Remember that old adage about not discussing religion or politics at a party? The same tends to be true of dates—or at least, it used to be. A couple years ago you might have been able to get weeks or months into a relationship with hardly a mention of politics, but right now you can hardly get halfway through a drink before someone is bound to bring it up.
Like many people, I think, I have naturally gravitated toward a circle of friends who more or less think like me. When I go on dates with friends of friends, I can usually assume they have similar political values, but that’s definitely not the case when I meet up with a guy I have met on a dating app or online.
No matter which side of the aisle you fall on, navigating opposing beliefs in a romantic setting is no easy feat. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, most of us (27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans) view members of the opposite political party as “a threat to the nation’s well-being.” Not exactly the makings of a love story.
The truth is, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you can have an honest, loving, and open-minded relationship with someone who ascribes to an opposing political ideology. In the meantime, though, you never know who you might swipe right on. So, based on a lot of dating app date experience throughout election year, here are five tips for talking politics on your next date.
01. Even when you disagree, listen.
I bring this up first, because it’s often the hardest thing to do. We see it on cable news shows all the time—people talking over each other and interrupting the second they hear something they don’t like. The most compassionate thing you can do in any conversation is listen respectfully, and I think it’s even more important if politics come up on a date.
The way people act in challenging conversations is a very telling sign of who they will be anytime you have an argument. If you find yourself sitting across from someone who won’t hear you out as you defend your stance on healthcare, what makes you think they’ll be willing to consider your opinion on what neighborhood you live in or what movie to watch on Saturday night once you’re in a longterm relationship?
02. Remember that it’s a table, not a podium.
The last thing you want to do on a date is hold the conversation hostage. No matter what the subject matter, no one likes to be talked at. We tend to let our mouths run away without our minds when we get caught up on something we feel passionately about—but do your best to temper your enthusiasm with the aforementioned skill of respectful listening.
03. Don’t feel bad about what you don’t know.
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to have a rational discussion about politics is simply because of how much information you must process in order to fully understand an issue. Especially now, with all the talk about “fake news” and “alternative facts,” keeping track of what’s real is also becoming more challenging.
Right now, things are happening quickly. Unless you want to give up working and devote your whole day to trolling Twitter, it’s impossible to know everything. That’s OK! Keeping up with current events is important, but obsessing over them isn’t healthy. If your date brings up something entirely foreign to you, just coolly and calmly say, “You know, I really don’t know too much about that,” and move the conversation along.
04. Don’t try to change their mind.
Spoiler alert: The odds that you will be able to change your date’s views on politics, no matter what they are, are about zero percent. It doesn’t matter how well-researched your argument is, or how right you think you are. In fact, a heated discussion will probably leave both of you more convinced than ever that your point of view is the correct one. If you’re able to carry on a conversation that’s full of thoughtful criticism and respectful debate and end it on a positive note—consider that a win.
05. Maybe . . . just don’t.
And finally, a case for perhaps not bringing it up at all—at least not yet. We talk about politics with our coworkers, with our friends and our parents, even online with strangers. It dominates the TV news and our Facebook feeds to boot. Perhaps a date—when chemistry and candlelight are what really matters—is the perfect opportunity to give your personal politics the night off.
Photo Credit: Alice Donovan Rouse