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Falling in Love Across the Political Divide

Falling in Love Across the Political Divide

Growing up in a conservative family in California, I was used to being the odd one out. But that didn’t calm my nerves when the beautiful woman I’d asked to dinner started questioning my beliefs. “So, you’re pretty much a conservative,” she said, eyebrows raised in surprise. “Does that extend to abortion?”

I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, prepared for our date to come to a quick end. Expecting the worst, I said, “Yeah, I just haven’t come across an argument that would make abortion morally justifiable.” But to my great surprise, the conversation continued. In fact, it turned into a debate without becoming unfriendly.

Stranger still, more dates followed. And now, nine years later, that beautiful woman is my wife and the mother of our growing family.

Here’s what we learned when we fell in love across the political divide.

Facing Down Partisan Headwinds

When my wife Tessa and I met, America was facing strong political headwinds. It was the fall of 2015, and Donald Trump was starting to look like the probable Republican nominee. Newscasters complained about polarization while doing everything they could to fan the flames of division. It was in this inauspicious setting that our romance began.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that it didn’t take long for the spirit of the age to rear its ugly head. While hitchhiking from Kyoto to Tokyo, we fell into another abortion debate that slid into an argument. Instead of calmly exploring first principles, we both got angry and started hurling slogans at one another. We had made a crucial mistake.

Our tempers didn’t cool until later that evening, when a piece of luggage fell from the overhead compartment on a bus we had boarded and slammed into my head. In retrospect, the pain of that moment hit like an act of mercy. The argument had passed.

Avoiding Slogans at All Costs

The lesson of that first fight was simple: Slogans help no one. By resorting to well-worn phrases about bodily autonomy and the sanctity of the unborn, we had transformed a conversation into a competition. We beat one another over the head with our words in an attempt to “win.” In the end, both of us lost.

From that moment on, we both did our best to express our ideas using our own words. It wasn’t always easy—in fact, we had a few more arguments over abortion before we learned how to communicate more effectively. But every time a discussion turned ugly, we could trace the shift back to a slogan.

Heading for Deep Water

In the early years, my wife and I found opportunities to disagree about a wide range of issues. And when we talked about those issues directly, things could get unpleasant. That’s why, whenever possible, we tried to discuss topics in as much depth as we could.

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day disputes. Whether you’re discussing income tax, abortion, or marriage, the battle lines have already been drawn out for you. All you have to do is pick a side and start arguing.

For whatever reason, people get more upset about the details than the really important stuff. My wife and I, for example, could have all sorts of disagreements about taxation, but we never once had an ugly argument about the meaning of life or the way to happiness. When you talk about the big, often metaphysical questions, things become more peaceful.

Patience is Key

A long-term perspective can also help calm controversy. Once it was clear that our relationship wasn’t going to be temporary, each of us didn’t so strongly feel the need to convince the other.

Over the course of our marriage, our values have naturally meshed. Through a long and steady process, both of us have cast away opinions that aren’t grounded in anything more than bias. In fact, we have ended up with a pretty similar worldview.

Keeping an Open Mind

According to an analysis by the Institute for Family Studies, only about 20 percent of married couples are politically mixed, and under 4 percent of marriages are between Democrats and Republicans. This is just another sign of the times.

I understand why people aren’t open to falling in love across the political divide. We want a potential spouse to share our values. Yet when we refuse to love anyone who disagrees with us, even on hot-button issues, we close ourselves off to loving anything but an image of ourselves.

Besides, values are more than mere words. Instead, they are made in the daily practice of love. Will we be open when it comes knocking?

Image credit: Pexels

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Adam De Gree
Adam De Gree
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  • Avatar
    Phillip Roz
    June 3, 2024, 3:47 pm

    My wife and I are part of the under 4 percent of marriages are between Democrats and Republicans. Yes it does work we have been married for 24 years ;+). Glad to see there is another married couple like us!

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  • Avatar
    Stuart
    June 3, 2024, 4:19 pm

    Mr. Cree's thoughtful sharing of experience applies well to friends and extended family but not so much to spouses. I did not want to close myself off from the value of those outside-the-home relationships when Covid discussions arose. Some of my friend relationships go back for decades. So, I patiently heard others out with whom I disagreed even when intentionally provoked. I also didn't insist on having the last word. However, where I disagree with his views is when it comes to romantic love and the selection of a life partner spouse. Years ago, I faced the same dilemma he relates when I, too, was single and realized that issues such as abortion or child rearing with or without religious faith were not something I could compromise on. The thought of my child being aborted for convenience because my wife had a change of heart was not a possibility I could accept. Lastly, there are enough struggles marriage partners face out in the world already without adding needless stress due to political differences. Home should be a sanctuary where both partners feel nurtured and accepted by the other.

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  • Avatar
    Htos1av
    June 4, 2024, 9:58 am

    I never married as I would NOT compromise on the fact that I don't F people over for a allah damned dollar….it was REALLY bad between the 70's and 9/11. Today, it's a fabulously "quiet" life, free from drama, and debt….retired in Florida.

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Richard
    June 5, 2024, 6:42 am

    When you get sent to the Gulag, she will be sentenced as a family member of an enemy of the people or perhaps for not reporting you as a wrecker.

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    John Rasmussen
    June 5, 2024, 11:17 am

    It sounds nice but as believers we are called to not marry an unbeliever. Someone who supports abortion does not believe in the omniscience of God. The bible commands us to not marry an unbeliever.

    REPLY

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