I do not come from a family of debaters. I do not come from a family that even discussed politics. I can vaguely recall asking my mom, in '88, who she voted for and her reply: "It's rude to ask people who they vote for." From then on I saw election day and politics in general as topics that should not be discussed in polite company. I wasn't even sure of my parents' political affiliation until a few years ago when my uncle, a die-hard Dem and political science dept. chair, made it clear when he told me "Nobody hates George Bush more than your mother."
And then I married someone raised in a completely opposite tradition. He is a debater. His family is very vocal about everything, where mine (excluding aforementioned uncle) generally sticks to pleasantries. He is used to verbally duking it out and upholding his political views, while I like to keep things friendly and do whatever I can to avoid conflict.
Not only that, he has well-established viewpoints. On the opposite end of the spectrum in more ways than one, I am only now developing my political views.
We are both pretty laid-back, he more so than me, and we agree on pretty much everything.
Working in the news industry, I am "up" on Campaign '08. As you can imagine, once I brought my developing opinions and daily observations home, they have been the source and topic of increasing debate.
Maybe some people would love the opportunity to talk politics with their significant other, but I am starting to think I should stick to my roots and consider politics taboo. Though I confess when we get into a heated debate, I am immature about it: I get really frustrated and upset and take it entirely too personally. I actually get very angry sometimes.
As much as I hate debate, to my credit, my skills have improved a bit:
- I've stopped cutting him off and saying "end of conversation!" after I've made my point; because I realize that's not fair.
- I've stopped throwing out weak answers ("because it's 'Change I can believe in!' " "because I hate her!") and started trying to back my views up with actual facts or informed opinions.
- I've visited the GOP's and McCain's Web sites, listened to some speeches and read their views to form educated opinions of what the "other side" is saying.
But still, I don't possess great arguing skills and I hate being wrong or not agreeing. So this whole thing has brought no end of frustration for me. In contrast, political debate is one of his favorite pastimes.
I think the problems arise when I go out on a limb to present and defend an idea I just formed or adopted, and he shoots it down with well-formed and thought-out rhetoric. Oh, it just burns me up! Therein lies the problem: I see it as a personal attack. He sees it as an engaging debate.
I need to find a way to turn this around to something we can both enjoy.
Do any of you have this problem?
I thought of James Carville and Mary Matalin, and appreciated this tidbit from the FAQ on Carville's Web site:
"They are ... very devoted to each other and ... their family time. For these reasons they have so many other things to talk about than those things that they know are going to divide them. They don't 'avoid' having political discussions but they do avoid getting into heated debates ...
"Above all, they respect one another and respect the fact that they have very different views but share many common goals."
Maybe we just need to adopt this attitude in my home. Any advice you have is welcome, too!