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Stronger Together: A Reminder That Some Things Rise Above Politics  

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick WilkingRepublican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The mainstream LGBT community and media have consistently been vilifying gay Trump supporters and for the most part have completely disowned gay Trump supporters altogether. At first it was fun to be the bad guy, to get loud and rowdy and battle any leftist I could.

The novelty wore off, and I’m noticing that things aren’t ever going to be the same for me and the LGBT community. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the maturity to forgive some of the things people have said to me, wished upon me and threatened me with.

I do know that mainstream LGBT media outlets openly suggest that their readers break off relationships conservatives. Not only is this embarrassingly juvenile, but it undermining the messages of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance the left preaches.

I have a confession to make: I am in love with man that voted for Hillary Clinton. Despite leftists’ endless quest to tear us apart, we remain.

We have been through several stages of unrest, uncertainty and unacceptable behavior throughout the election saga, but it’s not something I talk about frequently or openly – until now. The LGBT media’s attempt to further divide is disturbing, and it comes with dangerous consequences – relationships are the foundation of humanity.

Maintaining respect and a healthy environment to grow as partners takes time and effort just like every relationship, and my guy Paul and I learn as we go. I know I can’t be the only one out there that sleeps next to someone who voted for the opposition, so I turned to some experts for some guidance I hope will help us all remember what really matters.

You may be shocked that the first person I reached out to for advice is a Democratic strategist that supported Clinton.

Jessica Tarlov, senior director of research at Bustle Digital Group has spent more than five years advising Democrats on messaging and strategies and was recently signed by Fox News as a contributor.

“Certain things are sacred and rise above politics – friends and family should be in that category,” said Tarlov. “I’ve lost – and frankly, not to too much dismay – many Bernie supporting friends who I feel crossed lines you never should.”

It’s hard to admit, but I must be honest – I too crossed lines no one ever should. I’ve said things I wish I can take back. Paul and I had to re-draw the lines I crossed and re-establish the respect that was mutually lost at times. To this day it’s not easy.

With Fox News dominating the television in my household, Paul often looks to Tarlov and has learned debate tactics from her demonstrated ability to hold strong to her beliefs while maintaining composure.

Tarlov’s political insights and analyses are a crucial tool for me to understand the other side so I can maintain fair balance in my home and work to protect my relationship. Getting caught up in my own party affiliations and what my own beliefs I easily forget that I push unconditional love and support to the wayside.

“We all think our beliefs are the right ones,” Tarlov added. “We all need to make sure those that believe something else – especially our family and friends – know that they still have a seat our table. If they don’t, they’re definitely voting Trump 2020.”

That’s one thing Tarlov and I can agree on – all doubts in my mind while in transition from a registered Democrat to a registered Republican were washed away by the mainstream LGBT community the day they revoked my seat at their table – and I will be voting for Trump in 2020.

If Love Fails, No One Wins

I am competitive, and I love to win. But I’m embarrassed by the number of times winning a political argument against Paul meant one of us was sleeping on the couch. Things have gotten significantly better, but once in awhile I’ll pop off about something and faster than Hillary hits the delete key, there’s a blanket and pillow on the couch.  

“Forget about trying to win – it’s not about keeping score or winning the argument. If you approach your partner with that mindset then it will surely come with hostility and be met with defensiveness,” said Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist, author & columnist. “Any name calling and demonizing will only fuel the tension between you both and compromise the otherwise healthy dynamic that exist.”

Alpert’s advice is a sobering reminder that a relationship is not a competition. I stand guilty as charged and it’s time to throw the scoreboard away. I can put up point after point but eventually I’ll be playing by myself, and then I will have lost far more than I’ve ever won.

I try my best to avoid debates at home, and to enjoy our free time doing things we both enjoy like eating carbs and watching television. But every so often I’ll get a bright idea to challenge something Paul says, and before you can even blame Russia, we are all over each other with insults and rude remarks.

“The best thing to do is come to an agreement about avoiding topics that are not healthy and can lead to problematic issues in the future,” said Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist, relationship coach and divorce mediator in McLean, Virginia. “It’s much easier for two people to make this type of agreement when they are not in a highly affected state. This agreement serves as a reminder to each other that the relationship is too important to let politics cause a divide.”

For us, that calm, clear state of mind is typically in my truck, or taking a walk around our neighborhood in Bloomfield, New Jersey. There’s something about the task of travel – driving, walking, or even biking – that serves as enough of a distraction to eliminate the defensiveness one might face sitting across a table staring at each other.

Even still, there are topics that are so touchy, neither of us have the discipline remain in control while discussing them.

I am implementing Coleman’s advice regarding two topics that have resulted in particularly hostile outcomes for us. Rather than be at each other’s throats, by eliminating those topics we can stay within the boundaries we set for our relationship.

“The trick is not to let it get to the point of hostility — that means each partner must practice mindfulness and be aware of how they are feeling in the conversation,” adds Michelene Wasil, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego. “If you feel yourself getting literally ‘hot’, heart racing, blood pressure up – that’s a good sign to stop and cool off.”

Make Dating Great Again

Something that my parents have been doing as far back as my sister and I can remember is date night. Once a week, without fail, my father takes my mom out. Sometimes it’s extravagant, sometimes it’s for ice cream down the street.

Full disclosure – we are among the majority of gay couples that first started talking online, but trust me when I say it’s not fake news that I am the king of dates. It’s important to me that we force ourselves to step away from all of the distractions and stay connected for real.

If there are other couples out there battling politically, my personal recommendation is to create date night and stick to it, both bringing fun, romantic or adventurous experiences to the table. It was date night that first introduced Paul to rock concerts, and it was on a similar date night that I had my first Steaks Unlimited sandwich.

There is a rule to making date night work – put down the phone. It’s really hard at first, and then all at once, it’s effortless. Believe me, the collusion headlines will be there when you get back.

The election season and Trump’s presidency thus far has taught me many things about myself and others and I think it’s best to continue working toward success together than drop everything we’ve worked so hard for. Though it ended poorly for Clinton, Paul and I remain, will always be stronger together.

James Merse is a healthcare communications professional from Northern New Jersey and teaches communication courses at community colleges. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesMerse

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