My husband and I both love politics. Love to read about it, think about it and hear about it. But we never talk about it. At least not to each other. Over the years we’ve learned, sometimes painfully, that it never ends well. In every other area our communication is pretty good. Great, even. We’ve even reached that true measure of coupledom: the ability to communicate ‘Let’s get out of here’ across a crowded room with just a glance and a raised eyebrow. But when it comes to politics all rules go out the window. Voices are raised. Stealth sarcasm bombs are deployed. Wikipedia is called upon. And feelings are hurt.
He’s a conservative Liberal voter. I’m a pinko Labor voter. He thinks people who work in the public sector are inefficient. I work in the public sector (he says I’m the exception that proves his rule). He loves to hear people getting riled up on talkback radio; I’d rather have dysentery than listen to Alan Jones. You know the saying, “never the twain shall meet”? It means two things so completely, utterly different there is no chance of ever uniting them. Well, here we are. The twain. And we’re united.
At first we (okay, me) thought we could convert each with a few well argued discussions. After a few painful skirmishes early on in our relationship we (okay, me) decided to just not go there. Some people love a good fight but I’m not one of them. So we don’t talk politics and we’ve both learned to make room for each other. I’ve learned not to snort derisively when Julie Bishop comes on the TV. He’s learned not to say things like: “I guarantee you that in five years time you’ll be voting Liberal. Gua. Ran. Tee.” When his mum says that anyone who votes for Julia Gillard is an idiot, I don’t take it to heart. Neither does he when my dad calls Tony Abbot “Dr. No, nowhere man, leader of the Noalition.”
When we first met we were so delighted with each other, so high on love, we assumed we agreed on everything. It was a shock to realise we disagree on one of the fundamentals of life – who we vote for. Because doesn’t who we vote for work as shorthand for lots of other things about us? What our values are and what kind of lives we want to live? I always thought that politics was so fundamental to who I am and how I view the world that I could never be in a relationship with someone so different to me. But politics isn’t just about the differences between us, it’s also about what we have in common and sometimes the chasms between us aren’t insurmountable after all.
We’ve created a home and a life together. We have a son who we adore. We’re savers not spenders. We love France and playing board games out on the verandah as the sun goes down. I watch the Tour de France with him. He listens to me recount my conversations with my friends in totally unnecessary detail. I love to cook, he loves to eat. He tells me over and over that I’m a great Mum. I see what an amazing dad he is and I tell him all the time, too. We love to look after each other.
We have more in common than we ever thought possible because what binds us together is more important than the things that pull us apart. It’s bigger than Tony and Julia, Kevin and Wayne. It’s the real fundamentals of life. How we talk to each other, how we make room for each others differences, the way we look forward to seeing each other every day. It’s him laughing at my Julia Gillard impersonation, (“My fellow Australians, I would like to take this opportunity, in this great nation of ours, to announce that I, with the support of my parliamentary team, am making a cup of tea. For all of us. For a better, hydrated Australia.”) and me laughing at his impromptu singing and dancing around the house. Our votes are different but our values are the same.
Now if I could change one thing about him, I wouldn’t change his politics. Because that’s part of him. And I want the whole man, not the selected highlights.
Although if I could change which football team he supports, that’d be a different story. Voting Liberal is one thing, but supporting Parramatta? Come on.
Do you and your partner have the same political views? If you don’t have a partner, could you see yourself being with someone who had opposing political views?