Should Couples Talk About Who They're Voting For? Some Things To Consider
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Should romantic partners tell each other who they vote for in elections?
In an election year that feels particularly charged, it can sometimes feel impossible to not talk about politics, particularly with the people closest to us. But not all couples talk about politics regularly, and if politics haven't really been a mainstay topic of conversation in your relationship, it's certainly possible to continue avoiding a direct conversation about who each of you is voting for. But should you?
What does it mean if a couple chooses to stay away from political conversations with each other? Are there benefits to leaning into this type of uncomfortable conversation?
Should couples talk about who they're voting for?
"Most people in a couple probably already have a sense of who their partner is voting for, but some couples may not," couples' therapist Alicia Muñoz, LPC, tells mbg. "It depends on how close you are, how much you share with each other, and, sometimes, on your tolerance level for differences between you and your partner."
Some couples are OK with having political differences between them, and they may agree to avoid the topic because they know it's a sore spot. But other couples have simply never asked, and one or both partners may be reluctant to do so because they're worried about the new information they may glean about each other.
Muñoz says whether you talk to your partner about your voting choices is ultimately a personal decision. She recommends asking yourself:
- How will knowing who your partner is voting for change or affect your relationship?
- Are you ready to cope with the impact of having this information about your partner?
- Are you ready to cope with what will happen if they tell you they're voting for someone different from you or for a candidate whose values you don't respect?
- Are you interested in learning how your partner thinks and why? Or are you anxious about their answer and want to know more to assuage your anxiety?
These can be scary questions to think about. They may involve realizations about what your deal-breakers are, which may force you to consider the possibility that your current relationship may not be the right one for you. Or, you may gain some new insights into your own beliefs and convictions, and you'll find yourself with an opportunity to clarify and refine your views as you reconcile them with those of the person you love.
The benefits of talking politics as a couple.
A person's political views are often representative of their core values. Someone's political beliefs—as well as who they're drawn to vote for in elections—can tell you a lot about who they are, how they view the world, and what they care about.
"It's possible that learning who your partner is voting for will open a deeper, more authentic conversation between you, particularly if you approach it with genuine curiosity," Muñoz says.
It's also worth noting that not being able to talk to your partner about how you're feeling about a huge, often anxiety-inducing national event can be very lonely, particularly in the middle of a pandemic-induced mental health crisis. And being able to talk about the tough stuff is part of creating closeness in relationships.
On the flip side, if you're consciously avoiding the topic of politics with your partner because you're worried that you might disagree with each other, that can be a sign that you don't fully know each other—and that you'd rather live with a fantasy version of your partner than actually know the truth of who they are.
It might also be a sign that you don't feel fully safe in your relationship, Muñoz adds.
"If both people are reluctant to discuss this with each other, what it says to me about a relationship is that the psychic and emotional safety of the relationship is still a 'work-in-progress,'" she says. "If one or both partners find it hard to tolerate the aspects of their partner that are different, or if there's an implicit expectation that 'you need to be like me or else we need to avoid talking about something,' that can become a problem, in the long run."
What to do if your partner is voting differently from you.
Having opposing political views might be a deal-breaker for you—which is OK. That's actually all the more reason for you to have the conversation with your partner sooner rather than later. Avoiding the conversation because you're worried you might need to end the relationship only prolongs the inevitable, keeps you in a relationship that's ultimately not right for you, and hurts you both in the long run.
This is also true if you think your views might be a deal-breaker for your partner. If you're hiding who you are to keep your partner from breaking up with you, you're building a relationship based on lies—which isn't fair for you and definitely isn't fair for your partner.
All that said, it's possible for couples to have different political views and still have a functional relationship. "There are huge benefits to having this conversation with each other, particularly if you can manage your emotions well and 'just listen' as your partner shares, rather than get reactive," Muñoz says. "If your partner is voting differently from you, you may learn more about them, their fears, their insecurities, and their vulnerabilities by finding out why they're choosing a particular candidate."
Even if you know you can't be in a relationship with someone who doesn't share your core values—and that's valid—there may still be benefits to having an open conversation with this person you care about, even if you're not going to continue to be in a romantic relationship with one another.
"It's conversations like this, between people who care about each other and feel safe with each other, that can actually help people begin to see a broader picture and change rigid, entrenched, or polarizing viewpoints," Muñoz says. "Otherwise, we all live in echo chambers where we believe what we believe, judge people with different beliefs, and have no opportunities to learn, understand, and lovingly challenge other people's perspectives."
The bottom line.
Your politics are part of who you are, and they reflect your core values. It's important for couples to know each other's core values and feel comfortable sharing their authentic selves with each other. Couples don't need to agree on everything, and it's possible to have constructive conversations to help challenge each other to grow and learn. And if you and your partner have fundamental differences in values that are deal-breakers for you, it's important to know that sooner rather than later.
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