Dark secrets aside, there’s another thing couples constantly sweep under the rug.
I noticed how this has driven a wedge for so many relationships—my parents’ included. At the dining table with my mom on the end and my dad on the other, we had the television tuned in to the news channel. It was the 2016 elections day and my parents were paying close attention to the rising and the falling percentages on screen.
My mother voted. My father didn’t. My dad had always suffered from leg pains so he found it troubling to wait in long lines to cast a vote. While my mom prepped her plate with a cup of rice, she would compliment her candidate leading the ballot. My father, however, would make fun of her choice, saying her candidate didn’t know how to articulate, had vague goals, and was foul-mouthed. My mom would bite back and call the one he favored boring, lacking in individuality and greedy. This would go on for a few minutes.
When the argument got heated and the food on the table turned cold, one of them said, “Enough. I don’t want to argue.” Suddenly, there were only sounds of utensils clinking and the TV as we dined in complete silence leaving the tension unresolved. During this I wondered why they weren’t on the same page. I mean, they’re married, right? Shouldn’t their views be politically-aligned with one another? Shouldn’t they have voted for the same person?
As I grew up I realized relationships surrounding me follow the same pattern too. Sometimes it would be my aunt and her husband, my uncle and his wife, or my cousin and his wife. Most of them would do the same thing: shallowly discuss a political situation, get heated, then drop it without resolving anything. I guess this is why couples avoid talks of politics on dates. It’s too complicated.
I think it’s also the fact that the word “politics” has come to bear a negative connotation which has made it a taboo in relationships. I know we’ve heard someone say “don’t talk about politics” at least once in our lives, and I’m guessing it’s because of the drama rifed in it. Maybe it’s because the politicians who carry its name are just naturally laced with criticisms. As the word continuously gets bad rep, it seems that many people have also chosen to detach themselves from it.
However, what people fail to realize is that politics is about us and our rights. Its misconstrued meaning has made many people postpone conversations regarding it when it’s exactly politics that shape the environment we live in. It’s about government decisions that, although might not directly affect you, affect our living conditions—our health, our freedom, our money, our society.
Politics is at the heart of everything. The government policies or lack thereof, determine one’s quality of life. What we can access and afford in society. It is what we are able to do and cannot do. The sad truth that there are many people who would rather be left untreated than pay hospital bills is political. The fact that there are children growing up without education is political. Even being able to marry the person you love is political. The mind-numbing reality of being in isolation while doing online classes is political. The root of all these are the actions and inactions of the government.
“Political stands matter in a relationship because lack of compromise and opposing views, in one way or another, will create a gap between lovers. If worse comes to worst, this may no longer be ignored even for the sake of love.”
With all these considered, political disagreements shouldn’t be ignored, especially when it comes to issues that the government blatantly snubs. I mused over this. Do I really want to be with someone I’ll constantly argue with for the rest of my life every time a political discussion arises? I certainly don’t think so. I would rather talk about these issues with my partner as our romance blooms, and make our relationship a safe place to talk and navigate though differences. In love, it’s all about the matter of making it work. It requires patience, but when there’s refusal to strike a balance, it’s not shameful to let it fail.
But personally, due to the lack of romantic spark in my life to say the least, I never had to discuss politics with a partner. However I do have friends, mostly women, who have repeatedly ranted to me about their male partners. The disagreements range from not being allowed to wear shorts in public or to sport necklines that barely show their cleavages, to rape jokes, to harassment reduced to “I was just joking.” The stories say a lot about the men they’re dating and how their questionable morals are often excused by sidestepping the conversation because they didn’t feel the need to get “political.” My friends tend to see past the political incompatibility as their partners were specifically nice to them anyway.
Sometimes if I were connected with my friends’ partners on Facebook, I would frequently see what they follow on their public pages. They would be haha-reacting to classist and homophobic memes, and heart-reacting to pro-Duterte posts. I could see clear where they stood through their Facebook activities, enough to make me sick so I ended up unfriending them. But naturally, I would still hear about them from my friends.
Many might think their reactions to posts are not inherently “political”—like the legislature or you know, nasty politicians—but I believe that the issues they deemed as jokes and the people they chose to support are a window to their honest views on women, marginalized communities, and their rights. These views show where and what they stand for, and that’s as political as it could get and I surely wouldn’t want to engage in a romantic relationship with a person who disregards my and other people’s rights.
Basic human rights shouldn’t be up for debate; however, the struggle to eliminate oppressive systems has always been political. So when I see people proudly enable a politician whose policies put people’s lives and rights at risk, I can’t help but doubt them and see them differently. This is why I can’t separate people’s political ideals from their core values, and I’ve found it hard to believe someone’s political beliefs or principles won’t affect a relationship. Political stands matter in a relationship because lack of compromise and opposing views, in one way or another, will create a gap between lovers. If worse comes to worst, this may no longer be ignored even for the sake of love.
Of course, in my friends’ case, since it was young love, they chose to see the ‘bright side’ as they found it silly to break up over socio-political ideals, but these unspoken conditions bother me. The more we ignore the need to discuss politics, the more dangerous it gets. In the future, the couple that chooses to skirt these issues will drown in the brewing poisons of it. There will be endless arguments and disagreements, so why not discuss them before the knot is tied?
“There is politics in human rights and that’s enough reason for its worth to be talked about in relationships, over lunches or on casual walks.”
I know, conventionally, politics is not the best to be discussed on a romantic dine-out but that shouldn’t stop you from talking about it. There is politics in human rights and that’s enough reason for its worth to be talked about in relationships, over lunches or on casual walks. Normalize it and get your partner’s point of view on social issues to avoid future pain and conflicts that many couples choose to mend through silence. Politics should not be the “cherry on top” of a relationship. Having aligned values is one of the foundations of a good relationship.
It’s healthy to argue in a relationship. As I interact with more people, especially during pre-pandemic college, I’ve also met couples who, despite differences, are still on head over heels for each other. To them, political discourses help them see through a different set of lenses. This distinction of beliefs and values, which can be explored through gentle debates, is a testimony of maintaining individuality within a relationship.
Sure, there’s the possibility of being left standing at crossroads, contemplating on whether to agree to disagree or simply part ways, but in the long run, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.