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‘Your core values have to align’: Can couples with different political ideologies ever work?

As Jodie Comer makes headlines for reportedly dating a Trump supporter, Olivia Petter examines whether people with different political values can ever make a relationship work

Wednesday 15 July 2020 14:54

When rumours emerged that the actor Jodie Comer was potentially dating a Trump supporter, James Burke, Twitter was not pleased. Despite the fact the Killing Eve actress has never confirmed the relationship [she still hasn’t at the time of publication] the reports were enough to ensure both of their names (and the hashtag #JodieComerIsOverParty) begin trending on the social platform.

Comer has spoken out in support of the LGBT+ community and regularly used her Instagram Stories in recent weeks to support the Black Lives Matter movement. And so the Twittersphere asks this: how could her politics possibly align with those of her alleged new partner if he supports the American President, who once spoke at an anti-LGBT conference and called Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs”? Aside from the issue that neither party has publicly confirmed their relationship, Burke’s political leanings, or indeed Comer’s, it was enough to fuel calls for the actor to be “cancelled”.

There are other examples of high-profile couples who don’t necessarily align on all issues. Kim Kardashian West is pro-Planned Parenthood, for example, while her husband Kanye West, who has expressed anti-abortion views, recently said that the organisation does “the devil’s work”.

But it’s common for people to want to choose a partner based on their political views. Take dating apps, where you can now state your ideologies on your profile and in some cases, even use it to filter out people who don’t match up with your political beliefs.

And so there’s a reason why rows over Brexit reportedly ended 1.6m relationships during the referendum, and it’s probably the same reason why ”Never Kissed a Tory” T-shirts continue to be a hit. Meanwhile, studies have shown that people are more likely to view someone who doesn’t align with their political views as unattractive. So just how important is it to go out with a person whose ideologies match yours? Surely there are couples with clashing views that make it work? And if so, how do they do that?

Whether or not a relationship can work between two people with different political views depends on a number of factors. Namely, how entrenched those views are and to what extent they affect your core values. “Our political views and affiliations are usually formed and influenced by the environment in which we are raised,” says Marc Hekster, consultant clinical psychologist at The Summit Clinic.

“Young people often share similar political ideas to their parents, but then these ideas might change through the course of maturing into adulthood.” You might, for example, be raised in a Conservative household. But over time, as you start to experience more of the world and form your own views, you could become more left-leaning. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want a left-leaning partner.

Couples need to be able understand each other’s biases and prejudices if the relationship is to work

Marc Hekster, consultant psychologist

“Political views can be expressed in everyday matters,” Hekster continues. It doesn’t just inform what you discuss over the dinner table. How you feel about political issues can influence everything from the minutiae of your life to how you go about life-changing decisions. Like how you choose to raise children, how you spend your money, and the kinds of people you choose to be friends with.

Politics may impact how you live at home, too. For example, if you’re in a straight relationship, it could impact how you approach traditional gender roles in the home. Will the woman be the primary caretaker, and the man be the primary earner?

If you disagree on these issues, it’s going to be tough, says Hekster. But one way to overcome them is to have excellent communication skills. “If two people meet and don’t discuss politics at all, as if politics is not part of the relationship, this will inevitably cause issues later on; after all we are all influenced and affected by the political tides around us,” he adds. “One’s political views are ultimately, an expression of a part of yourself and how you see the world and those around you.”

It’s also crucial to ask yourself how important the things you clash with your partner about are to you. A few disagreements about something controversial that Boris Johnson said in PMQ’s is one thing. Daily debates about austerity that end up in tears are another. 

“The bond you have with someone has to supercede political views if it’s ever going to work,” adds dating psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree. “There has to be a level of respect there too, towards the other person, and an acceptance that they might have different views.” 

It could simply depend on how much you like engaging in a debate, too. For example, there will be some couples that thrive off heated discussions about their varying politics. In these instances, communication is key, explains chartered psychologist Daria Kuss. 

“The most important aspect that will determine relationship success is the quality of communication between the partners,” she says. “They may have dissimilar partisan affiliations which they are unwilling to change. Agreeing that sometimes they disagree, and limiting political conversations to a minimum may help make a relationship work between partners who have opposing political views.”

If you’re just beginning a relationship with someone whose views differ from yours, Kuss advises trying to work out early on if your core values align. Because politics and core values are not always necessarily mutually exclusive. “Your core values have to align for the relationship to be successful in the longer term,” she adds. You need to be able to empathise with one another’s prejudices and biases, regardless of how nuanced they may be, because politics is seldom as simple as left versus right.

Your core values have to align for the relationship to be successful in the longer term
Daria Kuss

“Brexit taught us that,” says Hekster. “If a couple’s core values differ substantially, this may come to the fore, well before political differences emerge into the relationship,” he explains. “A couple need to have sufficient in common at this core values level, and if this is the case, then political differences can become a source of stimulation and interest, rather than a source of conflict and ultimately dissonance.” 

If you are in the early days of a relationship with someone and you’re not sure whether their views match yours or not, Hekster suggests testing the waters early. “Get political if you see a future with them. But be sure to get to grips with your own political views and convictions first, before you begin looking at someone else’s. Work out if you are passionate about politics and what this means to you.”

Today, politics is about so much more than which box you choose to tick on the ballot paper. And so if you are going to get into a relationship with someone whose ideologies are different from yours, know that it can work, so long as you align on the things that matter to you most, whatever they may be.

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