Why are there suddenly romance novels coming out about Democrats and Republicans falling in love? How many interpolitcal couples really exist in actuality? And can they thrive without massive amounts of compartmentalization and avoidance? Mackenzie and Lily are joined in the first of a two-part episode by couples therapist and sexuality educator Jennifer Litner to discuss what's really at the heart of mixed partisan partnerships and if there's something to be said for "opposites attract"—or are you royally fucked? Part two of this episode will be available on Wednesday, September 30th. You can learn more about F2L guest Jennifer Litner at https://www.embracesexualwellness.com/ and on Instagram at @embracesexualwellness. F2L listeners also get 20% off her e-course Building Ease Talking About the Birds and the Bees™ with the promo code F2LPODCAST, which is valid now through October 31, 2020: https://builidingease.mykajabi.com/offers/HV43zLAn/checkout?coupon_code=F2LPODCAST It's a digital course for parents, guardians, and caregivers who want to learn how to communicate developmentally appropriate sex-ed information with their children. Lesson material is based on the standards for comprehensive sexuality education, has been peer-reviewed, and is designed to be inclusive, shame-free, anti-oppressive, and scientifically accurate. Parents can also download her free guide to developmentally appropriate conversations with youth here: https://builidingease.mykajabi.com/conversationsguide Major episode timestamps: Introduction (0:00), Housekeeping (1:25), Introduction to Episode Topic (2:21), Introduction to Interpolitical Romance Novels (3:25), Introduction to The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson (6:21), Introduction to Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (9:02), Discussion of Mackenzie and Lily's Political Views (13:27), Discussion of Interpolitical Relationships Research (15:43), Discussion of Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (27:04), Introduction to Jennifer Litner (40:29), Question About Differences and Similarities Between Core Values and Political Views (42:02), Questions About Opposing Values and Views That Mixed Partisan Couples Have (46:37), Pros and Cons of Mixed Partisan Romance Relationships (49:35), Conclusion (51:36). You can get full show notes and episode transcriptions on the Bad Bitch Book Club website: http://badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. Give us a five-star rating wherever you get your podcasts, and say hi to us at @F2LPodcast on Twitter and Instagram. You can also join the private F2L Facebook group.
If you want to support Bad Bitch Book Club's initiatives (including this podcast), become a Patreon member: https://www.patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. Buy all books mentioned on Friends to Lovers: https://bookshop.org/lists/friends-to-lovers-podcast. Friends to Lovers is a Bad Bitch Book Club podcast hosted by BBBC founder Mackenzie Newcomb and writer, editor, and bestie Lily Herman. Each week, they use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex, relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Podcast logo by MKW Creative Co. (https://mkwcreative.co/) and music by Eliza Rose Vera (http://www.elizarosevera.com).
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson
Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels
Twitter Thread About Author Shaun David Hutchinson Soft-Blocking BIPOC Critics (Twitter, 2020)
How Many Republicans Marry Democrats? by Eitan Hersh (FiveThirtyEIght, 2016)
Mixed partisan households and electoral participation in the United States by Eitan Hersh and Yair Gitza (PLOS ONE, 2018)
Partisan attachment: How politics is changing dating and relationships in the Trump era by Daniel A. Cox (American Enterprise Institute, 2020)
The great partisan divide in the US is now deciding who Americans marry by Michael J. Coren (Quartz, 2018)
How Marriage and Inequality Reinforce Political Polarization by Matt Grossmann, Tobias Konizter, and John Kuk (Niskanen Center, 2018)
The Home as a Political Fortress; Family Agreement in an Era of Polarization by Shanto Iyengar, Tobias Konizter, and Kent Tedin (Journal of Politics, 2018)
Red and Blue Don't Mix by Megan McArdle (The Daily Beast, 2017)
Americans Are Poorly Informed About Basic Constitutional Provisions by Michael Rozansky (Annenberg Public Policy Center, 2017)
Lily Herman: Hey y'all, welcome back to Friends to Lovers, a podcast where we use books as a jumping off point to talk about sex relationships, dating, love, romance, and more. Friends to Lovers is part of the Bad Bitch Book Club network, and you can learn more at badbitchbookclub.com.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Hi everyone. I'm Mackenzie Newcomb. I'm the founder of Bad Bitch Book Club, an influencer marketing expert, and a retired relationship blogger.
Lily Herman: And I'm Lily Herman, a writer, editor, truffle Gouda aficionado, and one of Mac'ks best friends.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Ugh, Lily showed me truffle Gouda, and if you are listening to this and you're like, what's that? Add it to your grocery list. It needs to happen.
Lily Herman: And not just regular Gouda, a truffle Gouda. Spend the extra money.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, that's KEY.
Lily Herman: Your life will be made better for it. Um, you should also know that we know this is going to be a long episode, so Mack's got her Dunkin iced tea ready. I've got my water ready.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Well hey, when you live in Massachusetts, you just really have to lean into your inner Ben Affleck, right?
Lily Herman: Yes.
Mackenzie Newcomb: At least I didn't start smoking cigarettes everywhere.
Lily Herman: Indeed. So to go over quick housekeeping, because as we said, it's going to be a long one over here, you can find show notes to every episode, including every book we talk, about, at badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. You should also join Bad Bitch Book Club's Patreon at patreon.com/badbitchbookclub. There's tons of perks. It's only $7 a month. You help with every Bad Bitch Book Club thing, including keeping this podcast going. You can follow us, the podcast, on Twitter and Instagram at @F2LPodcast, and that's two is in the number 2, and join our Friends to Lovers Podcast Facebook group. Lastly, you can follow Bad Bitch Book Club on Instagram at @badbitch.bookclub and on Twitter at @badbtchbookclub minus the "I," because character limits are a social construct, but Twitter sets them. Those bitches.
