We asked if someone having different political views to yours would be a deal-breaker in a relationship. Here are your thoughts.
Yes – “I’m sleeping with the opposition but not for tactical reasons”
For me this isn’t so much an issue of whether I could be in such a relationship, but reflecting on what I have noticed during my own relationship with someone from across the political divide.
The fact is that for some their politics – and dare I go as far as to say ideology – mean they cannot even begin to contemplate a relationship with someone who is on the other side of the political divide. This is something I am accustomed to and well aware of but am still mildly saddened by. I don’t feel sad for myself; more so that I feel pity for them. Before going any further: this is not me suggesting that a Marxist ought to set aside their views in favour of being able to date a Nazi for the sake of practicing a degree of emotional maturity. Letting this collapse to such absurdities only serves to have us lose sight of the wood through the trees.
The biggest difficulty we have found is not from within the relationship, but unwelcome commentary from others on the outside.
The real battleground of this debate lies with the capacity for us to ask whether the political ought to take centre-stage in determining the potential of a relationship, and to what extent should we tolerate such differences if we do choose to date those with whom we disagree. Take one of the defining mottos of the radical feminist movement from the 1960s – “the personal is political” – and turn it on its head for a moment: “the political is personal”. If your politics mean so much to you personally that it determines the nature and construct of your personal and social relations so much that you cannot date even those only moderately set against your own beliefs – say your average Tory and Labour voters – then I imagine you’re actually in the minority.
We know most of the student populace aren’t political animals. They don’t let ideology dictate their every personal decision. Generally I find those within my own society who have that capacity to shelve that aspect of their personality – even if only for a short while – are the happier ones. To put it somewhat crudely, they have the ability to relax. Being able to date someone from across the benches is such an example of being emotionally confident enough to address and understand differences in a way that allow you to relax even in the company of those politically opposed to yourself.
In fact, during the General Election this year I found my girlfriend to be a source of great support and effectively an escape. Between a campaign, placement preparation and exams, our relationship was the most significant part of being able to cope with the pressures. I wonder whether dating a fellow Tory would have allowed me to be able to switch off from it all as effectively as I was able to when I was with her.
My girlfriend and I appreciate and understand each other’s positions. In many ways what has been more complex and challenging isn’t an issue of our own capacity to tolerate our differences, but those of others we know. She is a liberally minded progressive Europhile, while I’m a libertarian Eurosceptic conservative. Somewhat tellingly during the GE this year I never once received a message or remark of surprise at our relationship despite our different voting intentions, but she did receive such questioning.
So for us political differences – while a point of minor tensions sometimes – don’t override the rest of our relationship. The biggest difficulty we have found is not from within the relationship, but unwelcome commentary from others on the outside. Indeed, this is evidence of some becoming defined by what they define themselves against. Their identity is political and the political is not only personal for them: the political is their personality.
No – “I could never date a Conservative”
It has been more than two weeks since Laura Pidcock, the Labour MP for North West Durham, shocked the nation by saying she doesn’t fancy being mates with Tory MPs. Some people call it intolerance. I label it an unexpected example of political consistency.
Ms Pidcock’s comments were not controversial. Two ideologically opposing parties, what Labour and the Conservatives are intended to be, should not be sitting around having afternoon tea.
And I too am prepared to make the same bold statement: I could never date a Conservative.
Now before you start with the ‘but what if you were the perfect match?’ – let me explain. Dating is all about weeding out the frogs, those you are not compatible with – and my perfect match could never be my political opponent.
If I saw ‘Chairman of the Conservative Society’ on Tinder, I would be unashamedly swiping left in rapid time.
This isn’t a self-sabotage in the form of restricting my dating pool; this is about preferences and commonality. And I’m not talking about a slight difference of opinion on education policy (no, more grammar schools shouldn’t be introduced). I mean the serious stuff.
I can’t date someone who supports exploitative zero hours contracts and someone who cares more about the rights of an unborn child than children drowning in the Mediterranean. Someone who denies climate change and definitely not someone who sees nothing wrong with rolling out the British red carpet for the bigoted President of the United States.
This is not about intolerance; this is about dating deal-breakers.
I don’t want to have to debate with my partner about my core values and beliefs 24/7. I want us to be individual players on the same team.
Dating is all about weeding out the frogs, those you are not compatible with – and my perfect match could never be my political opponent.
I want to know that my other half is as disgusted by the one million people having to turn to foodbanks to feed their families because they aren’t being paid enough, as I am. I want them to be strong in their belief that higher education is a fundamental right, not some sort of Dickensian privilege. I want us to fight together against the underhand dismantling of our public services.
Dating is fundamentally about want and desire. I desire someone who is my equal, my better half and politics cannot be divorced from that criterion.
I am unashamed that I refuse to compromise on my rigorous selection process; I cannot make allowances on the issue of sound morals and compassion.
This is a clear and shut case of not settling for any less than you deserve. We all reserve the right to be selfish, picky, selective – whatever you want to call it – with who we grace with our time.
And no, we shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Words by Laurence Smith and Elizabeth Day
Image credit: Financial Times, edited by Forge Press