Differences in politics has come up several times in my work with couples. This isn’t new. 38% of married households contain a politically mismatched pair, according to recent survey data. When it does come up, and we can work through it, it’s not that big a deal. It’s sometimes the elephant in the room-a topic neither partner wants to bring up.
This is what we call in Gottman language a perpetual problem. It’s a problem based on your differences, and it’s not likely to change-meaning you will most likely not change your politics at this point, and your partner may not change theirs. And we all know the pain of trying to get the other person to change their mind and see it your way.
The key to working on this issue is to look for ways to understand, rather than be understood. To see if you can understand how they feel, and why, without getting too stuck on the beliefs and objective reality. I know-easy for me to say.
Some questions can be: How does this relate to your childhood? Why is this important to you? How will you feel if something doesn’t change?
In this way you have a chance to get to “I disagree with you, but I can understand how you feel that way. How does this relate to their childhood or their past? Why do they feel this way? Why does this matter to them?
Couples Counseling Mountainside
Chuck Beardsley, LCSW is a level-3 Gottman couples counselor, and is a level 3 Relational Life Counselor. Chuck utilizes Mindfulness, ACT, and other contemplative practices in his work with individuals and couples.
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