Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Identity as a Democrat...or a Jew...Can Make or Break a Marriage
I'm listening to the radio, a talk show on which the subject of my previous post is being discussed--the NY Times article by the woman embarrassed to admit her husband's not of her liberal ilk. Can a Republican and a Democrat coexist in marriage? What if you're in the same political party, but differ passionately on one issue? Say...abortion? Immigration?
Is this akin to two people of different religions marrying? Can an observant Jew and a Christian--or a Reform Jew--live in the same house? I'd suggest it's easier to ignore political differences than conflicts in religious observance that just get more contentious when children are on the scene. This connects to my fears about militant Islam--with absolute certainty that you're doing God's will, you cannot be dissuaded. You can't sweep differences under the prayer rug. (or the Rosh Hashana kneeling rug, for that matter.)
Similarly, there are events in a relationship that people just can't ignore...like when an unfaithful husband says he's completely re-dedicated to his marriage. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, even if you both squeeze it the same way.
That's why it's crucial to marry someone who is consonant with you on self-defining issues; it's not a good idea to marry a Republican if you're a rabid Democrat. It's risky to marry a ham-eater if you're convinced of kashrut. It's a bad bet to choose a guy whose first marriage included dishonesty if you expect him to be faithful to you.
Back to the article: It concludes with the Republican spouse coming around to support Obama, for them, the great unifier. They may coo together now over Obama's message of love, hope and "yes we can," but I'd wager that if the candidate comes out with a position (ANY position--which he has yet to do) that the Republican can't abide, he might look with affection at his wife and admit, "No, I can't." But even in that situation, they can just smile and agree that their votes will cancel each other out.
Still, I wonder what does constitute a deal-breaker? Is the straining point a matter of who is most adamant in his/her position? I married a Republican, but politics didn't shape my identity. The family I create and maintain is the center of my world; my religion the overlay on everything I do and see. A Jewish religious lifestyle would be my make-or-break factor. Politics come and go; opinions on issues change, but if you believe your religion is the truth, well, there's little wiggle room in such a close relationship as marriage. However...I've known couples to break up over exactly how close they are in their Orthodox views. (Modern Orthodox? Black Hat? Chasidic? Which Yeshiva?) That could be a pity.
Of course, if Democratic or liberal politics IS your religion, as it is for many Jews I know, then party affiliation does trump all else.
Funny, when I first started going with my husband, I had to tell my friends in fast-paced L.A, "He's Orthodox: There, I said it." And now, they're even more yeshivish, more black-hat-religious than me. Life is certainly bizarre.