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Impossible Relationship?

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So I'm five months into dating a girl who I've known for about six years. We are very close at this point and I think I'm in love with her (we've told each other as much).

My main concern is politics. I knew getting into it she was an ardent democrat but hoping it was not that big a deal for her we made a kind of "truce". Basically we agreed only to talk about politics under very restricted conditions (ie., the bedroom). Things are slowly coming to a head, however, and she doesn't seem capable of not breaking the truce since she tends to slip in political opinions off-hand in conversations. Some particularly disturbing things I've found out is that she worked on Dick Durbin's campaign, and appeared in a commercial for Alexi Giannoulias. Although she has a normal blue-collar job unrelated to politics, this puts her beyond the normal "rank and file".

Anyway, I guess my question is was it a mistake to attempt to compartmentalize politics in this way? Also, has anyone had experience working through political differences this drastic?

.. and a philosophical question: given the relation between ethics and politics, assuming that ethically her and I would have to be at least somewhat similiar in order to fall for each other in the first place, doesn't this mean that either her political views or my political views have to be inconsistent with our ethics?

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In my experience politics is not terribly important in the context of a personal or romantic relationship. It is nice to connect with someone over politics, but certainly not necessary. There are many other things which are more fundamental and more important to a romantic relationship: expressing your value for other people properly, being considerate of the other person, your attitudes about self-respect and what the proper attitude towards sacrifice in a relationship is, etc. Many other things have a more direct bearing on a romantic relationship.

If she is unable to respect a truce in the relationship over politics, I would regard that as a problem primarily because it belies a lack of consideration for the other person (you) and the dynamics of the relationship, not because she's a democrat or whatever.

It is a mistake to try to "compartmentalize" or ignore aspects of the person you're with, but there is nothing wrong with fully noting differing views and accepting them. Ignoring aspects of your partner which you don't like is unhealthy, but truly accepting those aspects, and dealing with the relationship in light of them, is necessary for a relationship to work (in my opinion).

To the philosophical question, yes, there is obviously some inconsistency there. It is important to put any "inconsistencies" in perspective of how relevant they are to the relationship as a whole, and not dogmatically pursue the eradication of all inconsistencies that you see in the other person.

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Differing politics would imply either a.) differing philosophies or b.) inconsistent application of the philosophies in one or both

Having philosophically different views of the world can definitely lead to problems down the line. What happens when you discuss philosophy as opposed to politics? Do you have to agree to ignore those differences too?

If the problem is ( b ) then that might be fun to explore and see where it leads. If the problem is (a.), I'd say you can expect many arguments and heated disagreements about many things (not just politics) over time.

Edited by freestyle
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  • 2 weeks later...

If the problem is (a.), I'd say you can expect many arguments and heated disagreements about many things (not just politics) over time.

I totally agree. I've had a couple of similar relationships and I've always found that opposing political views are usually the result of a different philosophy. What seems at first to be a problem that can be easily avoided turns out to be something that represents a much more fundamental difference. And after a couple months or a year, arguments and differences starts springing up all over.

I once met a democrat, Obama supporter - very left wing, but I couldn't believe that her philosophy was that bad because he sense of life was so good. Her sense of life was very pro-individual, very pro-justice as opposed to pity very positive on life and so on and so forth. (I can't explain how a sense of life like that can go with such a bad philosophy, but somehow these things can happen… ) After a couple discussions about philosophy it turned out she was totally mystical <_< And deliberately so! (She said things like "all emotions are justified", "feelings can never be wrong", "context doesn't matter" :dough: )

Anyway…

I wouldn't say it was an impossible relationship, except that you being on these forums probably means that philosophic ideas/principals are important to you, and that you know yours explicitly. For me this makes it impossible, personally, to be with girls who have irrational philosophies because so much of what you say and do eventually comes back to these principles, and ultimately leads to fighting about a great many things.

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Anyway…

I wouldn't say it was an impossible relationship, except that you being on these forums probably means that philosophic ideas/principals are important to you, and that you know yours explicitly. For me this makes it impossible, personally, to be with girls who have irrational philosophies because so much of what you say and do eventually comes back to these principles, and ultimately leads to fighting about a great many things.

Sure.

No matter how much the majority of people believe they explicitly hold a philosophy, usually it is a grab-bag of things they picked up, that appeals to them.

When it becomes disturbing - actually, terrifically disappointing - is that some are highly intelligent, and have a great sense of life.

Warning: do not assume they will eventually be persuaded to come round to your philosophy.

