Deal breaker: How Politics Broke a Year-Long Relationship

dealbreaker hero graphic

With the election just behind us and the new year ahead, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what politics mean in relationships. My last story on political beliefs and overall compatibility outlined a surprising statistic: 50% of Stanford’s Democrats say they have strong feelings about their partner’s political affiliation (read: don’t match me with a Trump supporter, please!). Political tension is especially palpable coming off the heels of one of the most divisive elections in history — at a time like this, is it even possible to sustain a relationship across the partisan divide? I spoke with one of my close friends who recently broke up with her boyfriend because of—wait for it—his differing political views. They made it work for over a year of dating, but eventually it became too much to sustain. How far can we really compromise on our beliefs? It likely varies from individual to individual, but here’s one person’s perspective:

I’m a very political person. Coming from the Bay Area, progressive politics — and the lack of diversity of thought that comes with it — have been a huge part of my life. So I tried to keep an open mind when I learned the guy I was hooking up with was more moderate-to-conservative-leaning. To be honest, when I first heard the news, the most accurate way to describe my reaction was that my blood turned to ice. I was flabbergasted — he and I had talked about being pro-choice, was immersing himself in a foreign country by choice, and even he liked Hamilton. I had thought these were things that conservatives just didn’t do.

We had a few arguments about politics when we first started dating, but because we were both on the same page for social issues — gay rights, gun rights, women rights, racial justice—our arguments were about the economy. Spats about taxes, stocks, stimulus packages and more, but it didn’t bother me. To be honest, despite being a Polisci major, I struggled to see how fiscal policy interplayed with social issues.

But everything changed with COVID. It started small: him refusing to wear a mask when visiting with my family, or his belief in herd immunity and opening up to protect businesses. Living at home with my liberal family, I struggled to see his perspective and the gulf between us widened. For the first time, I began to understand that politics are important because they are inseparable from our values. In the case of mask-wearing, I learned that I valued community, while he valued the individual. We ultimately ended things when he, aghast at Biden’s fiscal policies, told me he was considering voting for Trump; while he claimed to care about my social issues, he valued his economic priorities more. In 2020, I think it’s impossible to date someone with very different political views if you use your values to guide your politics. In just the past six months, our society has fragmented to the point that choosing between a candidate is like choosing between two radically different life outlooks. While many try to shove “politics” into its own category like favorite foods, kinks, or academics majors, politics affects all aspects of our lives and our identities. I knew that I had to end things, and I’m glad I did.

Ah, love in the 21st century. Values you hold true can make or break a relationship. Got a story of your own to share about working through (or breaking up with) different perspectives? Shoot us a DM on Instagram or Twitter, @marriagepact.