Couples Who Disagree on Abortion Access May Be a Dealbreaker
My Partner and I Disagree About Abortion Access. Is That a Dealbreaker?
With the Supreme Court's recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion access has become a major talking point for people all over the United States. Because of it, some couples are realizing they don't share the same views regarding whether or not abortion should be legal.
While it's normal to disagree with your partner about things like pizza toppings and whether or not "The Office" is the best show of all time, when it comes to differences in fundamental core values and beliefs — like LGBTQ+ rights, abortion access, religion, or anything you may hold in high regard — a difference of opinion can make the relationship extremely hard to navigate.
Fortunately, regardless of whether you are pro- or anti-choice, if your partner has a vastly different opinion than you on the matter, it doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is doomed. But it does mean that you should have a conversation.
Whether you discovered that your partner is vehemently against abortion access, vehemently for abortion access, or somewhere in between, we spoke with two couples therapists on how to navigate this issue and discuss what may be a relationship dealbreaker.
While their advice is helpful and can be applied to your relationship in whatever context necessary, know that working through these differences may require some additional support via personalized couples therapy or counseling. (You can find more information about how couples therapy can help here.)
As a starting point, though, here's their advice on how to navigate these differences and have respectful conversations and when it's likely time to call it quits — because, yes, while your relationship isn't necessarily doomed, in some cases, not agreeing on this issue may warrant a breakup.
How to Have a Respectful and Productive Conversation About Abortion Access With Your Partner
While research shows shared core values are crucial to a successful relationship, it's not impossible to work through differences with your partner. In fact, marriage and family therapist Saba Harouni Lurie says that though it may be challenging to learn this new information about your partner, "if you approach this situation with openness, respect, and curiosity, you may find a way to navigate the situation."
That said, Lurie suggests that before engaging in conversation, you should be honest with yourself about what your boundaries are and what beliefs you can or cannot accept in a romantic relationship. Would you be OK with your partner supporting a politician who is actively anti-choice? Would you be OK with your partner not attending protests with you? Would you be OK with your partner signing up to become an abortion-advocacy caregiver? These are all things to think about and consider prior to your conversation. Once you've thought about it or written your boundaries down to reinforce them (and, really, to hold yourself accountable), you should go into the conversation "striving to understand each other's perspectives," says Julie Landry, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist and founder of the Halcyon Therapy Group.
In other words, don't think ignoring the problem is the solution. While some people might believe it's better to just avoid conversation around abortion access since it's considered a touchy subject, Dr. Landry says "having thoughtful conversations and discussing your feelings" can build intimacy and bring a better sense of understanding to the relationship.
In order to do this, start by making sure you and your partner are properly educated on the subject. Send them fact-checked information, studies, and articles you'd like to share with them before the conversation so that when you sit down to talk, you both have the same facts about abortion. If you're worried that your partner is basing their opinion on false or inaccurate information, that's important to discuss as well.
Make sure you're not coming into the conversation with hopes of changing their opinion. The end goal is to listen and acknowledge each other's viewpoints, which is "more important than changing your partner's opinion or winning a disagreement," says Dr. Landry.
Because these conversations will heavily depend on each of your opinions surrounding abortion access, we can't tell you what exactly needs to be discussed. It really comes down to what the root of your disagreement is. You may find it beneficial to discuss the moral and political consequences of losing or having abortion access, how this decision will specifically impact your sex life with your partner (i.e. if you will now consider birth-control options), and how involved you'd like to be with the anti- or pro-choice movements via protesting, donating, social media engagement, etc.
When communicating these issues, focus on "I" statements. This will help you avoid making assumptions about what your partner is thinking, says Dr. Landry. And, of course, make a conscious effort to take turns sharing your thoughts. Practice healthy communication skills by not interrupting your partner or silencing them when you disagree.
But most importantly, be wary of your partner gaslighting, name-calling, or dismissing your concerns altogether, as "those are signs that the conversation is not productive and that there is an inherent lack of respect," says Lurie. (It should go without saying, but you should also refrain from gaslighting, name-calling, and/or dismissing your partner's concerns.)
Know that you and your partner will likely not resolve the issue or come to understand each other in one conversation. But after many conversations and several back and forths, if it still remains an issue, the difference of opinion may be too large to overcome.
At What Point Does It Become a Dealbreaker?
This will vary depending on your specific relationship, but a lot of it comes down to the boundaries you set prior to having a conversation with your partner. For example, if you decided it would be a dealbreaker if your partner continued to vote for elected officials who back anti-choice legislature and your partner continues to support these candidates, it may be time to consider a breakup.
Dr. Landry also adds that it may be time to break up if you "consider an equitable balance of power essential for a healthy relationship, and view the loss of reproductive rights as a loss of equality," all while your partner does not. In another example, Lurie says, "it would be very challenging to maintain a relationship with someone who thinks their partner's self-determination rights should be limited in any way."
That said, it doesn't have to be so definitively black and white. For the couples who appreciate the nuances in their partner's opinion, "they may be better positioned to try and maintain the relationship," says Lurie.
Ultimately, "if you're unable to come to an agreement that aligns with each of your values," it could signal that it's time to call it quits, Dr. Landry says. "Remaining in the relationship can build resentment, and despite a painful breakup, a partnership with someone who shares the same values will likely be more successful."
If you would like more personalized information on whether or not you should consider breaking up with your partner, consider speaking with a licensed professional who can help you with your individualized needs.
What Do I Do If My Partner Doesn't Necessarily Disagree With Me but They Also Don't Care as Much as I Do?
You should consider having a conversation with your partner about what the overturning of Roe v. Wade means to you — and why it matters so much to you. "Communication is important to ensure you're both creating a safe and supportive environment for each of you," Dr. Landry says.
It's also possible that your partner may not feel directly impacted by the ruling. "If your partner doesn't seem interested in or doesn't care about abortion access, and it's related to their privilege, you may try to engage them in a conversation where they can really hear your perspective. If they aren't open to better understanding your views, or they aren't interested in setting aside their privilege to approach you with respect and compassion, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship."
Bottom line: it's up to you to decide what type of relationship you want and what will make you happy. If you will hold resentment and distaste for your partner for not agreeing with you or not being as actively involved as you in the ruling, it may be time to consider a new partner.