I'm afraid there is no getting away from the fact that down the line, even the small differences crack open wider.

Amazing, isn't it, that the more closely you observe people, the more you realize how many inhabit a totally different 'reality' to you?

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The primary political issue is: does she grant the initiation of force as a proper means to some ends?

If she does, or equivocates on this fundamental political precept in any way, you need to either set her straight or get the heck out of dodge. It took me 14 years to realize this was a dead-end road, and while things have worked out well for me in any case, I sure wish I had been less stubborn in evading the truth for so long, I'd be much better off in my health and career at least if I had been more principled in my primary relationship (the sad thing is, she was incredibly intelligent, and one of the few cases that, had I straightened my back sooner, might have worked out with me convincing her to change her principles ... and by accepting her bad behavior, I only encouraged it.)

If she says she doesn't and sticks to the principle consciously, but is not consistent in applying this principle, then you can leverage her recognition of the principle to correct her application of it. There WILL be arguments, but if you are consistent, either you will persuade her, or she will leave you (be prepared, this latter is the likely outcome if you attempt to persuade her to follow the logical consequences of the principal).

If she doesn't and her behavior is consistent with her claim, then you can, and likely will, work any issues out if you both are committed to the relationship.

- David

Edited by icosahedron
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I totally agree. I've had a couple of similar relationships and I've always found that opposing political views are usually the result of a different philosophy. What seems at first to be a problem that can be easily avoided turns out to be something that represents a much more fundamental difference. And after a couple months or a year, arguments and differences starts springing up all over.

I once met a democrat, Obama supporter - very left wing, but I couldn't believe that her philosophy was that bad because he sense of life was so good. Her sense of life was very pro-individual, very pro-justice as opposed to pity very positive on life and so on and so forth. (I can't explain how a sense of life like that can go with such a bad philosophy, but somehow these things can happen… ) After a couple discussions about philosophy it turned out she was totally mystical <_< And deliberately so! (She said things like "all emotions are justified", "feelings can never be wrong", "context doesn't matter" :dough: )

Anyway…

I wouldn't say it was an impossible relationship, except that you being on these forums probably means that philosophic ideas/principals are important to you, and that you know yours explicitly. For me this makes it impossible, personally, to be with girls who have irrational philosophies because so much of what you say and do eventually comes back to these principles, and ultimately leads to fighting about a great many things.

Kelly, can you tell me what emotions are NOT justified? As far as I know, emotions simply are. We may respond differently emotionally to some event, but does that mean that one set of emotion is not justifie? Also, when are feelings "wrong?"

One need not act on feelings, but they are a fact, they exist, and they should be acknowledged. What is your example of a "wrong" emotion?

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The primary political issue is: does she grant the initiation of force as a proper means to some ends?

If she does, or equivocates on this fundamental political precept in any way, you need to either set her straight or get the heck out of dodge. It took me 14 years to realize this was a dead-end road, and while things have worked out well for me in any case, I sure wish I had been less stubborn in evading the truth for so long, I'd be much better off in my health and career at least if I had been more principled in my primary relationship (the sad thing is, she was incredibly intelligent, and one of the few cases that, had I straightened my back sooner, might have worked out with me convincing her to change her principles ... and by accepting her bad behavior, I only encouraged it.)

If she says she doesn't and sticks to the principle consciously, but is not consistent in applying this principle, then you can leverage her recognition of the principle to correct her application of it. There WILL be arguments, but if you are consistent, either you will persuade her, or she will leave you (be prepared, this latter is the likely outcome if you attempt to persuade her to follow the logical consequences of the principal).

If she doesn't and her behavior is consistent with her claim, then you can, and likely will, work any issues out if you both are committed to the relationship.

- David

or, to put it another way - does she intend to support a slaver state, or freedom [for force and subjugation are what slavers do, however they may euphenize it]...

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Kelly, can you tell me what emotions are NOT justified? As far as I know, emotions simply are. We may respond differently emotionally to some event, but does that mean that one set of emotion is not justifie? Also, when are feelings "wrong?"

One need not act on feelings, but they are a fact, they exist, and they should be acknowledged. What is your example of a "wrong" emotion?

An unjustified emotion? Easy. Say I come up to you and say "Hi", and you feel that you are being attacked or threatened. Or say you're girlfriend says she is going to go hang out with her mother and you feel that she is actually going to go cheat on you even though you have absolutely no evidence whatever that she ever has or would cheat. These emotions would be a result of some personal psychological problems. Emotions are always caused, but they are not always a good or proper response to what is going on. Emotions, as I'm sure you know, are caused by your fundamental values. But this idea that feelings are some mystical guide to action or excuse for any action comes from the belief that feelings are primary. And she explicitly believed that feelings were primary. To the point that she believed that if she was mad enough at someone that she wanted to kill them, then that would be justified because feelings are never wrong.

