Shayne on You: A house divided can stand

Dear Maggie,

Iím having problems in my marriage, and I just canít see a solution to it. You see, Iím a very fervent supporter of Barack Obama for president, while my husband is 100% behind John McCain. Weíre both extremely interested in politics this year, so we watch the debates and the polls and the news coverage. And then we discuss what weíve just seen. But our discussions always end up getting heated and turning into fights. We end up angry with each other every night. Now Iím having doubts about everything. How could I have married someone who seems to feel exactly the opposite way I do about every single important issue? It feels like Iím seeing this side of him for the first time in our five year marriage. He was never into politics before. Iíve never been this angry with him, but I just canít undersand how he can be so thick-headed and unable to see my point of view on these mattters. The man thinks Sarah Palin is brilliant, for the love of God! Is he brain dead? Have I married a moron? What can I do to get past this? Iím afraid that after the elections are over, the rift between us will remain. Honestly, Iím not sure I can ever respect him again.


Flustered and Furious

Dear Flustered,

Itís not that you donít understand why he canít see your point of view. Itís that you donít understand why he wonít agree with it. Those are two very different things. Youíve got it into your head that you canít be happy unless HE changs his HIS opinion. Youíre trying to control him, and thatís just not going to work. Nor would it make you happy anyway. Thatís your job, not his.

Listen, politics is a touchy issue, and when youíre passionate about it, even touchier. You feel like the well-being of the entire nation, maybe the world, is on the line, and you start seeing anyone who supports the opposition as The Enemy.

So try to look at this in a whole new light by substituting something else as the subject of debate. Just to gain some perspective, letís pretend that your favorite color is pink. Youíre passionate about pink, you believe the vibrations and psychological impact of pink can heal everything thatís wrong in the world. Youíre a fervent devotee of pink. But your husband likes blue. Heís convinced blue is the best color ever, and that blue is the salvation of our planet. You fight over this to the point where you go to bed angry every night.

Now, how much sense does that make? Do you really care whether your husband has his own taste and opinions that are different from yours? Does his love of blue have any impact whatsoever on your devotion to pink? Does his refusal to love pink really have a detrimental effect on your well being? On your marriage?

Of course not. And the exact same logic applies to politics. You donít need him to agree with you in order to have a good marriage. If youíre both too passionate to discuss politics, just agree not to discuss it. But it would be healthier if you could learn to talk, respect each otherís opinions, and give each other the freedom to think for yourselves. Have you ever seen James Carville and Mary Matalin appearing together on the news channels? Theyíre married, political advisors, analysts, and commentators. They make their livings in politics. Yet heís a Democrat and sheís a Republican. And they havenít killed each other yet Ė even seem to like each other fairly well.

People need to get over the notion that they can only get along with people who think and believe like they do. (Wars are fought over this misguided notion Ė heck, the Crusades were based on this misguided notion!) Having an opinion is everyoneís right. If you canít agree with it, at least agree to his right to have it, and then let it go. In a very basic way, itís really none of your business.

And hang in there. The election is less than a month away. In the meantime, get away from the media and spend some time in the sunshine, admiring the foliage. The Universe is so much bigger and more interesting than any of our issues, even the ones that seem huge to us, like politics and war and finances. Put this into perspective. The world is turning, the sun rises every morning, the seasons are changing right on schedule. All of that is going just the way it should, without us worrying about it. Everything else in life could go just as smoothly all on its own if weíd just let go of our need to control. All really is well. Relax and breathe a little. Itís all good.


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