With political debate and turmoil as fraught as it's ever been, what's a couple to do when they're on opposite sides of the life-or-death issues that continue to come before the American people? The answer is to take a long hard look at whether or not it's actually a great idea to choose each other in the first place.
The era of the Mary Matalin-James Carville bipartisan marriage appears to be well and over: A 2016 Pew Research Center poll showed that 55% of Democrats surveyed said that the Republican Party makes them afraid, and 49% of Republicans admitted the same thing about Democrats.
In the same survey, only 9% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans said their spouse or partner was a member of a different political party. The revulsion at the mere idea of inter-party marriage has grown immensely, while the actual numbers have declined: Comparing polls from 1960, when 5% of Republicans and only 4% of Democrats said they'd be upset if their child married a member of another political party, Vox found that a similar 2010 poll found 49% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats raising their eyebrows at an inter-party union (a.k.a. a huge jump).
The idea that walking down the aisle will be enough to cross the political chasm is becoming not only uncommon, but borderline subversive. Take these high-profile relationships that resulted in a split because of Trump-induced irreconcilable differences: Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Lynn Aronberg, “a staunch Republican and supporter of Donald Trump,” left her Democratic (and Hillary-backing) husband Dave Aronberg after feeling “increasingly isolated in the marriage.” Even more top-of-mind is Deidre Ball, the soon-to-be divorcée of Trump’s former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci (the Mooch), who reportedly filed for divorce in part because she was “not a fan of Trump.”
Terry Klee, a New York–based psychotherapist and relationship counselor, says that a disagreement in values—meaning, if you disagree on whether gay marriage should be legal at all, for example, not just disagreeing on the best policy to make gay marriage legal—is a red flag for other issues and challenges that come up in the course of a marriage.
"You could feel very differently about a lot of things in life if your values don't mesh," Klee says. For example, if you see kids in your future but can't fathom how your would-be spouse could support President Donald Trump, how will these differing philosophies and values clash when it comes time to make decisions about the care and keeping of Junior? Their education, their medical care, their moral upbringing, and training to be a good person in the world?
If you can't agree on this first thing, Klee asks, "How are you going to make a person? How are you going to handle money? Money represents so much psychologically to people. It represents opportunity, human limitations, where you might live, how you might see yourself, and your identity. It represents comfort, it represents strife. So if you can't handle political candidates, how are you going to handle the stuff that's in every marriage?"
Take Chris and Christie, a married couple who appeared in a CNN video days before the 2016 election. While their names are similar, their political views are not: Christie is a Democrat, Chris a Republican. To add to the sting, November 8 happens to be their wedding anniversary.
"It kind of stinks that this is sometimes a source of tension and I would really prefer that our arguments be about laundry or whatever and we do on occasion argue about politics," Christie says. "We naturally start talking about it and sometimes it just escalates."
A search of "bipartisan marriage" brings up a slew of results like this: relatively moderate Democrats and Republicans, chatting it up about how they make it work. Notably absent from the top of the heap are the duos wearing opposing Make America Great Again and Bernie 2016 caps. In other words, if you're a true MAGA believer trying to tie the knot with a someone who's staunchly Stronger Together, don't be surprised at a quick fray.
"Any marriage is going to have a conflict; maybe they saw it coming. Maybe it's politics and value differences on how the country or humanity should be run, or maybe it's how to raise a child or maybe there's an illness," Klee says. "It's called a lifelong perpetual conflict in the marriage. We have to learn skills to create space for your partner's regrets."
You can get along great in daily life, have a fantastic sex life, and have each other's backs, but if you disagree on the moral issues of basic human rights and what it means to be a good person, just how far down the long, already bumpy road of marriage are you going to get?
Klee holds out hope that the era of the bipartisan marriage isn't over, and insists that what she calls "PB&J marriages" can work out, but doesn't deny that these are trying times for couples walking down the aisle from across the aisle.
"Maybe this political era is actually helping couples," she says. "It's giving you a really fast road test of what will probably come up at some point some way in a longer marriage."
And if you’re already wed and begin to find that you just can’t move past the fact that your partner endorses a president that thinks grabbing women by the pussy is totally chill, denies the reality of climate change, is unable to condemn Nazis, casually threatens entering into nuclear warfare, and (perhaps most repugnant of all) likes it when his adult daughter calls him “daddy” (yick), maybe it’s time to contact a divorce lawyer. Because while hobbies and general interests may change and evolve, core values tend not to.