Dear Dr. Stanwix,
My husband is becoming a staunch Republican before my very eyes. We used to share the same more or less center-left point of view. However, over the years, he has slowly become one of those crusty nay-saying conservatives that I loathe. At first it was a few subtle comments here and there. Now that he has retired, he is becoming more and more obsessed with politics and vocal about his disdain for liberals.
We never used to talk politics at the table. Now I can’t sit through one meal without him going on endlessly about the latest liberal outrage. This political difference is really driving a wedge between us. He will not stop talking politics with me. As I am somewhat of a liberal, he sees me as a political punching bag that he can beat up on or gloat to when a liberal does something wrong. I loathe these political conversations and I am beginning to loath him.
How can I make it clear to him that I don’t want to talk politics? The 2016 presidential race is heating up. And this means that I will have to endure a full year and a half of his political ranting. Please, advise me on how to deal with this situation. I am losing my love and respect for my husband and I don’t want that to continue.
Dear Political Prisoner,
Politics is a messy business, so I won’t weigh in on whether it is better to be a conservative or liberal. Unfortunately, no matter how much we try to convince people with opposing views of the supremacy of our beliefs, we end up sounding like a demagogue who is intolerant of other’s points of view. This seems to be the direction your husband is headed in.
You basically have a few options here:
Engage him in debate and challenge his political assertions. By researching the issues from a liberal and conservative viewpoint, you may be able to present him with the facts rather than the political rhetoric that passes for fact. Be sure that you are just as willing to admit when people on your side of the political divide are corrupt or make bad policy decisions. It is important to show your husband the importance of remaining objective. It is the only way to set the tone for more civilized and nuanced conversations. Who knows? You may be able to win him over to your side if you educate him beyond the talking points. At the very least, you will be spending time with your husband.
If he is unable to engage in civilized debate and you are tired of arguing with him, then simply ignore him. The only way to get him to desist is to not give him an audience he can vent to. Make it clear that you are no longer going to sit through these rant sessions.
If neither of these approaches works, ask your husband why he feels the need to talk politics with you. It may simply be a phase he is going through. After retirement, many men no longer feel a sense of purpose. As a result, they turn to pastimes or interests to fill the void. Some of these become unhealthy obsessions. He needs to understand that this obsession is having a negative effect on your relationship. Tell him you want to focus on the things you share in common, not your political differences.
Politics has become such a divisive force in our lives these days. There is no reason it should ruin our relationships with people we love. It is impossible for couples to share the same point of view on everything. That’s what makes relationships healthy and interesting. We are all different and we need to respect those differences (political or otherwise). We also need to celebrate our similarities. That’s what makes each relationship special.
Best of luck,
Dr. Michael Stanwix.
Dr. Michael Stanwix has an honorary doctorate in marital counseling and is a full time life coach. He can take on anyone’s questions. The question is, can you take what he has for an answer? Dr. Stanwix’ column is provided courtesy of Fiftyisthenewfifty.com, devoted to those who are middle aged and people who accept the fact that they will get there someday.
If you have a question for Dr. Stanwix, you can write him at email@example.com.