Presidential Campaign

Healing the political divide in a marriage

My mother always told me, never talk to your friends about politics or religion. This Thanksgiving, coming only two weeks after one of the most divisive elections in the history of our country, it will be nearly impossible.

Not only will it be a challenge with extended family, but imagine how difficult it will be for a married couple where one voted for Hillary Clinton and the other voted for Donald Trump.

{mosads}We’re not talking about a mere preference, but in many cases, an utter disdain for the opposing candidate, so much so that more people voted for their candidate because they did not want the other to win, rather than actually liking the candidate they selected.

This potential political disparity between married couples is a great lesson about relationships and how to make them work.

Opposites attract, otherwise it would be boring to marry a carbon copy of ourselves. These differences often excite us in the romantic stage of a relationship.

We feel a sense of wholeness, as if this other person is holding missing parts of ourselves. The relationship is an opportunity to reclaim our wholeness, that’s why it feels so great in the beginning.

Imagine if you have a more subdued personality and you fall in love with someone who is the life of the party. That could feel quite exciting at first. It’s almost as if you have an opportunity now to self-actualize that missing part of yourself.

Everything is great, for the most part, until we commit and the anesthesia wears off. We then start to wonder what we got ourselves into in the first place.

The lively personality has become a nag. You’d rather stay home and relax than be busy out and about. You simply don’t understand this other person whom you thought was perfect for you. What happened?

Imago Relationship Therapy posits that this power struggle is inevitable and that this conflict is not proof that you made the wrong choice; rather it is indicative that you picked the one who was tailor made to push your buttons and help you grow.

When you both get conscious about what’s going on, you can have more compassion for each other and realize the gift that your partner is offering you to become a more whole and complete person.

While you don’t need to become the life of the party, you may benefit from loosening up a bit. Your spouse could also benefit from becoming more grounded as he/she becomes more sensitive to your needs.

As the couple begins this conscious journey, they see their differences as an asset rather than a liability. So what does this have to do with our couple who is reeling from the election? The most painful part of a relationship is when we realize our spouse is not an extension of ourselves.

Because we initially felt so connected, like we were one, we have a hard time experiencing the otherness of our spouse. We are dismayed, disillusioned, and disappointed. This idea that everyone should see things the way “I” do is called relationship symbiosis. We do this to protect ourselves.

We create our own reality to survive the emotional challenges we may have experienced in our lives. There is no greater place that this appears than in politics. We are often so dogmatic about our political views that we can’t imagine how anyone could see things differently.

This explains why politics can be such a divisive force and why half of this country is depressed and the other half elated.

When it comes to relationships, the truth is that there is no objective truth. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their opinion has merit.

It does not mean that we must agree. It does mean that we need to get curious and begin to listen to what the other has to say, because when we listen long enough, everyone makes sense.

We can get caught up in the externals, the slogans, the potential overtones of certain policies, but if we begin to understand why people feel the way they do, we no longer need to judge them as the “enemy.”

People in both political parties want what they feel is best for the country, it’s only they differ about the means and what that result would look like.

If you voted differently from your spouse and it has put a wedge in your relationship, have a safe discussion about it.

If your husband voted for Trump, it doesn’t mean he is a misogynist or a xenophobe. Perhaps he lost his job because his company chose to outsource to another country or he saw his insurance premiums skyrocket.

If your wife voted for Clinton, it doesn’t mean she wants to bankrupt the country with free healthcare for all. Perhaps she was excited about having the first woman president or she works in the ER and has seen people struggling without health insurance.

Realize that you can be right or you can be in relationship. What’s more important? Focus your energy on what you do have in common and create a safe space where you no longer have to feel threatened by the otherness of your partner; rather you can feel safe enough to view it as an asset to your relationship.

You can agree to disagree and at the same time see the merit in the other’s viewpoint. If couples can successfully do this in their relationships, imagine the potential healing it could bring to the political divide in our country.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist. Together with his wife Rivka, he founded The Marriage Restoration Project, a Global Initiative to help keep couples together and happy. To learn how to have a happy and healthy relationship, click here to find out about our two day Private Marriage Retreat.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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