Navigating a Relationship With Opposing Political Views

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

When it comes to the presidential debate, do you and your partner find each other on opposite sides of the couch glaring at each other as if you’re on opposing sides of the field at an NFL game? If so, you’re not alone. As one of the most contentious election years ever, people are struggling to deal with the sometimes differing political beliefs of their partners. 

Take one of the most famous couples on opposite sides of the political spectrum, James Carville and Mary Matalin. They met and fell in love in 1992 in the midst of a presidential race between Bill Clinton and George Bush. James was a senior advisor for the Clinton camp and Mary was firmly entrenched in the upper echelons of Bush’s campaign team. Despite their political differences, and Mary’s disappointment about the results of the election, they married in 1993 and have lived happily ever after. 

When asked how they manage to have a healthy marriage despite their extremely different political views, James explained:

“As with any marriage, part of the trick is realizing you can’t change your spouse even if you wanted to. Mary will watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh. I’ll head to another room and flip on SportsCenter. I rarely watch her when she’s on television, and I’m pretty certain she rarely wastes a minute watching me.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever quite understand Republicans. If you want to believe that Obamacare signals the end of civilization or that cutting taxes for rich people is the path to a better America, that’s your choice. I’m never going to believe any of it. But I also know I’m not going to change it. So if it pleases Mary, then fine. I’d rather stay happily married than pick a fight with my wife over politics.”

Instead of politics, they focus on their children and everything that makes their marriage rich and satisfying. They keep their politics and home life completely separate. And as Carville said, you can’t change who your partner is, so rather you have to decide if you can live with it. 

So how do you maintain civility in your relationship if you’re on team Hillary and he’s on team Trump? Take a page out of Mary and James’ playbook and keep politics out of the house. Instead of talking to your partner about politics, find a friend with similar views who can commiserate. Of course it’s impossible to keep all political coverage out of the house, given the 24-hour news and social media, but make a rule that if politics do come up, you keep it to a minimum and don’t make it about each other. For example, just because your boyfriend likes Trump does not mean it defines him as a person and it’s a reason to question the entire relationship. 

Campaign season is almost over so hang in there and soon we will all be able to collectively have a big sigh of relief!

Elizabeth Cobb is the founder and lead therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you'd like help navigating opposing viewpoints in your relationship, contact Cobb Psychotherapy, and see how therapy can help.