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"I am tired of arguing about politics!" - "Then what do we Talk about?"

“I am tired of arguing about politics!”

James says: As we’ve aged, Elizabeth and I have developed very different political philosophies. I don’t want to argue all the time, so I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather just not discuss politics at all.

“Then what can we talk about?"

Elizabeth says: If James and I can’t talk about politics, what else will be “off the table”? Shouldn’t a married couple be able to discuss, but disagree?

What do they do?

Maybe it is not the subject matter that’s the problem; maybe it is the manner in which it is discussed? We are reminded of the advice given in Proverbs 7:14, “The start of strife is like the opening of a dam; therefore, check a quarrel before it begins.” How is that possible with a polarizing subject such as politics? Having an effective communication process is a great place to start, followed by a trust level that neither spouse is going to convert the other spouse to their personal belief, followed by an agreement to disagree when a mutual understanding cannot be achieved. Sounds easy, but it is not.

Marriage is a union of two individuals with different backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Even though we continue to work toward being one in heart, soul and spirit we do not always become one in mind in thoughts, words and actions. There is a balance between togetherness and individuality that all married couples strive to maintain. It is in that balance that we learn to respect and honor each other’s positions and stances. Expecting each spouse to have the same political philosophies would be unrealistic because of our individuality.

We agree with Elizabeth that married couples should be able to discuss and disagree on certain matters; and we also agree that if political discussions always end in an argument over philosophies, it might be better not to discuss them until some communication ground rules are well-established and practiced.

What bothers us the most is not the subject matter, but the lack of tools necessary to have a rational dialogue with each other. When arguments result from attempted discussions, most likely it is because emotional, rather than rational, responses are given. When we respond from our emotional side of the brain, tension increases, anxiety results and effective communication plummets. James and Elizabeth should ask, “How does this enhance our life as a couple?” What will determine the end of the discussion – defeat by one or the other? When couples polarize into a winner and a loser, the cost to the relationship can be heavy. There are no winners in this situation.

We suggest both James and Elizabeth table the discussion on politics until they have learned some effective communication skills dealing with sensitive issues and some rules to follow for navigating marital conflict; tools such as the speaker-listener technique, learning how to walk away from the discussion after a specific time limit so one’s brain can process all that was said, and learning how to listen, providing feedback, and talking without accusing or degrading your spouse. If both James and Elizabeth can agree to disagree, they can prove it to each other by ending their discussion with a 30-second kiss. Enjoy!