A lot has changed in the months since Donald Trump was sworn into office, both on a political level and a personal one. Bustle’s State of Our Unions series looks at how millennial women's relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners have been affected since the 2016 election. Today's topic: millennial women on how their romantic lives have changed.
Like it or not, some romantic relationships have been affected by Donald Trump. A recent study by Wakefield Research found that the "Trump Effect" is worse for millennials' romantic relationships versus other generations'. While more than 24 percent of Americans in a relationship or married reported having disagreements with their partner since Trump was elected, 42 percent of millennials can say the same. Plus, 35 percent of millennials said they know a couple whose marriage or relationship has been negatively impacted specifically due to Trump's election.
If you and your significant other have differing political views, easygoing conversation may quickly turn into a heated debate. "It's not an easy situation, but plenty of couples find satisfaction with their partners of different political views, and even have successful marriages," Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony, tells Bustle. "It's important to agree on an approach for coping with this situation. In order to continue a loving and respectful relationship with your partner, you have to be open-minded to views that may be different from yours, in any situation."
And, Langston says, this is especially important when it comes to dealing with political differences. "Listen to where your partner is coming from, and express interest in learning about their rationale," he says. "And while this may seem the most difficult task of all, maintaining level-headedness throughout the conversation will allow each of you to equally express your thoughts and opinions on the topic. However, you should always feel free to bring your full range of emotions to the table — do mention how the election or inauguration in general, and how your partner's opinions, make you feel. The worst that could happen would be to agree to disagree, as long as you both value the relationship over these views."
I spoke to 17 millennial women on how their romantic relationships have changed since Trump was elected president. Whether they found comfort in a partner that felt the same as they did, or saw political differences as having opposing core values, these women's stories show that there's always something to be learned from a relationship that's affected by politics. Read on for millennial women's personal stories about how politics affected their romantic relationships.
"I saw one of my exes for the first time in a while a few months ago, and was shocked to learn that he was actually pretty supportive of having Trump as president. He was someone that I always considered to be very liberal-minded, and I never would have pictured him being supportive of the current administration. Since I already know him, it made it easier to have an open discussion about our difference of opinion, but if he was new to my life, I think that conversation would've been a lot harder. That being said, I still can't manage to shake the idea that he can support the policies of someone like Trump (guess it's a good thing we are no longer together, LOL)."
"I definitely feel like Trump's presidency has changed my relationship with my fiancé. When Trump was originally elected, we started fighting a lot about what it meant for the future of our country. Usually, I'm the optimist in our relationship, but I couldn't see any positives coming from Trump's presidency (and I still don't). However, my fiancé, who usually expects the worst in any scenario, kept telling me that he knew Trump was a terrible human being, but maybe he could improve our economy. I was having none of that and told him there was no hope for a pussy grabber. As Trump's presidency has progressed, my fiancé has definitely come over to my side of the argument. Now, I feel like we're even closer because we talk about politics all the time, even if it's just to shake our heads in frustration."
"Romantically, Trump has not affected my relationship with my boyfriend because he and I agree not to talk politics when we're together. We both work a lot, so we want our time together to be focused on anything but Trump and politics."
"My husband and I have very similar political views, which has always been awesome and led to great conversation between us. However, my husband and I differ in that I am very integrated in the media and he is not. After the election, the conversation topics that I bring up seem overwhelmingly gloomy to him, and he no longer wants to casually chat about the disturbing political facts that I have to share. This has led to some pretty significant arguments. The psychologist in me thinks that maybe he is worried and too anxious about the political atmosphere to discuss it… considering I work in education and I have a pre-existing condition. At this point, I save my chatter for the office, where political talk is constant."
"I was with my college boyfriend when I [moved], and he was living in L.A., so long-distance was already very difficult — and we eventually decided to take some time apart. This, of course, was easier said than done — we were still texting constantly and always checking in, making it impossible to move on and messing with my mental state every day. Then, on Nov. 8, he voted for Donald Trump. In my eyes, a light switch went off. I no longer saw the guy I loved in college, but someone who would never understand me and why it was so important to vote for Hillary in this election. It was the final tipping point I needed to end things and let him go, something I was unable to do before. He still doesn't understand, and texts me asking how I could ruin what we had over something as trivial as an election. This only further validates the decision I made on Nov. 9."
"My boyfriend and I met working for Hillary Clinton. During the campaign, we were miles away from each other and spent nights talking on the phone about our day. I thought we were going to be living in D.C. in January and living the life I had dreamt of. However, at about 10 p.m. on Nov. 8, I realized my life plan had to change rapidly. The loss was heartbreaking, but having someone who knew exactly what you're going through was very helpful. Being sad together makes being sad easier, I think. I try not to talk about it, although it's hard. I am always worried we'll only have politics to talk about, as it consumed so much of our life, so now I make an extra effort to have interests outside of the Oval Office."
"My husband and I definitely fought more after Trump became president. But, that's because we bought our first home, had our first baby, and changed careers. Life goes on. We're not letting a presidency affect our relationship. Certainly not this one."
"Trump's appointment as POTUS opened up a door to far more dialogue between my boyfriend and I about the issues that are particularly important to us. He (a Republican who voted for Hillary) and I (a liberal feminist) don't agree on everything, but we've become closer by having conversations sparked by the turmoil of Trump's administration. Based on these conversations, we've definitely become more empathetic towards each other."
