Love and politics are both known to fuel strong emotions, especially when
they clash. Alexander Hoffman has been tangling with his wife over the
presidential primaries -- even though they're both Democrats. He's backing
Hillary Clinton, his wife prefers Barack Obama -- and their political
differences have been the source of endless debate.
"We have a Tivo, and we watch the debates and Meet the
Press," says Hoffman, a graduate student at Columbia University.
"We pause what we're watching, discuss, argue, and move on -- then pause it
again 30 seconds later. Have voices ever been raised? Yes."
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His wife, Devjani, is an attorney. "The discussion can become a little
heated when one of us feels the other isn't fully listening," she tells
WebMD. "There is a strong desire to win the argument, and that can amp up
the stress level."
The Importance of Political Differences
Political differences don't necessarily hurt a relationship, says Susan
Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of The Power of Two:
Secrets of a Strong & Loving Marriage. "It depends on how strong
the relationship is to begin with. If you put political differences into an
already undernourished partnership, the strain can be big."
In contrast, she tells WebMD, couples with good communications skills may
find it enriching to discuss their differences.
"What's important is not the actual differences between people, but how
the differences are handled," says Howard Markman, PhD, author of
Fighting for Your Marriage and director of the Center of Marital and
Family Studies at the University of Denver. "If they handle [political
talk] well, it can be a great source of intimacy and connection."
This holds true even when spouses belong to different political parties.
Ryan Turner, a marketing director in Lighthouse Point, Fla., is a Republican.
His wife, Heather, is a Democrat. Rather than fueling conflict, their
differences are a source of lively conversation. "Political talk within the
family structure works well for us," Turner tells WebMD. "It allows for
a broader discussion than, 'How did your day go?'"