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Kelly, your examples of being attacked or being cheat on are indeed examples of problems - maybe (if someone's cheated on me before, it may behoove me to be careful and less trusting). But those feeling are real, even if they are paranoid. Within the context of who one is at the moment, they are justified. It is up to the individual to keep thinking and realize that there is no reason to be afraid, etc. Until one has done that, the feelings simply are. Right or wrong, they need to be dealt with. Maybe that is what your girlfriend has in mind.

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It all comes down to whether she would sanction the initiation of force, morally; because, if she does so sanction, then she may at some point feel justified in initiating force against YOU!

- ico

This is simply not how people work. Knowing a person's position on taxation or the initiation of force in a political setting will tell you nothing about the possible dynamics of a relationship between you and them. What it actually all comes down to is their character and their treatment of those close to them.

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Oh - Skytrooper, you indicate the only place you discuss politics is in the bedroom. Just a humble suggestion here, but perhaps that ought to be the LAST place for a tea party debate. Put your mind to it and you'll think of other and better uses for the bedroom, ones which might facilitate the relationship on a more positive note. Personally, I find that keeping Obama and Pelosi out of my bedroom a very good thing.

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This is simply not how people work. Knowing a person's position on taxation or the initiation of force in a political setting will tell you nothing about the possible dynamics of a relationship between you and them. What it actually all comes down to is their character and their treatment of those close to them.

That is not my experience. If someone believes force is an appropriate tool in some cases, then where do they draw the line. When they are under duress will they grab the "club" rather than work it out deliberately?

And by "force", I am not thinking of gross physical violence per se; in relationships, force is usually more subtle, involving coercion, blackmail, threats, etc. Or they may invert the roles, and use tears of need to break down resistance.

In most cases, such exhibitions of irrationality/mistrust/disrespect are not effective in and of themselves, and require the cooperation of the victim to be successful (as usual). What happens oftentimes is that one partner indulges the whims of the other, thereby encouraging the irrationality, rather than challenge it and attempt to bring things back to reality. This indulgence is also often a function of the confusion/ignorance/unawareness in principle of the victim.

I have experienced this to some degree or other in all but one of my relationships, and all of my friends have had similar experiences (usually it's "all of them" or "all but one" because they ended up happy with the one who didn't try to force them). So I can say with certainty that this is not an isolated pattern.

Refraining from initiation of force, including all forms of emotional blackmail, is necessary and sufficient to maintain respect in a relationship.

If someone allows the initiation of force in some situations, then it's a slippery slope, and when their back is to the wall, all bets are off and even their primary relationship may not be safe, even if they have consciously insisted that they will never initiate force against their lover. Then, when the chips are down, the high position quickly gets down and dirty.

If you haven't experienced a long term relationship with a high-power mind capable of wickedly subtle manipulation punctuated with threats, coercion, and emotional blackmail when their deceptions are discovered, then I claim you are not particularly qualified to dismiss the possibility. And I envy you.

I kick myself for every time I put up with destructive irrationality in a partner. Appeasement is not a means to an honorable relationship.

As Ayn has written, there are some violations perpetrated on one by another that are hard if not impossible to forgive, because even determining that the violator's remorse is honest is impossible. If someone does something to you that falls into this category, run for the hills.

For minor disagreements, no big deal, neither partner should be walking on eggshells.

But if someone cannot understand the logical consequences and moral implications of the initiation of force, then they are liable to transgress out of ignorance if nothing else, all the more so if they explicitly support emotionalism as a decision making method. And over time, the transgressions often get more blatant, or (what is equivalent in practice), the victim gets more and more fed up with the baloney. Either way, the relationship degrades with time because the partners are not operating from the same moral playbook.

Please don't be cavalier on this topic, we are discussing the most intimate, and arguably most morally charged, aspect of life: finding a compatible mate and gaining/keeping their loving attention.

Cheers.

- David

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Absolutely correct, Dante. If anyone wants proof, look at all the objectivists who totally agree on the initiation of force and taxation yet aren't speaking to each other. Treatment of loved ones is, to me, one of the most crucial aspects of a relationship.

