Will counseling help us talk politics?

Send your own question to the column today. I’m reading. You can also email [email protected]. – Meredith


Dear Meredith, 

I am rounding my mid-50s and recently met a man with whom I share a strong emotional and sexual connection. We have similar relationship histories – both married about 20 years, and about a year or so removed from three-year relationships post-divorce. We’re in the same professional circle (which is how we met), so lots in common there. He has a great sense of humor and is very caring. He seems like a real keeper. We have a lot going for us and a fair amount going against. 

Biggest obstacle probably is age – I’m 13 years his junior. He’s in amazing shape and overall very healthy, more so than me probably. Still, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what things might look like down the road. We’re both looking for someone to ride into the sunset with. Second biggest obstacle (or maybe the biggest) is that we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. On the one hand, I want to take on this challenge of potentially loving someone who has different opinions and helps me to challenge my own beliefs. I feel myself becoming increasingly intolerant of others’ beliefs (much like the rest of America it would seem), and I don’t want to be that person. On the other hand, I also feel like I’m betraying some essential truths about myself. 

My previous relationship was a slow burn, and this one is like a wildfire. I’m not sure at this point if I should pump the breaks to see how the political incompatibility works out (or even how to do that), partly because I don’t want to slow it down – he’s an amazing guy and I want to be with him. I wonder, even at this early stage, if it makes sense to seek counseling to help us work through how we can thoughtfully and respectfully discuss important topics on which we differ. I think he would be amenable to it, but we live in different states (obstacle #3), which would make coordinating appointments difficult but not impossible. We are generally spending a week or two a month together.

We’ve had a few conversations about the general issue, one rule being not to name-call the other’s candidate. We do enjoy teasing each other, though, and I’d hate to lose that by saying we can’t talk about politics or issues ever. 

Plus, that would run counter to my hope of becoming more flexible in my own thinking. Or maybe we need a safe word like “Democracy!” I’m curious to hear your advice on the politics issue and to hear how readers have dealt with significant age differences, especially later in life. 

– The-James-Carville-to-his-Mary-Matalin


Usually when people write to Love Letters about age differences – especially when they’re over 40 or so – their concerns are about a two-decade gap or more. I’m not saying 13 years is nothing, but if everyone is doing their best to stay healthy, it might be no different than being with someone your own age. People are at risk for many health problems and complications as they age (sorry, bummer). It’s pretty impossible to know who will have the best and longest journey at the end.

Your other issues seem related to me. You’re in a long-distance relationship, which makes the political piece of it harder to understand. When you’re with him, you know that a break from him – and his beliefs – is right around the corner. It’s difficult to know how much you’ll be screaming “Democracy!” without spending full months with him.

Can that be a next step? Taking some time to see what it feels like to be in the same spot with him, without breaks? You could even switch locations halfway through. If you can get through three months or more of cohabitation, you’ll know more about what’s possible.

I like your idea of counseling for communication. It’s a tool, so why not use it? There are more online possibilities than ever, so start looking. The therapy might bring out some truths about each other’s values. Ask, schedule, and see what happens.

Also, if the relationship ends, the therapy will have taught you some great skills to use elsewhere.

– Meredith

Readers? Too many issues here? Too soon to try living in the same spot? How do you navigate these issues? What about the age difference?

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