Linda Lewis Griffith

How to handle political differences with your spouse

MCT

Democrats and Republicans aren’t the only ones squaring off in the political arena. Just as often it’s husbands and wives.

Since the 1980s, a majority of women have voted Democratic in every presidential election and a majority of men have voted Republican.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers, 54 percent of females voted for Bill Clinton in 1996. In 2012, 55 percent of women voted for Barack Obama.

On the other hand, a whopping 64 percent of white men voted Republican in the mid-term 2014 elections, with ABC News calling it the “widest GOP advantage in this group since 1984.”

This current election is no different. A Pew Research survey conducted from June 15 to 26 found Hillary Clinton more popular among white, college-educated women. Among Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are white, married men older than 50 who attend religious services at least once a week.

The discrepancy impacts more than the candidates.

It can make for lots of tension around the dinner table. Since spouses are apt to view politics through vastly different lenses, certain topics might incite heated arguments or hurt feelings.

Spouses may feel they can’t safely express their opinions. Or they must listen to the other partner’s political rantings while keeping their thoughts closely guarded.

Of course, politics aren’t the only thing husbands and wives disagree on.

How they handle their disparate viewpoints mirrors other areas of their lives. Still, skillfully negotiating these quadrennial slugfests is more important than how they mark their ballots.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.

How to handle political differences with your spouse:

  • Decide it’s OK to be separate opinions. Celebrate the fact that you are two unique and thoughtful individuals who are able to reach your own conclusions.
  • Be respectful at all times. There is never a time to belittle your partner’s beliefs. Not only is it an unacceptable way to treat your spouse, but it runs contrary to the fundamental principles of free speech and the democratic system.
  • Avoid talking about politics. Stick to neutral or pleasant topics such as friends, hobbies, upcoming vacations or the latest events at work.
  • Place your relationship above your political leanings. You fell in love with this person outside of the ballot box. Allow those tender feelings to move to the forefront of your thoughts and actions.
  • Never try to change your partner’s views. That act is unfairly judgmental and smacks of bullying. Instead, try to understand the other’s logic. You might learn something and broaden your outlook.
  • If you must have a political discussion, stick to provable facts. Avoid speaking about feelings or generalities.
  • Focus on common interests. You may disagree about gun control, NAFTA or immigration. But you obviously have other, positive areas of your joint lives. Choose to focus on those.
  • Tune in to your own behavior. If you’re dominating a political conversation or beginning to raise your voice, you’re doing more harm than good. Take some deep breaths. Change the subject. Leave the room. Laugh at your behavior. There’s far more at stake than your vote.
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