"I don't have a boyfriend right now, but if I'm out with my friends and start talking to a guy who voted for Trump, I walk away. Why get involved when we obviously have a fundamental difference of opinion? Yes, Republican versus Democrat may seem like one little thing [as far as compatibility goes], but it's really a combo of many big issues. No, thank you."
"If anything, Trump's presidency has encouraged my boyfriend and me to discuss politics more, not less. Though we both voted for Hillary, the fact of the matter is that Trump is president. Though we do all we can to try to change that (going to marches, calling reps, etc.), Trump also makes us discuss important issues more. When Obama was in office, sure, we talked politics, but not nearly as much. Even though we hate that Trump is president, we do like that we've become more educated on certain political policies. But we're going to keep doing all we can to get him out of the White House. Small silver lining! All the events we do together are making my boyfriend and I even closer."
"My romantic relationships haven't changed much since the election, mainly because I don't think political views are the gauge of a successful romantic relationship. Even if you disagree, if we respect one another's opinions, it's OK. I think some of the [...] men I'm encountering are taken aback by my optimism toward our current president, but they are respectful of my views because they respect me."
"The 2016 election has shaped numerous relationships for me. Mostly, it has allowed me to take pause, be more compassionate and listen deeper — with less judgment. In the dating realm, this has affected me two-fold. One is that I don't have time for games or BS. Because I've identified what my core values are, I can intuitively know from 10 minutes of conversation if the person I'm with will share these core values. On the flip side, I am much more interested in people's lives and experiences. So while my BS meter has never been more on point, I have also expanded my level of interest in other people — allowing grace, compassion, and intrigue to lead my conversations."
"An interesting side effect with Trump becoming president is that it did provide the opportunity for an open dialogue. Trump seems to come up left and right, and this provides important insight into potential romantic partners. In this political climate, conversations around xenophobia and feminism come up naturally — even in early stages of dating. With these hot-button issues, it is easy to see early on where people stand, and if we align. Personally, I stand quite passionately on many of these issues, and can quickly determine if I just will not click with someone by their stance. When we do agree on important grounds, I'm especially excited to see them further."
"The election hasn't changed my relationship with my partner at all. If anything, it has helped us to realize we both see things similarly and are happy to see people finally coming out of their bubble and starting to wake up to the reality of what deep-rooted issues still need to change. Racism, sexism, xenophobia — these things have always existed, it's just that nobody wanted to acknowledge them. Well, guess what? We can't ignore them anymore."
"While the timing was just a coincidence, I left the country the day before Trump's inauguration to travel abroad full-time as a backpacking digital nomad. I left single, and unintentionally picked up a French boyfriend along the way. Through our relationship, it's put into perspective how the U.S. political climate is not the only one struggling at present — there are corrupt and controversial global political situations happening all around the globe. I was in Turkey during the referendum vote. My boyfriend is also still processing the results from the French election. We're both mildly depressed, angered, and feeling helpless — just depends on the day. However, we encourage each other to get it out. We provide a safe space for the other person that helps us connect dots and formulate an opinion. As a result, we're both more engaged politically and closer."
"On my first date back in November 2015 with my now ex-boyfriend, he told me he "didn't hate Trump." We playfully joked back and forth about how I think Trump is the worst person ever, whereas my ex light-heartedly, but steadfastly, said he did not think Trump was that horrible. In fact, he thought Trump was "entertaining." I was pretty shocked by the exchange and told all my friends about it, but seeing as he was cute, we'd just met, and I thought he was sort of kidding overall, I let it slide and continued seeing him.
I probably should have put more weight on that conversation, because throughout our year-long relationship, the only things we ever really fought about were politics. I quickly learned that it was rare for my ex to automatically agree with me on a political issue. I was always nervous to share more left-leaning political articles with him, because what should have been a quick back-and-forth would turn into a heated debate or an actual fight. There were times when I couldn't help but turn vicious whenever my ex expressed a perspective that did not appear to support efforts toward social justice. In those moments, he'd get mad at me for letting "outside forces" affect our relationship.
On Election Day 2016, we stayed up until 4 a.m. watching the results unfold together in my apartment. When I realized Hillary was going to lose (and that moment came early in the night), I started crying and didn't stop. Instead of trying to comfort me, my ex just scrolled through his Twitter feed. And although he said he voted for Hillary and insisted that he knew Trump was a lunatic, I remember us sitting on opposite ends of my couch all night, feeling very alone. I wished he got angry after Trump won. I wanted him to be my social justice warrior partner-in-crime, revved up and ready to fight and stand up for women and minorities. But that just wasn't him. I think this upset me more than I wanted to admit. We didn't break up over Trump per se, but I have no doubt that our differences in politics played a huge role in why we are no longer dating."
"My relationship grew stronger through the election. My boyfriend is from Spain and, previously, he did not express much interest in American politics. Once he took notice of how deeply affected I was by the election, and Trump's presidency, he became more aware of my disappointments and fears surrounding news from the USA. It meant a lot to me that even though he is not an American citizen, he began to educate himself on the issues he knows I am passionate about so that we can have an open dialogue and react to news together."
"Establish off-limit terms," Langston says. "If you and your partner cannot maintain a reasonable, civil conversation around the topic of differing political views, it may be best to take a safe approach — declare the subject off-limits."
Hopefully, your romantic relationship won't be (too) clouded by Trump and politics. But if it is, you can find a way to fix it, whether that means agreeing to disagree or finding someone who shares your same values — political and otherwise.