Is Election 2016 Stressing Out Your Relationships?
This article is not a political statement but a commentary on the impact this election is having on people and relationships.
The 2016 presidential election feels as though it has caused more social anxiety and stress than the last few contests. There are constant conversations in coffee houses, social gatherings, in passing, and within relationships. Non-political people who almost never speak of about ideologies or personal views will at least mumble under their breath about this circus, this horror show, that is presenting itself to us daily.
I see die-hard Republicans shaking their heads in despair that their party has chosen such a "narcissistic crazy man” as their candidate. I hear Democrats mourning the fact that they have chosen a "criminal, who should be in prison,” as a candidate for president.
Conflict Between Friends
The public discussions and fallout is straining relationships of all types. People are blocking their closest friends on social media, or leaving the medium entirely, because of the biting words. Some people have even ended life-long friendships and romantic relationships over the election.
I'm not here to make a political commentary on either candidate. I am here, however, to point out that it is an opportunity for each of us to consider how we make decisions about our relationships, and to offer potential guidance before you make a choice that is hard to retract.
More Than a Vote
Alice came into my office, distraught. She has just found out that the man she is dating has decided to vote for Donald Trump.
She sat down and said one sentence: “He is going to vote for HIM!”
Alice has a group of dear and supportive friends. They have known one another for many years and are like-minded about politics. When it was discovered that John was going to vote for “that man,” all of them called it a deal-breaker.
That is, all but one.
This lone voice in a sea of agreement asked the simple question, “Why is he voting for Trump?”
Alice had no answer. John’s reasons were unknown, so this person suggested Alice not only ask the question, but to listen to the answer with an open mind.
As she discussed the situation with me, it was clear how much she likes and respects John. He has been willing to discuss his views with her and answer her questions. She had even written her thoughts down about him as if she was speaking to him.
“You have treated me with respect and care and tenderness at all times. You have liked and even celebrated all that you know of who I am, with no judgment. You have been wonderful, surprising, enticing, delightful, and fun. Your commitment to your personal growth and all that stands for is impressive. Your willingness to discuss your reasons for your political views has been a testament to your character. I have enjoyed every minute of our keeping company.”
Is this a person to break up with because of his voting preference?
The Real Question To Consider
The real question began to emerge: on what basis do you decide if a person or relationship is right for you? How do you determine a deal breaker?
For Alice, the question started with politics. Do you break up with someone based on their political views? Is a person the same as their political views? Can you hold them accountable for the actions and beliefs of the person chosen by a national or state party?
The questions led to a larger dilemma: Do we decide to end a relationship on the basis of one dimension of a person? Is the decision more complicated? Ultimately, you are the only person who can make the decision.
I offer you a few questions to consider as you make the decision.
1. Is this a political decision or a relationship decision?
2. How does he or she treat you?
3. Do they show you respect?
4. Can you talk to one another and share your thoughts, feelings and beliefs?
5. Do they want to spend time with you and go out of their way for you?
6. Is he or she proud of your successes and accomplishments?
7. Is he or she caring and honest?
8. Do they try to control you and tell you who you can be with and what you can do?
9. Do they like and affirm you for who you are?
10. Are they interested in you and do they listen to you?
11. Do you have a shared interest?
12. Is this someone with whom you feel safe?
13. Can you say this person does not pressure you to do things that don’t feel right to you?
14. Is he or she willing to compromise when needed?
What Happens Now?
In Alice's situation, she has a dilemma, not only with her boyfriend but with her social group as well. She faces the uncertainty of how her friends will react if she decides to not break up with John.
Will they be able to see her as an individual who can stay with him and hold onto her self and her beliefs? Will they reject her because she decides to be with him? Will her friends accept John as a part of the group even with his political views? Will it mean that as a couple they will not be accepted as part of the group?
She will not and cannot know the answers to these questions until after she makes her decision. It means living with uncertainty. Never an easy task for human beings.
The question we all must ask ourselves, is it possible to find someone that agrees with us in all areas of life. Is it possible to have a happy and fulfilling life with a partner who has different beliefs and ideas than you do?
I will leave you with the example of Mary Matalin and James Carville. She was a political consultant for George W. Bush and he was a consultant for Bill Clinton. Even with their opposing political views, they've been married for 22 years and counting, and even wrote a book about their lives together - Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home.
Are you struggling with what to do within a relationship? Are you having trouble answering the question, "Do I stay or do I leave?" I can help you work through the answers. Call me at (919)881-2001.