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Ask Ainsley: Should I break up with my partner for voting for Trump?

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Dear Ainsley, 

My boyfriend voted for Trump, and I don’t support this. Should we break up?

Sincerely,

Perplexed about Politics (PAP)


Dear PAP,

As a pretty fierce liberal, upon reading your question my initial response was “absolutely.” I can’t count the amount of arguments I’ve gotten into with friends and acquaintances over Trump’s ideas. That being said, just because someone voted for Trump doesn’t make them a bad person. This decision is going to be a tough one for you, and you’ll have to decide what to do only after plenty of thought and consideration. To me, it seems like if you’re willing to break up with your boyfriend over who he voted for, there may be some underlying problems. Or, if you feel so strongly about the issue that it’s enough for you to reconsider the entire relationship, you might be better off apart. 

If you haven’t already, I think you need to have a straightforward, non-judgmental conversation with him to figure out why exactly he voted for Trump. You also need to consider his response to you when defending his political beliefs. Is he aggressive and dismissive of your concerns? Or is he considerate and open when sharing his opinions? To me, how he treats you during the discussion can be pretty indicative of the quality of your relationship and how much he cares about making it work. Additionally, when you have this conversation with him, try your best to avoid going on the defensive or getting mad at him. He’s far less likely to respond well if he feels like he’s being attacked for his beliefs. Even though it may seem paramount at the time, being the one who is “right” in a situation is not very important in a relationship in the long run. What is important, though, is open communication and mutual respect, regardless of what your beliefs may be.  

Though studies suggest that having similar interests in beliefs is important in a relationship, it’s also found that having differing personality traits can be similarly beneficial. Since you’ve already started dating, I imagine you do share some interests, despite having different political views. Politics isn’t everything, and plenty of people spend their entire lives without giving it more than a passing thought. Even if you are politically-inclined, there’s no one to say that you absolutely can’t make it work. Look at James Carville and Mary Matalin: The married couple are both high-powered individuals with years of experience in Washington as advisors to numerous presidents, but Carville is a staunch Democrat and Matalin is a steadfast Republican. If they can manage this as well as their 23-year-long marriage, I’d say nothing is truly impossible. 

It can be uncomfortable to be around someone who has different beliefs than you. The chasm between your ideas and theirs can sometimes mean you’re always feeling the need to defend your own. Nonetheless, it’s not all negative. If you’re only friends with like-minded individuals, your ideas may be stagnant and you risk being influenced by groupthink. Being exposed to new ways of looking at the world can be eye-opening, even if they don’t change your outlook.

The decision to break up with your boyfriend over differing political views is no doubt a challenging one. It should only come after healthy discussion, and a decision about your priorities. If your political beliefs are so different that the conflict outweighs the interests, traits, and passions you do have in common, parting ways early on in Trump’s presidency may be best for you both. However, if this difference is something you’re both willing to work through, that option is also on the table. 

 

Best of luck,

Ainsley

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