What happens when a Democrat marries a Republican? Does inferno officially flow like the lava of a volcano that has erupted, smearing everything that comes across its path in evil laughter? Or is it possible that polar political opposites can get along and play nice?
My Husband and I are Opposites
Way back when during the innocence of 1995, I had first met my husband, a decidedly shy man who was awfully cute, studious, and could not stand to talk on the phone. Enter the gregarious gum-smacking me whose first official mission living alone in Washington, D.C. was to find the nearest shopping mall.
To say that we were complete opposites at that time was perhaps too strong a sentiment, because, although my husband and I carried ourselves very differently in the public eye, we had many things in common, including the love of the law and a penchant for laughing. We didn’t know at the time we had our first date how much we would be making each other laugh throughout the years, so it’s interesting that we would have gone to a comedy club show as the start of our relationship.
My husband, a diehard Italian, and I, an olive-skinned Latina, somehow found our way out of our respective small towns from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to meet in Washington, D.C., the ultimate place for movers and shakers on the political scene. As forward-thinking and progressive as I had always been, I was quite timid being a light-colored person in a primarily African American school.
Interestingly, despite being shy, my husband had no problem standing out as one of the few white males at Howard University School of Law. He was used to being a tough cookie and holding his own in difficult social situations. Street-smart from the get-go, my husband started off his career at the school with very strong, liberal, democratic points of view which I unequivocally shared.
My husband and I both believed in the progress of African Americans, felt empathy for their historical plight in slavery, and were excited about being in the mix with extraordinarily intelligent classmates, many of whom came from impoverished neighborhoods and backgrounds and succeeded so well with classwork.
The Democrat Becomes a Republican
A few years after my husband and I graduated from law school, my husband changed. He became much more conservative, changing his political viewpoints to Republican. There is no clear point of demarcation where I can say with certainty that my husband changed, but I did notice some changes gradually.
Within the last two years, our political ideologies have become more pronounced as we have had one and then the second child. Throughout our teachings of life lessons to our girls, my husband and I have come to discuss, analyze, and frequently butt heads about things, all boiling down to our political differences.
My husband has made light of this new black-and-white distinction in politics between us by cutely referring to us as the James Carville and the Mary Matalin of Alexandria, with my husband in his Republican role espoused by Matalin and me preaching about Democratic free thinking shared by Carville.
Again, the question. What happens when a Democrat marries a Republican? I think the answer depends on the people getting married and the level of love and commitment they have for one another. In the case of me and my husband, it is no secret that my husband and I are so vastly different. I have already written about my husband’s career as a federal lobbyist and how conversations about politics sneak up on us on a daily basis, like stealth cockroaches that won’t die no matter how much you zap them with spray.
Faith Softens a Dislike of Politics
Personally, I can not stand politics or participating in conversations about something I neither understand nor agree with because to do so would be as productive as Sisyphus himself rolling that doggone rock up the mountain for the 1,000th time. At some point, you just want to say “enough already” and move on with life. But, just as with the story of Sisyphus, the story of politics in a marriage has good life lessons to impart.
When there is something that I don’t like and I can’t seem to escape, much like the political conversations that fill our peaceful home and clog up my lungs like thick, black smoke, I have to stand back and take a different look at it. That is what faith tells me to do.
Faith is telling me that things aren’t really what they appear to be, which automatically crushes to nothingness the old saying that “if it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.” There is no black and white in faith, but there are magnificent shades of gray and plenty of room for interpretation in a positive spectrum.
Look at the Bigger Picture
What exactly is my husband trying to accomplish by telling me countless facts and opinions about politics? Does he really expect me to stand up to Barrack Obama and tell him off? I doubt it. A softer interpretation doused in droplets of faith helps me to see a bigger picture. My husband is telling me all about politics because he is sharing things that are near and dear to his heart, things that fire up his gut, information that is meaningful to him.
In these instances, my role is not that of a debate participant or an arbitrator, but more of a confidante, a friend, a loving spouse who is patient enough to listen and respect opinions that are different from her own.
During these trying moments when I often involuntarily roll my eyes at yet another political comment, God is trying to teach me some things about what it takes to have a long, successful marriage. It is not about the gratification of touch, the instant meal-makers, the freebie merchandise of jewelry or flowers, or even the rag doll that is easy to nag and pester.
Marriage is a friendly game of checkers. It is a friendly competition where both sides exercise free speech and thoughts in a safe, closed environment where love and faith gently mold the gaps of discord, like Plasticine clay.
Handling Politics with Faith and Love
By training myself to listen to my husband with sincerity and asking thoughtful questions that will elicit academic responses, I am allowing him to play his game of checkers masterfully, with great pride and passion. We do not always have to be the winners in every game of checkers that we play with our spouses, but we should make a solid effort to give our spouses ample time and space to dazzle us with some good strategic moves.
It would be false of me to say that I agree with or corroborate every political item of interest that my husband talks about, but I can say that I am making good efforts to try to play pleasant checkers with my husband in his own special court. This is where that great marriage compromise stuff comes in.
Marriages are not easy to sustain, but when you have faith on your side and are willing to listen intently to what your waiter has to say, it does get easier. A little.
Are you married to a spouse that has different political viewpoints than you? How do you account for those differences? Do you use faith to get you through difficult conversations?