What do you mean by "treatment of loved ones"? Is this a special science, or should it flow naturally from one's assumptions and goals? This smells a bit like an evasion attempting to sever the tie between political views and personal views.

And, once people end bad relationships, they don't usually speak much after that either. Which is their right -- the right of free association is also the right not to deal with folk you can't get along with.

- David

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When my wife and I were dating we had a number of political disagreements -- particularly on environmental issues. So we argued them, and what we found was that our disputes were based on differences in factual knowledge and on the application of shared principles. Over time and with discussion our concrete political views converged, because we did share the same underlying political values.

My conclusion is that disagreement on concrete political issues in the early stages of a relationship can stem from a number of different causes. If it's a result of fundamentally incompatible political values, that's a bad sign. If it's a question of ignorance or tactics, that's less significant.

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Oh - Skytrooper, you indicate the only place you discuss politics is in the bedroom. Just a humble suggestion here, but perhaps that ought to be the LAST place for a tea party debate. Put your mind to it and you'll think of other and better uses for the bedroom, ones which might facilitate the relationship on a more positive note. Personally, I find that keeping Obama and Pelosi out of my bedroom a very good thing.

Gotta agree with you on that point, claire. I suggest keeping most, if not all, off-topics out of the bedroom (where the topic ought to be celebration of one's life by sharing physical intimacy).

Read over some of the love scenes in Atlas Shrugged to get a sense of the psychological flavor (Boys: Ayn did y'all a BIG favor by showing you the sense of life in this context that is most seductive to many rational women!) Then use your imagination to fill in the specific details for yourself and your partner, without losing sight of the style and point you are aiming for.

- David

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My conclusion is that disagreement on concrete political issues in the early stages of a relationship can stem from a number of different causes. If it's a result of fundamentally incompatible political values, that's a bad sign. If it's a question of ignorance or tactics, that's less significant.

Very well said.

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Icosahedron:

I certainly don't disagree that the pattern you are describing is quite harmful to personal relationships, and that one needs to steer clear of relationships with people who use these sorts of tactics. I'm simply saying that the people who use these tactics usually do so because of their character, not their conscious political convictions.

In short, I agree completely with, for instance, this statement of yours in the context of personal situations:

"If someone allows the initiation of force in some situations, then it's a slippery slope, and when their back is to the wall, all bets are off and even their primary relationship may not be safe, even if they have consciously insisted that they will never initiate force against their lover. Then, when the chips are down, the high position quickly gets down and dirty."

If I notice that my friend or partner uses a tactic like the ones you are talking about, this is indeed a red flag for me that this person is (at least subconsciously) okay with getting what they want through these means. I'm simply saying that there is often a huge gap between someone's personal character and dispositions (which you need to pay very careful attention to) and someone's stated political conditions. The former is much more likely to impact the dynamics of a personal relationship than the latter.

In your next post, you say:

"What do you mean by "treatment of loved ones"? Is this a special science, or should it flow naturally from one's assumptions and goals? This smells a bit like an evasion attempting to sever the tie between political views and personal views."

You shouldn't understand the linkage between personal views and political views as an automatic linkage. The whole reason that we need to consciously integrate our knowledge and views across all areas of life is because such a unification does not happen automatically. A person's viewpoints in one area do not automatically bleed into another. We need to attend to the linkage between our own personal views and our political views with careful deliberation precisely because it is so easy for a bifurcation to slip in. Thus, in judging others, it is a fatal mistake to assume that a stated conscious conviction is necessarily reflected in character also. That person has built up their character through an entire life of action, and it is necessary to get to know the character of this person in order to ascertain whether or not their political views are reflected in the way they conduct their personal relationships.

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Dante: I agree that character is the point, and especially the motives that the drive the character. And khaight said it very well, I thought: over time, if the political convictions are at odds with the character's moral premises, then the problem is one of logic, not character -- and can often be worked through if one puts in the effort with genuine love and caring for oneself (first) and therefore also for one's partner as an extension of one's happiness.

A person's viewpoints in one area do not automatically bleed into another.

Irrationality does have a tendency to bleed progressively into parts of the mind one thinks immune, like a gaseous fog of floating abstraction that occludes the mind and progressively degrades its ability to put two and two together. This is standard Objectivism AFAIK.

Usually, it is the moral character that drives, with the political views derivative or parroted -- which supports your point that the bleeding is not automatically happen, the political-view-tail rarely wags the moral-character-dog.

But, contradictions between personal and political convictions, especially if the contradictions are maintained in the face of a partner's protests, indicate a great deal about moral character, don't you think?

- ico

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