A Gallup poll conducted for Match.com found that 57 percent would marry someone with considerably different political beliefs. Apparently, having different political views is not necessarily a marital deal breaker. But as a marriage therapist for thirty years, I'm here to tell you that bipartisan marriages are not for the faint of heart. Trust me. I know first hand.
I don't know about you, but I will be one happy camper when this election is over. It's not that I don't appreciate lively, heated debates or the rollercoaster-like effect of the unpredictable twist and turns in the polls or even the fact that politics has pre-empted any chance of simply casual, non-partisan conversation with friends. No, that's the stuff we're supposed to be doing a few days prior what could be one of history's most important elections. That's not my problem.
My problem is this -- there are four people in my family: my husband, my 32-year-old daughter, 27-year-old son and me, and we are a bipartisan family. (In some ways, there is no point in voting because our votes cancel each other out. One boy and one girl on each team. Just kidding, I'll vote.) To make matters worse, we're all competitive, opinionated and passionate about our views. Suffice it to say, this has made for many animated conversations over family dinners. We usually manage to keep things in check and finish our meal on speaking terms, and believe me, that is no small feat.
However, this upcoming election has brought out the worst in my husband and me. It's probably because there is so much at stake. Although I have tolerated our differences fairly well in the past, an opposing viewpoint on these candidates, about these issues, at this time feels simply untenable. Doesn't he know better? And it would be one thing if we could escape the political rhetoric and not be reminded of our differences. But if you're a living, breathing organism who reads papers, watches occasional television or even just walks your dog and bumps into a neighbor, political discourse is simply unavoidable.
I've already ascertained that we would do much better if we developed a sense of humor about ourselves or our political positions a la Carville-Matalin style. As you probably know, James Carville is an advisor to the Democratic Party and Mary Matalin is a former assistant to President George W. Bush and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney -- unlikely bedfellows, no doubt. I heard them speak at the Builders' Convention one time and marveled at their ability to laugh at each other. Mary Matalin told the story about an appearance on television that, because of their highly polarized points of view, left them feeling edgy towards each other. They went out to dinner with their two young daughters, one of whom was misbehaving at the restaurant. Mary asked her daughter to try to be good and the girl replied, "For a dollar I will," and after a few quiet moments Mary responded, "Why can't you be good for nothing... like your father?" Their laughter was inspirational. Certainly, if a advisor to the democratic party can live, love, make love and laugh with a close colleague of Bush and Cheney, why do my husband and I have to take things so personally? Why has it been so hard to just agree to disagree?
I know we're not alone. Undoubtedly, other people's emotions are at a pitch. No one seems to be lukewarm about this election, the issues or the candidates. I envy friends whose marriages aren't challenged by differing political views. "Must be great," I tell myself, to anticipate celebrating together on November 6th or licking each other's wounds. In my house, one person's victory will be another person's loss. And regardless of whose candidate loses, I have a feeling neither of us will let the other hear the end of it for quite some time. Apparently, walking down the aisle is a whole lot easier that reaching across it.
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