The Art of Talking Politics in a Relationship Without Killing Each Other

The political season is upon us. And as a single woman in the good ol' US of A, I'm free to share my views openly and without fear of recourse. Well... sort of.

A 2015 study by found a good-natured political discussion could boost chances of a second date by 91%. But for those of us with long-established partners of varying political persuasions -- or for diehard Clintonites who discover they're halfway through a first date with a rabid Trump fan -- talking politics can be absolutely gruesome. In these instances, do you abort the issue? Watch the debates in secrecy? Have an all-out screaming match and never talk to each other again?

To give us a more PC perspective on how to address the elephant (or donkey) in the room, we consulted with Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas

Diane offered the gentle reminder that opposites often do attract; so even if you value economic conservancy and your girlfriend's a socialist-in-training, there's hope. We like partners to challenge us! And if you've made it through the first or second date, chances are you're already aware of this person's political leanings. Much like discussing the number of children you want, where you want to live, and whether you have a strong religious affiliation, politics will inevitably come up during the dating period. Whenever that happens (probably right about nowish), here's Diane's insight on how to fight fair without killing each other.

Couple in a cafe having a conversation or argument
Peter Bernik/Shutterstock

Mutually decide to debate

Some people enjoy the banter, but others want to avoid it at all costs. There's no right or wrong approach to discussing politics, just different preferences. Respect those of your partner. If you are going to wade out into these murky, frightening waters, both partners need to be game for comfortable and fair discourse. DO NOT provoke without due cause unless you like sleeping on the couch. 

Know your surroundings... and your audience

A good verbal spar can be fun! But an all-out brawl when your friends are over is just bad showmanship. Your SO can overlook a difference of opinion; however embarrassing him or her in front of company won't sit well. Lengthy debates at mealtime can also dominate the conversation and alienate friends and family who don’t wish to participate. Don't do it. 

Have a safe word

An exchange of ideas can be interesting and exciting, but it can also get emotional. So give each other time to voice an opinion with the caveat that should things get too heated, the topic can -- and will -- be changed. Use a safe word ("China!" is a good one) and call a truce before someone gets hurt.

couple arguing in the car
Roman Seliutin/Shutterstock

Fight fair

Nobody likes being attacked. Avoid name-calling, slurs, rolling the eyes, or belittling each other in public or private. Strong differences in opinion don’t have to be deal-breakers as long as you're not dismissive or insulting. If you have kids, be especially careful. Those little ones are like sponges, observing adult behavior and modeling accordingly. 

Educate yourself

Learn both sides of an argument. This can help strengthen your case. And, more importantly, your expanded perspective of their side will make it easier to listen to yours. 


Your significant other’s (wrong) opinions don’t make them the enemy. You love this person! So do your best to be a thoughtful listener. Be patient, open-minded, and respectful. In doing so, you may hear an argument you never thought of or an idea that resonates with you. You might even (gasp!) change your mind about something.

A politically proactive partner (on either side of the aisle) is interested, interesting, and knowledgeable.

Agree to disagree

Cheers to you for educating yourself and listening! You fought the good fight, played by the rules, and probably made some valid points. But remember, that doesn't mean anyone's opinions have changed. Allow for that; and remember that part of the fun of fighting and disagreeing is making amends. You heard right: MAKE-UP SEX.

couple in a cafe man reading while woman looks on

Find the silver lining

Every relationship has pros and cons. While your SO’s ridiculous political taste seems like an obvious flaw, there may be more value to this than meets the eye. The alternative to a partner who shares your views or holds opposing views is one who doesn’t have any views at all. A politically proactive partner (on either side of the aisle) is interested, interesting, and knowledgeable. Take it as a plus that he or she is informed enough to be up on current events. Bottom line: you can live with a donkey or an elephant... but can you live with a sheep? Would you want to?

Respect each other's privacy

At the end of the day, your significant other should have the freedom to vote however they would like. There's a reason why you're not allowed to go in together to vote.

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Lauren Boldt is a New York-based satirical writer who has taken a new interest in politics now that she knows debating leads to make-up sex. She is ready to get passionate about any issue. Follow her on Twitter: @Life_of_LaurenB.