One couple’s search for harmony in the political divide.
When I married my husband 12 years ago, I knew we were in opposing political parties, but I never dreamed it would devolve into this: These days, we often feel less like spouses than members of rival gangs.
This is my second marriage. My first husband and I were on the same wavelength in every facet of life, including politically. He had a career in newspapers, so he was deeply informed — and like me, he leaned hard to the left. Unfortunately, kidney failure took him from me in 1992. About two weeks before he died, he told me, “I know you’re going to marry again. Just don’t marry a Republican.” We laughed, and I said, “As if that would ever happen.”
In 2009, I found the man I would end up marrying. Marcus and I met online; my profile mentioned that I was liberal, and he identified as conservative. But it didn’t seem like I should walk away based only on that. I’ve seen that kind of relationship work — my mother was like Maude, and my father was like Richard Nixon — so I didn’t think this difference was a game-changer. Our national conversation about politics wasn’t as virulent and hostile as it is now, even though that was less than two decades ago.
Marcus and I wed in 2011, and for a while, things weren’t so bad. I was a huge Obama supporter, and he was a Romney guy. I would make jokes about Sarah Palin from 2008, and he would just roll his eyes. We disagreed, but we didn’t argue about it.
That quickly started to change. And there was one big reason: Fox News.
My husband would turn it on first thing in the morning, and then it would stay on all day. When a particularly egregious soundbite crossed my ears — “Obama destroyed the economy!” or “Obama doesn’t know how to handle Israel!” — I couldn’t help but make a sarcastic comment. Then he’d snap at me, and we’d argue back and forth until I left the room. It was inescapable. (It goes both ways: If I had Real Time with Bill Maher on, he’d be snapping at the TV, too.)
Still, it was manageable. Then, in 2016, Donald Trump took the lid off the pot.
My husband expected Hillary Clinton to win, as we all did. He wasn’t even watching the returns. I stayed up as the election unfolded, and I was just sick over it. The next morning, Marcus said, “So: Hillary?” He was floored that Trump had actually won. But he told me I’d had my eight years with Obama and I should let him have his time with his candidate. I said OK — and thought I could tolerate that.
At first, I wouldn’t comment about Trump. I left it alone. But my husband would be watching Fox all the time, and I simply couldn’t bear it. Trump talked and talked, and he became more and more outlandish, and Marcus would just sit there and listen. Hearing him parrot the things he heard on Fox, I started to feel crazy, and I wondered if he was unable to think for himself. I began to push the envelope: “How can you support this man?” I’d ask. “He’s a lunatic.” That’s when we started really fighting, and he’d turn things right back around, accusing me of watching lies on CNN.
This sounds extreme, but it’s a thought I’ve actually had: I almost feel like a Jewish person at a Nazi rally. I feel like I’m the enemy, and I’m going to be the one who gets attacked.
Remember when Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts”? The Republican Party lives in an alternate reality. My husband is a smart man who ran his own business, but I feel like he’s not thinking clearly. He’s been brainwashed.
Rupert Murdoch recently admitted that his Fox anchors “endorsed” lies about the 2020 election. I was appalled. I asked Marcus what he thought about that, but he hadn’t even heard it. Why? Well, they didn’t talk about that on Fox, of course. But his reaction instantly pivoted to criticism of my news sources. “Well, now Fox is just like MSNBC and CNN,” he told me. “They lie every day.” Eventually, it got so bad that we put a moratorium on conversations about politics.
I know what you’re thinking: How can you possibly be satisfied with a marriage like this? But Marcus’s views aren’t all bad. We both love animals, we love to cook, and we love plants. We share the same basic values of kindness and a commitment to our family. But I’m never going to change my political views, and I don’t think he will, either.
Yes, I’m satisfied, but I’m not sure I’d describe myself as “happy” in my marriage. I’m content that we found a way to work this out, and there’s less conflict. But if I’m being honest, my age is a big factor; I’m 72. I’m not sure I would stay in this relationship if I were 42 instead. At my age, I don’t want to start over again. It’s too big of an undertaking.
More importantly, if I left, I really would miss Marcus. I believe that politics shouldn’t overtake the rest of your personality. There’s more to life.
That said, I have enormous fear about what might happen in 2024, especially if Trump gets re-elected. When Joe Biden took office, I felt like I could breathe again. I’m not sure I can handle four more days of waking up and wondering what Trump will do or say, let alone four more years. And if he gets back to the White House, it’s going to be extremely hard for me to be around my husband at all.
Editor’s note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the writer.