How to communicate with your spouse around politics? It's important to note that divisiveness and politics often go hand-in-hand. Especially in a two-party political system as we have in the United States, it is quite easy to remain partisan, to feel so strongly about your views that there is absolutely no way to even appreciate the other’s perspective. This is the trapping of ego and we see time and again the lack of humility displayed by political leaders on both sides of the aisle who say point blank that they will not negotiate or even talk to the other side. What lesson does this teach us?
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The ego, self-absorption, is what gets in the way of true relationship. When we lack humility and become so fixated on being right, we make no room for relationship. It is impossible for us to hear or validate another’s perspective as it differs from ours.
Relationship help Tip #1: Learn ways to be able to hear and validate the other person's perspective
Self-absorption is a defense mechanism. If we had no self-interest we would not survive. A degree of self-interest is necessary to assure that we eat and protect ourselves from danger. However, we can easily become hyper-focused on our own needs and staying safe, that we create our own little world. In that world, we assume that everyone experiences life as we do and have a hard time making sense of anything else. The thought of someone thinking differently, having a different political party, or despising our favorite food is unfathomable.
Relationship Tip #2: Realize that it is totally OK for another person to like a different political candidate and if you can't allow them to, your ego is getting in the way!
Not only does it not make sense that someone else may have a different political preference, but we begin to feel unsafe, especially when it focuses on something we have done. We, in turn, respond from a place of fear, and that drive to stay alive that protected us so nicely is now destroying our relationships. We become reactive and we can’t even listen.
Relationship Tip #3: Realize when you are feeling "unsafe" and responding from fight/flight. Don't let it ruin your relationship
One of the goals of healthy, mature relationships is to break this self-absorption, to take the “I” out of the listener so that he/she can truly hear what the other is saying. Instead of reverting to defenses, be open to what the other says, even if you disagree. Don’t think about responding for the moment; instead focus on really listening to the words that the other is sharing. I have seen that when couples stop focusing on being right and start working on being in relationship, they are able to naturally come up with more effective solutions to long-standing issues.
When we take the focus off of ourselves and put the focus on the other, we can lower the walls of self-defense and shift our energy to what is truly being said. We may even find the other side to be somewhat reasonable. If we still disagree, we are able to better appreciate their perspective and, in the spirit of relationship, we can make gestures to bridge the gap.
As painful as it may be at times, you can be right or you can be in relationship.
Don’t fight till the bitter end.
Be in touch,
Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin