Sleeping with the enemy

Can enemies make good lovers?
Can enemies make good lovers?

You’re a wimpy left-wing big-gummint moocher who believes my hard-earned profit should pay for your slacker brother’s buck-passing lifestyle, and I can’t get enough of you, you gorgeous piece of potential life-partner – let’s put aside the politics, meet in the middle, and agree to disagree forever!

There was no use pretending the pair didn’t have chemistry. They met through a mutual friend. She was the daughter of a conservative landowner; he was the son of a union official. But when they first locked eyes across the dinner table, they only saw sparks. It took until their first date for their true colours to shine through.

Could they overcome it?

Every time a major election event rolls around, my thought turn the encounter I had with this couple some years after they’d tied the knot. At another dinner table, through a different mutual friend, they told me how they almost gave up on the best thing in their lives for the love of another – their political parties.

I was astounded, awed and utterly impressed. Shared values, common beliefs – these are the things that help people get along. It’s no secret people from like backgrounds find it easier to begin relationships.

But you know what Malcolm Fraser, et al, say about life. It wasn’t meant to be easy.

So could finding love in the enemy camp actually lead to victory? Could your one, true love really spring from your only hate? Or will it end in tragedy.

My couple case study said they survived because they did agree about a lot of things. Though she was for small government and he was for big, neither of them thought marriage was just for straight people, or that the environment should be mercilessly exploited. Neither of them felt religion should play a role in the state, and they each craved a state that was more innovative and accountable to the people.

And while their differences of opinion on how education and healthcare should be provided made for stunning ideological melees, because the gripes were academic, they more often paved the way to excellent conjugal sex than deep-seated marital discord.

“I love that he challenges my opinions,” she told me, over email, when I asked to write this piece. “And he’s so unbelievably bleeding-heart – it’s downright adorable sometimes.

“She is forever making me think about things differently,” he said. “She’s all business and individuals and though I’m for the collective, I can see her point about a lot of things. That doesn’t mean she’s right – but who is, really?”

Yet that’s the point I feel some people could never pass – that point when you realise there’s no such thing as perfect and being ‘right’ is relative. Couples who can find enough common ground to accept and embrace difference – whatever that difference may be – will make it. Those who can’t quite grasp the idea that diversity and debate is healthy might not.

In any event, stimulating the body's largest love organ – the brain – is a big part of relationship success. I’ve certainly been more than intellectually aroused during heated discussions about ideas contrary to mine. Love and war are ancient bedfellows.

But is peace really that boring?

Have you ever been with someone from ‘the other side’? Someone who supported a political party, or sporting team, or religious believe that was different to yours? How did it work? Or did it fall apart – do you believe you’re better off sticking within your own tribe?

This story Sleeping with the enemy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.