“Ask a Priest: What If Politics Is Straining My Marriage?”

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Q: My wife and I are experiencing some rather serious differences with regard to our political discussions. I subscribe to a more conservative viewpoint, and she is more liberal. Our political discussions are infrequent, but we tend to be firm in supporting our respective convictions. We do not say anything hurtful, but there is a definite underlying anger whenever we engage in these discussions. Today, my wife informed me, “Don’t you ever defend that horrible man to me. He is against women, a rapist, and against the MeToo movement. In fact, if you agree with him, then I’m not sure I want to …” We both know the end of that sentence – unspoken – was, “… stay married to you.” We have been married 32 years. If she is now serious about ending our marriage because of these differences, then I am really at a loss in how to handle this situation. Of course, I do not support any discriminatory actions against anyone, and I have told her so before. But it seems I am guilty by association here. So, this distance between us grows. Any advice/prayers you could afford me would be appreciated. – T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately it’s becoming more common nowadays: Political differences are putting severe strains on marriages and friendships.

It’s good to remember who the real culprit is here. It’s the devil, lurking in the background and trying to stir up problems in your marriage. Marital love is an icon of the love of the Triune God within himself, so it’s a special target of the evil one.

Perhaps a few suggestions might help.

First, it’s a good time to intensify your prayers and sacrifices for your wife. Part of your mission is to help her get to heaven. Here you can also rely on your grace of state. The sacrament of marriage brings a special help for couples in times of troubles.

Second, if politics is causing problems, maybe it’s better to avoid the topic for now. Try to focus instead on the things that unite you as a couple — your faith, your extended family, your own past as a couple. You might think about getting involved in things that you both agree on, such as volunteer work to help the poor or the elderly.

Third, if the political talk arises again, you might try to address your wife’s individual points. Without debating the merits (or lack thereof) of a politician, you might ask your wife if she thinks that you have shown disrespect to her. If asked the right way, it might prompt her to examine her own statement and to help her see the implications of her statement. Does she really think you support rapists?

Perhaps there is something deeper going on here. Your wife might be embracing a kind of take-no-prisoners politics as a way of exerting her identity.

Here, it might help to try to put yourself in her shoes. The news is full of men who have exploited women. This understandably has stoked the fires of painful memories and resentments in regard to ages-old mistreatment of women by men.

This is a moment when you want to reassure your wife of your love and respect for her. You might tell her what she has meant to you and how grateful you are for her in your life.

Again, there is a grace of state you can rely on. So move ahead with confidence.

Ask your wife’s guardian angel to help her, too.

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