Introduction to Episode Topic (2:21)
Mackenzie Newcomb: I personally am nervous for this episode. Lily's super excited and I am excited too. We've been prepping for it for quite some time.
Lily Herman: Since June, since June.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. We've been talking about politics and romance, specifically about relationships between Democrats and Republicans. Now we've done the research—Lily's done the research. We've read an anticipated release, and we're interviewing Jennifer Litner, a marriage and couples therapist who specializes in sex therapy, because truthfully, we are not unbiased here and needed to bring in a third party who we thought would actually have the scoop. So we have split this episode up into two parts because there is simply a lot to say, and we don't want to take up all your time on Monday. So we're going to take up some of your time later this week as well.
Lily Herman: Most likely on Wednesday. It will be on Wednesday.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It will be on Wednesday.
Lily Herman: I'm being a little mysterious for no reason whatsoever.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It's Wednesday. The day is Wednesday.
Introduction to Interpolitical Romance Novels (3:25)
Lily Herman: This is already off to a rousing start. So much intrigue. So just a fair warning: I'm about to talk for like four minutes straight. I apologize in advance, but I'm going to provide a bunch of context to this conversation. I recommend making sure you have your biggest mug and your electric kettle ready, because the tea is scorching. The goss is hot. We're ready to go on this episode.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Trigger warning if you're triggered easily by political conversations, just go, just leave. Or keep listening. Give us a five-star review anyways.
Lily Herman: Lord help us. Uh, so everyone, some context. First and foremost, I write about politics as part of my actual profession. I did spend two and a half years as a contributing editor at Refinery29, where my job was literally to write political hot takes in addition to lots of other reporting. So this is my domain. And in particular, I write a lot even to this day about the intersections of politics with topics like feminism, culture, relationships, and more, so unsurprisingly, this episode was my idea. Mackenzie is kind enough to go along with it, which is very nice of her. For all the Americans listening, there's obviously a tiny and not at all consequential election coming up in a few weeks. So given the explosion of political awareness and outrage in this country over the last half decade, it should be no surprise that book publishers have decided to capitalize on that turmoil by releasing more politically minded romances and love stories.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That nobody asked for ever, no one has ever asked for this, but continue, Lily.
Lily Herman: So the important thing to note is when I say politically minded, I don't just mean the Democrats and Republicans fucking stuff. I mean, just generally you'll see books about a romance taking place on Election Day or a romance involving some person who works in politics. So that's kind of what I'm talking about.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory as just a small example.
Lily Herman: Exactly. Even in her first book, The Wedding Date, Alexis, the main protagonist, works in politics in the mayor's office. So there are all of these romances where politics is more present than in previous generations of romance novels. But within that subgenre, there are specifically books that try to deal with interpolitical relationships, romance, and love stories, otherwise known as relationships between people with different or even diametrically opposed political ideologies. So this episode in particular deals with romances that are asking the question, what happens if Democrats and Republicans get it on?
Introduction to The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson (6:21)
Lily Herman: So let's go through a brief history of why this topic has become particularly top of mind. A couple of months ago in early June, HarperTeen released a YA novel from Shaun David Hutchinson called The State of Us, where the son of the Republican presidential nominee falls for the son of the Democratic presidential nominee. We're going to need a bigger mop, because this shit gets so messy so quickly. So not only is the story the definition of a Red, White & Royal Blue ripoff, like completely similar plot points and everything. But there are just problematic elements on top of problematic elements with this novel, from the utter, both sides-ism argument that Shaun David Hutchinson is making to how marginalized communities are represented in this interracial romance. And then if that wasn't enough, one of the sensitivity readers for the book who dealt specifically with its LGBTQIA+ themes wrote on Twitter that Shaun David Hutchinson, the author, subtweeted her after receiving her feedback and then didn't take any of what she had given him. So she straight up said on Twitter, and I'll post the tweets if they are still live, that she couldn't recommend this book, despite it giving representation to several identities in the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. So that was thing number one of just red flag. And then there was also some controversy of, in particular Black authors, sensitivity readers, and book community members saying that Hutchinson was soft-blocking them when they called him out for racist themes in the book. So that's been playing out online for months.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Jesus Christ.
Lily Herman: Yeah, no matter how you look at it, this book was a disaster, both in terms of the book itself and then the controversy surrounding it. It also goes to show that when we talk about representation, that's a very surface-level shallow thing. Just because you have queer characters, for instance, doesn't mean an author has written them well or authentically or with tons of research and feedback, obviously. So that was problem book number one on this kind of sub-subgenre.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I just want to thank you for not making me read this book for research. I really appreciate your respecting of my time, unlike with Trust Exercise.
Lily Herman: Damn, way to come at me, Mackenzie.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, it sounds like a fucking train wreck.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I suffered through it and I was like, being the altruistic person I am, I would not do this to a friend, like that would be a bridge too far for our friendship.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I appreciate that.
