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When you have different political views, your relationship isn't doomed

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a clinical therapist, and the author of three books, among them, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counsler. She gives love advice on programs including Today and HuffPost Live, conduct...

How to get through election season when your partner has different political views than you

The key to a relationship where both partners have different political beliefs is to respect your partner's political stance, no matter how wrong-headed you think it is.

The bad news: There are over 300 days to go before the presidential election. The good news: These tips can keep your relationship solid even if you’re on opposite sides of the ballot box.

1. Have a sense of humor

The couple that can laugh together can get through anything. When Amy and Tom (names changed) first met, they frequently bickered over their rabidly different political beliefs. Amy recalls, “I’m liberal; he’s conservative. Discussing candidates was always a lose-lose. We couldn’t change the other’s mind. So we decided to act the way we do when we don’t agree in other areas, like say, whose bad habits are more annoying — make light of it.”

For instance while playing the board game Say Anything with friends, a question came up: “What would be the worst possible job for Amy?”  Tom, piped up, “Campaign manager for a Republican candidate.” This response brought up huge laughs and he won the round.

The couple’s plans for an upcoming Halloween party: She’s going as Donald Trump and he is wearing a wig and Hillary Clinton pantsuit! If you can’t beat ‘em, laugh with ‘em.

2. Stay off each other’s social media feeds

This is great advice even when you share political biases. It’s harder still to maintain mystery and allure when you are flooded with status update after status update about your spouse’s upset stomach after too much caffeine or his constant stream of cyber-joke sharing.

However, when staunchly opposed to each other’s political party, it’s a kick in the gut each time you see the person who shares your bed lauding a candidate you detest, or worse, deriding the candidate you love. So, tell your snuggle bunny, “Honey, the most important thing to me is our relationship. So I don’t want us to get upset each time we see a post on the other’s feed we don’t like. Can we ‘unfriend’ online till after the election… and vow to be better communicators in person?”

3. Don’t gloat when your beloved’s candidate suffers a hardship

Alas, our passion for our favorite candidates and hatred for the other side can loosen our lips and lead to insensitive statements. But, “Bah ha, I said your candidate was an idiot — now the country agrees with me” is not a sentiment that will inspire marital bliss.

Jane shares, “I can’t count the number of times I bite my tongue when, as often happens, Danny’s candidate hits the shoals. But I noticed how angry I became when he rubbed it in when the Democrats lost control of the house in the 2012 elections. So I told him how I felt and we agreed to rejoice in our victories and the downfall of our ‘enemies’ with like-minded friends in person and on the status updates that neither of us is ever going to read.”

4. You don’t need to agree, but you must listen

Probably the most important piece of advice is to genuinely listen to one another’s viewpoints. Again, neither of you will change the other’s mind, but if you merely pay lip service, or at worst, berate your partner for not echoing your beliefs, the run-up to the presidential election might irreparably hurt your relationship.

If you open your ears, say, “Honey, tell me why you believe a wall should be built around the borders between the U.S. and Mexico,” ask questions to make sure you understand what you are hearing (i.e., “So you feel badly for Mexicans who want a better life, but believe there is already too much unemployment here?”) the love of your life will feel respected. He must of course pay you the same courtesy.

When two people feel deeply listened to and treated with kindness and respect, they can survive the political gulf between them.

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