Relationships come in all types and sizes – romance, flings, friendship, family, etc. Yet there is undoubtedly that one topic that threatens to divide even the closest of us… In this post, I explore the possible outcomes of having different political opinions and how much of a deal breaker they really are by asking some of my closest friends.
But first, I feel like a little back story is needed here: Roughly two years ago, I “dated” someone on and off for about a year. Why the quotation marks, you might wonder? Well, the whole thing never amounted to a full-on relationship, though there undoubtedly was a time period where we were both talking about the possibility of taking it all the way. During those talks and discussions, those exciting “what if’s” and “oh but would it work’s” I pointed out that I felt like I knew too little in order to fully comprehend who he was and how he, as a complex human being, worked. We started playing a game of questions and answers and eventually we made that inevitable stop at one touchy subject: politics.
Although I had never thought of different views regarding politics to be a deal-breaker, I was a little taken aback by his opinions at first and judged him for them if I’m being completely honest. I remember sitting down with him and having a very honest conversation about why we had the views we had. It was probably the most open conversation we had ever had and after it I definitely felt like I understood him and his reasoning better. We resumed getting to know each other more and didn’t really dwell on the whole topic for too long.
It was only when I confided in friends about the chat that their expressions of concern did make me feel a tad less certain. What do his political opinions say about his values and him as a person? Do you really want to be with someone who has such a different way of thinking? How can you even trust that he is a good guy after this? These are all responses I was getting from my friends at the time. I would be lying if I said that they didn’t make me feel unsure about the whole relationship.
Being friends with him first definitely made it easier for me to voice my uncertainties to him and really have a discussion about how big of a deal politics really are in a relationship. We came to the conclusion that we would just not talk about them anymore – a big mistake we quickly came to find out. At that time there were a lot of things happening in the world of politics and I didn’t feel like I could talk to him about them anymore. And when you’re with someone (well, kind of in my case) you want to be able to talk about what’s on your mind and us thinking we were avoiding problems by just shutting out that whole topic was actually creating problems that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.
Long story short – we ended things. In the end of our relationship (-thingy) there just wasn’t any room for open communication anymore. We grew more and more distant and felt limited in a way because politics loomed over our relationship like a giant cloud that got bigger by the day.
Where am I going with this, you might ask? Well, I recently started reminiscing about that time period of my life and it made me wonder; What if we hadn’t banned politics from our relationship? Would things have worked out? Is it even possible for two people with opposite political opinions to be in a healthy relationship? Does the same apply to friendships or is there a difference? Knowing that there were a lot of different opinions on the matter out there, I decided to discuss these questions with a few of my friends. Here is what they had to say:
(for all of you lazy people out there; don’t worry, there’s a summary of the core statements down below if you don’t want to read through all of them)
Friend 1: M
In general I do think that two people in a relationship should have similar political views. My own political opinion is important to me and is a component in making me me, that’s why I can’t imagine being with someone who represents a drastically different viewpoint. Of course you don’t always have to be in agreement all the time, I think having discussions is ok, even healthy. But if someone were to have a radically different opinion, it wouldn’t work for me.
I can’t actually imagine that relationships where the people don’t share the same values last long-term, especially if both or only one is politically active, meaning that they actually are an advocate for the cause they support. Like I said, both parties don’t have to agree on things all the time and don’t have to vote for the same party – but I do believe that they should share the same core values.
With friendships I don’t see things as strictly because to me, if you’re in a serious relationship with someone, you will eventually maybe live with them and want to start a future together – you do spend a big amount of time with each other. But if I think about really close friendships, someone whom I can tell everything to, someone with whom I can do anything without feeling like they judge me for it, I do think that you should share the same values.
For example, we both have relatively the same political views aaand you’re one of my besties. I have a friend who I would describe as very conservative and because of that she has certain opinions I just don’t believe in. Due to that I often feel very limited in our friendship because I have to consciously choose my words when speaking to her about “touchy” subjects – because I know she is of a different opinion and I don’t always want to start a huge discussion. Limitations like that can be hindering in a friendship because I get the feeling that oftentimes those friendships can be very surface-level.
Friend 2: F
To me, having similar political views is important in a relationship. You don’t have to have exactly the same but you should at least have the same values in life. I think that if you don’t represent the same values and your views are on opposite ends of the spectrum, it can’t amount to anything long-term. I don’t know if it can actually work, I guess it also depends on how significant politics is for the two people involved.
With friendships I do see a difference, it’s also a matter of how close those friends are to you. My best friends all share the same or at least a similar perspective regarding politics.
Friend 3: L
Politics aren’t as big of a factor for me as they may be to some but of course I prefer relationships where we share the same opinions. My current boyfriend and I do have different opinions on certain matters and our relationship still works – we just don’t talk about politics.
I do think that it could amount to a problem when you’re in the process of planning to start a family and living together long-term. However, I do think that this is a very subjective debate, seeing as politics just doesn’t play as big of a role for me.
Personally I don’t think political opinions matter in a friendship because it’s not the only thing you can discuss. If I discuss the matter with friends, I do expect it to be on a neutral basis and without judgement. You don’t necessarily have to have the same opinions but you should still respect each others perspectives.
Friend 4: K
For me personally, having different political opinions is not a deal breaker as long as both parties respect each other’s opinions, try to understand them and don’t fight because of them. As long as my partner doesn’t try to change my opinion and both can share their viewpoints in discussions without being disrespectful, I think it can work.
