The Effect of Politics on Dating

Jessica was a 54-year-old occupational therapist living in Richmond, VA who hired me to find her a new partner.  

She was divorced with two adult daughters who lived in the Arlington, VA area and therefore visited the DC area often.  She felt that she had met most of the eligible men in Richmond in her age range and therefore decided to have me search for her in the DC area.  She told me that if she got serious with anyone, she’d be prepared to move, so that she’d be closer to her daughters as well.

During our initial consultation, I asked her about her political leanings.  She told me that she was ‘middle of the road’ and not particularly political, therefore she was open to meeting someone of any political orientation, as long as they didn’t impose their beliefs on her.  

In light of that, I decided to introduce her to Fred, an optometrist in McLean, VA in his early 60’s, who was also divorced, but had no children.

They were both attractive and shared similar interests in travel, the outdoors and the arts.  Fred called himself a ‘liberal Democrat’ and said that despite his political leanings, was open to dating someone ‘across the aisle’, as long as they were respectful of his beliefs. Fred was also open to a long distance situation with Jessica, especially after being provided with her photo, which he found very compelling, along with a description of her situation and personality.  The probabilities for a good match were high.

Generally, when I introduce couples locally, I facilitate their first meeting by scheduling the date, time and venue.  In their case, however, given the distance factor, with both parties’ permission, I provided them with each other’s contact information, leaving it to them to schedule their first date.

The Effect of Politics on Dating

Jessica phoned me after speaking with Fred to tell me she that she didn’t think it was a match and that it didn’t make sense for him to drive all the way to Richmond to meet her.  When I asked why, she told me that within the first fifteen minutes of their conversation, he queried her about her political beliefs. She told him politely that she really ‘didn’t want to go there’ and that she thought that subject was best left alone, at least in the beginning stages of dating.  Fred, however, persisted in telling her how strongly he felt about a recent policy promulgated by the Trump Administration, and would not let her punt on the issue, despite her efforts to change the subject. She felt defensive, while he felt frustrated that he couldn’t get a clear read on where she was coming from.  Sadly, it was over before it even began.

Jessica and Fred exemplify the recent trend of politics influencing, often even derailing people’s dating prospects, a phenomenon which is unprecedented in my practice.  

In thirty years of matching clients, politics used to be one of many factors to consider when introducing clients. In today’s climate, however, it has risen to the level of ‘deal-breaker’ in many situations, including Jessica and Fred’s.

Could this breakdown have been averted, I asked myself?  Perhaps, if I had told Fred to avoid discussing politics before providing him with Jessica’s phone number, they would have made plans to meet and actually hit it off in person?  Then maybe, their differences would have been less pronounced and they would have focused on other things to discuss that bonded them, rather than put them at odds with each other?  On the other hand, eventually those differences would have surfaced and perhaps driven a wedge between them ultimately. In that case, better to have avoided the time, effort and emotional investment each of them would have made in meeting each other to begin with.

Because the chemistry between couples is always the ‘wild card’, it could have gone either way.  As a matchmaker, it seemed a shame not to give themselves a chance to see for themselves whether this match was viable or not.  I was disappointed that Fred did not heed Jessica’s request to avoid the topic of politics. Had he honored her request, they might have met and hit it off, thereby overcoming the stalemate they found themselves in during their initial conversation.

Therefore, rule number one in this contentious political climate is to respect the other person’s boundaries.  

On a first date, or even a preliminary phone call, if someone asks the other person not to pursue a particular line of conversation, it’s important for the other person to honor and respect that request, regardless of how passionate or motivated they might be to delve deeper into the subject. Developing a comfort level and rapport takes time. Therefore, topics which have the potential to raise conflicts are best avoided. Traditionally, the taboo subjects have been politics and religion; today, politics has taken on a level of toxicity, which has thrown a major curveball into my matchmaking practice.

As a professional, I am now tasked with probing more deeply into people’s political beliefs before even recommending a particular match.  For example, a person who leans to the left might be open to meeting a Republican, but if they support President Trump, that could be the ‘deal-breaker.’  One liberal client said she’d meet a Republican, even if they voted for Trump, as long as they now regretted that decision. Likewise, a conservative client said they’d be open to a Democrat as long as their beliefs ‘weren’t extreme’.  When I informed him that a prospect, a very attractive therapist whom I vetted on his behalf, thought President Trump was mentally ill, he refused to meet her.

Secondly, I coach my clients to focus on what connects, rather than separates them.  Many successful marriages have involved couples who have overcome significant differences, such as racial or religious ones, due to the strength of their attraction and feelings for one another.  Politics among reasonable people, can often just be another issue they ‘agree to disagree on’, if everything else in their relationship is strong.

However, if one’s political beliefs represent their core values in life, it’s unlikely that crossing the aisle will even be an option.  As a matchmaker, it’s important to know my clients well enough to know the difference.

It’s also critical to ask the important questions so that I can assess whether one’s political beliefs are core values, or just preferences to weigh among many other considerations.  

The best matches, in my professional experience, consist of mutual attraction\chemistry, shared goals and common values.  Assessing those values have taken on a level of importance not seen in the dating world before now.

As a result, dating has become more complicated than it’s ever been, arguing in favor of a matchmaker/trusted confidante who can make those determinations, thus advocating more effectively for each client.

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