mental health

‘Move on na’: How to deal when you and your loved ones disagree over politics

Amanda T. Lago
‘Move on na’: How to deal when you and your loved ones disagree over politics
Here's what to do when you can't turn to your usual support system for post-election support

MANILA, Philippines – Now that the elections are over and winners have been proclaimed, the party line seems to be “Move on na (Move on already),” but this is easier said than done if you’re surrounded by loved ones whose political beliefs oppose yours.

When you learn that someone you love voted for a candidate you hate, it can feel like a huge betrayal. It can be crushing to suddenly lose respect for a person you might have once looked up to. It’s even worse when you have to co-exist with them daily, collaborate with them, and talk to them.

When you can’t turn to your usual support system for post-election support, how exactly do you move past the elections and move forward with your life?

Seek support somewhere else

To begin with, acknowledge that it is especially difficult when your source of emotional distress comes from home, which is meant to be your safe space. 

“It is easy to feel alone and isolated when the very people you trust are the ones you cannot deal with at the moment,” AJ Requilman, supervising psychologist at mental healthcare provider Empath, told Rappler.

In this case, she advised to seek out other sources of support.

“This is a good time for you to tap into your other sources of emotional and social support, like your friends, colleagues, classmates, etc. If you do not have people you can trust to vent your feelings to during this time, seeking professional help is also a good and healthy way to go about this situation,” she said.

Taking the edge off emotionally might make it easier for you to reconnect with family members you disagree with politically.

Have healthy discourse

As easy as it would be to skirt the topic of politics, it is something you can talk to a loved one about – but you have to do so carefully and thoughtfully. 

“Politics can be a touchy subject, so before you engage in a discussion, and as with any difficult topic, you should first reflect on why you want to have this kind of conversation. Is this to gain a wider perspective or to prove the other person wrong?” AJ said.

She stressed that someone’s views aren’t likely to change when you react negatively to them, and it’s important to consider your mood and communication style when you get into a conversation about politics. 

It’s also important to consider how ready you and your family members are to engage in a conversation that might get heated. 

“If you know this person is level-headed and can talk about topics like this in a cerebral manner, then you can go ahead and have a conversation or even a debate about politics. If the other person is someone who is easily offended, then the conversation might end up being futile,” she said.

If you decide that you can have a healthy, intellectual discourse, AJ gave the following tips:

  • Listen intently and paraphrase what has been said to you. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what someone said, repeating what you heard in your own words will make the other person feel understood. If the other person feels heard, he or she is more likely to listen to what you have to say as well.
  • Remain respectful throughout the conversation. Avoid using a tone that will make the other person feel he or she is being devalued or seen as inferior. Make sure to make it seem like both of you are equals and it isn’t a competition where there is a winner and loser. Be clear that the goal of the conversation is to have a healthy discourse about the topic and not to prove the other person wrong. 
  • Try to find some common ground. Whether you have the same political beliefs or not, you can perhaps agree on the problems that society is facing or that the past year was challenging for most people.
  • Cite personal experiences or actual experiences of people you know when it is your turn to offer a perspective. Facts can be easily dismissed but personal accounts give a human touch to the ideas, and you are likely to connect with the other person’s compassionate side instead of appearing like you want to prove him/her wrong.
  • Use humor to lighten up the mood once in a while. It is an incredible way to make the conversation appear friendly and non-confrontational.  

She also stressed the importance of how a conversation ends.

“Remember that how you end the conversation will leave a lasting impact on the person, especially if you do not see each other often, and it will be a huge factor as to whether you can continue to have intellectual conversations in the future. You may, for example, thank the other person for sharing his or her insights on the topic, but right now, you want to take a break from political talk or need to do something else,” she said.

Set boundaries

If you can’t start a conversation about politics just yet, that’s okay. In fact, that may even be necessary. If you know you’re just going to end up in an awkward or tense situation, you can set some boundaries to protect your peace at home.

AJ advises limiting interaction with family members to mealtimes or certain activities.

“Before you do this, make sure to communicate with them properly that you would like to take some time to calm yourself down and reflect on the situation. Tell them that you would appreciate it if they can give you space for the time being, and if there are things that you need to talk about with them – and vice versa – during this period, you can send a text or message each other online,” she said. 

“Once the dust settles and you feel more comfortable to interact with them again or are ready to rekindle your relationship, have a talk in person and gradually rebuild your relationship,” she said.

Having a “no political talk” rule at home temporarily might also be helpful for keeping the peace, AJ said. 

Find something you do agree on

If your political disagreements are really keeping you at odds with a loved one, it may also be helpful to turn to things you do agree on – activities you love, memories you share. 

“It is important to be able to see people past their opinions, especially if they are people who are dear to you. If politics is keeping you apart, put some balance into the relationship by adding an element of what binds you together,” AJ said.

“Spend more time together to do activities that you both enjoy, like watching movies, doing sports, cooking, etc. Reminisce about memories you’ve had together and have a good laugh about fun experiences you’ve shared with each other. Find something good about this person and verbally praise him or her for it. This way, you can let each other know that despite your differences in views, you still have each other’s backs and enjoy each other’s company,” she said.

It can be really tricky to spend time with someone with opposing political views, but with a good movie, a good meal, or both as a buffer, you may give your relationship some much-needed room to breathe. 

If you really need to, cut ties

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, maintaining a relationship with someone you disagree with politically might be doing you more harm than good. 

“First, understand that feeling safe to disagree is an essential part of successful relationships, whether in terms of family or romantic relationships,” AJ stressed.

“If you think that you can no longer be yourself around this person because you feel like you always have to be defensive or are forced to agree on things that you feel strongly against, then it is time to evaluate this relationship and see whether you can continue having regular interactions with this person,” she said.

When it comes to family members, AJ advised thinking carefully about what you will miss if you cut this person off. Moving out of the house or spending less time with them might be one way to set boundaries while still saving the relationship, she said.

“However, if the relationship itself, even without seeing each other regularly, is enough to elicit strong negative emotions from you, then it may be better to cut the relationship off and keep your peace,” she said.

As for romantic relationships, AJ pointed out that it can be challenging to be intimately close with someone long term if they have different value systems and morals.

“You might need to consider carefully whether your differences help you complement each other or make it extremely difficult to collaborate and make decisions that will benefit both of you,” she said. “Depending on the answer to that, you can make an informed decision as to whether continuing the relationship with this person is worth it.”

It’s a different kind of heartbreak to disagree with someone you’re close to over politics, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your relationship. With compassion, level-headedness, and healthy boundaries, you and your loved ones may be able to truly move on and move forward, together. – Rappler.com

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.