Why dating during an election will teach you a lot about yourself — and the person you're seeing

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After a handful of heartbreaks in the aughts, I took a break from dating. When I started to date again, there was a lot to be afraid of (hello, vulnerability) — but I had no idea that actively dating during an election year (especially this insane election year) would change me or the way I date.

When you go on a first date mid-election cycle, you never open with, “What do you do for a living?” “Where did you grow up?” “What type of music do you listen to?”

Like the rest of all social interactions for the past year, small talk consists of politics.

Candidates Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Hold Third Presidential Debate At The University Of Nevada
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sometimes we avoided the conversation.

At first, I found myself attracted to guys who did not to want to discuss it. When the election inevitably came up, they said, “Oh, man! It’s so crazy. I don’t even want to get into it.” This was great! I didn’t want to get into it either, not when I had just done that on Sunday over spaghetti with my family (we disagree about politics).

I soon learned that “It’s so crazy” was a really breakable code. Some guys were just not informed. They’d use that line to get out of talking about it at all, even if they were the ones to bring up politics in the first place. It turns out this election is a great conversation starter, except these guys wanted to skip the actual conversation. As nice as it was to take a break from talking about it, I learned that I want to be with a guy who at least cares enough about the country to be informed.

The same line about “the craziness of it all” was also used by guys to gauge where I stood. They wanted to be liked. They thought this was a quick way to my heart. They could not handle the idea of conflict. It turns out it’s no fun for someone to agree with you if they are only doing it so you’ll like them.

Perhaps, most importantly, I realized I never want to be the girl who simply nods in agreement, preferring to keep quiet because it seems easier.

US-VOTE-POLITICS-CLINTON
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

They lied to me.

Towards the end of spring, I started seeing one guy regularly. We shared a sense of humor and could volley a nice banter back and forth. We talked about the election a little, but around summer, I straight up asked him who he planned to cast his ballot for.

As weird and confusing as dating can be, Christian dating is even weirder with its own set of rules. While my social circle is filled with people who believe all types of things, my faith is important to me, so I’m looking to end up with a Christian dude. I’m about it in a lot of ways, but you know what comes along with Christian dating? Christians. And we all know that some Christians can be married to certain issues. That’s fine. But as Trump’s hateful rhetoric intensified, it became clear to me that this election is different.

Asking this guy who he was voting for was a natural part of the conversation. He teased me and would not give me a straight answer. It was all a part of the flirtation (I think), and he got some satisfaction from riling me up and saying things he knew I would find mildly offensive. As the conversation went on, he grew more and more amused. Since I was never that sure about my feelings for him, I decided to let him off the hook. I told him, “If you’re voting for Trump, just lie to me.”

Donald Trump Campaigns In Jacksonville, Florida
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

His inability to respond to my question with a straight answer (which could have been just saying he would prefer not to answer), actually spoke to a much bigger problem. I never knew where we stood on anything, let alone politics. I broke it off with him by finally just asking him straight-up about the state of our union. When he gave another vague answer, I had complete clarity. I said goodbye.

I’d like to think that he was joking about some of the offensive things he said. Maybe I’m lying to myself. We’re broken up anyway,  so I don’t know if he is #withHer — but he’s not #withMe.

We have to talk about the Second Amendment and deeper issues.

Recently, I started dating someone new. Culturally, we are very different. I’m a city girl from an Italian family. He’s a country boy who loves to hunt. We’re both real into Jesus, and there’s a lot about him that I dig.

Did I expect to talk about the Second Amendment on the second date? Or get pictures of what this guy hunted with the gun he loves so much? No, I did not. But in the midst of this election, I have heard and seen actual husbands and wives look at one another in shock after one of them opines at a dinner party. Is it better to have all this out on the table now?

House Dem Sit-In
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

We definitely don’t always agree. But I like knowing where we stand — and the level of civility in our discourse is highly refreshing. Whatever happens with this country boy, I have learned more about what I want and what I value. I would rather know his political beliefs than be surprised later. If I really want someone for better and for worse, this is par for the course, right?

As for those spirited family debates over pasta? Those have changed for me too. The stakes are higher when articulating my position to a cute guy than with my family — we’ll continue to eat pasta together no matter who is elected.

People say that the way these campaigns were run has changed the world of politics as we know it. I can say it has changed dating as I know it – and me as I know myself.

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