Agreeing to Disagree on This Year’s Presidential Nominees

Dear Debbie,

My wife is a Democrat and I am a Republican. While we view things differently and usually  vote for opposing candidates, we have until now been civil about it and in fact have enjoyed some of the stimulating discussions that have resulted.

However, with the 2016 Presidential election this has changed.  We each have very strong negative feelings about the opposing party’s nominee, and neither of us can understand how the other can possibly vote for their choice of nominee. Our discussions on the subject have moved from civility to anger and disappointment towards the other.

Its getting out of hand. What should we do?


Frustrated and Upset


Dear Frustrated and Upset,

You have actually honed in on a sorely missed custom in political debate today.  We have forgotten that civilized people agree to disagree.

I suggest that for purposes of these types of discussions, including, most touchy-type conversations we treat our partner as royalty to be spoken to respectfully using our most “nice voice”.  This may be a bit different than how we instinctively react, even though it is always expected to be respectful, we must be realistic and know that couples have conflicts and arguments sometimes.

Usually, as partners we act like codependents able to speak freely and say what’s on our mind and think, “if we can’t be blunt and forthright with our family” then with whom can we be?  We don’t think twice about losing our cool when we fall into the toilet because our spouse didn’t put the seat down in the middle of the night or our spouse doesn’t think twice to say the soup needs more salt.  Those incidents have the potential to escalate, so think how much more sensitive political discourse can be because it is a thinking man’s game and is cerebral as well.  Think Oscar Wilde as in The Importance of Being Earnest, speak almost as formally as Victorian times, minus the satire.

Some boundaries to follow:

  1. Say out loud that you agree to disagree.
  2. Do not ridicule each other.
  3. If you want to be especially congenial, consider validating your spouse’s idea with the words, “I hear what you are saying…….but I feel…”
  4. Train yourself to state only the facts. Remember, that depending on the landscape facts can be either relevant or irrelevant.
  5. Do not try to convince your spouse to change his/her opinion. Really listen to the opposing position, you may learn something (always good) and recognize that you still have a lot in common within the marriage.
  6. In conclusion, find the one (or more) political specifics that you can agree on, i.e. civil rights, excellent education opportunities for all and most of all, freedom of speech.
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