Because I live in beautiful Southern California, there is often one thing about my ex that shocks people. No, it's not that he prefers Seattle weather, or that he's a preppy who listens to death metal. It's not even the fact that I married him (although my best friend thinks that did stun a lot of people). Nope, it's that he's a Republican and I'm not.
When I say Republican, I don't mean a "I'm conservative but I'm slightly centrist and willing to listen to other people's opinions" kind of guy. It's more of a "I'm going to worship at the temple of Fox News until I die a horrible death at the hands of Big Government and only listen to conservative talk radio and talk nasty about anyone who resembles anything near a hippie" Republican. So it was kind of scary.
People wondered about us: How could a nice liberal Jewish girl like me get with an uber-conservative? What did I see in him? How did we not kill each other?
Since he wasn't as involved in politics when we first got together, I felt our differences didn't matter. He wasn't dogmatic and seemed to enjoy healthy debate. After all, there were bipartisan couples in Washington, like Mary Matalin and James Carville. It was entirely possible for them to succeed. Relationships are more about common values and similar experiences.
But those couples in Washington are very different than the couple that I was a part of when I got married. As time went on, particularly as the 2008 election approached, my husband became more and more entranced by the Republican base. According to him, Barack Obama was the most horrible thing that happened to humankind and Sarah Palin was a gift from God and Alaska, and how dare anyone make fun of her.
As the years rolled on and we would talk about politics, the conversation became less of a civilized discourse and more of him becoming extremely angry and shouting the same talking points repeatedly as if he were Bill O'Reilly on a bender. I couldn't get a word in to argue the other side. If I did, I was attacked for buying into the "liberal bias." In his eyes, I was a brainwashed fool and didn't understand how reality worked. He enjoyed our political discussions, but every time we had them, I felt ashamed and berated.
My goal was to create a civilized home, and to that end, it became extremely important that I not engage him about politics, because that would cause me pain and make our lives more difficult. So I tuned out. For someone who's educated and loves debating and exploring issues, it was a hard thing to do. But I wanted to keep my marriage strong, so I made the sacrifice and watched "The Daily Show" on my computer as if I were a 13-year-old boy with his first copy of Playboy.
As the 2010 elections approached, there was almost nothing playing in our home except for Fox News; I had surrendered the television to him. He barely talked to me and spent all his disposable income on conservative books from his favorite radio hosts. Anytime we talked -- even just about the cost of groceries -- he brought up politics. I felt like I was witnessing a didactic cult of one person.
He would often use sweeping statements about a woman's place and how my beloved feminism was destroying families. I was an elitist for wanting an education higher than my bachelor's degree and feeling that academia is crucial to modern thought. And the idea of taxes for the rich, despite the fact we were flirting with the poverty line throughout our marriage? Well, I might as well have been draped in the flag of communist Russia.
Shortly before I left the marriage, my ex and I decided to take a trip to San Francisco, despite his grumblings about how it was a city of liberal decay. I was excited to be there and he seemed to be too as we drove out to Fisherman's Wharf. But then I saw it -- there were tents across the Embarcadero for the Occupy movement. I was a huge supporter and believed in what they were standing for, but to him they were evil. I knew the trouble that would occur if he noticed, so I played a game of, "Hey, look over there! There's a guy dressed like a fish!"
It was around this time that I realized I was done avoiding political landmines. There was nothing keeping us together anymore except bills and some shared floorspace. He was more into Sean Hannity than he was his own wife, and would rather spend time with him than making love to me. Needless to say, the marriage was over.
Looking back, it was not the Republican values that tore our marriage apart, as some of my closest friends are conservative and we have wonderful friendships. It was him -- his anger, his brainwashed attitude and his lack of respect for my opinions. It doesn't bode well for relationships, and we shouldn't be acting this way on either side of the aisle.
Would I date a Republican again? I'm not so sure, but I never say never. All I know is that I want a man who is educated in his beliefs and can stand up for them properly rather than a brainwashed boy who thinks that getting angry, calling names and repeating the same talking points is political discourse. And I'd like to have my television back so I can laugh at Jon Stewart openly.