disparity of thought

Carrie BMarch 31, 2003

Hi folks, I'm relatively new to this forum, and though I'm not married, I am in a committed (though relatively young) relationship. I've been grappling with figuring out the best way to discuss current events with my partner when he and I have different outlooks.

I'm interested in hearing how other couples handle differences of opinion on the matters that aren't spoken in polite company--or in the GardenWeb/ThatHomeSite forums--poligion & Relitics (if you know what I mean)!

Besides treating each other (and hence, their opinions) with respect, and not trying to change his/her mind about stongly held beliefs, how do you handle it? Are there issues you just don't talk about? Is it a source of contention? Do you have lots of discussions and explorations on these topics?

Thanks, CarrieB

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Carrie B

Apologies if this was an innappropriate topic for this forum. I meant no offence and have/had no desire to bring up taboo subjects.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2003 at 3:09PM
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I don't think it is inappropriate to ask how to handle these types of situations. You are not going to agree on everything, but you can agree to disagree.

Dave and I have different views on some things, especially in the religion department. We both are voracious readers and will often comment on what we are reading to start a discussion. We enjoy these talks because to us, it's nice to talk about such things when you know the other person isn't trying to use your words against you later or twist them into something you didn't intend. We aren't debating the merits of our ideas so much as just sharing them. We also can talk about different experiences that back up our views. One of our friends also loves to have these types of discussions, and has an even different point of view.

There are some issues that DH and I don't discuss with his family because they do not have the same views and it just upsets them too much (they think we are going to you-know-where in a you-know-what). So we simply don't discuss those subjects in their presence. If there are subjects that just seem to volitile to broach, and they are not lifestyle issues that need to be ironed out (such as what religion will the kids practice, etc.), then it may be best to leave those issues alone.

You are already on the right track about respecting each other's opinions and not trying to change each others minds. I think asking pertinent questions is a good way to encourage thoughtful dialogue. Ask him why he feels that way and explain why you don't. Then just agree to drop it if needed.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2003 at 6:32PM
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Personally, I would never marry someone with different religious beliefs than myself because I want to share the same values morally, ethically, and in raising our child. I can be friends with someone that has a different belief, but I don't want to share my life with them. This is a big deal to me. I wouldn't even date someone that was not of the same belief. Our values and beliefs also have a big effect on how one would vote, or feel politically. Although there are times my husband and I don't agree on that either.

However, I don't think there is a person alive that I would agree with everything, or them with me. It isn't a big deal, when it isn't the "big" stuff. You just agree to disagree like the post above said. Our children don't always agree with us either, especially when they are adults, but we still love them and discuss things. We don't have to feel the same way.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2003 at 12:18PM
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Usually, I just roll my eyes at DH when he brings up some subject that he KNOWS good and well we don't see eye to eye on. He's free to express his opinions, no matter how stupid they are :) We have had some spirited debates about different things, but I overlook his inability to think logically (like me). And thankfully, he gives me the same courtesy.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2003 at 4:36PM
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I think that having different beliefs and values can make a marriage stronger in some cases. It's so important to remain an individual even though you are in a marriage, plus it supplies for interesting and educational conversation when it doesn't touch the wrong nerves.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2003 at 12:28AM
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Carrie, I'm engaged to a man with a different (almost opposite) religious/philosophical base than myself (though we do agree on some things other than the base philosophy), and the way we deal with it is to discuss issues like that by 1. keeping our emotions out of it, 2. Never taking anything personally, and 3. Acknowledge the other person's right to thier opinions and beliefs as valid in *your* eyes. In a discussion where my opinions are tied to my beliefs, I might say something like, "Well, from my (insert philosophy here) perspective, I believe that 'x', but I can see your side of it too, and why you have that opinion with your (insert philosophy here) beliefs. We make sure *never* to personally attack the individual, only to state that we don't agree with the *philosophy*. We never make statements like "You're wrong because..." - it's always "I don't agree with that statement because...". There is literally nothing we can't discuss - we just make sure to keep it impersonal and directed at the philosophy itself, never at the person. It works well for us (for over 5 years now).

We talked about what we'd do if we end up with kids (by accident - we aren't planning on having any by choice, as neither of us really wants kids). We've agreed that if we do end up with kids, my philosophy will be taught until the kiddo is 12, after which said kiddo will be required to study all different philosophies and allowed to choose his/her own. Hopefully we won't have to test it out though. :-)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2003 at 11:34AM
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whatever your differences, dont take them to bed.

for me, its only when philosophical/political issues interfere with physical/emotional intimacy that its a problem.

do you know for sure that you have major schisms in your thinking or does he just not talk about things that you are used to discussing freely with friends?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2003 at 1:05PM
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Carrie B

Thanks everyone,

Mostly, we handle it by good-natured teasing, "hey honey, YOUR president is making his speach, wanna come watch it with me?", etc. Of course I think it's a sign of good mental health and my therapist thinks we should discuss the issues beyond teasing. We do, actually, to some degree.

