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When Trump was elected President in 2016, Wakefield Research found 1 in 10 couples ended relationships over their political differences. For millennials, it was twice that. With the next presidential election upon us, many wonder if marriages with different political views can survive the increased volatility of the times.

Susan and Darrell* have been married for more than a decade. In that time, they have experienced two presidential elections where they each voted for opposite sides of the aisle. If you ask them how their marriage is today, they will tell you it’s great…

But how can your marriage be great when you disagree on such huge issues?

Susan and Darrell certainly aren’t alone when it comes to being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Nearly 30% of married households are bipartisan. In fact, there are some pretty well-known, long-married couples who have navigated these waters for years. Take James Carville, a Democrat and Mary Matalin, a Republican. Married since 1993, Carville says in Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home, which he co-authored with his wife, “I’d rather stay happily married than pick a fight with my wife over politics.” 

That right there is the key. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (Explaining the impact of differences in voting patterns on resilience and relational load in romantic relationships during the transition to the Trump presidency) found that couples who actively maintain their relationship are better able to “weather the storm” of an election because they build up positive emotions that protect the relationship during difficult times. So, even if you vote differently, actively maintaining your relationship can help you keep feeling emotionally connected to each other and reduce the propensity for stress and conflict.

For example, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report, Mary Matalin shares that she and her husband have many interests other than politics that they enjoy doing together like fishing, cooking and learning about history. “Talking about the impact of the minimum wage is just not something that is high on our list of fun things to do,” she says.

What does this mean for couples who find themselves with opposing political perspectives? Susan and Darrell, along with other couples in the same political boat say this: “Instead of allowing your political differences to divide you, see it for what it is and don’t allow it to take center stage in your marriage. There are a lot of things we agree on and enjoy doing together. We choose to focus on those things.” 

When you find that you and your mate differ on things like politics, these tips can help you navigate through those differences for the good of your marriage:

  • Avoid trying to change your spouse. Trying to get your spouse to change will only create angst in your marriage. You can appreciate the fact that they are active in the political process and exercise their right to vote (just like you), which is a really good thing and not something to take for granted. 
  • Know that every married couple has issues they agree to disagree on for the duration of their marriage. Let politics be one of them. 
  • Focus on why you married them in the first place.
  • Build up those positive emotions that protect your marriage. Compliment your spouse. Speak kindly about them to others. Be intentional about focusing on the things you love about your spouse and your relationship.
  • Rein in negativity. The more you think negative thoughts about your differences, the more you teach your brain to think negatively about your spouse. This is a dangerous downward spiral that can take you places you do not want to go.
  • Appreciate ways that you are not the same. Differing opinions and perspectives can offer depth and the ability to practice empathy in a relationship.
  • Put safeguards in place such as agreeing that you aren’t going to talk about politics and you for sure are not going to chide your spouse about their political persuasion.
  • Remember what matters most. Your marriage is more important than many differences you have, including politics. It will likely outlast any president’s tenure. 
  • Be respectful. Even when you disagree with your spouse, you can still be respectful. (Here’s why respect matters.)

A pandemic + a struggling economy + an election all in the same year can = frayed nerves, anxiety and an unusual level of sensitivity.

These things can magnify differences in your marriage that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. Knowing that this moment in time is especially extraordinary and putting some safeguards in place can protect your marriage. This allows you to focus on the goals you have set for your marriage… even when you disagree.

*names have been changed.

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

Respect matters in marriage. 

Maybe more than anything else. 

And I’m going to tell you why. 

Respect may best be defined as the way you show true appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We demonstrate respect by how we behave toward another person. 

And it’s fairly easy to recognize when someone respects (or disrespects) another person. 

The show of respect is usually thought of as coming from a place of inferiority. Pictures come to mind of soldiers standing at attention when high-ranking officers enter the room, or of hard-working employees speaking highly of their boss. 

Respect in a healthy marriage is different, though. It’s a two-way street. Both parties in the relationship crave and deserve equal respect from the other, and rightly so. Respect is shown in marriage not because one person is more superior than the other, but because each person recognizes the value of the other. 

