Can an election, or a political party division, lead to divorce or separation? Do partners or spouses need to both be Democrat, Republican, or Independent for a marriage to survive? Marriage and relationship research tells us that while partners who belong to the same affiliation are more likely to match, once they are in a relationship, political differences themselves don’t have to derail a marriage.
A love relationship breaks down over many factors, but they are quantifiable and predictable. When a couple enters a relationship, often the chemistry that attracts them can paint the partner in the most positive light, and blind them to negative aspects. For instance, one partner’s “lack of expression” in the beginning of the relationship is experienced as calming. As the relationship continues, the spell can turn to a surprising awakening that the partner is “cold” and dismissive.
The dynamic in the relationship shifts from romantic notions of connection to feelings of loneliness. The couple is headed toward a negative sentiment override, John Gottman’s term for a couple seeing more negative than positive aspects in their partner. With this shift, suddenly the support for Clinton or Trump from one partner becomes an elephant in the room, yet another reason the other partner is viewed as “selfish” or “too sensitive.”
When a couple enters negative sentiment override, the choice of a political candidate isn’t the real issue that is harming the marriage. A couple needs an effective intervention to help them regain mostly positive feelings toward each other. A healthy dynamic includes a couple being able to discuss and honor the similarities and differences of each other. This does not mean necessarily agreeing with your spouse, but you can see where he or she is coming from, and understand why he or she believes what he or she does.
Whatever the outcome of the elections next Tuesday, a marriage does not have to be threatened by differences. Can you understand your partner, and appreciate his or her perspective? Perhaps creating a “we” in a relationship means appreciating and making space for two “I’s.”
Does political party disrupt your marriage or love relationship? Share your experience, and join the conversation.
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