Dating and Relationship Advice

“Don’t talk about politics on your first date… Or second, or even third!” We’ve all been told this golden rule at some point in our lives, given that politics is considered polarizing or divisive.

I was once on a date where the conversation veered into political topics – immigration policies, ethnic conflict and religion were just some of the (admittedly heavy!) content covered over dinner and drinks. The repartee flowed easily, especially since we shared similar views. But then I started thinking, what would have happened if we weren’t in such agreement?

Would I have tried to reason with my date, or walk away from the conversation entirely in frustration? Would I have agreed to go on another date, or would our political differences have left too sour of taste in my mouth? In other words, would it be okay for me to reject my date because of disagreements in our politics?

We’ve heard of politically-at-odds couples who have made it work. Mary Matalin and James Carville, who worked on opposing aisles for President George Bush and President Bill Clinton respectively, have found ways to grow together in their 28-year-long relationship. But how do we decide when it is acceptable for us to reject someone for politics we disagree with, and when our rejection becomes more of a reflection of us than them?

When their opinions feel like an affront to your identity and experience

On occasions where your date shares — or worse, uses the “devil’s advocate” excuse — to bring up an opinion that feels insular to you, it can come across as an insult to who you are and your lived experiences.

Let's say your potential partner challenges refugee immigration policies despite knowing that your family escaped from a country of conflict. This informs you not only about their level of maturity and empathy, but also that their views likely won't change in the near future. This could signal strong incompatibility as the relationship develops.

Ultimately, no one likes feeling belittled or that their experiences are invalid. If you find yourself feeling that way, then perhaps it’s time to walk away.

When their opinions are well-informed but you disagree

There’s a difference between bigotry and disagreement. You may find yourself in deep disagreement with your date on fiscal policies or educational reform, and your knee-jerk response may be to run away. But if they can substantiate their perspectives, then perhaps it’s an opportunity for you to evaluate your own views too.

Listening to opinions that differ from our own can change our minds or help us better understand why we believe in the things that we do, which is especially important in a world where echo chambers have become the norm. Constantly re-evaluating our beliefs can help us grow in intellect and empathy.

In such scenarios, ditching a date for their (well-informed) politics could be more a reflection of you and your decision to stick to your comfort zone, rather than challenge yourself with fresh ideas and viewpoints. After all, if your potential partner doesn’t bring something new to the table, then wouldn't the relationship be dry and dull?