Love, Advice

My partner didn’t care about politics or social justice – until I did these 5 things

When I heard the love of my life say "I'm just not that into politics," I took it personally.

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I’m just not that into politics. 

I had heard it so many times before, and it always made me roll my eyes. “I’m just not that into politics” often means “I have so much privilege that politics don’t affect my day-to-day life, so I don’t care.” Even more usually, it means “I have no clue how much politics affect everything about my existence.”

Photo by Audrey Jackson on UnsplashUnfortunately, this kind of thinking is extremely common, particularly in the US. Most people who do realize that politics are important still only care how it affects their jobs, taxes, and healthcare. Even then, they often don’t care enough. As someone well-versed in political and social issues, I often end up looking like a deranged conspiracy theorist. Still, I’ve had plenty of close friends and family who couldn’t care less. Just because I’m a political junkie, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be.

I come from a long line of political thinkers and activists on my father’s side. My great-grandfather was Joint Secretary, Lucknow District of the All-India Muslim League—he helped create Pakistan.

So when I heard the love of my life say “I’m just not that into politics,” I took it personally.

I had a couple people try to tell me it’s alright, that you can’t expect your partner to share all your interests. But this isn’t about a common interest. As a Pakistani Muslim woman, my very existence is political and I’m aware of it. My political and social beliefs have helped shape my identity, so when my partner dismissed them, I felt like he was dismissing who I was.

When my partner dismissed my beliefs, I felt like he was dismissing who I was. Click To Tweet

All the things I always loved about my partner—his compassion, his integrity, his sense of justice—were the very reasons why I didn’t understand how he could be so apathetic. I knew that if I could just show him why it’s important, he’d be right there with me in wanting to take apart classism and white supremacy. So I did. And so can you.

In the Age of Trump, here’s how you can get your beloved to wake up and smell the revolution.

1. Bring up issues relevant to their life and their interests.

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When my fiancé complained about student loans, I sympathized, but I also talked about student debt policies and free education. When we saw some of our loved ones struggle financially due to exorbitant medical bills, I casually brought up the Affordable Care Act and universal healthcare. I made sure he knew that his dealings with school, work, taxes, healthcare, and more are completely at the mercy of policymakers and lobbyists. I wasn’t forceful about it, though. I just let it come up organically.

This also applies to social justice issues. When my fiancé once got pulled over by a cop for no reason and was made to go through his laundry basket to prove he didn’t have a bomb, he was indignant as hell. After he cooled down a bit, I took the chance to remind him—while still validating his frustrations— that this sort of treatment is par for the course for Black Americans. Matters of politics and social justice come up constantly in our everyday lives.

You just need to point them out as they do.

2. Use humor! Introduce them to political comedy.

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Humor has a way of getting through to people in a way that news reports or statistics just can’t. That’s why The Daily Show has gained such a big following over the past two decades, giving rise to a whole genre of political comedy talk shows by TDS alums, such as Last Week Tonight with John OliverFull Frontal with Samantha BeeThe Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and The Colbert Report. Through humor, you can make a point with style and sheer cheek.

Use humor! Introduce them to political comedy... Just not Bill Maher. Fuck that guy. Click To Tweet

My fiancé loves hearing Trevor Noah’s take on current events, and it’s a great way of getting him involved without boring him to death. There are also plenty of comics whose standup routines address political and social issues, such as Lewis Black, D.L. Hughley, Hari Kondabolu, and Janeane Garafalo, for you to introduce to your other half.

Just not Bill Maher. Fuck that guy.

3. Watch films and TV shows about politics with them.

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I am forever indebted to Kevin Spacey for getting my partner so interested in matters of state. After watching House of Cards, my fiancé was convinced he’d be a fantastic Majority Whip and finally understood my contempt for lobbying. If you don’t have a Netflix subscription, you can also sit your sweetheart down for a marathon of The West WingVeep, or The Good Wife. Movies do a great job of covering social and political issues too—particularly those based on true stories, such as MilkGame ChangeSelma, and Charlie Wilson’s War.

Don’t discount documentaries either. When I got the feeling that my fiancé thought I was being hyperbolic about the legality of slavery in prisons, I sat him down for Ava DuVernay’s 13th. Documentaries are a great way to get an in-depth look at a political, cultural, or social topic, especially when you don’t have any previous knowledge.

4. Get them engaged in debates with other people.

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Bring up politics around friends and family that are interested too. It’s the immersion technique of learning. Just like watching telenovelas helps you improve your Spanish game, debating issues with other people is a great way of learning how to talk politics.

My fiancé has an irritating habit of playing devil’s advocate, so I thought I wasn’t getting through to him until I heard him taking the same position as me when debating someone else!

5. Hook them up with some great news apps.

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Most people these days get their news from Facebook and Twitter. Despite my best efforts, however, my fiancé’s intense sociability stops at, well, social media. His career isn’t exactly conducive to sitting down to read the newspaper or watch the evening broadcast either. As a journalist, however, I couldn’t in good conscience let him go on without a clue of what’s going on in the world.

With his permission, I customized the News app on his phone. Now he has stories on subjects of interest to him from sources he trusts all in one place. He also has breaking news alerts set up so that he can stay informed without having to check throughout the day.

With the world’s affairs at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to take a few minutes to scroll through your news feed while taking the train or sitting on your porcelain throne.

As a journalist, I couldn't let him go on without a clue of what's going on in the world. Click To Tweet

My goal was honestly just to get my partner to give a damn. I wasn’t expecting us to become a social justice power couple, and we still aren’t. But through patience and encouragement, I now have a partner who is totally down for the whole let’s-smash-the-patriarchy-and-take-down-capitalism-with-a-megaphone-in-Union-Square lifestyle I’ve been gearing towards.

But the biggest factor that helped was my partner’s willingness to explore something that mattered to me. Relationships aren’t about finding someone with all the same hobbies and interests as you— imagine how boring that would be. If you didn’t have differences to bring to the table, you wouldn’t be able to enrich each other’s lives with new ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.

I’m grateful that my fiancé saw how important these issues are to me and that he made the effort to understand why. While your significant other may not ever join you at a protest or pay as much attention to White House press briefings, they shouldn’t be dismissing something that’s close to your heart.

However, if you try all of these things and still find they’re not as interested as you’d like them to be, it’s okay for that to be a deal-breaker. The political is now personal, and it’s nice to have someone right by your side as you take on the chaos around you.

Syjil Ashraf

Syjil Ashraf

Syjil Ashraf is a writer and never sure how else to describe herself. In addition to a degree in Journalism & Media Studies and Human Resource Management from Rutgers University, Syjil has an unfinished novel, an addiction to Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and a Norwegian Forest Cat named Professor McGonagall. With a train wreck of thoughts and a mouth that won’t stop running, Syjil’s articles, blog posts, poems, and fiction tend to address politics, social issues, Islam, desi culture, and things people don’t want to hear.

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