Would you be in a relationship with a person who has different political beliefs?
With social media, couples are wearing their opinions on their sleeve. can having different political leanings then be a deal-breaker?
Published: Thu 18 Jan 2018, 11:00 PM
Last updated: Fri 19 Jan 2018, 1:00 AM
2014 was a make-or-break year! Not just for the BJP that won the general elections in India that year, but also for independent journalist Parul Agrawal and sales professional Adarsh Halwe. Three-and-a-half years ago, the couple had been happily dating with plans of getting married soon.
They did eventually exchange vows but not after going through a gamut of emotions about each other's political ideologies: Parul is a left liberal while Adarsh is more right-leaning. And, as they say, never the twain shall meet. "I was paranoid about this to an extent that I would deliberately bring up contentious topics to see what his opinion was. My first and last realisation of the fact that we belong to two different political spectrums happened in 2014 during the general elections. That was the time we were about to get engaged. Both of us tried to manipulate each other into voting for and against a party, but we also had very strong reasons not to actually do so," she says. How did they end up together then? "Since I respect opposite points of view, we got married," jokes Parul.
It's not an India-centric phenomenon. Last year, in an article on how young Brits are becoming more invested in their partners' political leanings, The Independent quoted a research conducted by Match, an online dating service, that stated that 30.5 per cent of the 18-24-year-olds believe that politics is very important in a relationship. In fact, 17.5 per cent actually avoid finding out what their partners' political ideologies are because they fear it could alter how they feel about them.
Come to think of it, I wonder if I would ever be with someone who did not believe in women's rights or had a lukewarm response to racial discrimination. But perhaps that is because these ideas could inadvertently impact how he viewed me and the relationship at large. However, politics has come to be defined by binaries - left or right, Donald Trump or Barack Obama, Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi. In a world that operates on binaries, we all make choices. Clinical psychologist and clinical director of Lighthouse Arabia Tara Wyne suggests that the discourse around politics is now more open and widespread as a greater awareness about freedom of speech and uncensored media have changed how we access politics. "People are better informed and also have a greater sense of agency; they feel they can influence what happens. Social media has brought global politics into our lives in a very direct way. Across our devices, we receive news feeds - either images of sociopolitical issues or commentary by our peers. We are now drawn in and placed at the centre of it without having to seek it. Also, politics now is much more bite-sized; we can all consume it without having to study or analyse as we did in the past."
If you happen to be truly, madly, deeply invested in politics, there's a good chance it could seep into your relationships. "Having different opinions on politics certainly impacts a relationship. There are enough and more reasons for a couple to fight, and opposite political views only add fuel to fire. Our 'political' fights have been nasty to the extent that I have told my husband that I feel embarrassed to be with him in a public space and he has called me a pseudo intellectual, questioning my understanding of economic history and principles of political ideology. We have stopped following each others' Facebook posts," says Parul.
Why must the idea of being with someone who subscribes to a different political ideology impact a relationship? What happened to the good, old 'agree to disagree' dictum? As Wyne points out, the generation that consumes the news has grown up being taught to be "forthright" and "confident". Adding to this, writer Raksha Bharadia, who edits a relationship website, says, "Traditionally, relationships have seen one sex being more dominant than the other, at least in the matters outside of home. That has changed now." In a relationship, that can translate differently - it can mean having two fiercely independent individuals holding their ground about their respective views.
The solution then is not to turn a blind eye to it, neither make it bone of contention. "It's important to be able to create enough safety in your relationships to make your partner confident to express differences and even engage in conflict. You have to hear your partner out and assure them and yourself that this doesn't jeopardise the bond, it is simply a reflection of individuality." There is considerable truth in what Wyne says. Individuality is beautiful, and also the reason why couples like Parul and Adarsh, despite their different takes on politics, are together. and happily so.