By Diane Mapes and Melissa Dahl
Paul and Anna Dremousis
and Paul Dremousis, of Seattle, pictured here in 2006, don't agree
politically, but after 48 years of marriage, they've figured out how to
He's voting Republican; she's voting Democrat. And the two of them have to share a bed.
year's political climate has been mean and messy for months, but one
factor is resonating at home for many (heterosexual, we should say)
couples: the remarkable gender divide in presidential candidate
supporters. Throughout the long election season, polls have repeatedlyshown that
more women have supported President Barack Obama; guys, on the other
hand, are more likely to say they'll be voting for Republican Mitt
Romney. Take the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, which shows Obama with a double-digit lead among women in three key states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
We polled our own TODAY.com readers last week, and found that about 50 percent said that you and your partner are voting for different presidential candidates.
liberal-leaning Anna Dremousis of Seattle, all of this has meant night
after night of listening to the hollering and howling coming from the
next room as her 79-year-old husband, who she says is "about the only
Greek Republican I've ever met," watches cable news.
has a heart condition and he screams at the TV every night -- in two
languages!" says Dremousis, a 67-year-old retired prosecuting attorney.
"He's watching Fox and they'll show a clip of whatever Obama said that
day and he just gets riled up." This has been happening on and off for
two years now.
After 48 years of marriage, Anna and her husband,
Paul, have grown accustomed to disagreeing. "In our family, the men are
always more conservative and the women are liberal," Anna says. "It
makes for a lot of rousing dinner conversation."
While the gender divide in this election is deep, couples like Dremousises are actually pretty unusual, researchers say. Two recent studies suggest
that we tend to marry people whose political views are similar to our
own, points out Gary Lewandowski, a social psychologist at Monmouth
University in West Long Branch, N.J., whose research focuses on, among
other things, romantic relationships. In fact, couples are more likely
to share political views than they are to share similar levels of
education, or personality traits like extroversion or impulsivity, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Politics found.
explains the people we are attracted to in the first place tend to be
very similar to ourselves; as it turns out, the old adage about
"opposites attracting" isn't entirely true. "In fact, if there were a
golden rule for attraction it would be that partners should be
similar," says Lewandowski, who is a contributor to the blog Science of Relationships.
while much of that initial attraction is dependent on similarities, it
doesn't seem to matter much in long-term relationship quality or
stability. "Basically, similarly helps get us together, but is less
important for keeping us together," Lewandowski explains.
happens when you're living with your political polar opposite? Do sparks
fly every time a Democrat or Republican utters the words "I approve
this message"? Or does love -- if you'll pardon the expression --
Bryan Knutson, a 38-year-old wealth management
advisor from Seattle, says he and his wife, Emilie, held different
political views when they met eight years ago, but that didn't stop them
"I have always been a pretty extreme fiscal
conservative. Socially, I try to moderate but it's not always easy. That
has helped to smooth out some differences," he says.
Knutsons' working strategy: Agree to disagree. "I'm not sure it's worth
it to get into an argument," says Emilie, a 37-year-old stay-at-home
mom. "I'm not out to change his opinions. I don't see this as a
character flaw with him. He's an adult and has had a lot of time to
think things through. He had different life experiences."
there might be an upside to disagreeing politically. Research in
romantic love and long-term relationships suggests that we tend to
pursue relationships that help us grow as an individual. "One way to
grow is to have a partner who helps you learn new perspectives and
shares new knowledge," Lewandowski explains. "If partners hold different
political views, there is more potential for them to learn from each
other in a way that expands their sense of self."
Now and then, the simple act of listening to each other will even
result in someone budging a bit in their stance. "There are lots of
reasons why I vote Democrat, but my husband did help open my eyes to
some issues," says Emilie. "Like small businesses. He helped me
understand the perspective of people who are concerned about higher tax
The key is this: Differences can't be so large that
neither person finds any value in the other's perspective. "So if they
are wildly different, the relationship may not have started in the first
place, or if it did, it will likely have a lot more instability,"
For Bryan Knutson, it's all about
communication and compromise. As he adorably puts it, "I think that love
can overcome politics."