We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.


The politics of love


Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about work scholars are doing with the data compiled by sites like Match.com and OkCupid. They are looking at what can be learned about modern dating habits, who/what people look for when they look for love, and what people lie about on their dating profiles. It turns out very little has changed over the years. Women still tend to lie about their weight (by about 8.5 pounds) and men still tend to lie about their height (by about ½ an inch. Though if they concentrated their study to the LA area, I’m guessing the height lie would be more like 2 inches). Both genders’ lies are reactions to the perceived preferences of the opposite sex; women lie about their weight because they think men want thinner women. Men lie about their height because they think women want taller men… both perceptions are totally statistically accurate. The ‘deception’ is so prevalent that most people assume a woman is heavier than she admits and that a man is shorter than he reports. Of course, the problem with these profile inaccuracies is that eventually you have to meet in person and one’s weight/heigh will be immediately clear.

In addition to the height/weight preference, some other age-old patterns seem to be in full effect. Men tend to value looks and youth (often conflating the two) and women tend to value a man’s financial success.

So though I wasn’t surprised about how and why people fudged their stats, there was one finding in the article that did really surprise me;  online daters overwhelmingly avoided sharing their political beliefs in their profiles. In fact, as Stephanie Rosenbloom points out in the article, online daters were more willing to admit to being overweight than to their politics. Presumably this was because they didn’t want to alienate potential mates with conflicting or differing political beliefs. Interestingly, people don’t have the same reservation about admitting their religious beliefs. I suppose that’s because people feel it important to share the same religious beliefs with their romantic partner. Aren’t political beliefs a fairly important aspect to one’s personality as well?

Opposites may attract, but study after study has shown that couples who have similar values last. Of course, values and political beliefs are not synonymous – one can share values – such as prioritizing family or how one manages finances – while belonging to different political parties. Once upon a time, the example of how a couple could have a long, successful marriage from either ends of the political spectrum would have been Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. We all saw how well that turned out.

Which is not to say that one can’t love and respect people with differing political beliefs. My entire family is populated with die-hard republicans and though I’m about as liberal as they come, I love them dearly. I also know many couples who share a bed but not their politics. I do feel, however, that often liberals and conservatives view the world very differently. For myself, it is very important that my partner and I feel similarly about issues that are very important to me. Most of the raised-voiced discussions me and my guy have had over the years have been over differing opinions in religion or politics, which is more than a little ironic considering we’re both non-religious liberals and the differences in our opinions are usually quite minor. Perhaps our example is more an illustration of the downsides of two stubborn and overly-opinionated people being together than about the downside to two people having differing opinions. It is possible that I’m more concerned with having similar political beliefs with my romantic partner because I’m so politically opinionated. If I were more apolitical, I might feel differently.

Since we just finished what feels like the 30th Republican primary debate (with many more to go), and the presidential race is on the horizon, politics will again be thrust into our faces (and relationships) whether we like it or not. And so I ask you…

A Zeros Before the One Poll

When it comes to happiness and compatibility between two people over the long haul, how important are shared political beliefs?

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2 Responses to “The politics of love”

  1. November 14, 2011 at 11:08 am

    As a (moderate) Republican married to a (moderate) Democrat, I like to think of our political differences as a small way of maintaining our individuality in our “team game” of life. Voting is one of the few things we actually get to do as a person and not as a unit nowadays.

    That said, I don’t think we’ve had more than ten minutes of political debate in the last year. I think the key is not being “evangelical” about your politics — I respect my wife’s views and I’m not out to “change her” or “save her” or whatever else people say when you want someone to see your point of view. She can have her views and I’ll have mine.

    (A small caveat — while I voted for McCain and she voted for Obama, we both do agree on almost all social issues, including legalizing gay marriage etc. This does help maintain a “team” aspect as I feel social issues reflect a broader world view than how you would deal with the debt crisis.)

    • Megan Gray November 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. I totally agree that there are certain aspects of the political sphere (mainly social issues) where a shared opinion with my guy matters much more to me than others. If he feels differently about district rezoning, I can’t see myself getting too worked up. However, if he showed up wearing a ‘Team Waterboarding’ t-shirt…

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