We’ve all heard the advice: don’t talk politics on a fist date, because politics and dating don’t mix. But in America’s divisive political climate, the chances are the subject of politics will come up. So what do you do? Casually avoid the topic, or make a joke to distract your date?
Avoidance is not such a great strategy
Sure, it’s a huge turn-off when the discussion gets heated and you could be all flirty instead. But politics and dating are intertwined ― politics affect people, and are an indication of their values, so don’t you want to know where your date stands?
Strangely, sticking to safe topics is not a popular choice on a first date. According to Match’s annual “Singles in America” study, 80 percent of the 5,500 Americans surveyed said that politics, religion, and money were all fair game on a first date and that talking about politics increases your chances of a second date by 91 percent.
That’s not necessarily good news. The two presidential candidates running in 2016 were the most unpopular and polarizing candidates in recent history, and many people aren’t happy with Congress. But these are issues that won’t go away anytime soon, at least not before the next election cycle. So perhaps it’s time we sat down and had an honest talk about politics and dating.
Here’s another stat from Match’s study:
Seventy-nine percent of singles don’t have a problem dating someone from a different political party, and only 6 percent felt it necessary that their partner have the same political beliefs.
While it might feel like a great divide if you are on opposite sides of the aisle, that’s not what people care about most.
What do Match’s findings really mean then? According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, people want to be able to discuss important issues with a partner. They want someone smart and knowledgable, even if they don’t agree. Here’s the thing: it spurs your own curiosity and interest in the world if your partner shares this curiosity. Politics is really about thinking of the future and who we want to be, how decisions we make now will affect us going forward. And that’s a good thing to debate.
In the end, it’s really about having conversations
But this time, it could be argued, is different. People are more concerned with the emotional climate post-election, and what our values are as Americans. Some time over the past several years, we have lost ourselves, and our ability to compromise, or at least understand a different point of view. We stopped listening to each other. We’re so busy shouting that we don’t take time to verify if what we’re arguing is actually true.
So the next time you’re on a date and the subject of politics comes up, have a real discussion. Don’t just speak your mind.
Instead of trying to persuade someone to agree with you (they won’t), or that their views are false (who wants to admit that?), try listening. Try asking questions. See if there is some common ground for the two of you to work with. See how your date has come to the conclusions he’s made. What’s his background? Education? What does he do for a living? What did his parents do, and what is their story?
We as a country have a long way to go in terms of understanding one another. Dating can help us, because it’s all about building bridges between two people. Dating helps us understand each other because we are seeking connection. This is the whole purpose of dating - to build connection despite our differences.
And happiness in life is all about connection, isn’t it?