By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating expert Erika Ettin says that regardless of the specific topic, whether it’s religion, politics, or something else divisive, it’s important to know whether you actually want to agree on these things, or whether you’ll be satisfied simply having a lively debate with your partner.
Tribune News Service
Whether it’s Brexit, the absurd 2016 election, or the senseless shootings that seem to be occurring daily … every day there seems to be something else happening in the world of politics and current events.
As we’re meeting new people and going on dates with people whom we’ve never spoken more than three words to before sitting in front of each other, how important is it to talk about politics and other controversial issues, or is it a taboo subject until you’re more comfortable with each other?
If you recall, I once wrote about love and money and how those two topics collide:
“Your approach to finances, if it differs from your partner’s, can put tremendous strain on a relationship. So whatever your views are on spending money, it’s important that you and your partner are comfortable with the other’s approach. When it comes down to it, how you decide to spend your hard-earned money is a very personal decision. Just like your values on politics and religion, your values on money will likely play a large role in your relationship. That’s why it’s best to address these issues before they become overwhelming. Rather than letting a monetary issue fester, bring it up to your partner before you become resentful of the other’s spending habits. (In fact, this is a healthy way to handle most large issues that arise in a relationship.)
Some situations will end with an easy compromise, and some won’t. For your relationship to go the distance, though, it’s important that your partner is willing to invest themselves completely!”
As I tell all of my clients, the main purpose of the first date is to see if you have rapport with someone. It’s not to ask if he or she will be the father or mother of your children, to see if you feel the same way about capital punishment, or to decide whether you’d like to be buried together. This is what I call the “cart and horse” problem. Which comes first: finding out someone’s long-term goals to see if your values are compatible or seeing if you have rapport. As I mentioned, I advise my clients to see if there’s a connection with the other person first before getting to the hard questions, since it’ll be a moot point if you don’t get along. In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse.
In the case of the presidential election, the question is a bit broader. Rather than deciding whether you agree on every single issue at hand or not (though you better agree that Trump is a raving lunatic!), it is important to know that, if you’re someone who likes to talk about the topics of the day, the other person is able to converse on those things, too. And if he or she isn’t, how important is that to you?
I dated someone in the past who called me “not well read.” After I was done seething over this comment (you don’t become a business owner and get an MBA without reading, for what it’s worth … not that I’m still bitter), I realized that his definition of “well read” was different from mine. I read plenty, some lighter (ahem … US Weekly) and some heavier. He only read heavy, books on the Vietnam War and how olive oil is the elixir of the gods. I don’t give a horse’s you-know-what about my olive oil, and, yes, while my world history knowledge is admittedly lacking, my ability to converse on topics like pop culture, economics, and what books are popular today is not too shabby. Plus, I didn’t see him doing a daily crossword puzzle like I do.
What I’m trying to say here is that, regardless of the specific topic, whether it’s religion, politics, or something else divisive, it’s important to know whether you actually want to agree on these things, or whether you’ll be satisfied having a lively debate. If it’s the latter, continue to use the first date as a get-to-know-you period, and the rest will come out in due time, once you’ve learned to love and trust each other. And, by that time, you’ll be more receptive to hearing the whys in addition to the actual beliefs. Give it a try, and if all else fails, well, still don’t vote for Trump.
Let’s just say it’s not a match for some reason, there are a few other reasons you may not hear from someone after your first date, regardless of your politics … or anything else!
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)