Sleeping with the enemy
How politically divided couples survive election season
October 23, 2012
It was sometime during the 2008 election that Alex Roberts and Kelly Woodward realized there was an elephant--and a donkey--in the room.
The couple had been dating for two years after being introduced through friends at the University of Missouri. When they met, they both leaned Republican.
But in the months leading up to the 2008 election, Roberts-who voted for Bush in 2004-turned Democrat because he was unhappy with the course of the country. Obama became his guy.
At the same time, nothing changed for Woodward. McCain was still her guy-but so was Roberts.
As the years have passed, Roberts and Woodward say they have come to appreciate their interpolitical relationship because it has lead to feisty discussions. The first debate between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sparked a similar amount of mudslinging in their Lincoln Park household-"It's all we could do to not kill each other," Roberts, 26, told RedEye.
"We're both passionate about what we believe in," Woodward, 27, said. "We fight about it back and forth and then laugh about it later."
When Woodward and Roberts, who got engaged this month, wed sometime next year, their interpolitical marriage may be considered taboo. Research published last month in social science journal Public Opinion Quarterly found that 40 percent of Americans surveyed in 2010 would be "displeased" if their child married someone outside their political party-up from 5 percent in 1960.
Bela Gandhi, founder of dating-coach firm Smart Dating Academy in Chicago, said interpolitical relationships are no different than relationships between people with different religions-partners just have to be respectful of each other's beliefs and try not to be antagonistic.
"It's OK that you don't have the same viewpoints. We don't have to be carbon copies of each other," Gandhi said. "Let the other person speak [their political mind]. Really listen to what they're saying. ... Don't try to change them."
Katie Armstrong and Paul LeVasseur, who both live in Lakeview, still remain divided on major political issues after five years of dating.
He is pro-life and believes that gay people should not marry but civil unions are OK. His core issues this election are the economy and foreign policy.
She is pro-choice and believes in gay marriage. Her core issues this election are education and female and gay rights.
When it comes to Obama, "he really does make my blood boil," LeVasseur, 30, said.
But Armstrong, 27, said she was ecstatic when Obama won the election in 2008. She attended Obama's celebration in Grant Park with her mother, aunt and uncle-leaving LeVasseur behind.
"She pretty much left it alone. I think she knew that was not the time to mess with me," LeVasseur said about election night 2008. "I just wanted to get to the next day and let her have her moment."
Not provoking each other is a secret to Armstrong and LeVasseur's success as a couple. They watch political debates apart and don't rub candidates' successes and failures in each other's faces.
They currently live separately but plan to move in together and get married. Even then, they say they may watch political debates and events independently. If they have children, they plan to impart both political views on their offspring.
But Armstrong and LeVasseur are not worried about the future. They say when it comes to agreeing on political issues, there's nowhere their relationship can go but up.
"I honestly don't think it will be an issue. If we can get through Obama unscathed, it couldn't get any worse," LeVasseur said. "Going forward, it won't be as bad."
Armstrong agrees. "Politics aren't everything," she said. "There's no reason why it can't work. We both want to live our lives the same way. Same goals. Same moral path."
Politics aside, there is another major difference between LeVasseur and Armstrong, who both attended Indiana University.
She prefers the University of Southern California football team, while LeVasseur, a Michigan native, cheers for the University of Michigan.
Luckily, they both support Indiana basketball.
Gratefully, Roberts and Woodward are not in the same situation. They both root for the same college football team-the Mizzou Tigers.
Said Roberts: "If she were a [University of Kansas] fan, this would not work."
Sex, politics and dating: A survival guide
Bela Gandhi, founder of dating coach firm Smart Dating Academy in Chicago, has tips for new and longtime interpolitical couples:
>> When you should reveal your political opinions to a potential mate: "Definitely wait at least a couple of dates. Try to get the person to try to like you first. Once the person likes you and is invested in you, they're more likely to accept your beliefs and baggage."
>> What you should do if your mate's political beliefs change over the course of your relationship: "Keep in mind what you love about the person. ... Agree to disagree."
>> How you should weather an election debate: "If it's going to lead to an argument, if you know you're both so polarized about these issues, if you're a Democrat, go out with your Democrat friends. If you're a Republican, watch it with your Republican friends. Don't antagonize your relationship. You don't have to watch it together."
>> How you should raise your children: "Talk about things beforehand. You can teach [the kids] about both political views. You can show them you're a tolerant household."
Posted on Wed, October 31, 2012
by Bela Gandhi