Introduction to Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (9:02)
Lily Herman: Okay, so then the second book, which we both did in fact read—Mackenzie read it right before this episode, I read it a couple months ago and then re-skimmed for notes for this episode—it's called Meet You in the Middle. It is an adult romance from the Penguin Random House imprint Berkley, and it's by a debut author named Devon Daniels. Part of the side I do give it is that it was supposed to come out in early September, hence why we were doing this episode and doing it in between the election and its publication. But in around August, I noticed that the publication date was quietly changed from either September 1st or 8th to May of 2021. I don't really want to speculate on why that change was made. I have my suspicions, but I don't think it'd be fair for me to claim I have insider knowledge that I don't, but keep that in mind. It is about a Democratic woman who is supposedly a staunch feminist working as a legislative staffer on the Hill. And she falls for a Republican legislative staffer who also works on the Hill. Unsurprisingly, there was outrage amongst digital book communities as soon as the book was announced. It had dozens of one-star reviews on Goodreads before advanced reader copies were even sent out—and I have thoughts on when people rate books that no one could have possibly even read, but anyway...People were pissed that an author and a publisher would try to make them empathize with a love interest who, based on his political party affiliation, believes in things like putting kids in cages at the border and not giving women bodily autonomy. The list goes on and on. I also think that the pandemic did not help matters given a Republican response to the pandemic and the fact that as of this recording, over 200,000 Americans are dead, not to mention those who were not included in totals, died of other causes that were exacerbated by COVID, the list goes on and on there as well. I got an ARC of this book in the spring and read it and immediately wanted to talk about it incessantly, again, given my profession.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I read it on Monday of the week before this podcast came out and I wanted to talk about it with anyone who listens. And I actually have been talking about it with anyone who will listen. And I'm just had to really hold myself back from posting about it in the subgroups being like, has anyone else gotten an ARC of Meet You in the Middle, let's talk about it, 'cause I knew that I had to share my thoughts on this podcast.
Lily Herman: And it's also one of those books where I don't know if I want people to read. It's like a weird—.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I don't want people to buy it.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I don't want people to buy it, but I want people to have read it to discuss it. So essentially what we're diving into today based on all of that good context is this question of what we even make of these types of romances and books. Are they harmful? Are they escapist fun? Is this really what publishers should be spending their time and money on? And in the larger scheme of things, I think we also thought about how important it is to touch on these questions around where do interpolitical romances fit into our greater country and world? And are you doing something "wrong" if you want to end up with someone with either similar or different political affiliations from your own? And looking even more big picture, why does our society value the notion of "opposites attract" so much, especially politically? So, yeah, as Mackenzie said, we thought a lot about if and who we want to bring in to talk to us; we obviously decided, yes, we should have someone come. We went and thought about bringing in romance authors. We thought about political scientists. But I think what really interested us and what we thought would strike a bigger chord with listeners was the more psychological and sociological aspects of this phenomenon and the bigger notion of why we're attracted to certain types of partnerships in the first place. And in particular, many people in Bad Bitch Book Club have talked about having big political and ideological differences with their romantic partners. And while me and Mackenzie will always joke, you know, "dump him yesterday," e also know that situations are far more complicated than that. So even though we have our own thoughts, we also wanted a third party, as Mackenzie said, and also wanted to open up space for that complexity.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. And we don't necessarily think that you are doomed. I mean, I don't necessarily think that you're doomed. I don't necessarily think that you're doing something wrong by being with someone who is in a different political party, but I think we both should acknowledge the fact we're very progressive Democrats, Lily and I. You guys probably know that. I shouldn't have said "guys," so I'm obviously not the best progressive, but I think that knowing where we stand is important that you can see we do have bias. Like we are speaking from some personal experience here, and that's why we felt like we had to bring somebody else on.
Lily Herman: Exactly.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Do you identify as a leftist? What do you identify as?
Lily Herman: I would say I'm politically left just because the leftist movement has its own like shit going on. I'm politically left. I most identify with Beyonce song "Irreplaceable" because I am in fact to the left, to the left, everything you own should be to the left. But yeah, I tend to be on the more left side even of my liberal friends. I think people are also surprised to learn that I'm not one to necessarily shout at everyone all the time about everything. I have different approaches to different types of people I'm talking to. A lot of my views are also in part because I grew up in the South and did experience some alienation through various identities down there. So I have lived amongst people who had very different political views. I have had to work with people who had very different political views. So I think that's also a big misconception of people, especially I think people who are further to the left that I'm not connected to the larger spectrum of political people, which is ridiculous.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Totally. And I have Republicans that I talk to almost every single day that I'm very friendly with that I've met as adults. It doesn't necessarily mean that we're like rude and think that nobody else can nobody else can converse with us about politics.
Lily Herman: There's a difference between me conversing with an outright white supremacist and maybe someone who has some problematic notions to their views, but being able to, I think, parse the difference there and difference in approach and situationally as well. So I think that's my personal ethos. I know people have a variety of ideas of how to deal with our current polarization and political turmoil, but I'm just speaking for myself there.