The hardest thing for me, I think, is that my friends don't get it. Most are political activists of one sort, or to some degree, or another. They just don't understand how I could possibly be involved with someone who doesn't think like they (and we) do. Now, his politics aren't extremist in any way, but who he voted for in the last presidential election and his stance on recent military action indicates a philosophy that differs greatly from their very strongly held beliefs.

When I get together with my friends, the main topic of conversation is generally political in nature, whether it be about national, international, or social issues. My SO does not disagree with EVERYTHING they believe, but he does think that they were pretty radical and doesn't say much.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2003 at 12:28PM
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If it isn't a problem for you, why are you trying to make it a problem? You need to discuss all the things that are important for your relationship together. Last time I checked, monetary policy in latvia wasn't on that list.

Some people feel that all politics is personal and could never divorce their political views from their everyday life. Some people are the exact opposite and think their politics have little to do with the choices they make everyday. That difference of opinion is MUCH harder to deal with in a relationship than the actual political differences. If he can hang out with your friends and handle the political topics without freaking out, he is probably falls into the second camp of people. Do you?

Personally, it would drive me nuts to live with someone with totally opposite political views. Many other people do though.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2003 at 2:06PM
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It's kind of like this forum, or the Kitchen Table. The note says all subjects are open, except for politics or religion. When those come up, unless you are with people like bill says, who can discuss it in a friendly manner, then no good can come of it.

Did you start dating this person because you liked him, or because you wanted your friends to approve? From the sound of it, if you want their approval, then you'll never be satisfied with someone who has different beliefs.

As others have said, different religious or political views are not necessarily bad in any friendship or relationship. But in your case, you want someone who can join you and your friends for dinner, and mingle well.

He's not extreme, and he doesn't disagree with them...those are your words.

Yet at the same time these friends don't want you with him?

Who cares what they think? If you do, then you'll have to come up with a solution. Sounds to me like he can live with them, but they can't live with him.

Kudos to him for being at least willing to try to socialize with folks who want him gone.

Hmmmm..."Now, his politics aren't extremist in any way, but who he voted for in the last presidential election and his stance on recent military action indicates a philosophy that differs greatly from their very strongly held beliefs. "

So....I'm wondering if you saw this week's Twilight Zone. Diversity is what makes this country great. How boring it would be if we all thought alike???

    Bookmark   May 2, 2003 at 2:22PM
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Carrie B

Thanks for your responses, but I think from the last couple of replies that maybe I didn't express myself very clearly.

I apologize if something I said promoted the interpretation that I am trying to create a problem where one doesn't exist. While I don't feel like their is a problem, it is a new challenge for me that I've never dealt with before in quite the same way. Monetary policy in Latvia is certainly not something I've ever brought up. :)

It's not my friends approval I'm looking for, at least, except for in the way I think most people want the people they care about to like each other. I generally like it when my friends, family and intimate partners all like each other. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. Don't most people care what their friends think? I do. That DOESN'T mean my friends make my decisions for me, but I trust them and respect them.

I didn't say that he doesn't disagree my friends. I said that he doesn't ALWAYS disagree with them. Again, apologies if the way I said that was not clear. He probably DOES disagree with them most of the time. Also, I don't think I ever said that my friends didn't want me with him or didn't like him. I think they do like him and they are glad to see me happy. They just can't imagine me being with someone so different from me. My friends have been nothing but kind and welcoming to him.

TREKaren, funny that you mention diversity...it's the field in which I make a living! And I agree that it's what makes this country great and interesting. I just never thought I'd consider marrying someone quite as "diverse" as this. :~)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2003 at 3:54PM
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As for your friends, it reminds me of a quote by Robert Frost: "You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence." Mature people of differing political, social and religious views can mingle well. You said your friends don't understand how you can be involved with someone who doesn't have the same views as you (they)do. That's called intolerance. Here's Merriam Webster's definition:
1 : unable or unwilling to endure
2 a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : BIGOTED

    Bookmark   May 2, 2003 at 9:52PM
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Carrie, I understand exactly what you're saying - and I have had to deal with it on the religious side (my friends believe you shouldn't be "unequally yoked" with those who don't believe as you do). Basically what I've told my friends is that while it's not for everyone, we feel we can handle our diversity, and I hope they can respect that choice. I will admit, I don't ask the two "sides" to mingle much - I don't want my friends trying to "force" thier beliefs on him (he's very tolerant of all beliefs, so I'm not worried about him except for them making him uncomfortable with thier strong views). If/when we do run into my religious friends out and about, I trust that he can hold his own, and I step in to change the conversation if something comes up that I don't wish to get into or have him challenged on. But for the most part, it all works out okay - they know where he stands, and where I stand on both issues, and for the most part, they accept it, whether they like it or not. The few who didn't and tried to make it an issue, I figured I didn't need for friends anymore, since it made it very clear how intolerant they were as people. It all works fine - though I would suggest that in mixed company, you don't take a strong stand against him so he doesn't feel you are "attacking" him...save those discussions for later (I would have them though - it's very helpful to know *why* someone thinks as they do when talking to them).

    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 1:06PM
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