In marriage, mutual respect matters. 

But why? Why does mutual respect play such a critical part in a healthy marriage? 

Here are four reasons: 

  • Mutual respect eliminates the fear of being different. Let me explain. In your marriage, you and your partner each come to the relationship as individuals. You have your own personality traits, talents, quirks, past experiences, and interests. Showing mutual respect demonstrates an appreciation for each other—differences and all. Your respect toward your spouse gives value to the differences they bring to the relationship. When mutual respect is given, it opens up a vulnerability for each person to be who they are without the fear of being devalued or judged unfairly
  • Mutual respect upholds healthy boundaries in the relationship. Even the healthiest marriages reinforce proper boundaries. When you show respect—appreciation for your spouse, you recognize certain needs. For example, I’m the kind of person who really has to have some time alone each day just to recharge. My wife respects that (even though she doesn’t have the same need), and so she knows when to give me some space. It’s important to my wife that there’s no name-calling between us, even if it’s in jest (because often things can go too far or easily be misinterpreted). I try to respect that, even though playful name-calling was a part of my upbringing. Mutual respect gives strength to uphold these boundaries. 
  • Mutual respect compels you to “check your jersey” when you have disagreements. I love this phrase (which I borrowed from Kyle Benson, a blogger for The Gottman Institute). In the heat of a conflict, it can be easy to fall into the false notion that your spouse is working against you in this team effort called marriage. Respect doesn’t take away the chances that disagreements will happen; they will, even in the best of marriages. But when you practice mutual respect in marriage—and practice it often—you are more confident that, despite the conflict, you know you and your spouse are on the same team and working toward the same thing. You can see more clearly that you’re wearing the same jersey. 
  • Mutual respect strengthens the friendship between you and your spouse. Relationship researcher John Gottman says that long-term vitality and connection is grown through intentional friendship in your marriage. In other words, marriage is healthy when you and your spouse deepen your friendship. Because it shows appreciation and value for your partner, showing mutual respect provides the space for friendship to grow. Why? Because it takes the fear of vulnerability out of the equation. My wife is my best friend because it’s with her that I can be the most vulnerable. That can’t happen without mutual respect. 

But wait… there’s more! 

BONUS REASON why mutual respect matters in marriage!

  • Mutual respect needs to be modeled to children. If you and your spouse are parents, no doubt you want to raise them to be respectful adults. A child’s primary source for lessons on respect come from watching how their parents behave toward each other. My wife and I have two daughters, and I think it’s important for them to understand how husbands and wives should treat each other—with warmth, care and respect. Hopefully, they can see that in us. Mutual respect in a marriage is essential for teaching kids to be respectful

Mutual respect matters in your marriage.  🔎 Find the ways to appreciate your spouse—differences and all—and show that appreciation on a daily basis. Declare your spouse’s value in your actions. You’ll be better friends, better parents, and better teammates

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

From rolling their eyes and being argumentative, to defiantly shouting “No” right in your face, if you have a teenager, you have undoubtedly experienced some form of disrespectful behavior along the way. But how do you respond in a constructive way as a parent?

We’ve come to accept that despite our best parenting efforts, the teenage years invariably come with some friction. Developmentally, their biology is undergoing tectonic shifts. Their brains and bodies, including hormones and other body chemistry, are all being completely overhauled.  

Psychologically, they are transitioning from childhood dependence to adult independence. They’re also learning how to process the new emotional loads they are experiencing in their changing bodies. There is a built-in tension between their need for a healthy space to become an individual and their need to stay connected to their parental guides. So, we know our teenager has a lot going on… 

But still… we want our teens to understand the importance of respect as a character quality that will impact their success as adults. As they are growing into a future that includes navigating adult relationships in their educational and career training, occupation, and a future family of their own, we know as present adults how important learning how to respect yourself and others will be. Research indicating that disrespectful teenagers grow up to be rude adults is really no surprise. And nobody likes being around rude people. So how can we address respect in the lives of our teens in a healthy way for our today and their tomorrow?