Discussion of Interpolitical Relationships Research (15:43)
Lily Herman: So anyway, diving into—again, I'm about to talk for a little bit, 'cause I am somehow, once again, the professor of the two of us, which continues to shock any teacher I had. But I tried to dive into some actual research with interpolitical or mixed partisan romances. There's a lot of different terms that are all interchangeable, but basically mean people who do not have the same political beliefs or the same intensity or fervor of those political beliefs. So mixed partisan could be someone who identifies as a Republican dating someone who identifies as an independent let's say, or a libertarian and a Democrat. I don't know, just keep that in mind. So just a couple of stats to give you a sense of how common are interpolitical relationships and long-term partnerships, what's the difference based on different identity lines, things like that. The biggest thing I want to say is one, the research is very, very limited, and two, and also super important, something that I definitely thought when I was researching and some Bad Bitch Book Club members brought up when I brought this topic to their attention, is that a lot of the research is very white, cisgender, heterosexual marriage partnership-related. I think we'd see a real difference if we were talking about, let's say, LGBTQIA+ couples, if we were talking about people of color who are in relationships with each other as opposed to white people. There's just not a lot of research out there in general, but especially not when discussing things that are out of the "norm," or are sort of the center of these political conversations. So keep that in mind, but just some stats from a couple of different studies—and these will all be linked in our show notes. One, uh, Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale, and Yair Ghitza, the chief scientist at political data firm Catalist, conducted some basic research back in 2016 prior to the election looking at married couples' political affiliations to see how many couples have mixed partisan partnerships. It's important to note, as I was just saying, that they worked off of incredibly narrow parameters because they were focusing on heterosexual couples who shared the same last name, were within 15 years of age of each other, and were the oldest pairing in a household. And that was their way of saying, okay, based on public data, we can assume that most of those people are married or at least long-term partners, which, again, you can see how that can be problematic.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, I don't even share the same last name as my husband.
Lily Herman: So you're basically out of the study, like you're not in there. So first, of 30% of married households containing a mismatched partisan pairing, a third of those are Democrats married to Republicans. The others are partisans married to independents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are twice as many Democrat-Republican pairs where the male, rather than the female partner, is the Republican.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Does that sound like your parents? 'Cause it sure sounds like mine.
Lily Herman: Yeah, my mom is definitely much more liberal than my dad, and I don't want to get into their politics cause they can't speak for themselves, but definitely true where a more liberal woman is more common than a liberal man if there's a Democrat and Republican in those situations. And also I will say, too, that stat of one-third of couples are interpolitical relationships, that kind of generally-ish holds up across research. I think that's the running assumption, particularly around married or long-term couples, not people who are dating for short-term periods of times.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Sounds about right.
Lily Herman: Second, 55% of married couples are Democrat--only or Republican-only couples. So that's the two interesting findings from that research. And then the American Enterprise Institute, which I should note is nonpartisan but is often considered a neo-conservative think tank—so I'm looking across different types of the political spectrum or parts of the political spectrum—they produced a survey about politics and dating in the Trump era that came out at the beginning of 2020. And they had a ton of really, really interesting shit. So first and foremost, amongst the issues that American said would make it impossible or very or somewhat difficult to date someone who didn't share the same view, included abortion, religious freedom and LGBTQ rights as the top three.
Mackenzie Newcomb: This checks out for me a hundred percent.
Lily Herman: Yeah. So pretty much saying that if you're dating someone and you're like, how do you feel about abortion, religious freedom, or LGBTQIA rights, and y'all, don't agree. I probably—.
Mackenzie Newcomb: It won't work. If you don't know what you're going to do with that unplanned pregnancy, you know? It's not gonna work, it's not gonna work.
Lily Herman: If y'all are on different pages, vehemently opposed...Yeah, you can see where that would not line up. Second, it's also no surprise that people who have either a very favorable or unfavorable view of Donald Trump wouldn't date someone who didn't share that view. I think that makes sense. And then interestingly, another part of the survey asked respondents about their most important factors in deciding whom to date. So the top three were having similar views on whether or not to have children. Second, if a person does or does not smoke. And third, sharing the same religious beliefs. And then on top of that, interestingly, sharing political views was number four on that list. And only 60% of respondents ranked it as somewhat or very important. And that's compared to 82% of respondents who said deciding what to do about kids was very or somewhat important. And then this list had contained seven key factors, and number six out of seven on that list was people paying attention to politics as that being an important factor in who to date. So it was only important or very or somewhat important to only half of respondents.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Damn, and this came out in 2020?
Lily Herman: Yeah. This was, this is brand new, within the last year, research.
Mackenzie Newcomb: That's a little alarming. I think the smoking one is kind of interesting. Do you think that's because people don't want to date somebody with bad breath or they don't want to date someone with a higher chance of getting a disease?
Lily Herman: Probably a combination of both. And also I personally just have really sensitive smell. So I just could not live with someone who smoked cigarettes for instance, all the time, just because like my nose would just be dead. And then I think too, there's obviously lifestyle things that come around along with either whether it's smoking cigarettes or even just a ton of weed. There's just certain things that come with that, both good and bad, I suppose.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So we never will be friends to lovers.
Lily Herman: Sorry to nip that in the bud for everyone. In addition to you, you know, marrying your soulmate a couple of weeks ago and other reasons.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I'm just too much of a stoner for Lily, it can't work.
