The American political system has always been messy. But this election year feels like political issues are at an all-time high. Or, maybe more accurately, an all-time low.
All that passion and anger can seep into our marriages, of course. We might have heated disagreements on political issues, which can make for serious problems. After all, just because we sleep in the same bed doesn’t mean we support the same candidates.
Before I begin, let me stress something important: The issues facing our cities, our states and our country are real and, I think, significant. The people who are elected will affect how we live for years, and their decisions could change how our government operates for decades or longer. Those who say that politics don’t matter are, in my opinion, just plain wrong. We owe it to ourselves and our country to take our political system seriously.
But as important as political candidates, parties and issues can be, they’re nothing compared to the critical importance of your marriage. No candidate, Republican or Democrat, will cheer you up after you’ve had a bad day or hold you when you’re depressed or scared. They won’t share private jokes with you or enjoy special walks or pick up your children from school.
The relationship between politician and voter is nothing compared to the sacred union of two people in marriage. Candidates make plenty of promises, but they’ll never promise to be with you through better or worse. And they sure won’t say they’ll be by your side till death do you part!
No matter how significant your political differences may be, those differences should never have an impact on your marriage covenant.
But in such an angry, divisive political campaign, how can we keep our marriages strong? How can we get past our differences in political issues and love each other, regardless of what circles we fill in on our ballots?
I’m not going to lie to you: It’s not always easy. But I think if we follow three rules, we can agree on the beauty of our marriage in the midst of serious disagreement.
Recognize that differences — even around political issues — are good
Again, I’m not arguing that political differences don’t matter. Our beliefs and our decisions define who we are. Biblically, we should focus on three things in the political process: staying informed so we can vote in a way that’s pleasing to God, praying for our leaders and keeping Romans 12:10 always top of mind: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Push against the political season’s shrill, angry negativity and treat those who disagree with you with honor. And that’s especially true if the person who disagrees with you is your spouse!
Remembering that God made us all different is essential. We’re different sexes, different races, different sizes and shapes. He gave us all different strengths and weaknesses, different passions and inclinations, and I believe He loves all of those differences.
For political issues, just like in all those other areas where differences come into play, “sameness” shouldn’t be our goal. Those differences allow us to learn from each other and enjoy seeing the world from a slightly (or hugely) different point of view.
Create emotional safety
With so much at stake and so many passions in play, it’s easy to forget that the person you’re discussing politics with is the love of your life. You might even start thinking of him or her as an enemy. Remember, your spouse is never the enemy. Satan is your real adversary, and he cares far more about dividing you and your spouse than who you vote for. He will attack your unity in any way he can, and that includes using politics to do it.
My wife, Erin, and I have had our share of political disagreements during our marriage. But when we discuss and disagree, I try to make sure that Erin knows that she is way more important to me than any political topic. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on a particular issue or candidate, I voted her into my life, and I’m committed to her for a lifetime.
We should also remember that it’s not your job to regulate your spouse’s political thinking. Erin’s not my political conscience. I’m not Erin’s “Holy Spirit,” and it’s certainly not in my duties to regulate her political thinking. That’s between her and God.
Sure, I hope that she’s praying over the issues. I hope that she’s trying to listen to God and allowing Him to lead her to good political choices — just as I’m trying to listen to God. But is it my job to tell her what I think God wants her to do? No. My job is to love her unconditionally.
You don’t create safe space by forcing your spouse to think precisely as you do. That’s manipulation! We must find room in our marriages to hold different opinions and beliefs.
That’s the key to outstanding leadership — to recognize and even value the differences that we have. And that can only come about through good communication. Take time to truly listen to your spouse. Try to understand where he or she is coming from. And love them unconditionally.
Agree to disagree, or even stay away from the topic altogether
This is easier for me to write than for you to do, I know. But I believe it can be done. First, try to figure out if the disagreement is a “big deal” or a “little deal.” If it’s a little deal, you should let it go. If it’s a big deal, though, it’s not so easy to drop.
Those issues are important to talk about in more depth — perhaps even using a Christian counselor to help you work through the issue. You don’t want the problem to become the root of resentment and disconnection. Both can kill a marriage.
Here’s another vital discipline: If the topic is just too “hot” to discuss, stay away from the discussion! I know it may sound strange. Open, honest and near-constant communication is a critical key to a healthy and happy marriage. But this is potentially one of those exceptions to that excellent rule: You don’t have to discuss everything!
The bottom line is this: Disagreement around political issues or candidates — no matter how serious the issues or how passionately you feel about the candidates — shouldn’t wreck your marriage and is certainly not biblical grounds for divorce!