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In 24 years together, they avoided fights about politics. Then Donald Trump became president

PALM HARBOR

For years, Steve and Chazzy Foy avoided talk of politics. It wasn't that important to them. And they had a vague awareness that, in their 24 years together, they had grown apart politically.

Little reminders came, like the time Steve's voter registration card arrived and Chazzy realized he'd registered Republican. But he had a rule: He never discussed his vote.

They lived in harmony in their three-bedroom home off Lake Tarpon, cheering on the same sports teams, seeing their shared favorite bands play, doting on their grandkids.

Steve, 59, traveled the world half of the year for his job as an information technology consultant and made enough money so Chazzy, 60, did not have to work. She stayed home in Palm Harbor. And it was perhaps this distance that helped the couple get through the most heated presidential election in modern American history without a fight.

But they were both home the weekend after President Donald Trump was inaugurated — and women across the world gathered in protest.

"I still don't get why you marched," Steve told Chazzy after she returned from St. Petersburg. "You have everything you need."

Somewhere between their black granite kitchen and mahogany wood bar, Chazzy screamed at the top of her lungs that her husband was "a privileged white boy."

• • •

Only 31 percent of relationship arguments are solvable. The rest — 69 percent — are perpetual, meaning they relate to a personality or value trait that can't easily be changed, according to research by John Gottman, a psychologist, marital stability expert and professor emeritus from the University of Washington.

These arguments provide a window into our cores and even a reckoning about whether we can accept our differences.

Therapists in the field say that they're hearing more and more from people caught in these perpetual loops about politics.

It's one thing to block your co-worker on Facebook or avoid conversation with your distant cousin on Thanksgiving. But what do you do when the person you disagree with is the most important person in your life?

"A hot-button issue like the election brings things up that most couples have put aside," St. Petersburg therapist Monica Burton said. "Not just the election, but about beliefs and values they are not willing to compromise on."

Steve grew up in southern New Jersey, the son of a union sheet metal worker and a stay-at-home mom. He believes in fairness, the value of hard work, no handouts. He thinks immigrants should be more strongly vetted. He feels like the country has turned its back on white men like him.

Chazzy lived a nomadic life as a child, at one point traveling with her family around the world on a 68-foot sailboat. Her independent spirit once led her to vote for Ralph Nader. She has a heart for the underdog and said she believes the government can help balance inequalities for people who don't have the same chances of success, like women and minorities.

Trump's election ignited an outrage in her she'd never felt about politics. She was repulsed by his initiatives to stop certain immigrants from entering the U.S., to build a border wall, to allow both the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access oil pipelines. She thought his Cabinet picks were ludicrous, like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

She wished she could bring up these topics with her husband, but his tendency was to avoid conflict. So she stewed about it on her own, wondering how she could be married to someone who felt so differently from her, but not knowing enough about how he felt and why.

• • •

Chazzy and Steve agreed to talk to a reporter about their conflict, hashing it out on the back porch of their home on a recent Saturday afternoon.

He wore Wrangler jeans, a diamond earring and a tattoo of his favorite band, Yes, on his biceps. Her long, silver hair shimmered in the sun. They sat across from each other, open, ready. Before long, they were going at it.

"I think the people on the left are going to make us more divisive," he said, "and they have to stop doing that. There's got to be a way for reunification to happen."

"The people on the left?" Chazzy shot back. "I think the people on the right are going to make us more divisive. That's what I think." She paused, looked down. "See right there, I think we're going to have to back away from this conversation."

They fell silent.

Steve was asked how he felt about Trump's actions in office.

"He's done some pretty reckless things," he said. "I like some of the things he had to say, but now that he's in office, I think he's recklessly making decisions without sufficiently researching what the consequences might be. Like how do you insult Canada and Australia in a week? The two most polite countries on the planet, and you insult them. So that's sloppy."

It made Chazzy feel good to hear Steve acknowledge some concern.

"Did you know he was 'cray-cray' before you voted for him?" she said.

Steve answered the question without a beat. "No, he's been a successful businessman, billionaire, so he had to do a lot of things right."

He paused. "Right?"

"He also had to do a lot of dirty business deals, I guess," Steve continued, "to be as successful, but I certainly couldn't trust Hillary."

"I don't understand why."

"She's a liar," he said.

They went back and forth.

"I don't know that you understand me because I don't get a chance to tell you how I feel," she said, "so it makes me feel a little blown off."

Chazzy grew bolder.

"When you were talking about reverse discrimination and I'm thinking 'how can this privileged white guy tell me about discrimination and he's never been black or he's never been discriminated against?' So I was kind of shocked when you said those things."

"Not my fault I was born white," he replied. "Not my fault I was born male. For the last 30 years, television has bashed middle-class white men. The stupid father who can't figure out how to run the washer or how to raise his child. That's the stereotypical white male. Dumb."

Chazzy attempted to resolve their argument the only way she knew she could.

"I'm going to do less tiptoeing and just gentle prying," Chazzy said, "because you're a smart man and I want to know what you think. Even if some of it does upset me or I don't agree with it, I always get a kernel of wisdom out of it somehow."

He listened attentively to the woman he thinks of as "magical," because of the way she surprises him with thoughtful gestures. She had made their bedroom look like the Marriott rooms he always stays in when he works, complete with white coverlet and burgundy accents, so he'd feel at home. He wanted to grow old with her, in peace, and was sure they'd find a way.

But first, he couldn't resist.

"I still don't know why they marched," he said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at lapeter@tampabay.com or 727-893-8640.

In 24 years together, they avoided fights about politics. Then Donald Trump became president 02/10/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017 9:32pm]
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