Why you should care
Because you have to sleep with this person.
Suzanna Matthews and her husband, Adam, love to watch House of Cards. Delving into Francis and Claire’s latest mischief has become a tradition for the Wichita-based couple. But this last season, Adam started comparing the Underwoods’ on-screen intrigues to real life — particularly to those of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “I’m like, OK, pipe down … this is fiction,” Suzanna says. That isn’t even the half of it: The 44-year-old matchmaker — yes, she’s really a dating guru — and die-hard Clinton fan has had to come to terms with the fact that she’s married to a 46-year-old man who happens to support Donald Trump. It’s something that would have driven her “20-year-old, ideological, college, feminist self” to distraction, though they’ve now been together for 16 years.
We’ve all seen friends engage in heated debates or one-sided rants for or against certain candidates. Many have even been unfriended or lampooned on social media. But none of that compares to the great domestic political divide some are experiencing at home by Clinton v. Trump. After the conventions, Suzanna says, “I was like, ‘Oh crap, I’m going to have to move in with a friend for the next 90 days.’ ”
It really spoke to social issues and highlighted differences that couples often feel.
Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless, Change Your Life in 28 Days, says he started seeing domestic divisions between his couples during the primaries. This was especially true on the Republican side, he says, with folks who favored Jeb Bush or other GOPers over Trump. But he also saw it on the left, with couples squabbling over Bernie Sanders versus Clinton. “It really spoke to social issues and highlighted differences that couples often feel,” he says.
The biggest points of conjecture? Topics such as judgeships on the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, abortion and gay marriage — basically, says Alpert, “some pretty major issues that you would think couples would be on the same page with but somehow have stayed quiet on for years.” For Matthews and her professional love matches, her approach this year has been different. Rather than focusing on similar social values and religion as she speaks with prospective couples, she’s careful to clear the air early: “Hey, I hate to ask you this, but Trump or Clinton?” she says she asks, admitting, “I don’t want it to blow up in their faces over dinner and then come back to me.”
While many different-minded couples struggle, others find a way to be happy and healthy together. “They butt heads for a few months around the election and then they get back to normal life,” Alpert says. To help steer clear of divorce, he advises couples to play nice. “People obviously find some commonalities if they’re getting married,” he says, whether it’s shared values, beliefs and goals. Those things that they found to love about the person in the first instance should become the focus, he says. “Couples need to remind themselves what they love about the other person.”
And when it comes to disagreeing, Alpert tells warring parties to consider how important it is to make their point compared to the emotional cost. To help fight without causing offense, he recommends that couples set ground rules for a fair fight: Keep emotions in check, he says, and schedule timeouts. Perhaps hash it out over coffee — and when the drinks are gone, so go the hard feelings. If you think demanding a certain voting behavior from a loved one is OK, think again. Couples must know that how they vote “doesn’t detract from the love that they share, and their bond is much stronger than a vote,” Alpert says.
And once the votes are tallied, whoever supported the winning side should not rub it in. Matthews admits it’s been irresistible at times to poke fun at her husband’s choice, and she hopes to pop champagne with like-minded friends and not let her husband “dampen my mood.” Of course, she’s assuming that it won’t be Adam who’s holding the bottle.