Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

When politics divide, conversation can unite

Adapted from a recent online discussion, and continued from Monday.

Q: If it is actually true that the gal (in Monday's column) has strongly held but extremely uninformed beliefs about politics, then be prepared for her to have strongly held but uninformed beliefs about marriage, parenting, child care, etc. And yes, I'd say that if the political affiliations and/or genders were reversed.

Anonymous

Carolyn: Such a great point and, yes, it works no matter how you shake up the specifics.

Stubbornness is a pain to deal with in a relationship anyway, but when it arises from a place other than facts or reason, it's an anger factory.

It's especially painful to watch when a child is involved, and This Myth or That Myth is applied with extremist zeal to some consequential element of child-rearing, while the other parent wrestles with the following choice: Watch helplessly or touch off epic fights. Awful. I've seen it up close.

Anonymous 2: I think where the political differences stem from, and how this affects your view of money and child-raising, is important. Is it important to you to give to charities, but does she see it as a waste of money? How will this affect things when you move from your money/my money to our money? Are there personal values that these political views express — and would it bother you if your children were taught hers over yours?

Carolyn: These are excellent conversation-starters, thanks.

Anonymous 3: I always ask myself when faced with political differences in a potential relationship: "Is this person sufficiently kind?" I find that political differences that turn out to be deal-breakers are evidence that the person is not kind enough for me to want to spend time with them.

Carolyn: Not just a good suggestion, thanks, but one that's applicable well beyond politics.

Deal-Breaker, again: I didn't mean to sound as if I don't respect my girlfriend, because I do. I often go to her for advice, and she's genuinely a nice, caring person. But maybe I'm not giving her the respect in the area of politics that I should. Thanks for pointing that out.

Also, when I say "heated," I don't mean we scream at each other, act sarcastic, etc. We just get noticeably frustrated. I guess I'm just worried about what will happen down the road, and how politics can affect child-rearing, finances and other major life decisions.

Carolyn: What would happen if you were both to offer the other something to read that supports your view? Treat it as the equivalent of bringing in a neutral third party — emotionally, not politically, though getting it from a bi- or non-partisan source would be aces. And not in a "See?!" way, but in an anthropological one, where you offer something new and see how the subject reacts or responds to it.

As for the "how politics can affect child-rearing," I think the Anonymous conga-line has argued well that it's about values, kindness and the willingness to reconsider a position in the face of new information, which applies to both of you, of course, and not just to her.

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