For Couples with Different Political Views, These Expert Tips Are Crucial

Couple looking out onto the city.
 Sam Diephuis/Getty Images

As the saying goes, the heart wants what it wants. Sometimes, the heart wants another heart with different political views, which can be cause for some serious tension. According to a 2016 survey, 17 percent of Republicans and Democrats who are either married or living with their partner said their spouse or partner belonged to a different political party. And lately, opinions across party lines are particularly tense. "Even people who deeply love each other are falling victim to the 'politics of personal destruction' where it's not enough to disagree with someone but you have to destroy them and everything they stand for in the process," marriage and family therapist Gary Brown, Ph.D., told Women's Health magazine. 

Despite the alarming sentiment, relationship success is possible if you focus on mutual respect, empathy, and patience. Whether you're in a new relationship or have been partners for some time, take these experts's advice on navigating coupledom with different political views.

Acknowledge Your Partner's Opinion

While you don't have to agree with your partner's opinion, it's important to recognize their point of view and willingness to share it with you. When you feel your temperature rising during an argument over who the best candidate to lead the country should be or the most effective approach to an issue, Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, authors of the book, Couple Talk advise couples to encourage each other to keep talking, rather than tuning out. Doing so takes the emotion out of the equation, per Haller and Moorman. It demonstrates a willingness to listen and actually discuss the issue, not cut each other off.

Seek Understanding 

A useful way to begin is to talk about how you and your partner argued, write Haller and Moorman. They add that discussing the aftermath of an argument in this way helps couples reframe how a future argument might be improved. This type of discussion also holds space to discuss what was good or productive about the way you treated each other during the argument, and recognize the fact that you do not agree does not mean the relationship is destined for disaster. "Seek to learn why your partner thinks differently than you do. This is a skill you'll need in many area if you are to create a lasting relationships," said Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of, Dr. Romance's Finding Love Today.

Be Specific

Instead of focusing in on party affiliation, which is too vague and overgeneralized, stick with specific issues, writes professional counselor Kia James, EdD., LCPC. "It is much easier to focus on a specific 
issue that you both agree or disagree with versus affiliation differences. When you can agree that both of you dislike how either party has planned to deal with a specific issue it is a more meaningful 
discussion."

Agree to Disagree

"The connection people feel with their city's sports team is the same way they feel with political candidates. If you attack someone's sports team, they are never going to agree with you, no matter how qualified your position is." said Suzanne-Deggs White, a university counselor, in an interview with Vox, However, there are just some things couples will ever agree on, and that is ok. Allowing space in your relationship to respectfully disagree should be expected, because agreeing on everything is unrealistic. Again, experts advise focusing on how you discuss your differences rather than zeroing in on the opinions themselves. When you reach a peak during a heated political debate, that is the optimal time to bridge your differences by agreeing to disagree.

What if You Just Can't Compromise?

If your relationship is important yet you find yourself continually at odds with your partner's beliefs and opinions, it might benefit your partnership to seek professional perspective and guidance. Family and couples therapist Tracy K. Ross shared with Health that a therapist can help address negative cycles, uncover the root cause of conflict and distance, and help couples remember the reasons why they're in a relationship in the first place. It's possible to learn from each other, writes Tessina. "You may find you have more in common than you think."