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Just because you’re a senior couple in love doesn’t mean the two of you have to hold the same political affiliations. But these differences need not tear you apart, either. A great example of a couple at political odds of each other is James Carville and Mary Matalin. They’ve been showing people how it’s done since 1993.
If you’re a senior couple in a politically opposite relationship, read on to learn some strategies to keep your romance alive.
Most of a senior couple’s life together does not revolve around political ideologies. It’s only when elections come up that your different political views may come into contention.
According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of families surveyed said they aren’t comfortable discussing politics, and 60% said they enjoy engaging in political discourse only when they are all in agreement.
Remember how your differences fed the chemistry in your midlife courtship? Hold onto that! There’s no need to lose your relationship over political differences.
Cultivating openness in your relationship communication is usually advisable, but things can be different when your political views are at odds. I’d say avoid discussing the topic directly if your political ideologies are diametrically opposed. Don’t aim to get your partner to change as you might try to do with other relationship conflicts. Instead, you’ll both have to respectfully agree to disagree.
A benefit of your vantage point as mature adults is having a grounded perspective on any given candidate and political issue. If you know your opinions greatly differ from those of your partner, decide to respect each other and skirt the issue. Be determined not to discuss the matter.
Avoid situations that feed discord. Refrain from reading the newspapers together. Don’t watch the evening news over dinner.
Instead, settle in advance on something the two of you would mutually enjoy watching over dinner. Keep your focus on the core values the two of you embrace. Those shared values drew you to each other. You want to live in a safe and friendly household, so identify and discuss your commonalities.
If you decide you must talk about politics sometimes, first practice verbalizing respect for your different opinions on other lighter topics such as movies and books. This creates good communication habits and gets you ready to discuss opposing opinions. Sometimes you may have to articulate your different political views to share your authentic self with your senior partner and stay true to yourself. Test the waters to find less emotionally triggering words to use together.
Once you discover your differing political views, take steps early on in your senior relationship to establish loving communication guidelines and set healthy boundaries. For example, name calling is off limits. Remember some words can never be taken back.
A recent study showed that most singles said they would not even consider dating someone of a different political party. Other research found that online daters evaluate potential dating partners more favorably and are more likely to reach out to them when they share similar political characteristics. But I believe that, as seniors, you’re past the blush of youth when you may have held illusions about how you and your romantic partner would agree on all things.
For those who venture across the political dividing line, I suggest you talk about how your different identities are part of what makes you love each other. Talk about how you’ll handle differences in your relationship peacefully.
There’s bound to be a time when one of you will utter a strong political opinion. That’s life. What can you do then? You have a few options, and it depends on the circumstance.
You can stand firm, look your senior mate in the eye, and confirm you indeed think and believe in your opinion.
You can laugh and make light of the difference with a flirty gesture, “You know we disagree on this. Just give me a kiss, and let’s have dinner!”
You can engage in a blow-out and then race to the bedroom, leveraging that passionate arousal, and make love.
The two of you may have come to terms with your opposing political views, but what about when you get together with friends or relatives who may not be so peaceful? You’ll want to discuss this in advance with your partner and have a plan for how you want to manage social gatherings.
First, try to keep the conversation focused on other harmonious topics. How’s the new baby doing? What new hobbies is Mom pursuing? Any new photos from the holidays to share and admire?
Sometimes someone will make a bold political statement at a family event, and then people will get into it. If it looks like it’ll only last a couple of minutes, simply smile and let the quick conversation run its course. Sometimes all they’re wanting to do is vent and express themselves. Let them do so without engaging in more political grandstanding.
If you know they’re prone to wanting to get your goat, simply walk away from them. Quietly stand and take your glass into the kitchen for a refill or clear the empty plates from the table.
But you may need to stand up for yourself or your senior mate if you’ve tried these strategies before and your friends and family are still aiming to draw you into a vitriolic debate inappropriate for a party or family gathering. You can do this via a phone conversation when accepting the invitation to the social event.
For example: “Jane, we’d love to come. Liz and I really enjoy your dinner parties. But just so we can all enjoy the evening, the last few times when Bob brought up politics, it got really awkward for Liz. You know she thinks differently. Can we agree to talk about other things? Or how do you want us to manage it so no one makes a scene that could ruin your party?”
In the end, never forget the love, respect, and appreciation you have for each other. Focus primarily on relationship quality rather than political differences.
When Election Day approaches, my fiancé and I will share resources for the many ballot propositions and local candidates, but then we each take our ballots into different rooms to fill them out. Then we drop the ballots off, and that’s that. We share a mutual trust, respect, and belief that the right to suffrage is sacred. We know the other’s ballot is different, but that’s OK.
Once you establish that love, respect, and trust between you and your senior mate, everything else in your relationship can be worked out. Remember to always cast your vote for love. That’s something we can all agree on.