One of my favorite questions that Justin, being the proud Republican that he is, gets asked by his family and friends is “How can you be with a Democrat?”
First off, that question is disgraceful and appalling, but the answer always is simple. Justin tells them that I am not just my political views; I am not just a Democrat. I am a strong, intelligent woman who has shaped my opinions based on my own experiences, and he is proud to have found someone who challenges him on many levels, but particularly in the political arena.
As election day creeps closer (Early Voting begins today in North Carolina) and heated political conversations are ending friendships left and right, I want to take a moment to discuss how our divided house has gotten through this volatile election season without calling it quits on our impending marriage.
One word: Respect. I’m not talking about Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. No, I mean that each day I wake up I make the conscious decision to listen and take into consideration my partner’s political views and he does the same for me. I respect him as a human, therefore I respect his opinions even when I don’t agree with them. Yes, that means it is possible to disagree with someone but still respect them.
Because I respect Justin as a human and as my life partner, I do not belittle him because of his beliefs. I do not put him in situations where he feels provoked. I do not attack him for thinking differently than I do about hot-button issues — abortion, immigration, marriage equality, and in our lovely state of North Carolina, HB2 and the I-77 toll lanes. I do not hold back when I feel strongly on a subject, but at the same time I do not let my strong opinions get in the way of our relationship. I do, however, propose thoughtful questions about each candidate, and I do actively listen to his answers to those questions. And I do welcome and encourage open dialogue about sensitive issues.
My significant other and I knew when we entered our relationship nearly 7 years ago that our political views differ. I never once on this journey thought we might one day share a political party as we both have strong opinions on certain topics, and those opinions often do not align. No, I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and happy debates in our home. There have been many moments through the years where I have looked at Justin and cringed at how far right some of his views are, and I know he has felt the same way about some of my liberal rhetoric. Therefore, loving my partner means that I learned to accept his views and he learned to accept mine, and with that acceptance comes respect.
Honestly, I prefer to experience life with someone who does not share my political beliefs. If I am not being challenged at home by my most intimate partner and in doing so figuring out how to respectfully disagree with him, then how am I to learn to respect a complete stranger whose views don’t match mine?
As a nation, I have failed to see people consistently maintain any level of respect for others during this election. Folks can’t seem to listen to the opinions of others and then say, “I hear you. I disagree with you. This is why …” and then carry on a conversation that does not include name-calling.
Surely, if a staunch Republican and a staunch Democrat can live together and have intelligent and well-formed conversations about their differing views, someone on Facebook can refrain from verbally attacking a complete stranger because that person believes in a woman’s right to choose.
I, personally, will be happy when November 9 rolls around and Justin and I can go back to arguing about the REAL important issues — like, you know, what we’re having for dinner and who gets the big couch when we watch a reruns of “How I Met Your Mother.”