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Dear Fifi: My boyfriend has joined a new political party and I'm struggling to understand it

It’s time for Fifi to weigh in.

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It’s so weird writing these in advance, in a way. It’s like shouting ahead to myself and then in two weeks time I’ll read it back. Hello future Fiona! How is Ho Chi Minh City?

Well, if you’ve got as loose a grip on your marbles as I have, based on the above paragraph, you might need some advice. Get at me right here.

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I have a trivial sounding question. My boyfriend of two years has recently joined a political party that he knows I inherently disagree with. I know it sounds ridiculous, but such a stark change in his political views has upset me as our mutual values were one of the mains things that made me fall for him.

I keep trying to tell myself we don’t need to agree to be in love, but given that politics is something we both shared a passion for, it’s impossible to just make it a taboo topic. What should or can I do?

I think there are definitely a few things you can do here! And I don’t think this is trivial – especially not if you bonded over politics and now he has pulled the rug over shared, cherished values. (Plus, if you’re really upset about something, your feelings are never just trivial.)

First off, I’m going to break down some practical things you can do to talk about this, then we’ll go a bit deeper. 

Open up a discussion of his thought process

How did he get to this stage? If this is from 0 to 90, there must have been some stuff going on behind the scenes that he didn’t mention to you. What were they? What sparked his desire to do this?

It’s quite a confirmation of a ideology, to actually go out and join a political party. It’s not just liking a link on Facebook: it’s a commitment and a show of allegiance. 

Try to understand the mental journey that he must have undertaken to get to that point. Try to be non-judgemental and listen without prejudice from the outset. He got from a point where you agreed, to this one where you don’t. It might be illuminating for you personally to hear how exactly that happened. 

Be honest and ask for honesty in return

Explain your worries. Be honest about how this change in how he sees the world (which is no minor thing in a partner) has affected your feelings and how you see him. See how he reacts. He should listen to you, as you are listening to him.

If he’s dismissing your emotions or your concerns, that’s a problem. How does he react? Is the reaction reasonable? 

He might have hidden this decision’s genesis from you because he didn’t want to cause a row. Depending on how you see things, that’s a bit of a lie of omission. Ask for honesty from him now. And in the future, too.

If you can’t talk about his decision to join this new political party calmly and constructively, because of how either of you react to it being discussed, then that’s a big red flag for the future. It’s a shame, but it does portend trouble. Even if you disagree, you should be able to discuss it in a way that doesn’t leave either of you feeling upset or angry. 

But what does it really mean?

Disagreements between couples are rarely actually about what they appear to be on the surface.

Does this go deeper? Have you drifted apart without realising? Have other aspects of his personality change without you taking stock? Has this been coming? And if not, and it’s a shock, how did it escape your attention?

Put simply: Are you two communicating as well as you’d thought you were?

Your life, your rules

There is no one ‘good’ reason to break up. If you want to end it, you can end a relationship at any time. Frankly, you don’t even need a reason. Not wanting to be in a relationship is enough of a reason to end it.

Things don’t have to get ‘bad enough’ before you feel you can do it. Remember that. 

As you say, you don’t need to always agree to be in love. But seeing the world through the same lens is a big point of harmony and communication, especially if you’re political people. If he suddenly sees society and how it works in a radically different way than you, or how he did a few months previously, this is a significant enough change to warrant a serious chat. With serious outcomes.

Never feel you are not entitled to voice your emotions or leave a relationship, for any reason. It’s none of anyone else’s business, either. This is your life. 

The way to start tackling this new information about your partner is by talking to him about it. You will learn something new about him either way. Let’s hope it’s something good that you can work on together. If it’s not, and you think this new life route for him is a dealbreaker for you, don’t dismiss your own feelings – you’re entitled to them.

Good luck, pal.

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