Here are four things to keep in mind when parenting a disrespectful teenager:

  1. Model the behavior you want to see. It always starts with our example as parents. This can’t be stressed enough: as a person and as a parent, make sure you respect and take care of yourself, and model respect toward others. Your life has a “live audience” 24/7 in the form of your teen and more is caught than taught. You are modeling how to respect yourself and respect everyone around you and your teen catches everything. Probably one of the biggest opportunities we have to teach is when our teen is disrespectful toward us and we choose not respond disrespectfully in return.
  1. Remember that this is a difficult phase of your teen’s life. This isn’t to excuse disrespectful behavior, but it is to keep it in context and put it in perspective. This is to help you choose your battles and how you approach them. When you catch yourself saying, “Well, when I was your age…” remember, things really are different today. Your teen is navigating social media and the bombardment of information and opinions. Let’s just say, there are some really unique circumstances in our world at the moment that could legitimately be making your teen’s life more difficult.
  1. Look for any deeper issues beneath the surface of disrespectful behavior. The disrespectful behavior you see might be the expression of deeper issues that you need to address as a parent. This doesn’t mean you ignore your teen’s disrespectful behavior, but you stay dialed in to what it could be connected with. Often, changes in our teen’s behavior are signals to deeper emotional needs or struggles. Open up the door for conversation by asking your teen, “I’ve seen more disrespectful behavior from you lately, are you okay? What can I do to help you?” (Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help for your teen if you feel like you are in over your head as a parent.)
  1. Don’t stop being their parent. You still set the standard for appropriate behavior in your family, and your teen needs healthy boundaries to grow and thrive. Disagreeing may not automatically be disrespecting, but as a parent, you can teach your teen how to disagree respectfully. That is a skill they need to learn to be successful in any relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring disrespectful behavior to try to become your teen’s “buddy.” As your teen grows as a young adult, they still need you to be an adult.

As a general principle, people can’t give what they don’t have. Take a second to think about that. Help your teen develop a healthy respect for themself. Give them the respect they need as a future adult. In doing these things, you’ll probably get more respect as the present adult and their parent.

★ You can “dial-up” more information about parenting your teenager by clicking these links: 

If you think your teenager hates you, please press one

Please press two if you can’t get your teenager to talk to you. 

If you don’t like who your teen is dating, please press three

If you want to stop fighting with your teen, please press four

But no matter what, when it comes to your teen—don’t get disconnected. Stay on the line.

Image from Unsplash.com

Every family in America is probably blessed with some members who are taking the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 very seriously and some who are taking them with a grain of salt. Often, those on opposing sides of the fence are looking down their nose at those who disagree with them. And disagreements about COVID-19 can start to affect the relationship if each wonders when the others are going to wake up and realize their perspective is the correct one.

There is a ton of information out there. From the mainstream news, to opinion papers, talk shows, Dr. Fauci, the CDC and of course we can’t forget social media, it’s almost like information overload. And, who you choose to listen to often determines your behavior.

Whether you’re intensely practicing social distancing or think it’s a massive overreaction, one thing’s for sure – how you have disagreements about COVID-19 with the ones you love will impact your relationship long after COVID-19 is no longer a concern.

At some point, many have figured out that it’s going to be complicated doing life together if you can’t agree on this issue. There is some degree of truth in that, but when have all members of a family ever seen everything exactly the same way?

We can spend our time arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, which is unlikely to have a productive outcome. Or, we can figure out how to move forward while having differing points of view.

At the core of what many are dealing with is fear. Fear of getting the virus because people around you are not social distancing or following CDC guidelines. Fear of infecting someone else. Being afraid of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the government taking your rights away. Fear of losing a business. Fearing economic collapse. And the list goes on.

So, what do you do?

Talk about it. You may have family members who you believe are not handling things the way they need to. If that’s the case, you can choose to have a conversation with them. How you approach them really matters. If you are judgmental and condescending, it’s likely that the conversation won’t go well.  It’s probably a given that you feel strongly about your beliefs and you want those you love to get with the program. But the reality is, they may never be on the same page with you.