Lily Herman: So a couple other things. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see political differences as a major problem in relationships. And interestingly, this study also came out back in 2013, the same institute did the same survey, and they found that the number of Democrats who say that political differences are a major problem doubled in that seven-year period from 13% to 26%. And the number of Democrats who don't see political differences as a problem in relationships decreased from 37% to 28%. So then there was a question about, based on age, when do people find out about the political leanings of the person they are dating? So young people ages 18 to 29 are more likely to know those political leanings before they start dating a person. And they're more likely to know than people over the age of 65 when they started dating their long-term partner. However, young people also have a higher percentage of folks who still don't know their partner's political views compared to older folks over 65. So 14% of people 18 to 29 don't know their partner's political views versus only 7% of folks over 65.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I have a confession to make. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know my husband's political views. I've known them since our very first date, 'cause he's like, you know, he's very, very into politics. And to be honest, he's pretty much the only reason I have such an expansive knowledge of politics now, and I'm still nowhere compared to Lily. But I was trying to think about like the boys I've dated before him, and my ex-boyfriend from high school is a cop. And I have no idea if he would vote for Trump. Like, not a clue in my mind. I like to think the best of him and like assume that he's going to vote for Joe Biden, but I truly don't know. And that goes for pretty much every single guy I dated before Ben. So I feel pretty horribly about that, but I just want to let you ladies know that if you haven't asked in the past, there is still a time to become politically active and make it a deal breaker in your relationships. But this is all pre-2016. I met Ben in 2015.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I don't think I asked outright, but I did know the political views pretty early on of anyone I dated. I will say I think one strange upside of being a political writer is because people obviously ask what I do for a living on dates and what not, It comes out pretty quickly, and it's kind of a saving grace, 'cause then we have to have that conversation about politics very early on. And I'd rather not waste my fucking time on someone where it's just obviously not going to work. And I'm not talking about being like, are you a Democrat? I care about, okay, you say you care about women's rights, but you also want a housewife who stays home and does whatever you want them to do. Those sort of more nuanced conversations come out very quickly. And also, quite frankly, I have a real strong bullshit meter for dudes who start being condescending about the fact that I know a lot about politics, just little things like that. That would make me say, "Me thinks this is not the right person for me to pursue something romantically with."
Mackenzie Newcomb: Oh, absolutely. I mean, during the primary season of this year, I was an Elizabeth Warren supporter, my husband was a Bernie supporter, and the number of screaming arguments we'd got in over Liz and Bernie, who most people consider to be political soulmates. You wouldn't want to be our neighbors in our New York apartment. I'm like, fuck you, men have had their time! Why aren't you voting for Liz?! We still love each other.
Lily Herman: Again, I hope so seeing as you all just had a very cute wedding that you posted about on the internet.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Shoot, can't take that back.
Lily Herman: Then the last piece of political data that I wanted to point out was research from a data firm called PredictWise found that in 1965, spouses' political views were aligned about 74% of the time. And by 2016, alignment was up to 82%. On the flip side, political disagreement amongst spouses fell from 13% to 5.8% in that same half century period.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Wow. We'll have to ask Jennifer about the divorce rate in comparison. See if there's any parallels.
Lily Herman: I would love to know anecdotally what happens generally speaking with couples when there's a realization of political difference and how that manifests itself.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I hope it doesn't come up during a pregnancy test.
Discussion of Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (27:04)
Lily Herman: Let's fucking hope not. Oh God. So before we talk to Jennifer, I think we wanted to talk about Meet You in the Middle. This will be a spoiler-free discussion of Meet You in the Middle for those who are like, fuck, the book's not coming out now for what? Eight, seven, eight months? So if you're worried about not being able to follow along from having read it, you're in luck.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Request an ARC if you can, if you feel compelled. Have you read Trust Exercise after last week? I would even say this is a recommendation.
Lily Herman: There's several people who have checked out Trust Exercise from the library. And I'm so confused.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We didn't tell them to do that.
Lily Herman: I'm glad that our anti-recommendation like our un-recommendation, influenced people to do what we said not to do. More power to them.
Mackenzie Newcomb: But if they want to read something we hate, read this.
Lily Herman: Okay, Mackenzie, why don't you actually kick us off with your thoughts? 'Cause I just have been talking too much and need to drink some water and rest my vocal chords. So please take the stage.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely, It's fresh too, 'cause I just finished it. So, I finished a couple of days ago. So let me first say that there was no way in hell I would have picked up this book if not for research for this episode. I'm not interested in the topic of Democrats and Republicans fucking. It's just not, it doesn't do it for me. I don't read romance novels to expand my perspective, I read them to like get hot and horny. This does not make me hot, but I will say in the beginning of this book, I was like really loving it because realistically, it's really well-written and the banter is fantastic. Devon Daniels, the author, is a talented writer. Facts are facts. And if she wrote a book about any other topic, I think I probably would have loved it and also wanted to read more of her books. Now I'm not so sure that I would read more of her books if I'm being completely honest and I'll tell you why, and it's not just because of the topic. So I think she did an excellent job portraying the internal narrative of a staunchly Democratic woman who works in politics when she finds herself attracted to the literal enemy. And I'm not saying that Democrats and Republicans in their day-to-day lives are enemies, but on Capitol Hill, they literally are. Their entire job is to fuck up each other's progress. So if your boyfriend is like, "I'm a fiscal conservative, but I love the police, I don't know how I'm going to vote yet," like I'm not saying that you should never talk to him again and like throw all this stuff in a garbage bag. These two people are literal enemies. And that's why I kind of think it worked as a book. So my issue with enemies-to-lovers books in general, and to be very clear, that is a hundred percent of the trope that this falls into. I don't like enemies-to-lovers because I find that the giant thing that makes people hate each other is usually too flimsy. It happens because of a simple miscommunication and they never needed to be enemies, or they're so rude to each other that I don't think they should ever date. And again, their reason for hating each other is just not it, but in this instance, considering the thing that made them enemies was these big theological differences and the literal setup of their jobs, I was like, okay, this is an enemies-to-lovers story that I actually buy. I'm buying the fact that they are enemies. And I think it really contributed to their chemistry overall. The topic was just not for me. They didn't even talk like, okay, it's a romance novel. Talking about them falling in love is not a spoiler. Let's make that very clear in romance novels. People love, they fuck. That's how, I'm sorry to spoiled every romance novel for you ever. But that's how they go.
