Navigating Partisan Friendships during this Election.

A friendship is a sacred thing. It is made scared by all that you share with and recognize in the other. And it is also made sacred by all that you do not share, as your differences challenge you to listen and grow in ways that you haven’t had to before. I can certainly appreciate this aspect of friendship right now. How come? One of my closest friend’s is a Republican. So, “viva la difference”, correct? We’re trying.

When you have an acquaintance, you know the touchy topics to avoid: religion, finances, family issues, and politics. With surface friendships, this isn’t such a hard thing to do. We would rather focus on the fun stuff like soccer practice or the next moms’ night out together anyway.

But my friend is more than just an acquaintance. She is something far deeper than that. She is someone my family shares holidays with, family trips with, and endless football Sunday afternoons with. We live on the same street. We both have two children. Our husbands happened to attend the same college. Our birthdays are one day apart. We both struggle with our mortgages, with coaxing our children to sleep, with making sure they are happy at school.

And yet, she is a Republican and I am a Democrat. Not only do we belong to opposing parties, we proudly stand by our political values. There’s no budging us and, needless to say, neither of us will be checking the same boxes come November 4th.

So, for the sake of our friendship, I am guessing your advice might be to avoid political discussions at all costs, correct? But here’s the thing. We are close friends. There is no topic left untouched. Nor should there be. Over bottles of wine long after the children are asleep, its inevitable that religion, finances and skeletons in our respectable closests come right on out for consideration. And yup, politics certainly jumps in there too, sure to shake up our wine induced “heart to hearts”, while our families sleep on.

So how do we do it? How do we hold onto our friendship in the midst of a deeply emotional Presidential battle? I would not say it’s easy, and it certainly hasn’t been for others as well.

The blogger Queen of Spain writes about “outing” herself politically to acquaintances, and noting their varied reactions. However, it seems utterly impossible to avoid political chatter right now. Better than a season premier of “Lost”, the Nightly News has most of us wide-eyed and at the edge of our seats every evening. We can’t help it, our politics are bound to slip into even the briefest of conversations.

And how many of us are so fed up with the opposing party that we are potentially willing to lose friends? Should our political values really come before our friendships? Ilina at Dirt and Noise certainly is struggling with this very issue and I could not sympathise more with her.

Shannon McDowell (writing for Ezine) and Laurie Weigler (writing for eHow) both offer us suggestions while navigating the choppy waters of a politically threatened friendship.

  • Respectfully and tactfully discuss your choice using facts – not rhetoric.
  • During the conversation, keep humor in and emotion out (if possible).
  • Don’t attack or try to convert the other.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s beliefs and respect them.
  • Involve the group in the conversation, make it less about one against the other.
  • Agree to disagree – remember we each have the right to our own opinion.
  • Reconnect after the conversation with a hug, laugh or handshake to establish that “yup, we’re still ok.”

Finally Mom-101 points out that while elections can truly test some friendships, we usually have more in common with one another than what we don’t. And this is the very point I come to at the end of the day with my friend.

Yes, for the next few weeks, there will be an elephant – and a donkey – in the room with my friend and I.  However, when we sit down and discuss our hopes and dreams, we are truly so much more alike than we are different. And as for our politics? She challenges me and I her. Diverse opinions are what makes this world go around. Preaching to our safe choir of friends will not allow us to grow. A partisan friendship such as ours isn’t easy right now, but we are both better for it. And at the end of the day, we still find ourselves on the same street, with the same children, holding on to the same hopes and dreams for our families.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.



Filed under Communication, Friendship, Giving respect, Partisanship, Politics

9 responses to “Navigating Partisan Friendships during this Election.

  1. I file politics under “things I keep to myself”. Agree to disagree is a good policy.

  2. Great post. I’ve been working on a similar post for my blog, but I can’t come up with the words just yet. It is a hard time both in real life and in the blogging world when people you like and admire are on the opposite side of the political fence.

  3. I too have friends who are on the other side of the political spectrum. I’ll admit it’s hard, but we like to discuss, debate and eventually tease the hell out of each other for our opposing views.

  4. God, you’re good. How do you write with such eloquence and so little venom? I envy you. I love bullet point #2 about including humor and omiting emotion. That’s tough for me. I feel life deeply, good or bad. Thanks again for an enlightening post.

  5. starrlife

    Love this post… hit the nail on the head. It’s a tricky tight rope- and applies to family members too!

  6. Aly

    I am way too unreasonable to talk politics with friends. :o)

    It’s also hard when church members corner you and want to discuss politics or when they start wearing political buttons to church. Completely inappropriate!

  7. That is really impressive. We just had people over for lunch for the Jewish New Year and I knew they had broadly differing politics so I declared politics off the table.. and we live in DC!! I’m with you with close friends though, unless they have attitudes that make me love them less. One friend has some borderline ideas and so he and I do NOT talk politics. My other couple of Republican friends though – we work it out and sometimes even make it funny. Nice, nice post.

  8. I never discuss politics with friends. I’ve always been like that and I don’t really know why. It’s just a tricky and sensitive topic, esp these days, so I avoid it like the plague..LOL!

  9. You know I know how tricky this is, since it’s my husband I differ with! I love it, though, because not only does advice like this help me communicate with him, it helps me see the rest of the world for the diverse, beautiful population that it is, not the cookie cutter stuff that stereotypes would have us believe.

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