“I have a very good friend who is extremely vocal about her political views and standpoint. We have been friends for over 20 years and have shared all life’s ups and downs along the way. She has recently opened up about some political views that are not in line with mine and is becoming invasive with her efforts to “convert” me. I try to keep my opinions to myself, but she insists on unloading on me. I worry this will effect our friendship, if not ruin it.”
In the South you may have heard the old adage, “Never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table.” If you haven’t perhaps you have encountered the diabolical, systemic implosion that can occur when you do. Either way, it is fair to say, no two people have the same opinions on everything. No matter how alike we are, close we are, how long we have known them or been related to them, two people agreeing on political or religious matters (much less anything else) is virtually impossible. With that being said, it is clear your friend does not understand the concept of what matters more when it comes to such issues. In hopes you can sustain your friendship and be an example of decorum, try exploring the following with her and see how she responds. Her responses will inform future decisions about how you might want to proceed with the friendship.
1. Why is it important to her for you to have the same stance? Often those who adamantly insist on trying to convert and reform others have lost a sense of needed control. Control is a basic human, relational need according to the Schutz Need Theory of Interpersonal Relationships (it’s my favorite theory). We are designed to find balance in how we express and receive it. Particularly in election times when media hype is flinging around social media, vicious ads are on TV non stop and emotions are elevated by COVID designed voting, people naturally begin to feel a loss of control. Your friend’s motive for politically assaulting you and your newsfeed could be associated with nothing more than her need to regain a lost sense of control. Ask her the above question and see what she says.
2. Are political categories inferring difference in opinion? Lumping beliefs into two or even three categories tend to generalize views and stances. Just because you/she may lean toward one candidate or affiliation or the other does NOT mean all of their platform points are adopted. That is the hard part about choosing between 2 or 3 candidates on ALL the areas in which they will have an impact on our country. All this to say, just because there are voting differences or choices in supported a candidate does not mean there are not still similarities in those platforms, opinions, viewpoints, stances and perspectives.
3. Identify where opinions and perspectives align. Which leads me here. If you value your friendship, I recommend using a skill you have probably used before with her or another friend: figure out where your opinions align and focus on that. Needless to say, as a woman in the world today we are constantly forced to defend and advocate for ourselves in everything from marriage to skin care. No two marriages are alike and no people are going to have the same outcome from the same skin care regimen. Common ground is where we build, and through which we strengthen relationships.
4. Discuss respect as a solution: agree to disagree. Perhaps it is time to define what respect looks like in your friendship. In the midst of PTA, church, Bunko, or whatever links you to this person, respect may have never had to truly come into play. In this situation, if there are not alignments or similar opinions, you may just have to identify if each of you are able to table the topics of contention and agree to disagree for the sake of preserving the relationship. This can be a tricky conversation but after you identify what you value in your relationship it becomes a lot easier to compartmentalize differing political views.
5. Decide what matters more, friendship or political ideals. When it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes step by step processes or questions that can lead you to a clear, obvious decision don’t exist. We have to ask ourselves “What matters more?” and see where our internal dialogue leads us about the benefit and cost associated with continuing to engage in the relationship or endeavoring to sever ties. Explore the suggestions above but remember: we all have enough to juggle, manage, trod through with everything going on in the world today, self-preservation sometimes has to supersede desires of the heart.
“I have been married for 13 years and have 3 children with my husband. Over the last few years, I feel like life has gotten boring and mundane and I miss the excitement and spark I used to feel. I always wanted a family but now that I am here, the routine of life is leaving me depressed and uninterested. I ran into an old boyfriend from college recently and we exchanged contact information. We have been exchanging messages and emails and the rush of excitement I get from just communicating with him feels so good. I want to keep talking to him but don’t think my husband will be okay with it. What should I do?”
1. Why the rush? Emotions associated with excitement are often indicators we are engaged in an activity of risk. Risk releases adrenaline, which can lead to a quick rush, and dopamine, which causes intense feelings of pleasure. So it only makes sense you are finding excitement and delight in this exchange. However, like with all risk, there are potential consequences that can quickly outweigh the benefits of engaging in said risk.
2. What’s your motive? Very rarely do we participate in risky behavior without motive. Our motive may not be clear on the front end as a casual conversation to catch up on old times, but underlying motives begin to reveal themselves when you look at the frequency, duration and extent of engaging with that person. As frequency, duration and extent increase, so do consequences. Be mindful of what your behavior is signifying to you and your husband. It is important to identify why you are seeking thrills outside the boundaries.
3. Is it worth it?. If you have not already, talk to your husband as soon as possible. If he feels you are hiding this exchange with your old friend then he will most likely immediately assume more is going on than you tell him. Once you get to that point, you lose the opportunity to look deeper into the behavior and address it without extensive collateral damage. Having a conversation like this will probably be difficult, but the alternative can be devastating.
4. You get what you give. If your husband is willing to discuss this with you and allow you to work with him to navigate the situation, while working to meet your needs of excitement, it is critical you participate by respecting his concerns and requests. The outcome of not doing this can result in him disconnecting, suffering mental health issues, increased anger, feelings of betrayal, and the list goes on. Ultimately, if he is willing to invest in identifying how he can meet your needs better, it is your responsibility to mind agreed boundaries and give him a chance to meet your needs.
5. Explore the unknown. Ask yourself why you feel talking to this person is providing you something you cannot get from your husband. As many know, the mundane routine of life is regularly without fireworks. As we grow in our relationships with our spouses, the newness becomes predictable and mystery is clouded by expectation. The notion that you are talking to someone of the opposite sex, let alone an ex, is an indicator that you are lacking attention and relational exploration. Try exploring a new town, restaurant, food with him. Make a bucket list if you haven’t, and share with each other. And last but not least, make sure things are spicy and exciting in the bedroom. Physical intimacy is key in growing through marital hurdles such as these.