Love and Politics

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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.”

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 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?'”

When Political Talk Sours: 5 Warning Signs

Not all couples manage their political differences gracefully. According to Heitler and Markman, political talk could be damaging your relationship if you notice these red flags:

1. Lack of Respect
When talking politics, you call each other names, roll your Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scanning study suggest that you can’t reason with a strong partisan from the right or left, because the reasoning circuits just don’t turn on,” Westen tells WebMD. “You’re unlikely to do anything but reinforce their view.” People closer to the political center are more open to alternate views, he adds.

So is there ever hope of changing a partner’s political stance? “It’s worth the conversation,” Westen says, if your partner is between the ages of 18 and 30 and does not come from a strong partisan family. “There’s a window in young adulthood when people are open to change, particularly when major events or inspiring political figures come along.”