Is it possible for two people with opposing views to have a meaningful relationship? A recent program shown by BBC Derbyshire featured a blind date between two people on opposite sides of the Brexit debate. While this clearly trivialises the political crisis facing the UK, it does bring this issue to light.
There does not appear to be an easy answer. Phrases such as ‘opposites attract’ certainly seems to have some credibility. From the mundane to the significant, providing a defence for an opinion can sharpen our convictions, but is there a point at which you simply cannot have a relationship with someone due to disagreement? If so, where is that point?
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote that ‘Do you love me?’ means ‘Do you see the same truth?’ – or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’ It is the pursuit of the same truth that unites us in relationships, he argues. However, it is crucial to distinguish between truths that we can compromise on, and truths that are so fundamental to us that we cannot be intimate with someone who disagrees. Do political issues like Brexit fall into this latter category?
Typically, two distinctions can be made about truth statements. They are either subjective or objective. The ‘truth’ quality of a subjective statement is bound with the maker of the statement; if I say that chocolate ice cream is the best type of ice cream, although you may disagree with me about it, you can say, ‘well that’s true for you, but not for me.’
Considering that we live not only in a postmodern world, but in a post truth world, this response is being applied more and more readily. It has become the gentlest way to ‘disagree’ with someone, especially when it comes to deeply-held beliefs about philosophy, religion, and politics. Conflict can (seemingly) be totally avoided if we just acknowledge that truths which cannot be scientifically or mathematically proven are all subjective.
However, does this really satisfy our convictions? Can we say that opinions over Brexit are ice-cream truths? It seems the answer is no. How should we respond in the face of opposition? This is where Lewis is helpful. Ask the question ‘Do you care about the same truth?’. It is likely that you will form incredibly meaningful relationships with those who answer that question as you do.
What if their answer to the truth question is radically different to yours? It is so interesting, if appropriate, to engage in dialogue about why we think or feel so differently, and to avoid the utterly dismissive that’s-just-true-for-you reply. This of course is reliant on both parties involved being prepared to talk patiently and respectfully to each other, to listen to what the other is actually saying, and to be open to rethinking their own ideas.
Is this a sustainable model for relationships? It certainly appears clear that this works for friendships. But can this model be applied to a romantic involvement? In the BBC’s blind-dating Brexit series, it has often been the case that once the couples start talking, they find that they share a lot of concerns, but differ on the best means to meet those concerns. They have been implicitly asking the truth question all along. It is up to each individual to decide: what are my ice-cream truths, and what are my fundamentals? What truths might change for me, and what will remain my convictions? And central to it all, ‘Do you seek the same truth?’
Image: quicksandala via Pixabay