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damage control

The question

I’ve been with my husband for eight years. We have no kids. For the past three, he has become increasingly alt-right and quite the Trump supporter. I’m very moderate in politics, but slightly left of centre. I like to follow the truth where it falls. But he will not allow for any kind of discourse or debate. He’s right, and I’m wrong. According to him, I’ve been brainwashed. It’s gotten to the point where I have left the house and am considering divorce. It has filtered into our relationship in too many ways. I’m not sure what to do.

The answer

Well, politics has always been famously fraught as a topic of discussion, which can quickly devolve into two disputants – at a dinner party, say – who might normally get along, gesticulating wildly, impugning one another’s intelligence, knowledge, insightfulness and so on.

I’ve certainly seen that happen more than once.

And the current climate in U.S. politics – well, a word the punditocracy like to throw around is “divisive,” and that sure seems true to me. On a recent car trip to the United States, I had a real sense of a country divided.

What’s less reported on is that it can be also be divisive for families, friends – and even, as in your case, couples.

I have a lot of relatives in the United States and when a couple disagree on the merits of the current White House administration, watch out! It can lead to hammer-and-tongs type arguments, hauteur-filled froideurs, sleeping on the couch, “the silent treatment” (what I call “marital omerta”) and all the other tools in the arsenal of spousal warfare.

Yours, though, is the first I’ve heard of a case of it leading to de-cohabitation and possibly divorce.

But let’s step back for a second: It sounds to me like the real problem is not that you and your husband argue, or what about, but how you go about it.

There comes an important point, I think, in a marriage – in any relationship, really – when one says to oneself, “I care more about this person’s company than I care about being right.”

And ideally around that same time one asks oneself: “And what makes me so sure I’m right, anyway?”

To me, these are important twin pillars of the maturing process. When you’re young, you think you know it all. As a teen, I used to “debate” my poor mother all the time, sometimes ticking off points on my fingers, always convinced I was right.

Then as you get older you (should) say to yourself: “Maybe I could be wrong.”

Your husband sounds like he needs to grow up in the above ways. You, too, maybe a bit. Your statement “I like to follow the truth where it falls” is a hint for me he may not be the only one with a touch of hubris.

Now, generally speaking, I’m a big proponent of working things out rather than splitting up. Because divorce doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me. Lawyers bleed you white, you can wind up lonely, your friends choose sides, you have to get out and date again, which can feel like a series of job interviews – the list of downsides goes on and on.

But in this case, if you really were willing to move out over all this and he hasn’t come after you in any way, well, obviously there are larger issues afoot. So maybe you should pull the trigger on divorce proceedings.

If you do decide you want to work it out, there are a lot of elements about your situation I don’t know (e.g. all the ways your Trumpian arguments have “filtered into your relationship”) or, frankly, understand.

So sorry, normally, I hate to do this but I’m going to fall back on that hoary advice columnist staple and suggest you seek couples counselling.

A good couples therapist will (ideally) tease out the good things in your relationship, help you learn to communicate better, maybe figure out a way repair some of the damage all of this has done, even get you back on track.

You did reach out to me, so that tells me you haven’t given up.

And I don’t mean to be rude but I do feel the need to be blunt: While you’re at it, maybe get a couple of regular therapists as well, because there’s something about the whole situation that’s a little “out there.”

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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