As a liberal girlfriend, how do you love a politically conservative boyfriend? Or perhaps you’re a politically liberal wife married to husband with conservative leanings. These tips on how to love someone who has different political views won’t be quick or easy to implement, but they can save your relationship.
Whether you’re a “bleeding-heart liberal” or a “hard-hearted conservative”, in these polarized political times it’s easy for conversations to disintegrate into name-calling sessions. Those sessions are should be reserved for political debates or arguments between party consultants — or even around the family dinner table during holiday get-togethers. But they’re affecting our marriages and relationships more often than we want to admit.
The good news is that if you’re talking to your conservative boyfriend, your relationship is still alive. The danger is silent treatment in relationships or boyfriends who don’t talk to their girlfriends.
Loving and living with a conservative boyfriend or husband may be easier than you think. The six tips for liberal girls were written by freelance blogger Je’ Czaja. But before she gives her relationship advice — which also applies to long-married couples who have different political views — I want to share a happily married couple’s perspective. They have very public, very different political beliefs.
Marriage Advice From a Republican Wife and Democratic Husband (Happily Married!)
The wife is a Republican party strategist; the husband is a Democratic party consultant. They offer their “how to win the political fight at home” advice here…
“There are four mandatory rules for winning [fights about politics between husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends], and all are easier said than done,” says Mary Matalin, Republican party strategist, editor in chief of conservative publisher Threshold Editions, married to James Carville. “First and foremost: Pick your fights carefully. I learned faster with my kids than my husband that some hills are just not worth trying to take. With kids, brushing teeth is a necessary battle; matching hair bows is not. With husbands, respect is requisite; shared politics is not.
Second: Understand your objective. What is your goal and why? Are you trying to make your husband like you or do what you need? Third: Know your enemy. Military leaders premise engagements on this concept, but spouses often walk blithely into the line of fire. Fourth: Prepare. If you are prepared, you will be in the right fight, with clear goals, so you can anticipate counterarguments.”
Here’s her Democratic husband’s perspective about winning political fights in marriage: “I’ve read all the marital advice — you know, confront your issues, discuss them. My advice is just leave ’em go. I know couples who’ve been having the same discussion for 35 years. It ain’t worth it. Women know how to fight better….These days the only fight my [Republican] wife and I have is when she’ll say, ‘You’re just agreeing with me to agree with me!’ And most of the time it’s true. But I’m a happily married man. It’ll be 13 years this month. What can I say?“
I found their “how to talk about politics with someone you love” advice in an issue of Oprah magazine that is almost 15 years old. This would be a good time to follow up with that Republican wife and Democratic husband! Are they still happily married? Or perhaps he’s now a single conservative boyfriend looking for a conservative girlfriend because his “don’t talk about politics with someone you love” views didn’t work.
But the truth is it doesn’t matter. Their relationship advice is good regardless of the state of their marriage (or the union) today.
6 Tips for Liberal Girlfriends in Love With Conservative Boyfriends
Before you read Je’s relationship advice for couples with different political views, remember that “agreeing to disagree” is the healthiest way to balance politics and love. You may have found this article by because you’re looking for ideas on how to deal with a conservative boyfriend. Before you read these tips, consider Mary Matalin’s advice. Why are you looking for ways to “deal with” your conservative boyfriend or husband? You deal with problems…and you love the boyfriend or husband in front of you.
Researchers now say that liberalism and conservatism are influenced by brain structure, and arguments will not change brains; in fact, arguments won’t even change minds. According to a study conducted at University College in London, conservatives have smaller anterior cingulates and larger amygdalas than liberals. The anterior cingualte is associated with judgments, optimism, and recognition of conflicts. By a complex feedback mechanism, the anterior cingualte checks conflicts against potential threats with the amygdala, which is a part of the brain associated with fear.
The implications of the study are that conservatives tend to see any given situation as more threatening than liberals do. While the liberal is motivated to act in optimism that change will be for the better, the conservative is motivated to circle the wagons and fight off the threat. When you’re in love with a conservative boyfriend, remember that he may see heated discussions about politics as a threat. His conservative perspective isn’t just about politics, and it doesn’t just affect how he votes. It affects your relationship…but that doesn’t mean conservatives and liberals can’t have successful relationships or be happily married! It just means you both need to be aware of how your beliefs affect how you interact.
1. Don’t argue with your boyfriend, or try to change his conservative beliefs
Conservatives and Liberals must accept that brains cannot be changed by slogans, arguments, or anger. In fact, according to several research studies, political arguments only harden positions. Logic and reason do not enter into the equation. What scientists call confirmation bias is simply the phenomenon we observe in those we disagree with, and fail to observe in our selves: “His mind is made up, don’t confuse him with the facts.”
2. Remember how political views affect your perspective – and your relationship
A Conservative boyfriend can try to remember that he tends to perceive threats more often than most. His Liberal girlfriend is not an existential threat. She’s his life partner, and a fellow American who is less cautious and quite optimistic about the possibility of change for the better. The Liberal girl can try to remember that fear is a powerful motivator, and the Conservative is seeking to protect something.
Are the roles of conservative and liberal pulling your relationship apart? Read Harnessing the Power of Love to Save Your Marriage.
3. Accept that “different political views” doesn’t mean “wrong political views”
People range on continuums from cowardice to courage to recklessness; from laziness to industriousness to workaholic, and the category into which we place other people depends on our own position on the continuum.
According to Moral Foundations Theory, both conservatives and liberals hold values of fairness, not harming others, respect for traditions, and respect for authority. It’s just that liberals tend to hold fairness and not harming others to be more important than respect for traditions and authority, and conservatives tend to hold the opposite. Knowing how to love someone who has different political views is about accepting that they’re different — not bad or wrong.
4. If possible, avoid hot buttons
This is a solid relationship tip for all issues, not just political views! Hot buttons are words or phrases that cause knee-jerk responses. These can change over time and are used by one party or the other to solidify support for their cause. Current hot buttons are “socialism,” “immigration,” and “health care.”
5. Find common ground, outside of your political beliefs
Liberals and Conservatives, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, are all Americans. Both want the world to be a good, safe place to raise their families and pass on to their grandchildren. Liberals and Conservatives actually need each other for the country to function.
A marriage in which both partners have learned how to love each other despite their different political views can be stronger than a marriage between two Conservatives, or two Liberals.
6. Just be two people in love – not a Conservative or Liberal couple
In the end, we are humans — not Conservatives and Liberals. We want liberty and the opportunity to live, love, and find meaning in our lives. Arguments will not change minds, but people can change their own minds if they don’t feel threatened. Love, respect, listening, acknowledging another person’s concerns, and a little laughter will do far more to resolve conflicts than 500 pounds of “evidence.”
What do you think – how do you love a man who has radically different political views? Do love and politics – Liberal wives, Conservative boyfriends – clash? Comments welcome below, but advice on love and politics unavailable at this time.
If you’re a Liberal girlfriend on shaky ground with a Conservative boyfriend, read 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship.
Written by Je’ Czaja, freelance writer/illustrator and standup philosopher.