Case in point – your aging parents don’t want you telling them what to do. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, your college student does not want you telling them what to do. All the disagreements about COVID-19 needs to be talked about!

If all of you are living under the same roof, have a family meeting. Talk about how the entire family will work as a team to keep every member of the household safe. You don’t all have to agree. In fact, you may have to agree to disagree, yet all find a way to do what is best for the greater good.

Acknowledge what you have control over. If your parents are living hours away from you, what they do is beyond your control. You can make recommendations, but at the end of the day, they are going to do what they want to do. Can you love them anyway?

One thing that is within your control is your attitude. You could walk around angry all day because people are responding in a way you believe is irresponsible. On the other hand, you could do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and not seek to be responsible for other people’s behavior.

For example, you are trying to keep your family healthy and safe and your neighbor decides to have a party for 50 people in their front yard. You could choose to confront them, but that would probably create more angst on your part. It’s pretty likely that everybody is feeling a fair amount of tension, so why create more? Going on a walk away from the party, heading to the backyard to play or staying inside might actually help decrease your anxiety.

Be careful about being quick to judge. Things may not always be as they appear.  Someone leaving the grocery store with a lot of toilet paper and other items could at first glance be seen as hoarding much-needed supplies. In reality, the person may be shopping for several older people in their neighborhood. 

Show respect. At the end of the day, respect really matters. Even though you may have differing perspectives on the Coronavirus, being able to share, listen and seek to understand each other’s views goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy relationship over the long term.

It is our differences that make this world a rich place – even disagreements about COVID-19. Instead of trying to convince others that your way is the only way, treat them with the same respect you’d like to receive. Although you may not see eye-to-eye, disagreement doesn’t have to damage or destroy your closest relationships.

Image from Pexels.com

There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is a real problem for women and men, and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to it like never before. In the midst of the conversation, though, it seems like it would be a huge mistake to view all members of the opposite sex as the enemy.

We can take advantage of this moment in time to individually and collectively do our part to make this world a better place – one where we teach and expect men and women to value each other. That will bring about real and lasting change in relationships.

Believe it or not, there are still men who are respectful of women and are actively encouraging them, promoting them in organizations, and holding their opinion in high esteem.

While the #MeToo campaign has produced some long overdue constructive conversation and accountability for inappropriate behavior, there is a potential downside. Some experts believe the campaign has created a climate of mistrust between men and women, leaving many guys feeling fearful and anxious that a behavior with good intention could be taken out of context and come back to haunt them. Some guys are choosing to give up even trying to be in relationship with women.

It is unfortunate that many men who actually look out for the best interests of women say they are scared to death that something they do or say might be misconstrued. Opening a door or pulling out a chair is considered common courtesy by many, but some find it offensive. While they may not say anything, when a man other than a loved one calls a woman hon, darlin’, sweetie, kiddo and/or a pet name, it typically doesn’t go over well. In fact, many women would call it condescending.

Findings from a survey conducted by LeanIn.org found that since the media reports of sexual harassment emerged last fall, almost half of male managers say they are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity such as mentoring, working alone or socializing with women. Specifically, senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior level woman than with a junior level man, and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman. Almost 30 percent of male managers are uncomfortable working alone with a woman—more than twice as many as before. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5 percent to 16 percent. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman.

Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, along with his team, stumbled upon some troubling findings as they sought to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Of the more than 3000 young adults and high school students surveyed, at least one-third of respondents said: It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television; and that too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

Surely we can do a better job of teaching relationship skills early on to help girls and boys learn the difference between healthy, respectful behavior between sexes and sexual harassment. Here’s how to start:

  • Don’t leave it to your child’s imagination to figure out what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships.
  • Model respectful and healthy interactions with the opposite sex.
  • Talk about sexual harassment – what it is and isn’t. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is any repeated or deliberate action or behavior that is hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.
  • There is a big difference in flirtatious behavior and sexual harassment, but sometimes the line can be blurred. Discuss boundaries and why they are important.