You Are The Company You Keep | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

You Are The Company You Keep

Comment Writer Madeline McInnis discusses the politics of romantic relationships in light of the recent controversy concerning UKIP's Henry Bolton.

Last week, UKIP leader Henry Bolton came under fire for the comments his then-girlfriend, Jo Marney, made about Meghan Markle and her race. Despite not being directly involved with the slurs on Markle’s race and allegedly breaking up with Marney soon after the backlash began, some are calling this the last straw for Bolton and his political career.

This, of course, raises the question of if romantic partners are responsible for the actions and statements of each other. We’ve come well past a time where it’s acceptable for one partner to be subservient to the other. Everyone should be making their own decisions, and none of us should be responsible for the acts of others.

Responsible for bad actions? Of course not. Responsible for your own reputation? Always. You are responsible for the group you hang around with and their actions reflect on your reputation.

Think of the backlash to your partner’s actions like the policies of a political party. When you identify with the group, be it anything from Conservative to Communist, you assign yourself to their ideals — even the nutty ones. Even if you do not personally agree with everything they say or do, your reputation is connected to theirs as soon as you go public with your support for them.

As soon as you start advertising your relationship, be it your Facebook relationship status or showing up in the tabloids, your reputation is interwoven with that other person's
As soon as you start advertising your relationship, be it your Facebook relationship status or showing up in the tabloids, your reputation is interwoven with that other person’s. That should be something to be proud of, rather than afraid of. If you’ve picked a good apple, there’s no fear of finding a worm.

It is naive to think that couples have not had deep conversations. It is hard to believe that you never saw that side of your partner — if you really had not, it shows that the relationship was built on superficial things, and in a position of power like Bolton currently has, there is not really anything to brag about if that is the case, either.

On the flip side, you could have a completely clean slate and still have a bad reputation because of the crowd you run with. A lot of us students are not thinking about those broader implications right now. A lot of us are just here for a good time, making some friends and getting out. When it comes to a job interview, they’re going to be way more impressed if you were recommended by the head of your department than the fact that your buddy holds the Brum record for longest keg stand.

Romantic partnerships are like that, just on a far more intimate level. What your romantic partner does reflects directly on you because this is the person you have chosen to spend so much time with. It is impossible to separate yourself from your ‘other half’ in terms of ideas and wavelengths. Relationships should be built on similar ideas, a mental connection, and a worldview that manifests in both of you.

Something drew you to them, you must have had close conversations, and there’s no way for you not to know what they are like behind closed doors. Relationships are people who are closer to each other than they are to the rest of the world, so the connotations are that you must have had conversations — similar to the ones that got Marney in hot water — together before they went public.

If my partner were to get in trouble with the law, for example, I would be mortified. As much as I didn’t commit those actions myself, I love someone who did. I never have to agree with everything he says or does, but I also understand that my moral compass has to align with his not only for our relationship to work, but also for me to be proud of what we have.

Pick your partners with your future in mind

Pick your partners with your future in mind. If anything ever goes public, you should never have to shrink behind closed doors and lies about your knowledge of their views and actions. You are never responsible for what your partner does, but if you want people to respect you in a relationship, you better have someone who is just as respectable holding onto your hand.



6th February 2018 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

5th February 2018 at 9:26 pm

Images from

Dereck Bennett