The morning after the election there were no high-fives in my house; no tearful hugs, no shared feelings of either elation or defeat. Instead there were consolatory foot rubs, a decided absence of gloating and a tiny bit of tip-toeing until we figured out exactly how high emotions were running.
Like Shiela Heen who wrote “Sleeping with the (Political) Enemy” for the New York Times earlier this week, the love in my life sits on the opposite side of the political see-saw. Our first forays into political conversations were polite affairs – each of us patiently listening to the other side, trying hard to understand how this person who we loved, who we respected, who was quickly becoming an integral part of our life; how this person could hold such a different view of the world than our own.
This polite conversation eventually turned into heated discussion, and if I am honest, some arguments, hurt feelings, a good amount of posturing and a decided lack of polite listening. This was all new to me.
Political discussions before this lovely man walked into my life had been with my friends who sit on the same side of the political aisle as I do. We mostly talked about how important it was that our candidate won, how the “other side” was obstinate, wouldn’t compromise and so on. I listened and read media that slanted in my direction. I filled my time and my head with a world of people who agreed with me.
Ms. Heen wrote “When you marry across the divide, you have to give up things that provide the like-minded self-satisfied comfort. As tempting as it is, we can’t demonize those on the other side as idiots who are out of touch, because they’re liable to reach out across the dinner table to touch you (and rather sharply).”
Funny thing, my sweetie walks on the same side of the political aisle as most of my family. I’ve learned to deal with them by never bringing up politics and by smiling and holding my tongue if someone insists on putting it on the table.
Like Ms. Heen, my partner and I are “closely aligned at the foundation by love, continued attraction, and from sharing the weight of that gift bag of irritations that comes with any modern marriage. But we continue to part company on most pages of the party-political catalog of how-best-to’s and should-or-shouldn’t-be-able-to’s.” We agree that there are problems that need to be solved. We just don’t agree on the best way to get there.
So how is it going? Sometimes we agree not to talk about it. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. It is during those times that I try to remember our common ground and to listen carefully and keep my voice calm. We most likely will never agree on some basic ideas but we can remember that this is the person that we love and that they deserve our respect and our acceptance.
The election is over. New officials will take their place at the table to converse and compromise. They will try to fix the economy, create new jobs and take care of our planet. I hope that they can remember the common ground; that they can accept and respect their differences and work together to find solutions even though they will never agree.