Lily Herman: The whole only requirement for the romance genre, the official romance genre, is that there has to be an emotionally satisfying ending.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes, sorry everybody. But I felt as though the politics that they were talking about, like the specific policy, it all felt very reminiscent of like a different era when maybe we could have differences, but they don't talk about contraception at any point. They don't—they're in a sexual relationship and they don't talk about reproductive rights. Like everything that they're talking about has to do with a tax bill and rewriting tax code and like the things that go into that tax code.
Lily Herman: That's part of the job. I feel like Devon Daniels—I also say too that when I say Devon Daniels is the author, I also put it on the publisher too, 'cause lots of other people read and edited and finalize the book—there's no real discourse around actual polarizing issues.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. None at all, at all. I can fuck with a tax break for corporations that want to implement childcare. I don't care. Those are the kinds of things that I wish that we could argue about on the day to day, because those are the big issues, but the big issues are much bigger than that and they don't even touch them.
Lily Herman: Yeah, I will say, and this is, I don't think it's a huge spoiler, but for instance, there's a whole thing about guns. But the only thing that really happens is they go to a gun range in the book, and Kate, the woman, just kind of goes, "Oh, gun ranges are cool." That's not a real dialogue around gun violence in this country or gun ownership, you know? So it's a lot of that that I think is really hard. And I had most of the same notes. I thought that the book had great writing, actually really great pacing and narrative structure as far as the romance genre goes. However, yeah, there was just a lot of ickiness deep in my soul as I was reading. I think when I made my Goodreads review, I said, I couldn't help but feel weird and icky the whole time. And it left me feeling conflicted about if I'd ever read something from her again. And then the other thing I also wanted to point out, going a little bit deeper into this, is Devon Daniels actually wrote a short author's note at the end of the book. So we absolutely know what her intentions were with writing this. We're not putting words in her mouth. We're not projecting and assuming what she was trying to do. She was very much trying to write a both-sides book about how people can share the same core values and maybe have different political affiliations, but at their heart they believe the same things. Yeah. And I would say my big thing that I'm still exploring, and I definitely want to hear more from Jennifer for more of that psych therapy perspective. I personally see politics as the institutional embodiment of our true core values, because in my opinion, people can pay all sorts of fucking lip service to what they believe all day. And this goes for anyone on the political spectrum. I'm not picking out any particular belief system, but how people choose to live those core values and how those actual values affect other people, particularly marginalized communities, matters more to me. And again, I'm saying that as me personally, so people will have all sorts of implicit and unconscious biases, but we already know that what they say doesn't mean shit compared to what, what they do and how they act is, I guess, my overarching takeaway.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I agree with that. I think that's true. I think that there are definitely people who just don't really subscribe to politics, but I think that that just is a vision of privilege, I guess. You can be very privileged and not care about politics and that is your choice, but it's not a good choice. It's not an ethical one at this point in history.
Lily Herman: Yeah. And then the other thing too, when I was digging through research, is I found an interesting 2017 Daily Beast article from libertarian Megan McArdle, and she made the same argument almost down to the letter to Daniels where she said she found it "pretty disturbing" that people don't want to date someone who doesn't share their political affiliation. And so I'll just read this quote, it's a tad long, but I think it is important. Here's her quote: "I've dated liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. And as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no correlation between one's political and one's potential as dating material..." She says, "it's true that I ended up with a libertarian, but it's the fabric of our shared lives, not our politics, that keeps us together. It's hard enough to find someone who is attractive, good for you, and fun to be around. Why on earth would you make it harder by refusing to consider anyone whose opinion on the relative merits of national healthcare programs differs from yours?" So, first of all, I have to I eye-roll a little bit that yeah, she dated and dated, and yet ended up with someone with similar views. I don't know her, so I don't want to make more of a judgment there, but I'm like, hmm. Interesting in terms of who your longterm partner is. But, more importantly, as I said, Devon Daniels makes almost this exact same argument verbatim, where she essentially says, you know, "Why would you let go of love just because you disagree over a random education policy?" But last I checked, and this is research-backed, the majority of Americans don't know anything about actual policy and are instead fighting about deeper ideological differences in terms of how they see the world and who they want to be able to succeed in that world. So I personally just think that there's some real willful ignorance and denial if you think that I'm not dating Republicans because of a line in the Affordable Care Act. And let's just say that you and a partner did have a disagreement over some very specific piece of legislation, I've often found that that's not truly the full story. Often that tiny argument about that specific thing is part of some larger series of issues or divergences that are not being talked about in some cases.I just put a lot out there.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah, you absolutely did.
Lily Herman: Words were said.
Mackenzie Newcomb: And I agree with you. And you know, there's a part in the story where they're talking about specific legislation and the compromise they came up with. I'm like, sure, that's a fine compromise or whatever, like you're coworkers, I don't care, but it doesn't, again, it doesn't get into like the big issues, which are the ones that we listed way ahead in the episode that we said: LGBTQIA+ issues, abortion, and religious freedom. None of those topics were touched like, hello, you can't work. If those three don't work, you can't make it work. Affordable Care Act, we can have different views as to what's gonna—I mean, I'm all for, I want universal healthcare.
Lily Herman: Same girl.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yeah. Like that's me. And if you don't want that, I might have an argument with you, but it probably wouldn't make or break whether or not I would date you. Say you're like, "I just want to expand Obamacare," I'd be like, okay whatever, I don't agree with you, but whatever, I can move on. But if you're like, "Women shouldn't be allowed to get abortions," I'm gonna move on right away. We're done.
