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The State of My Union: Dating across the aisle

By Ms. Robinson, February 4 2020—

Some people say you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table, and especially not on a first date. Personally, I think it’s a great idea. I’d rather we had a conversation about our politics before we agree to even get to the table — might as well get it out in the open and out of the way. There’s no sense in continuing a date with someone who is intolerant of your beliefs or unwilling to engage in conversation about different ideas.

Much has been made about the relationship between Kellyanne Conway — a counselor in the Trump administration — and her husband, outspoken Trump critic George Conway. How does Kellyanne coin the phrase “alternative facts” and then come home and have dinner with a man who spends his days Tweeting about how the president is a liar unfit for office? They’re probably an extreme example of love across political divides, but they seem to make it work. 

It isn’t always easy to date someone who disagrees with you on virtually everything, but making it work is very rewarding and quite frankly, a small-scale version of what everyone should be doing every day — engaging with those who have different views in a polite, respectful manner. 

Generally, I’ve only dated people with almost polar opposite political views. As a very narrow description, I’m essentially a free market fundamentalist and he’s a democratic socialist and union activist. He was hoping to cheer on Jagmeet Singh and the orange wave all the way to a federal NDP victory but was perfectly happy with my casting a vote — well, let’s just call it further to the right. When people find out that we’re dating, the common remark is “I bet you two don’t talk about politics at home.” That could not be further from the truth. We talk about politics all the time — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Here are some important things to remember when dating across the aisle. 

Establish boundaries:

It’s important to have boundaries — there are some beliefs that I am unwilling to tolerate. If my partner was a racist, that would be a fundamental difference in values, not politics. It’s abhorrent humanity. I could also never endure someone who opposed same-sex marriage. 

Respect and reason:

My partner and I respect each other. Our debates never descend into yelling or ad homimen attacks, even when it’s an issue we’re very passionate about. Because we love each other, we take extra care to ensure that when we debate and discuss, our points are based on reason and rationale, rather than emotion and platitudes.

Understanding and learning:

We actively try to understand where the other person is coming from. Every week, we try to read a book that pertains to the other’s political philosophy — I’ve been reading Mortimer Adler’s Haves Without Have Nots and he’s been reading Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. We debate the merits of Karl Marx versus Ayn Rand and whether the world would be better with free education. In making the effort to understand each other’s politics, we’ve been able to meet in the middle on some points. I’ve conceded that universal pharmacare is a good thing and he’s agreed that a bit extra added to the national defense budget isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Common ground:

Finding common ground is important in the midst of a seemingly constant barrage of divergent opinions. He and I are both free speech advocates — it’s a topic we can always revert to when we’re tired of debating. Having a united front on an issue or two makes the differences seem far more tolerable.

Employing the strategies I use in dating across the political divide is good practice for everyday life. When people say things like “I’d never date a Conservative” or “I’d rather be single than end up with a Liberal” it showcases their ignorance. To suggest that all Tories are racist is pure ignorance, as is suggesting that all Trudeau supporters are somehow intellectually bankrupt. Twitter is not real life and we need to stop behaving like it is. Writing off people who believe different things is foolish. De-humanizing those with differing political views is unconscionable — contrary to what many believe, it doesn’t give you the moral high ground and is only contributing to societal divisiveness. Engaging in debate and conversation in an open-minded and respectful manner is the best way to heal the divide. 

Yes, politics is personal and it’s wrapped up in who we are as people, but that doesn’t mean we need to surround ourselves with the romantic version of an echo-chamber. It can be very beneficial to fall in love — or just have coffee — with someone who sees the world in a completely different way.

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