My wife and I have been married for 6 years now - we live a fairly happy if fairly mundane life. I work a regular 9-5 job and she works from home. We own two cats and have no children. We connect strongly in our love for nerdy things like video games and fantasy, and share an appreciation for the world around us - though it is hard to get out and explore the world, especially lately with travel restrictions in place.

Lately, with the 2020 elections looming near, more political discussions have been coming up in our peripheral. To avoid getting too specific on things, my wife leans considerably more heavily towards a particular political spectrum than I do - while I tend to be fairly moderate. This is usually fine. She also tends to absorb her information on politics from more radical sources - which I don't mind either.

The issue lately has been that she will bring up these political discussions when it has some impact on our life - which it occasionally does - and I have to offer some response. Usually I try to be as rational as possible with my response, but I admit that I tend to be skeptical of what she presents to me - and I feel like even when I agree with her, the reluctance I have comes off and it creates a pressure point between us that causes us both stress.

I try to stay well informed on things that could potentially impact us, and don't push many political points myself because they rarely have a significant impact on our lives, but I often feel like I'm expected to take her political statements at face value and run with them - and while I don't outright discard what she says, I feel like my lack of immediate support for her viewpoints may be driving us apart as a couple.

We have been under more stress lately in general too - with both of us at home, we've had to learn to deal with having each other around all the time, and while being closer to my wife has been wonderful, there's also the added stress of knowing that we have to share that space and have that open door to discussions about potentially uncomfortable or controversial topics all the time.

I don't want to shut down my wife's political interests just because I disagree with them, but I don't think it's right to just agree with everything she says out of hand, and when I voice that disagreement it leads to us debating with one another, when I know she really just wants to share with me what's been going on in her head during the day. What's the right way to handle this sort of sticky topic, when I don't entirely agree with her but don't want to shut her down either?

  • Could you be more specific about how she brings up these topics? Does she ask you direct questions where you are expected to answer, or is it more general remarks (like "Wow, Joe Politician said something bad today" and you feel obligated to comment)? – Em C Sep 10 '20 at 23:20
  • @JeroendeK Not an exact fit since it's about a specific type of person, but I think close enough to be a duplicate, yes. – Zibbobz Sep 11 '20 at 12:47

I've read quite a bit of advice about handling the "Thanksgiving dinner" situation of family members arguing politically, and it generally all boils down to this: react to the part of the conversation that's relevant to your lives, and not to the part that mentions a specific politician or policy.

Focus on what they say they are scared of, angry about, etc. Ignore the parts about which politician is wrong (or right but not being listened to), who is getting something they don't deserve, and so on. Don't agree with them (yeah, I know, what a lunkhead!) but don't disagree (oh I think he's trying his best and had no other real option) with them either. Ignore the politicians-and-policies part entirely. Stay on what it is that your partner misses, worries about, longs for, is fed up of, fears, or otherwise wants to discuss. If the worry is money, talk about how many months of emergency savings you both have, or some other reassuring fact if you have it. If your partner just wants to hear "I agree, it would be awful if X" then say that. If you can, refrain from saying "but I don't think X is going to happen" just at that time.

So if your partner says

Oh God what if X wins the presidential election? You know that will mean A, B, and C for us and I don't think I can stand that!

Do not get into who will win the presidential election part of it at all. Stay on the things that worry your partner. Don't dismiss the worries with "that won't happen" or "that won't hurt us" but you might be able to reassure that A would be tolerable, because of the preparation you've done, and B and C are not guaranteed to happen and you could mitigate the problems by [whatever] if you see signs they are starting. Some sort of "we can find a way to afford it" or "it will be hard but we can handle it" kind of things. If nothing else, you can say "yes, B and C would really be hard to take" and see where the conversation goes from there.

In this way, you're not contradicting them, nor are you encouraging them by implying that you agree with these non-moderate statements. You are staying with the more important part of the conversation -- giving your partner a way to share the day's thoughts as you say, without disagreeing or debating.

I haven't dealt with this with a spouse, but I have with other relatives who were getting quite polarized and worked up, presenting all thoughts and worries with extra bonus high-emotion comments about who was stupid, selfish, greedy, lying, corrupt, thieving, trying to get us all killed, and so on. By ignoring just that part and instead hearing them worry about their jobs, children, retirement savings or whatever, I have been able to discuss these topics without debating (or yelling and screaming) and without agreeing with their political positions. It can work beautifully.

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