How to get along with someone with different political views — even your spouse

By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts

In a world where political beliefs are fiercely divisive, maintaining relationships across the party divide can be challenging, especially when that person is a partner, friend, coworker, or neighbor. A study by Eitan Hersh, a political science professor from Yale University, found that 30% of married households were politically mismatched with Democrats married to Republicans making up a third of the cases. Despite the challenges, longevity and harmony can be achieved in these relationships. The question is how?

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Being politically mismatched with a spouse

Living with someone who supports a political party one opposes can be difficult and requires a balance of respect, communication, and empathy.

First and foremost, it is crucial to respect each other’s opinions, even when they starkly contrast with your own. Relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch advises managing disagreements in a healthy manner, agreeing to disagree, and steering clear of the expectation that a partner should always agree, which she identifies as a common source of disappointment and frustration in relationships. This respect lays the foundation for open and honest communication, where both partners feel safe expressing their beliefs without fear of judgment or hostility. Scheduling dedicated time to discuss political views, rather than letting them become heated arguments during dinner or in passing, can help in managing differences constructively.

Understanding the root of your partner's beliefs can also foster empathy. Often, political views are shaped by personal experiences, upbringing, and core values. Orbuch suggests a focus on the shared values and passions that create compatibility, rather than political affiliation. She explains that political affiliations are just labels, while underlying values keep people together. By delving into these aspects, you may uncover common ground or at least gain a deeper appreciation for your partner’s perspective. Additionally, it’s beneficial to focus on shared values and goals that transcend politics, such as parenting philosophies, financial planning, or community involvement. Finding and nurturing these commonalities can strengthen the relationship despite political differences.

By approaching the situation with a spirit of cooperation and understanding, politically mismatched couples can thrive and create a harmonious household.

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Dealing with friends with different political views

Navigating friendships with differing political views can be a delicate balancing act, but it is entirely possible with a bit of effort and understanding. Focus on the qualities and interests that brought you together in the first place. Shared experiences, hobbies, and values often form the bedrock of friendships, and these aspects should be highlighted and celebrated.

It's essential to engage in open and respectful conversation, setting boundaries where necessary to avoid heated debates. This approach helps maintain the friendship's integrity while allowing both parties to feel heard and valued. You can also practice active listening—a technique where you fully concentrate, understand, and respond thoughtfully to what your friend is saying. This can go a long way in diffusing potential conflicts and demonstrating that you value their viewpoint, even if you don't agree.

Lastly, remember that it's perfectly normal to have friends with different beliefs. These relationships can be incredibly enriching, offering diverse perspectives and fostering a greater understanding of the world. By prioritizing respect, empathy, and shared interests, friendships can thrive despite political differences.

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Handling different political views at work

When it comes to the workplace, maintaining professionalism and respect is key. Working alongside colleagues with different political beliefs can be managed by keeping political discussions to a minimum during work hours. Focus on the common goal of achieving professional success and contributing to your team's objectives. If political conversations do come up, it's important to communicate with respect and avoid derogatory remarks or personal attacks. Creating an inclusive work environment means valuing diverse opinions and ensuring everyone feels comfortable voicing their thoughts. Setting ground rules for political discourse in the office can help maintain a harmonious and productive atmosphere.

The ability to 'agree to disagree' becomes even more critical when dealing with friends and co-workers. This shift from persuasion to understanding motivates more productive conversations and respectful disagreements. Ask more questions to gain insight into why someone supports a specific political party and what it means to them. This approach can foster healthier conversations and a deeper understanding of differing views, without having to compromise one's beliefs.

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Living near and engaging with neighbors with different political views

Living in close proximity to neighbors who hold different political beliefs can be tricky, but it's entirely possible to foster a respectful and friendly community. Start by building a rapport based on mutual interests and everyday interactions. Simple gestures like greeting them with a smile, lending a hand with small tasks, or sharing homegrown produce can lay the groundwork for a positive relationship, irrespective of political leanings.

When politics inevitably come up, practice active listening and express your thoughts calmly and respectfully. It's important to remember that your goal is not to convince or convert but to understand where they are coming from. Just like with friends and coworkers, set boundaries for political discussions if needed, and focus on the aspects of being neighbors that unite you, like mutual concern for the community's well-being.

Hosting neighborhood events such as barbecues or holiday parties can also help bridge the political divide. Creating opportunities for neighbors to come together and share experiences can build stronger, more cohesive communities. Encourage activities that highlight commonalities, like neighborhood clean-ups, local charity drives, or community watch programs. These activities not only benefit the community but also foster a sense of togetherness that transcends political differences.

Navigating the political divide with neighbors, as with all relationships, hinges on respect, understanding, and a willingness to find common ground. By focusing on shared values and interests, we can create a harmonious and supportive environment within our communities, despite differing political views.

"By focusing on shared values and interests, we can create a harmonious and supportive environment within our communities, despite differing political views."

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The role of a mental health coach

A mental health coach can play a pivotal role in helping you navigate relationships strained by differing political views, whether it's with your partner, friend, coworker, or neighbor. A coach can work with you on techniques for facilitating constructive conversations. These can include active listening tips to make sure each person feels heard and valued, mitigating the potential for heated arguments or feelings of isolation. By focusing on emotional well-being and fostering a supportive approach to dialogue, a mental health coach can help empower individuals to navigate these challenging relationships with resilience and grace, fostering longevity and harmony — even amidst political diversity.

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Despite political differences, relationships can thrive on shared experiences and mutual respect. Importantly, remember that political affiliations are labels, and don’t fully define a person. By focusing on mutual passions and shared values, it’s entirely possible for politically mismatched partners to maintain healthy relationships. With the right guidance and advice, it's feasible to make it through a chaotic election season, still being able to support the people we love beyond the voting booth.

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