Your marriage or your politics. It seems to be an easy choice. After all, you love your spouse. But what do you do about all the other things you’re passionate about: the income gap, immigration, social justice? Is a politically divided marriage — full of frustration and resentment — the only option?
A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute finds that the hot-button topics discussed in the public square are creeping into the private conversations of couples — and can cause as much strife between husbands and wives as between political rivals. The unfortunate result is a politically divided marriage where spouses have become political — and often personal — rivals.
Does it have to be this way?
Can a couple hold different political views and remain happily married? Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family, says spouses can have unity even though they may disagree on cultural issues.
Recognize that differences are good. “You will never see eye-to-eye on anything,” Dr. Smalley says. “Sameness isn’t the goal in marriage. The goal is to manage your differences in a healthy way.”
Create emotional safety. A healthy marriage provides a safe space for couples to express their thoughts and feelings. Dr. Smalley recommends these tips for creating a safe environment:
- Remember your spouse is not the enemy. A politically divided marriage results from spouses seeing each other as a problem. “Satan is the real Enemy. He wants you divided and disconnected. He will always attack your unity. Don’t allow this. Make sure your spouse knows that he or she is a teammate, not an adversary.”
- Your spouse and your marriage are more important than any political topic. “Your spouse needs to hear ‘I choose you,’ ” Dr. Smalley says. “I want my wife to know that she is more important than any political topic and even if we don’t see eye-to-eye, I choose her and am committed to her for a lifetime.”
- You are not the Holy Spirit. “It’s not your job to regulate your spouse’s political thinking.” Dr. Smalley reminds Christian couples to encourage each other to pray over political issues and allow God to guide their choices. “My job is not to ‘convict’ my spouse,” Dr. Smalley says. “My job is to love her unconditionally.”
- Agree to disagree or stay away from the topic. “Ask each other if this is a big deal or a little deal. Let the little deals go,” Dr. Smalley advises couples, “but if it’s a big deal, then it might be worth talking to a Christian counselor who can help you work through it and avoid resentment and disconnection.”
What does the Bible say about politics?
The Bible never discusses political parties, conventions or caucuses. It transcends — is greater than — any human divisions or labels. We are to align with God’s commands in Scripture, not bend His words to validate our opinions. When it comes to politics, two things are abundantly clear from God’s Word:
- We are to pray for our leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
- We are to honor and respect others. Romans 12:10 tells us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
A final thought on marriage and politics
Politics are divisive. Always have been. Always will be. But they don’t have to ruin your marriage. “Let’s be clear,” Dr. Smalley says, “the Bible gives clear directions for divorce and that [political differences] is not it.” If you and your spouse want to avoid living in a politically divided marriage, there’s a simple way to do it: “You don’t have to agree. But you are called to love and recognize what’s important to your spouse. Your spouse needs to hear, ‘I choose you over that.’ “