Ask Dave-Our Political Views Clash!

Can love rule when one of you is a staunch Republican, the other a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I met a great guy online about a month ago. Our profiles matched well and we've been seeing each other steadily since. The new man is really smart, attractive, and just turned 30. I am 34. Things were going well until last night at dinner. He told me
My friends are all Democrats and I wonder how this would play out.
he's going to a political fundraiser soon and invited me to join him, but made it clear there was no pressure since we might be different parties. It turns out that he's a Republican. I am a very staunch Democrat.

When he told me, I expressed surprise but wasn't sure what to say next, so we dropped the subject. He seemed OK with my being a Democrat.

A day later, this is bothering me, and I haven't let him know. My friends are all Democrats and I wonder how this would play out. On the one hand, I have dated all sorts of guys, so why would this bug me? On the other hand, my beliefs are important to me. What should I do?
-Staunch Democrat

Dear Staunch,
It's probably best if you nix the idea of attending political fundraisers together, at least for now. I am kidding, but with as issue as emotionally loaded as yours, it's good to add some levity.

I wrote in my book The Mandates: 25 Real Rules for Successful Gay Dating that the key to a successful relationship is not believing that everyone is imperfect. You should be happy if you find a guy with most of the traits you like. The key is drawing a line in the sand for what's totally unacceptable. You have to decide what you absolutely cannot abide and then pray like hell you'll get over the rest. This is called having standards.

So you have to decide what your political standard is and then make a decision whether to continue seeing The New Man (TNM). For some people, different political leanings are a deal-breaker. "Right now, our government is very polarized, so we're seeing this in the general population and in relationships," says Elayne Savage, author of the book Breathing Room: Creating Space to be a Couple. "People see issues in terms of good and evil. [They] tend to take politics very personally and at times see disagreements as an affront to their values."

That's very true. But for others, this issue might fall under the category of "normal differences that every couple must face." They manage their different leanings through mutual respect and willingness to compromise.

For some couples, the stark political contrast seems to work out fine. I cite "mixed" couples like
Compare views, and see if you are really that far off after all.
Mary Matalin and James Carville, and Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic wife Maria Shriver, as "Exhibit A" in the case of political opposites who are successful mates. Matalin and Carville say the key to their success is nixing political discussions at home. So there are ways to compromise and, when you need to, agree to disagree.

Your answer will come after you explore the issue and your feelings for TNM, weed out voices of friends, society, and political leaders, and decide for yourself if your life feels better with or without him.

Before making a decision, consider these questions:
  • Are you standing on ceremony when it comes to taking a party line? Before you write off your latest dating candidate, find out what issues TNM cares about most. Compare views, and see if you are really that far off after all. Not every Democrat or Republican thinks the same. For example, a fiscal conservative/social liberal might still vote and identify as Republican.
  • Outside of politics, are your core values similar? Is he a caring person? Does he believe in contributing to the world in the same way that you do?
  • Do your personalities mesh? Do you have shared interests and values? Do you feel happy when you are with him? Do you like spending your time together in the same ways?
Once you've answered those questions, consider these three tips before you vote "yay" or "nay" to pursuing your dating relationship with TNM:
  • Watch your words. I think you were smart to take a step back before you said things you might regret later. As author Fran Lebowitz said, "Spilling your guts is as attractive as it sounds." So be careful what you say and how impassioned you are when you say it during your evaluation process.
  • Take the deal-breaker test. If after careful debate, you decide that his beliefs are just too far apart for you to mesh as a couple, then let him down easily and stop seeing him. Don't act in haste when there's doubt, but don't waste time — yours or his — if you are sure there's no happy middle ground.
  • Don't expect him to change. If you vote to keep dating him, then accept his party affiliation. Remember this: If and when people change, they do so happily only on their own schedules. Who knows what the future holds? But for now, he hasn't indicated that he wants to change. So you have to respect that.
Bottom line: Every couple faces differences in a relationship. What constitutes acceptable from "deal- breaker" is, in your case, a very personal and complicated issue. On the other hand, feelings play into any major decisions you make, especially those pertaining to matters of the heart. Many a person has chosen love over... well, just about everything. I can't tell you which way to vote, but I can help you focus on the real issues.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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