Lily Herman: I think the thing that I'm really excited about with having Jennifer come in is I want her to really help us unpack this notion of, "I want someone who challenges me in a relationship." Because sure, I'd like someone to continue to push me in a progressive manner, but why would I want to fight with someone with different political views if studies show that they aren't necessarily going to influence my vote? And I'm just tired. Like why would I want to be a political writer who goes home and has these like even deeper and more obnoxious debates when I already do that online and for my job? I think overall, from reading both of these books, doing all this research, and then obviously in my case doing this for a living, I think what it comes down to for me and why I'm super excited for Jennifer to join us is we don't want to admit that our loved ones—romantic partners, family members, friends, coworkers, anyone—are capable of investing in harmful and hateful ideas and or that they're actively perpetuating harm to other people, especially communities that are already marginalized. And I think using all of these excuses and performing the mental gymnastics, my question then becomes, are you just trying to stay comfortable and avoid your own pain by not confronting a problematic partner, or quite frankly, breaking up with them in some cases, at the expense of others who are being harmed by their rhetoric or their actions? So that's kind of, I think where my head is at is. Where do people even go from there and where is that line?
Mackenzie Newcomb: We've talked about that a lot and how unpacking that can be really traumatic and actually taking the time to look at your loved ones' views and see how they're harmful to other people. That's something that a lot of people want to avoid, but it does have to happen, especially in this election. But we recognize that it's traumatic and it's difficult and it may take some time, but just make that happen before November.
Introduction to Jennifer Litner (40:29)
Lily Herman: Yeah, please. Oh God. So we are so excited to have Jennifer Lindner here to talk to us about all things, dating, marrying someone who has different beliefs than you. Before we dive in, just to give Jennifer's bio: She is a certified sex therapist who has over a decade of experience working, studying, and teaching in the field of sexual health with a specialization in sex therapy, sexuality education, and helping people thrive in their intimate relationships. She's also a licensed marriage and family therapist and a sexuality educator whose passion is helping couples, individuals, and families navigate sexual concerns. Her clinical interests include sexual functioning and satisfaction, desire, discrepancy, anxiety about sex and performance, loss of intimacy, pain during sex, and integration of faith and sexuality. In addition to her clinical practice, Jennifer earned a Masters of Education and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in human sexuality studies with emphasis in human sexuality education. And if all of that was not enough, she's also an adjunct professor at Adler University in the Departments of Counseling and Couple and Family Therapy, where she teaches Masters and doctoral students. So in essence, you're a much smarter person than Mackenzie and I are combined.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Mhmm. Which is why we brought you on, because you're a smart ass bitch with a lot of insight, we hope. So welcome, Jennifer.
Question About Differences and Similarities Between Core Values and Political Views (42:02)
Jennifer Litner: Y'all are so flattering. This is a lovely way to start my day.
Mackenzie Newcomb: So we're going to hop right in. We often hear couples who have very stark ideological differences talk about how they still share the same "values." Is there an actual difference between values and political views? If so, what is it? And if not, is this just a matter of couples trying to justify their relationship in the midst of obvious discord?
Jennifer Litner: It's a great question. You know, I was thinking about this, and I think that when we look at the term "values" and the term "views," there's a lot of similarities, but there is something that feels different to me. I was looking even at just some definitions, just thinking about this, both are really subjective, both imply our own judgments and our biases. "Value" is more about what someone wants for their life, whereas a view is more of a formulated opinion. In my opinion, the latter may not imply behavior. So meaning that, you know, you might have a value about how you want to live your life and that's enriching your behavior, but a view may not do so unless it's connected to that value. So we think about that kind of being a difference. It was interesting. I was looking up and thinking about what is the definition of a political view, and it was so hard to find the definition. And I was thinking about how a political view is really just that opinion connected to politics. It's painted by that feeling of bias of its holder. So, you know, I think when it comes to differences between values and political views within couples, we know that in some cases, couples will have more similar values, but different views. So maybe they share, core values around having a family together or practicing similar religious backgrounds. But they have different views about certain social issues in the world or how taxes should be navigated. So my guess is that for couples who are really disagreeing on some of those fundamentals, they would have less of a dramatic difference in terms of partisanship for some of those hard values, but the view might be different. So that's sort of my initial thought on that.
Lily Herman: Okay. That's interesting. Cause I was gonna say, I've always looked at—I am coming at this from a political writer perspective of political views, almost being like an institutional embodiment of our values, but I think what's interesting is I hadn't thought about it in terms of people thinking very, very individualistically in terms of, as you were saying, what they want for their own specific lives and not necessarily for the lives of others, much less marginalized communities and what not. So I just think that's a super, super fascinating way to look at how people mentally compartmentalize, how they look at what they claim to value versus maybe what they vote for in an election.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Some people, they don't see their vote as an act of service. They see their vote as like voting in their own best interests.
Jennifer Litner: Yeah I think that it's fairly common on either sides of the spectrum that and it depends, again, what people value. Do they value their, you know, their access to healthcare over everyone's access to healthcare, right? Or things like that. I think that sort of, there's this weaving in of collectivism versus individualism that's that's happening here too. I think some people do reconcile their differences. Like if their more significant values are similar, but politics cover a wide range of issues. It's not uncommon for people to pick and choose candidates based on how their administration plans to address their top concerns. So it's, you know, it's really possible that people have some fundamental values that are similar and that feels like enough for that relationship to be strong and are solid and that they don't have to agree on every single issue, which is more of like that viewpoint. But these values and views, I think, are really connected for a lot of people too. So it's hard because they are so similar.
