How important is it to find someone with the same politics as you when looking for a long-term relationship? And is this expectation even viable when we’re just looking to warm our beds? It would be nice to date within Afropunk’s no tolerance list:
- No sexism
- No racism
- No ableism
- No ageism
- No homophobia
- No fatphobia
- No transphobia
But real life (and feelings) are a lot more complicated. In an attempt to answer this question, I did a lot of thinking and consulted seven real humans on their dating preferences when it comes to political views in a romantic relationship. Here’s what they had to say, summarised into four key points to consider:
1. Most people have politics they’re unwilling to compromise on for a relationship. Know what yours are.
Whether it’s feminism, communism, political correctness, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, wokeness, party affiliation, neutrality, polyamoury or something else, everyone has something they are not willing to compromise on. This is what my friends and colleagues had to say about what their core values are, and how they affect the balancing act that is dating and compromise:
Aasiyah Chafekar is a molecular biologist and PHD student. She says:
‘All the above-mentioned except party affiliation are important for me. However, one thing I cannot not compromise on at this stage in my life is a partner who doesn’t understand feminism. I feel feminism and a true understanding of it would encompass a lot of things like wokeness, transphobia etc.’
Comedian Gino Fernandez adds:
‘If your mind isn’t open then you can keep your legs closed too lol.’
Chelsea-Summer Lodewyk is a writer and voice-over-artist who includes veganism in her list of ‘isms’.
‘Ableism, communism, racism and veganism. Yeah I said it! I feel like the first three are quite obvious. However, with regards to veganism, I can’t imagine me having to be the braai master in the relationship because my partner is steaming aubergines to serve on a bed of kale. No!’
Storyteller Lungiswa Nyatyowa isn’t having it:
‘Prejudicial thinking or behaviour in general is a huge thing for me. I cannot imagine having to deal with that on a daily. I just feel like relationships are hard enough as is, imagine dating someone who you can’t get on the same page with about things that are really important to you.’
We all have our deal-breakers. For example, I will not date someone who votes DA, among other things. If you do date someone whose worldview you do not agree with or respect, cringe-worthy experiences are sure to ensure. Which leads me to point two:
2. There will be deal-breakers and cringe-worthy experiences
These experiences can range from awkward to scary.
From keeping silent when it’s killing you, like what happened to Aasiyah:
‘I was with a guy and he invited me for drinks with his boys out of town. Throughout the evening they kept making sexist remarks, when I tried to interject the boys smirked at me. He put his hand on my thigh and told me to just order another drink, they’ve “got this”. I kept quiet most of the evening, suppressed all my opinions. They made rape jokes. I kept quiet. All because I wanted to get home safe. (Now there’s Uber). I was so ashamed when I got home, I never spoke to him again.’
…to dating a literal Nazi wannabe, in Chelsea’s case:
‘I briefly dated a man who was seemingly great, and one night over wine we got on to the topic of Nazi Germany. As we began to dive into the psychology of Hitler he began to quote anti-Semitic quotes from Mein Kampf as if they were light motivational memes you would post on your WhatsApp status. He went on to say that if he could model himself after anyone it would be Hitler minus the murders. I faked a call and left within the hour. Suffice to say he was dumped via text and was blocked with immediate effect.’
3. But, sometimes you find someone both wildly attractive and problematic AF. It happens.
We don’t get to choose who we’re attracted to. So when you do find someone both problematic and hot, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions. First, could you date someone whose politics you don’t share? And second, would you have sex with someone whose politics you don’t share?
Aasiyah had great answers to both. First, she says, ‘It depends what those politics are. For example, I am curious about polyamory but I don’t think I could vibe with someone who openly practised it and wanted us to. Sometimes a partner can teach me things and vice versa, as long as there is balance.’ But she says it’s different when it comes to sex. ‘Yeah probably, sex (as opposed to dating) is about instant gratification. Get in, get done get out. I doubt someone’s politics would factor in unless we were having extensive pillow talk and even then, it doesn’t really matter.’
But catching feelings – that’s another story. In a conversation with digital artist Riley Thompson, she summed it up rather nicely and got to what I think is at the heart of the issue: ‘When it’s a relationship, there needs to be a convergence of f*ckability and ideological unity. You and me against the capitalist, imperialist, racially oppressive patriarchy. An intersectional couple’s goals!’ Basically, yes it matters! But Riley also added that, realistically, sometimes people just want to have sex, politics aside.
Chelsea has even developed a vetting process for the first date. She says we should do the opposite of the common advice to avoid politics and religion as topics when you first meet people. ‘The older I get, I honestly feel like we should be able to ask these four questions when you go on the first date:
- Who do you support politically, and why?
- Do you have kids? Yes? Do you pay maintenance?
- What is the last book you read?
- Are you good with a pair of tongs i.e. can you braai bra?
If you don’t like his answers to any of these, then order the most expensive thing on the menu, have a great night and go home and get back on Tinder.’
4. Growth is good, but it’s not your job to teach
It’s important to allow each other to be wrong, and to grow and improve. But someone’s political education should not become your responsibility. Allowing for and facilitating growth is critical to partner politics. There has to be the willingness to teach and the willingness to learn, on both sides. But at the same time, you shouldn’t have to exhaust yourself expending emotional labour simply to teach your partner not to be a bigot. Or worse, suffer micro-aggressions at their hands.
Aasiyah has certain key things she won’t compromise on, but there is some room for growth. ‘Being with someone means I have decided that I want to carve something with you, so while we might not agree on everything there are a few key political views that we need to have in common. These will affect the trajectory of our relationship. Adulting and being in a relationship is tiresome but worth it. Adulting, being in a relationship plus trying to educate a partner is a NO for me.’
Scientist and teacher Gratia-Lizé Willemse says clashing is inevitable. ‘I just feel like you and your partner are going to knock heads on certain views and be in consensus with others.’
Dancer Celia Jacobs feels that both people need to be able to be wrong. ‘In a marriage or long-term partnership, you want to invest in the union and that means contributing to the growth of that person and allowing yourself to grow through them. Allowing them to be wrong also allows you to be wrong. It is in the reciprocity.’
So what is the tipping point between a constructive space for healthy debate between partners, and the refusal to accommodate ignorance in your life? The answer is different for everyone. The willingness to be wrong – on both sides – seems to be crucial. But so is the discernment to know when not to compromise on your values just to keep the peace. And with that, here are the deal breakers:
I will not date someone…
‘Who is a bottomless pit of derogatory speech. You know the ones who throw around homophobic and racial slurs like confetti at a wedding or something. ALSO! can’t be with anyone who is suffering from selective wokeness… ooh that’s so annoying.’ – Lungiswa
‘Whose mind is limited to a thing or cause, like it takes away the quality of life and will just lead to unnecessary fights and insecurities because a relationship should be about finding peace and comfort within your combined world when together. My ideal partner would be someone creative who has no desire to be part of the world’s angry problems.’ – Gino
‘Who doesn’t understand feminism or is trans/homophobic. Feminism to me means we should all me be treated equally irrespective whether we fit into the category of man or woman. Being trans/homophobic means you have already failed at feminism so I would definitely not make you my anything. Being nice and having fun together just doesn’t cut it anymore.’ – Aasiya
‘Is not informed a.k.a woke. I cannot fathom being with a man who is not well read, not interested in the state of our country and politics, and is not patriotic. An ill-informed man is an ill-equipped man.’ – Chelsea
What’s your deal-breaker? Tell us on twitter @marieclaire_sa