Dating a conservative changed the way I engage in discussions

Op-eds Opinions

The benefits of dating someone who doesn’t share your political views

Stock image accessed via Pixabay.

When I was in middle school, I remember thinking about the kind of guy I would fall for. I always pictured that he would be smart, athletic, and a good conversationalist. I imagined we would have similar values, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about whether we would have similar political views. So when the guy I did fall for in high school was a proud conservative, I was a little surprised.

Living in Victoria surrounded by mostly left-wing thinkers, I had come to accept that anyone who held right-wing ideals was wrong and probably even “bad.” Falling into that narrative is easy — when you only hear one way of thinking from your family, friends, and even teachers, it can be easy to assume that is the right, and only, way to think.

But dating a conservative has taught me a lot of lessons — first and foremost that my assumption was wrong: no one way of thinking has all the answers for every issue. And more than that, most of the differences between political views on the left and right concern opposing views on solutions, not problems.

Classifying people into boxes of “right-wing” or “left-wing” and labelling one of those as the good guys and one as the bad is unproductive — and can limit your ability to engage in meaningful conversation and expand your mind.

Take homelessness or education as examples. You do not have to be a declared liberal or conservative to recognize that those are important issues. It’s just that someone from the left might approach those issues very differently from someone on the right. My boyfriend and I started to have much more productive and enjoyable conversations about these societal dilemmas once we realized this.

Another thing I have come to realize is the importance of open and understanding debate across the political spectrum. When my boyfriend and I discuss these issues, we try to see each other’s point of view. Often, my sources or argument don’t hold up against my boyfriend’s argument, and that is okay. It doesn’t mean I have to give up what I think, but it does mean that I have to question my own understanding and do some more research until I better understand the issue.

I recently heard a vlogger I enjoy say that she would never date a conservative. I was taken aback. To be fair, dating someone who does not share your political views is tough. Sometimes it’s really tough. But it also makes you both grow and keeps life a lot more educational and interesting.

Not dating a kind, smart, funny, loving person because you don’t always agree on issues like the way the government should structure its voting system is a pretty sweeping claim. And classifying people into boxes of “right-wing” or “left-wing” and labelling one of those as the good guys and one as the bad is unproductive — and can limit your ability to engage in meaningful conversation and expand your mind.

Try listening first and then questioning after. Question what you hear but also question yourself and your own beliefs. Open up the dialogue and be okay with sometimes agreeing to disagree.

Dating a conservative has made me realize that I too hold a lot of conservative beliefs. But that I am fully right or left on every single issue is false. I would much rather evaluate my thoughts on each issue as it comes as opposed to assuming I agree with every idea of one side or the other.

The important thing to remember is that we are all human. We all value humanity and we all want humanity to prosper. The way we get there is the part we can disagree on. But that shouldn’t mean we stop certain people from speaking simply because we don’t agree with what they are saying. Instead, try listening first and then questioning after. Question what you hear but also question yourself and your own beliefs. Open up the dialogue and be okay with sometimes agreeing to disagree.

The boy I fell for, and still fall for every day, is a hockey player, a superb listener, crazy smart (annoyingly so at times), and my very best friend. He’s also a conservative. And we are both more patient, educated, and understanding people because of it.