When Katie Haldorsen and Andrew Adams first started dating, the fact that she is a Republican and he is a Democrat did not impact their relationship. But now, six and a half years later, politics do play a significant role in their relationship.
It comes with maturing. Politics are now more relevant to us as a couple because the issues are more pertinent to us than they were when we were 15, said Haldorsen, a fourth-year political science student.
Though politics is sometimes a source of tension between the couple, they said because of their differences they have a better understanding of issues.
Having differences of opinion make us more knowledgeable about the issues because we always hear both sides of an argument, Adams said.
Julie Albright, a sociology lecturer at USC and a licensed marriage and family therapist, said that couples can change each others opinion on issues depending on how strongly and how long they have held their views.
Haldorsen and Adams said that because of their political differences, their views are more moderate than they were when they first began dating.
Both have changed each others opinions on the war in Iraq.
When the war in Iraq began, I was extremely against it. But after talking to Katie, I now think going in was the right decision at the time, though I still think that we need to get troops out, said Adams, a fourth-year cognitive science student at UC Irvine.
Haldorsen said that due to conversations with Adams, she is now more critical of the war.
Initially we had very different opinions of the war, but now our opinions are much more similar, she said.
Haldorsen also credits Adams for changing her opinion on capital punishment.
In high school, she was a supporter of capital punishment. But after Adams explained his reasons why it should be abolished, she researched the topic and changed her opinion on the issue.
When I hear what he has to say, I take it into consideration more carefully because I highly value what he has to say, she said.
But because they admire each others opinions, when they disagree there is more tension than if they were arguing with a friend.
When I disagree with my friends about politics, the tension dissipates within a couple minutes. When I disagree with Andrew, the tension doesnt go away as quickly, Haldorsen said.
Albright said that for a successful relationship, people must respect the others opinions. Otherwise, there is no foundation for the relationship.
Ashley Bonham, a fifth-year political science and anthropology student said that though she and her boyfriend have differing political views, she highly values and respects his opinion because she knows he puts a lot of thought into his opinions.
If you dont have respect for people, its hard to accomplish anything, she said. Since Im a Republican, I disagree with a lot of people on this campus, and Ive learned that there is no point in fighting with someone when you cannot change their mind.
Though Adams and Haldorsen disagree on issues such as health care and economic issues, they agree on social issues. Both are Catholic and anti-abortion, but said if they were to disagree on social issues it would pose a greater problem.
Im going to be pro-life until the day I die, Haldorsen said. With social issues, people are ingrained in their ways, and I think if Andrew and I disagreed, it would be a huge hurdle for us to overcome.
Adams said that because social issues are more personal, disagreeing on these issues would complicate his relationship much more han disagreeing on other issues.
Rebecca Samulon, a fourth-year international development studies and French student, said she has been dating her boyfriend for two years, and she and her boyfriend have very similar political views.
She said she does not think she could date someone who disagreed with her on social issues.
More personal issues such as abortion are more emotionally linked and can reflect differences in core values. Personal issues cut to the heart of moral standards. They tie into religion, family background and character, Albright said. Issues that are emotional can lead to inflammatory conversations and personal attacks and name calling.
Often these heated arguments can trigger a reexamination of a relationship, Albright said, and a couple may decide that because they do not have shared core values, they cannot continue the relationship long term.
Samulon said she believes that someones politics tells a lot about their personality.
You need to know someones politics to know who they are as a person, she said.
Haldorsen, who describes herself as an outspoken and staunch conservative who likes to make her opinions known, said that she enjoys discussing politics with Adams because he shows her a different perspective on issues.
Even if I disagree with him, Andrew is true to himself through and through and I always have great respect for him, she said.