I even have an example that it can actually work: my grandparents. My grandma was for communism, my grandpa was against it. So they both had opposite opinions and were very vocal about them. Sure, they clashed sometimes because of their beliefs but their marriage still worked because politics weren’t everything in their relationship.
That being said, I do think that it is also dependent on the person on whether it can work or not. I’m not sure if I could be with someone who has “extreme” views but I do think that being with someone who doesn’t share the exact same political beliefs can make you more open towards different opinions.
Friend 5: L
In my opinion it depends on the political view. I think with friends it isn’t as big of a factor, I mean I generally try to avoid political discussions with my friends altogether. One’s opinion on controversial political debate does speak volumes about the person’s mindset and basic values as a human being and I do think that in the political atmosphere we have nowadays, politics has definitely become more relevant in relationships. But I’m not saying that it can’t work.
Friend 6: C
I’m stubborn when it comes to my own political opinion, so having views that don’t collide with each other is extremely important to me when speaking of a romantic relationship. I can’t imagine being with someone who has a completely different opinion than me but of course it isn’t always possible that both people’s opinions are a perfect match – so I’d say you at least have to have similar views and values.
Long-term I just believe that such a divide in opinions could also negatively impact other parts of the relationship. I do think that there are relationships out there that work despite having different views but I think most of them work best when you’re just dating each other. It’s a different story when you live together because politics would definitely come up sooner or later in everyday life. I imagine that it would start to weigh in on the relationship, even if you’re just doing something as mundane as watching the news together. To me it’s just a deal breaker in a relationship because you spend so much time together and like I said, I’m stubborn about it.
I do think that I would be more open towards friendships where the people have different opinions. Because if I imagine that you would suddenly change your opinion, I wouldn’t just write you off because of that. I’d find a place within myself to respect your opinion. But I don’t think I could do that in a relationship, it’s just too important to me to ignore.
Friend 7: A
Sharing the same values is fairly important to me. I’m not very politically active, that’s why I don’t feel like I have the right to say too much about this whole thing but if my boyfriend had an extremely different perspective on issues important to me, I can’t imagine that the relationship would work out long time – I think that it would probably just lead to conflicts. I’m not saying out opinions have to match exactly, but the principles should intersect.
I feel similar about friendships. Conflicts of opinion are okay but if they are too different the friendship will suffer. At least I couldn’t tolerate that forever. I would definitely begin to distance myself from that person, willingly or not. With friendships it’s relatively easy but I do think that it can be harder with family. A close family member of mine and I don’t have the same views and I do notice that we have become more distant because of that. I always try to be open towards different opinions but I do expect the other person to return the favour.
Friend 8: L
Politics shouldn’t influence any kind of relationships, whether it be romantic or platonic. I think that if one person is (or both are) politically active, it’s a matter of personal preference on where you draw the line. But personally, I don’t see any kind of issue with having different political mindsets, even if my partner would be politically active in the community.
As to how to approach a situation where both parties have different opinions – just don’t talk about it too much. I’m not saying leave it out completely, hey, respectful and non-judgemental discussions are fine by me, I mean look at us – we have discussions all the time and still get along. I’d even go as far as to say that those discussions are a reason why we actually get along so well even though we don’t always have the same opinion. We’re both very open people and I enjoy hearing your viewpoint, as you do mine. But in the case of a romantic relationship, don’t turn it into this huge thing in your relationship – that will just get in the way of things.
To sum up all of these statements: Most think you at least have to have similar views and mindsets when it comes to political in order for a relationship to work as they say a lot about the core values of the given partner. In friendships differences in opinion don’t seem to play as big of a role for the majority of my friends. Nearly all of them agree that maintaining a relationship with a person whose perspective is drastically different is rarely possible, if not impossible.
A few prefer to have matching opinions, yet aren’t bothered if that isn’t the case. One of my friends thinks that politics shouldn’t be an issue in relationships or friendships at all, though most do think that big conflicts of opinion can affect a relationship in the long-run. A few think it depends on how important politics is to the parties involved and see a difference if one of the people would be politically active.
Where do I stand?
Are politics everything to me? …..no. I do actually think that relationships can work as long as you stay respectful and open towards your partner’s opinion. I think if you have to ban politics completely from the relationship, you will have a hard time staying together long-term (but I’m not necessarily saying that it can’t work). But if both are willing to learn about and from each other and accept each others opinions without judgement, there is definitely hope. Challenging each other’s opinions can even be healthy for a relationship, communication is key. So maybe having discussions in a non-judgemental and tolerant environment is exactly what it takes in order for a relationship to work out.
Where I would be concerned is when I’m planning to start a family with someone who represents a completely different party or opinion. At least the core values should be congruent or else there will be a lot of conflicts regarding how to raise the child you’re bringing into this world.
As for friendships – I have a few friends that don’t share similar views and I still count some of them to be amongst my closest friends. So to me, it’s not a big issue. Again, both should respect each other’s views and not try to change them. I actually like when people challenge my opinion because it forces me to articulate mine. I also think that you learn a lot about being open and understanding why people think the way they do. Listening is definitely key when it comes to any kind of relationships where there is a conflict of opinion – hear each other out and don’t jump to conclusions or judgement.
I am genuinely interested to read some of your opinions, so please leave them down below. Always remember to be respectful of other people’s opinions in the comment section 🙂
Do you agree with any of my friends opinions? Why (not)? Do you have examples of relationships / friendships not working out because of politics? What about examples where it works despite of them?