I recently read two pieces from two different dating experts whose basic premise was “Don’t talk politics on your first date” and “Don’t put your politics on your profile“. No shade to them at all, and all due respect, but Nah. Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with you, and anyone else who think you should never bring up politics on a first date. You can and should talk about politics on your first date, if your politics matter to you.
Before I dive in let me just say, I’m keeping this post as non-partisan as possible. Whatever side of the aisle you fall on, or whatever quadrant on the political compass your personal politics place you doesn’t matter. I’m not here to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for, or to tell you that your ideology is right or wrong, or to use my platform to spout my own beliefs. Nope, none of that here so don’t worry, I promise not to make this a political post. Cool? Great! With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
Most of the dating advice about what not to talk about on your first date includes things we can all agree on (like not bringing up your ex), but bringing up politics is one of the few things that I disagree with pretty much every dating expert out there on. Conventional wisdom says that bringing up your politics on a first date will only make people hostile. While bringing up politics can lead to a heated conversation and potentially ruin a date, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Who said having a date end acrimoniously is always a bad thing?
I think that people get so caught up in having a “good date” they lose sight of what dating is actually about. Dating, generally speaking, is the vetting period to figure out what sort of relationship, if any, you want to have with a person. Whether it’s a monogamous committed relationship, a casual sex thing, or something in-between, a first date is when you figure out whether or not you actually want to go on a second date. A “bad date” isn’t one where you meet, don’t hit it off, and part ways, that’s a good date. A “good date” isn’t one where you have superficial discussions that bring you no closer to figuring out if this the person you want to see again, that’s a bad date. I’d much rather go on one date where we realize we aren’t a good fit because we don’t see eye to eye on an issue that matters and we have a heated discussion, then to go on one thousand “good dates” where I felt like I learned nothing about what actually matters to a person. I’m not even a big policy wonk or anything, but there are some political issues where, if I differ in opinion with someone, there’s no middle ground for me. You might think that’s superficial, and you’re welcome to that opinion, but I’m much more concerned with where people fall ideologically on specific issue than I am with how tall someone is, or how they look in a bikini.
I’m not saying you have to talk politics on your first date, but I don’t think you should avoid it entirely if it’s something that matters to you. I know I mentioned that I wouldn’t bring up my politics, but I was fibbing a teeny-tiny bit. Here’s a political issue that if you we’re not on the same page, I’d never want to date you: Miscegenation. If you think it should be illegal or that it’s morally wrong for races to mix and marry, why would I, a person who is the product of an interracial marriage, EVER WANT TO GO ON A SECOND DATE WITH YOU? Seriously, what would I gain by going on a date with someone who believes, in their heart of hearts, that interracial relationships are objectionable? “Oh, but you don’t want your date to get offended” sounds good if we’re talking about something that is inconsequential like reality television, or whether or not one athlete is subjectively better than another, but it would be silly to not bring up politics if your beliefs are fundamental to who you are. If you disagree with me on economic policy, eh, whatever. If you think that my very existence is an affront to humanity, nah, screw that, I need to know before I take you on another date. Dating should be less about avoiding conflict and more about going on dates with people you actually want to see again.
Now, if you’re the sort of person who is fortunate enough to live in the sort of world where politics genuinely do not matter to you, by all means don’t bring up politics on a first date. If politics do matter to you, and they’re definitely a deal-breaker for you, bring them up. To tell someone to tolerate intolerance, or to keep an open-mind when people say things like “I will never respect you or your family or your lifestyle choices” is naive. You don’t need to be combative, but if you’re the sort of person who believes in something truly and passionately, to avoid that topic on a first date would not only be dishonest, but a waste of time for you and your date. I’m not saying you can’t date across the aisle, but if you have a political belief you feel strongly about, so strongly and so passionately that you couldn’t date someone who disagrees with you on that issue, it’s okay to bring it up on the first date so as not to waste your time or theirs. I’m not saying you should be intolerant, I’m saying that you should do more than “tolerate” people you’re considering dating.
My own word of caution about discussing politics on a first date is that if you do bring up politics on a date, you should always ask follow-up questions. There’s a lot of baggage associated with the names of political parties and political movements that can have very little to do with someone’s actual beliefs. Mario Cuomo (R), was personally anti-abortion, but was politically pro-choice, just like Jimmy Carter (D). Ronald Reagan (R), paragon of conservative values was pro gun-control, and Lyndon B. Johnson (D), who supported the Voting Rights Act, escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. You’d be surprised how often someone from a different political party can agree with you on the issues that matter to you, if you give them a chance to speak. If you are going to talk politics, try to do so with tact, and ask questions before making an assumption about a person based solely on what party they’re registered to. Even if you disagree with their political stances and know that you wont be going on another date with them, you can respect their right to an opinion, even if you don’t respect their opinion.
I know that the focus of this post is specifically about politics, but it’s really about deal-breakers. If someone’s stance on an issue, whether it’s political or not, matters to you to the point that it’s an automatic deal-breaker, bring it up during your first date. If something isn’t important to you, whether it’s politics or baseball or reality television, don’t bring it up. Don’t go on dates with a goal of not having a “bad date”, go on dates where you figure out if a person is worth going on a second date with. If that means risking offending people because you brought up politics, I think that’s a risk worth taking.
Good Luck Out There.