Election Aftermath In The Family

BY KAREN L. RANCOURT, Ph.D

Before the election I wrote two columns on the impact of the campaign on family relationships: (1) “Grandparents’ Political Rants Are Upsetting;” (2) “Readers’ Responses to Grandparents’ Political Rants.”

Post-election, many readers who did not support Donald Trump (DT) wrote about their struggles to reconcile their feelings toward family members who voted for DT. Some are perplexed and curious and genuinely want to understand how anyone could vote for DT knowing about his unseemly moral behavior, his lack of knowledge about our Constitution, his policies and strategies, and the people with whom he chooses to surround himself, many of whom appear to be inexperienced and/or have potential conflicts of interest. 

I encourage them to ask the Trump supporter if he/she would be comfortable exchanging views on why they made their choice. The governing ground rule for this discussion should be that if at any point either of them feels uncomfortable with the exchange, he/she can say so and not be challenged to continue. In this scenario, mutual respect prevails and the relationship remains in tact.

However, I heard from another group, best summarized by this reader’s comment, “ . . . there is no chance I’d even speak to them if we weren’t related . . . for me the issue is: How to deal with stupid. There, I said it . . . It’s tricky, at least for me, because I have a tiny voice (well, roar) expressing a desire to penetrate their appallingly wrong-headed and stunningly simplistic views, and yet, can we even engage at the most basic level with those who hold such opposite and hateful views if they don’t have a shred of intellectual curiosity or humanity to even want to explore other opinions?”

“Maybe it’s best we don’t talk.” 

My advice in that scenario: do not attempt a dialogue. Accept that they have made choices that discussion won’t help you understand right now. Accept that your relationship going forward should be cordial and pleasant – you want to be able to be together at family gatherings – but you get to choose your relationship boundaries: that is, how intimately you want them to be in your life right now. Your feelings may change over time. Or not.

Not everything needs to be discussed and analyzed, especially when one’s respect for someone is diminished, or no longer exists. Some conversations need not, and should not, take place.

About the author

Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D, writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Helping Young Parents and Grandparents Deal with Thorny Issues

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