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Couples must accept political differences as Election Day approaches
[October 26, 2012]

Couples must accept political differences as Election Day approaches

YORK, Pa., Oct 26, 2012 (York Daily Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Marriage usually begins as the newlyweds walk hand in hand down the aisle.

But moments, months or years later, that nuptial bliss might come to a crossroads at another aisle -- the political one.

Old-fashioned etiquette squelches social conversation about religion, ethics and political affiliation. But that can be wishful thinking as Election Day approaches and millions of people are deciding who to elect to local, state and national office.

Political debates between candidates might trigger domestic disagreements -- even if a couple supports the same party. Through the years, hot button issues change and people's opinions can shift.

So can hurt feelings and slammed doors be avoided during campaign season Of course, said Dr. Jean Pollack of Innovative Counseling Services, as long as couples establish boundaries and clear communication.

Those strategies have worked for Tracy and Dave Hollman of Springettsbury Township. And as a result, there are two signs on their lawn. Tracy told Dave that he could post a Mitt Romney sign as long as she could make it clear that it was his choice.

"It's a compromise," she said. She added that many of her friends commented on a photo of the signs she posted on Facebook. A majority of them weren't surprised.

The couple, who have been married almost a dozen years, started out with fairly similar political views. But Tracy, 43, said her views have become more liberal as she's gotten older.

"That's OK with him," Tracy said of Dave. "It was something that we definitely talked about. We put our views out there. We can just respect that we have those differences." Tracy said she focuses on women's issues -- a topic she said men might have trouble understanding -- while Dave focuses on how job growth and the economy affect their family. But she added that they both try to take a look at issues from both sides.

Not everyone takes the time to do that, said Pollack, who counsels couples in the York and Hanover areas.

"It takes a lot of acceptance and commitment," she said. "Because the world is always changing and the political environment changes, it's something that has to be (a topic of) ongoing communication." Instead of challenging differences, Pollack suggests couples find common ground. When a polarizing issue comes up -- which is bound to happen in this charged political atmosphere -- she tells clients to acknowledge other viewpoints and resist the urge to prove a point.

Learning your partner's triggers, avoiding blanket statements and choosing words carefully can also deflate arguments, she added.

And when a debate escalates to name-calling, it's time to end the conversation.

"Move away from the situation if you feel attacked; don't attack back," Pollack said.

Election Day is only the start of a season filled with potentially explosive dinner table moments. Pollack said she sees an uptick of appointments around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even if a couple is on the same page, family gatherings can test people's patience. Her recommendations include picking neutral conversation topics and avoiding alcohol.

"People don't want things to escalate; they want to figure out how to maintain peace," she said. "A lot of (arguments) come from fear. People want to hold onto their beliefs because that's all they have." However, when a person has to compromise too often to avoid conflict, that's also problematic.

"If you have to give up too much of your own identity, you have to balance whether the relationship ... is more important than your own truth," Pollack said.

But truth can be a commodity during a campaign; 2012 candidates have sparred about their records during heated debates. That's why Tracy said she hasn't settled on a sign -- or candidate -- yet.

"I don't know how much to trust what's being said," she added. "I've got to do a little more research." @FlipSidePA; 771-2051 ___ (c)2012 York Daily Record (York, Pa.) Visit York Daily Record (York, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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