Brier Jirka is a sex therapist with the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women’s Center. She blogs every other Tuesday for livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Brier here.
In case you hadn't noticed, something big is going on today. This time of year you can't escape the political ads, debates and news coverage of both presidential and local elections.
People are very passionate about their political beliefs, and in some relationships, partners have differing party affiliations and beliefs. The result: a house divided.
It's a well known fact the three toughest topics in a relationship are sex, religion and politics (followed closely by finances, in-laws and how to raise kids). Since I first started working with couples in therapy, these are the issues that seem to surface the most. They bring out the most intense emotions, and even the most communicative couples can struggle.
A 2008 Today Show article, published right before our nation's last big election, cited a VitalSmarts poll, saying, “77 percent of people avoid discussing politics, and one in ten say they avoid political banter at all costs. Nearly half of respondents have had bad experiences when sharing their political views – and rather than risk a verbal battle, they hunker down and shut up.”
Your spouse is supposed to be the person you can talk openly with, but living in “a house divided” can make this a challenge, even in the strongest of marriages.
Political tension can impact your children as well. Sure, it's beneficial for kids to understand the political process and know it's okay to have differing opinions. Conflict is healthy for children to see, as long as it's not abusive.
Research shows children tend to lean toward the party affiliation of their parents, but when a couple is split it can be difficult for a child to process.
If your household is divided, here are some things to consider:
• Respect is important for a healthy relationship, so respect your spouse's opinion.
• Set aside evenings when politics won't be a part of the dinner conversation.
• Strong opinions can lead to raised voices. Show your children you can be passionate without doing so.
• Be careful about boasting or doing any sort of “victory dance.”
• Accept that you're probably not going to change your partner's mind.
A recent Wall Street Journal article said it best: “Here's the No. 1 rule to remember when it comes to politics and loved ones: You're not going to change the other person. Research shows our political views are formed, in part, by genetics, personality, our family and the community we grew up in.”
For some couples, today there will be a winner and a loser, but be careful how you respond to the nation's decision at home.
Keep the lines of communication open, and always be respectful of each other's political beliefs. Relationships aren't easy 100 percent of the time, and come November, respectful communication is ever more important.