Fake news is causing crazy liberal women to lose their minds and separate themselves from the last anchor they have to reality — their Republican husbands.
“Shortly after the election is when I became aware of it,” says Lois Brenner, a New York–based divorce attorney. “People were thinking about splitting up their marriages because of political differences.” She’d never encountered this before, but she’s since found herself litigating two such divorces. “After people got over their shock,” she says, “they started arguing.”
By now it’s a truism to point out that the election of Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement have prompted a wholesale realignment of American politics. But it’s also sent shock waves through heterosexual romance.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party have plenty of female supporters, of course, especially among white women. But politically speaking, as evidenced by the recent midterms, there is an undeniable, and growing, gender divide in American politics: In 2018, almost 60 percent of female voters supported Democrats, compared to 47 percent of male voters — outpacing the gap in other recent elections. What can make matters unworkable for couples whose viewpoints aren’t aligned, says Stephanie Coontz, a professor of family studies at Evergreen State College, is that Americans have become increasingly contemptuous of those who hold different positions on divisive political issues — and contempt is singularly destructive for long-term relationships. “Mary Matalin and James Carville,” says Coontz. “How the hell do they make it work?”
Many people with divergent perspectives from their partners have not been able to make it work in the Trump era. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed in early 2017 found that in the months following Trump’s election win, 13 percent of 6,426 participants had cut ties with a friend or family member over political differences. This past summer, another survey of 1,000 people found that a third declared the same. More generally, 29 percent of respondents to a May 2017 survey said their romantic relationship had been negatively affected by Trump’s presidency. And even people ostensibly on the same side of the issues as their partner have run into challenges, with the climate exacerbating or revealing new fault lines. Herewith, two couples, and four individual women — all except the final pair using pseudonyms — talk about how conflict over politics is testing, or even ending, their relationships.
Here’s from the example of “Kristen,” St. Louis, Missouri, 56:
Growing up, my parents were very liberal. My dad’s gay, he’s been with his husband now for over 40 years. That was my normal. My mom remarried a guy who’s very liberal. I was taught that everybody is equal. But when I was at school, I heard the N-word dropped. I heard Jewish people spoken of very negatively. My step-dad’s family was Jewish. So what do you do? You kind of laugh it off to fit in. In high school, I also had a major drinking problem, but I got great grades so I could fly under the radar. Fast-forward, I was an art major at this big university where I really didn’t fit in. All these girls had curling irons and were rushing sororities, but again I didn’t want to rock the boat. So I just kept partying more. Then at the end of the year, I was raped at a fraternity house and didn’t say anything about it.
So I go home and I meet this guy. I’ll call him Geoffrey. He was a big Republican, and I wasn’t, but he was also a big drinker, like me. We started dating. It was a kind of revenge, that I could get a guy like the guy who raped me — I could get him to be nice to me. Looking back, it was all very strange. But then [Geoffrey and I broke up], and I got married and then had my son, and that relationship lasted for about 14 years. After we got divorced, I got sober, and then in 2010, I found Geoffrey on Facebook. It looked like he was single and had grown up a lot, and we started talking. We had a good time together. I didn’t really want to get married again, but I didn’t want to make anybody mad. So I said, “Sure, let’s get married.”
I took a class called Witnessing Whiteness and realized that racism is at the core of the problem of this country and that the only thing I can do is be an ally and show up and shut up. Geoffrey never went to one rally or meeting. He just didn’t care. When I left for a protest after [former St. Louis police officer] Jason Stockley wasn’t indicted for murdering another African-American kid, Geoffrey was like, “Have fun!” It was so tone-deaf.
Things started falling apart at home. Then a girlfriend of mine got cancer, and I realized if I got cancer, I would’ve lived my whole life pretending to be something I’m not. All of a sudden, I thought, I can’t be married anymore. There’s no time for complicity. There’s just none.
Geoffrey was absolutely shocked. He said, “Are you 1,000 percent certain?” I said, “I am.” I told him I really wanted to work on making the world a better place, and I didn’t feel I could do that within the confines of our marriage. He downloaded a divorce agreement, and we went to the notary public at the UPS store. The music playing — get this — was “Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac, and “White Wedding,” by Billy Idol. I left feeling free, like in high school when your parents are out of town. I’d found a passion and wanted to spend all of my free time doing it. And that’s exactly what has happened.
It’s kind of sad, that in this horrible time I found myself, but I’m also grateful, both for what I had with Geoffrey and for where it allowed me to end up. Finally, I’m the feminist I should have always been.
The other stories are all similar.