples that bothered you and figure out — Why is he neutral? Do his views stem from some bigoted worldview? Or is it ignorance?
I do believe neutrality = complicity, so I’m 100% on your side. So, please do it only if you have the mental capacity. Because it’s going to have to be an exhausting dialogue. I’d say start with not assuming he’s necessarily evil or doesn’t care about people or something equally negative. But you’ll definitely need to engage in a debate to better understand where he’s coming from, and if there is any room for change or growth. If he gets defensive or refuses to listen, then I suggest you run. A year ago, I did. And it was amazing. Good luck.
KB: Ooohhhhhhhh juicy! On the one hand, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, but on the other hand, I want to pull up a chair and a bag of popcorn and watch you fight with your ‘neutral’ man.
Okay, back to my empathetic side. This is the most relatable problem ever! We all have people we love whose political views don’t totally align with ours. But the big question is: how central are the areas where you differ to your sense of self? How core are these particular beliefs to how you see your place in the world? If the areas you disagree on are really core to your value system, then I doubt this relationship has much of a future. But if they are not, or if your man seems not diametrically opposed to your views — but rather slowly, perhaps, inching closer to a space where you understand and respect each others’ views the more you argue — then I think there is hope. If you fit in the latter category, it’s worth trying to broach these topics more delicately so that you don’t up breaking up a good relationship over non-stop fights. But that doesn’t mean you give up on bringing him left-ward…
LG: Do you realize you’ve used the word ‘slightly’? My guess is not – it’s often not the big, but the minute differences that most rile us, as humans. This honestly seems like a non-issue, since the ideological elephant seems more like a piglet in the room. But I certainly don’t want you feeling anxious! So here goes: It’s very okay for different people to hold different political/social views. It makes us better and smarter when we interact with them! And vice versa! Assuming you’re not complete political opposites (which could still be kind of hot, if you’re into that) the fact that he has opinions of his own doesn’t seem like such a big deal. If anything, it’s a giant opportunity to convert him to The Cause, which could be exciting! Might I suggest boning up on our series, ‘All The Arguments You Need‘? It will give you the ammo you need to coolly counter his arguments, so you can feel smug instead of anxious. But the bottom line is, if twin worldviews are critical to your happiness, this may not be the relationship for you.
ADT: I have had the unfortunate experience of dating the sort of man who describes himself as a ‘centrist’ but uses it as a means to argue ‘both sides’ of fundamental violations. Political beliefs can be debated, the fact that blaming victims is wrong cannot. There comes a point in all our lives where lovers and partners say or do things completely at odds with what we believe in (or what decent human beings should believe in, in some cases). You give these people a chance to explain themselves, you let them read up to change their stance. If they don’t put in the effort, or don’t change their perspectives, you leave. Love is abundant and conditional, so don’t worry.
AS: I feel you. I’ve faced something like this, and also know friends who’ve been in similar ideological discords. One way to think of this is that political views need not be so divisive for a couple. After all, ‘agree to disagree’ can be a very healthy approach to coping with disagreements, so long as they’re not deal-breakers. Then again, since these views reveal someone’s inherent nature, they can be signs that tell you that you and your significant other have very different values, which is a red flag.
Also, I think the question is not about ideological labels — because sometimes we’re too quick to assign labels when, in fact, we may support an idea, but not an ideology 100%. I think the question is – is this a deal-breaker for you? If you think your partner is not empathetic enough, have you tried finding out why? Or maybe explaining your perspective on why you think victim-blaming is wrong? You might want to ask these questions, so that you don’t rush into any decisions. But, if it’s making you bitter and anxious, maybe some re-evaluations are in order.