Election day draws closer and for some it can’t get here soon enough. It has been an especially emotionally charged election cycle, and has caused anywhere from mild to significant anxiety for many people. More people are using social media to vocalize their feelings about the candidates. Such frequent bombardment of political leanings may bring to light things you never knew about the people you are close to. This happened to me.
I have a dear friend who I have known for more than 40 years. We see each other a few times a year and keep in touch in between our get togethers through phone calls and social media. Strangely enough, after all these years of friendship we never talked politics, so it was an eye-widening moment when I came upon a statement through social media that made very clear that we do not see eye to eye at all on the candidates and their policies. It was a shocker, and it has stirred in me a lot of deep reflection on our friendship. I’ve been asking myself that with such a deep chasm between our viewpoints, which to me speak to who we are and our deeply held beliefs, can we continue our friendship in the way we always have?
Perhaps you’re living with a partner whose political leanings do not reflect your own. When people share living space activities such as reading newspapers, watching television and keeping up with social media offer an awful lot of opportunities to create tension between couples and friends, and perhaps family members as well. Politics can be a polarizing topic, especially if we have strong feelings about the candidates and the outcome of national and local elections. This particular election cycle may have brought out opinions, beliefs, anger and anxiety that you hadn’t experienced before in your relationship. Luckily you don’t have to allow your differing opinions to adversely affect your relationships.
Look for ways to reframe your differing beliefs and the tension they may be causing. You can choose to see it as an opportunity to practice increased tolerance, which is a self improvement that can help you in all areas of life. Take this opportunity to know your partner better. Have meaningful conversations about the way you each perceive and experience the world you live in . Ask questions that help you understand why particular beliefs are held. Where did these opinions take root? You may learn something about your partner’s family history or past experiences that are completely new to you, and perhaps eye opening. You may begin to see their perspective in a way you would never have expected.
If conversation leads to bitter exchanges, shouting or lasting resentments then forego the exchanges. If you can’t engage in a conversation on the topic without getting embroiled in a heated argument, then your best strategy for getting through this election peacefully is to declare it an No Go Zone. Make it a topic you don’t discuss. Even better is an agreement to disagree, then leave it alone.
So, do we allow our political differences to change or end our relationships? In regard to the friendship I described earlier, I decided that our history was bigger than our differences. Recalling the countless times my friend was there for me, the laughter, having my back even when she didn’t agree with me, being mothers together, sharing losses and cheering each other on when we needed it most, or when it was time to celebrate. These are the moments that keep the foundations of our relationships strong.
Presidents will come and go, disagreements will arise – and then fall. Our valued relationships can withstand our differences. Keeping perspective in challenging times helps us to remember what is most important to us.