Questions About Opposing Values and Views That Mixed Partisan Couples Have (46:07)
Lily Herman: So can you give examples, and I know this wasn't something we sent you in advance, but are there any examples of maybe core fundamental values that couples that are ideologically opposed on the political spectrum tend to have in common or that you've seen in your practice? You know, hey, these people both really want, I don't know, big families, so they're able to reconcile a lot because they both want 87 kids and not a lot of people want 87 kids or I don't know. Okay. You know, stuff like that is what I'm thinking of.
Jennifer Litner: Yeah. I think that what you actually mentioned is really similar. I think about values, about behaviors they want in their lives. So do people want to have kids or do they not want to have kids? That's a really big decision. Do people want to get married or do they want to not get married? Right. Like these are some things that I think are behaviors that are related to one's values. How do want their family structure to look like, how do they want to spend their leisure time together? Do they value connectedness with peers and over family or vice versa? Or you know, do they want to—for couples that are closer to retirement, how do they want to spend their retirement? Some of these things might be connected to values and how those behaviors show up. I also think about health--related behaviors; if you value health and wellness, then going to therapy might be a priority or going for run or working out multiple, several times a week might be more of a priority. So I think that connects back to whatever's sort of at the core for that person. Whereas I think the political views sometimes do inform those things, but they tend to be more specific in terms of based on the issue.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Absolutely. And I think in most relationships where there is like an interpolitical aspect to it, the person at least—okay, I'm gonna use my sister as an example. Sorry, Taylor. I always use her as an example. I'm just, sorry.
Lily Herman: She's a listener too.
Mackenzie Newcomb: She's a listener. Hey, Tay Tay! Taylor would never intentionally date a Republican. She's a Democrat. She knows where she stands, but she's also a very particular person who cares a lot about mental health and yoga and working out all the fucking time and eating ridiculously healthy and her family and her dogs and finding the perfect dog dad for her Pomeranian, Chuckie. And so for her, her current boyfriend is—Billy, he's a lovely boy—is a very apolitical. And while it drives her a little bit crazy, he ticks every single other box that is like, even though she never intended on dating somebody who is from a different political party, she found this perfect guy who just happens to maybe not pay too much attention to politics. And he definitely doesn't listen to her sister's romance podcast.
Lily Herman: I was like, damn, do we have to deal with Billy now?
Pros and Cons of Mixed Partisan Romance Relationships (49:35)
Mackenzie Newcomb: So what are some of the good parts of being in a romantic relationship with somebody who's so different? And what are some of the challenges would you say?
Jennifer Litner: Yeah, so I think there's a couple of things. One of the things is that when you're in a relationship where there's a lot of differences, and I'm going to speak more generally with differences. I'm going to talk a little bit about political differences, but again, my background's in psychotherapy and relationships, not political science. So I want to put that caveat in here. It really encourages more of a need for healthy, ongoing communication. So let's say, I know you gave that example with your sister, right? If one person really is gung-ho about practicing yoga all the time and wants their partner to, and that partner doesn't and lives a very sedentary lifestyle, that could be a difference that they would have to reconcile. And they'd have to communicate about that probably on a regular basis because it's likely very important to one person or the other. So that's something that shows up and can show up with political differences as well, or ideological differences. So I think that that there's a potential for more frequent communication and really getting good at managing some of their differences and practicing acceptance there. One of the pitfalls is that, you know, it could lead to a lot of avoidance, which is a common coping scale, could lead to a lot of discord if couples don't know how to communicate around these things, and there's a lot of emotional distance or sort of like a pursue-withdraw dynamic, which we can talk a bit more about. Those are some of the things that can be, I think, challenging just off the bat with partners who are quite different.
Lily Herman: All right, everyone. So that was part one of our discussion with Jennifer Litner, an incredible sex educator and marriage and couples therapist. If you want to hear part two, where we talk about many things, you can listen to that on Wednesday of this week, so in two days from when this episode was published. Mack, should the people keep listening? I think the answer is yes.
Mackenzie Newcomb: I think the answer is yes, because our guest Jennifer is absolutely amazing and she has such great insight. And she actually has me kind of rethinking my perspective that was obviously just shared. And I think that maybe she'll open up some minds.
Lily Herman: So on Wednesday we will see you there to continue talking to Jennifer. We're also going to give you our thoughts after talking to Jennifer, because I feel like there's much to be said, and we also have some politically minded romance recommendations that came from y'all as well as a little bit about what we're reading currently. It's a good time, 'cause the book recs will keep coming, even when we don't only discuss books.
Mackenzie Newcomb: Yes. Please make sure to give us a five-star rating and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. For full transcriptions and show notes had to badbitchbookclub.com/podcast. Also Bad Bitch Book Club has unveiled tons of fall merch over the past two weeks, so be sure to check that out too. You can follow the podcast at @F2—like the number two—L podcast on Instagram and Twitter and me at @mackinstyle on all platforms. You can also follow our guest, Jennifer, at @embracesexualwellness on Instagram; that is fully spelled out. And we'll put that in the show notes as well.
Lily Herman: All of her things will be in the show notes, and as always, my Instagram is @lilykherman, "K" as in kangaroo. And I'm on Twitter at @lkherman.
Mackenzie Newcomb: We can't wait to see you on Wednesday. You're so welcome for two hours.
Lily Herman: All right, take care, y'all.