I did a call-out months ago for politically divided couples. I've kept in touch with them. This is a letter from one.
My husband is a Donald Trump supporter and I am a Hillary Clinton supporter (was for Bernie in the primaries, but was happy to vote for her). We have pretty much made a rule to not talk about politics in our house after some stressful, pointless discussions in the beginning. I find it difficult to understand why my husband voted for someone who I think is a narcissistic, lying, awful person but I must say that he has read up and listened to more about this election and the candidates than many people I know. I am of the mind that even though we disagree politically, we still agree on what we want in our everyday personal lives. A president does not change the fact that we respect and love each other on a daily basis.
I have to admit I was not expecting the election result. I hadn't realized that part of the reason I hadn't let his choice bother me that much was because I assumed it would go away after Nov. 8th. I really couldn't imagine that Trump would win, and still feel like it's a bad dream. He's gloated since the win; I told him it made me feel physically ill, and it has come up once or twice, but the conversation goes nowhere, so I still try to avoid political conversations at all costs. I do still think we can keep political discord from affecting our relationship too much. I'm focusing on the things I can do for myself and our family day-to-day, and he is too. I think it's best not to overanalyze our political opinions because it would probably drive me crazy.
Sometimes I do question whether I'm being too nonchalant about our political differences, especially with the way this president-elect behaves. So many people see the divisiveness of this election as a reflection of each voter's personal beliefs and ways of life and, to some extent, I can see that. But at the same time I think it gives too much power to each side, if that makes sense. Any thoughts?
-A politically divided but united couple in NY
A few weeks ago, I was talking to some male friends about something political. During the conversation, I suggested that when it came to this particular issue, their beliefs (and my own, for that matter) might be tied to a place of privilege. I suggested that maybe we'd have different perspectives if we weren't middle class white people, and, in their case, middle class white men. At that point, the conversation became a mess.
"Oh, that's right," one friend said with great sarcasm. "I forgot — as white men we can do anything we want."
"Right," the other said. "We should make a list of everything we want to do in the world, because for us, it's so easy."
The discussion was over. I walked out angry.
I was shocked by their sarcasm, how defensive they became when I asked them to admit that because of their place in the world, they might have it easier than others. For at least 24 hours after leaving that room I wondered how I could possibly navigate friendships with these people — men I love — who tried to belittle my point even though my intent wasn't to criticize, and what I was saying was true.
I'm telling this story because these specific friends probably share about 99.9 percent of my political beliefs. Yet we were still a mess after a conversation about politics. I can't even imagine what it would be like to share a home — a romantic connection — with someone who supports this president when you do not.
In your case, I don't know if there's any piece of advice that will make it easier to come to terms with the ideology of the person you married. I'm probably supposed to tell you that we can all get along as long as we listen, but I don't really feel that way. Sometimes listening makes us realize that the person we're with doesn't support how we want to live in the world.
I'll say two things, though, and hope that everyone in the comments section has some magic answers.
1. You mention gloating. That doesn't work in a marriage. (It's not helpful in politics either, but that's another conversation.) It's OK to disagree, but you're not supposed to shut each other down.
If this election has changed the way you communicate as a couple — if conversations end in anger, before they should – you need professional help (counseling) to remind you how a healthy back-and-forth is supposed to work.
It's unrealistic to think you can avoid all political talk forever, by the way. It's going to come up, so you need the right tools.
2. It might help to find some groups and causes that you can support as a couple. If your husband is a Trump voter who says he also supports the well-being of women, he can prove it by giving money or time to an organization that's doing good work. If he says he's a Trump supporter who wants to improve the quality of life for people in his community — even people who aren't exactly like him — he can put time and money toward groups that help people in need. Maybe you can figure out how to make the world a better place, together.
The truth is, though, I don't know how you'll do it. I'm still figuring out how to talk to my friends, and we probably voted for the same person. I'm doing my best to listen. They're trying, too.
I wish you luck, especially this week. Please keep us posted.
Readers? Please help?