It becomes an argument at the moment you can't let go. In this politically divisive climate we all have our opinions and ideological stances. And that includes our loved ones.
But what if we strongly disapprove of their political and social preferences and choices? Consider these possibilities (or ones like them), for example:
What if you are for Trump, and she or he is for Clinton?
What if you are for legalizing marijuana, and they aren't?
What if you are pro-life, and they are pro-choice?
I think you get the point — it's a real dilemma when loved ones so strongly disagree with each other. One that could severely impair your love connection, if you're not careful and thoughtful enough.
We must remember that our loved ones are individuals with their own feelings and leanings and though we may not agree, we must try to accept them and love them for who they are and not who we want them to be. When we don't accept their right to their own views and preferences — even if they are repulsive to us — are we not communicating to them that they are not good or wise or smart enough? That their values are suspect? And are we not sending signals to them in our controlling actions, our gestures and our words that are meant to reconfigure them into another person altogether? This behavior is both destructive and selfish, and is a powerfully hurtful approach to relationships — particularly in matters of the heart.
So what then can we do about this dilemma—short of having damaging arguments or parting ways, that is?
It starts with an understanding of what acceptance means—and what it doesn't–in such situations. Acceptance doesn't mean that you condone or agree with your loved ones' views and choices. Rather, it means that you accept their right to have them—without anger or resentment.
Here are several suggestions that will make it easier for you to do that and which will also enhance the love flow:
1. Focus on the Qualities You Admire and Appreciate in Them
Rather than commiserating about the things that irritate or bother you about your loved ones, focus on their positive traits. Remember what originally attracted you to them. Think about all the nice things they do for you. The good times you enjoy together. Their sense of humor. The joy they bring to your life. In short, see the good in them and all the good they bring to your life.
2. Moderate Your Expectations of Them.
Learn to moderate the expectations you have for your loved ones and seek to find the points of pliability and flexibility, rather than trying to mold them to suit your needs. High expectations put undue pressure on them to be and act other than they are. How would you like it if that were done to you? Take heed of these wise words of Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island (1955):
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
3. Let Go of Love Control.
Recognize that it is beyond your power to change the aspects of your loved ones that you find disagreeable. You can try to reason with them, to persuade them, to cajole them—you may even threaten them–but know that they won't bend to your desires without anger and resentment, and the resultant loss of trust and intimacy. If this is a difficult truth to accept, put it on the list of indelible facts that you must accept.
Any changes must come from them, and the more we try to change or control them, the less likely it is to occur organically. Indeed, it aggravates an already sensitive subject often causing them to dig in and hold to the self they are most comfortable and confident with.
4. One Final Suggestion:
Before you enter the voting booth this November, hug your loved one and tell them that you love–and accept–them as they are!
It would be great to hear how you deal with the discordant political and social views of your loved ones. Are you accepting of them without getting angry? Do you try to persuade them to change their views? (and how does that work?) Are you able to have cordial discussions with them? What do you do when your loved ones try to change your views?
In the meantime, remember to… Let It Go!
Daniel A. Miller is the author of Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go, a ForeWord Reviews 2011 Book of the Year Award Finalist and Amazon Self-Help and Codependency Best Seller for five years in a row. He writes about control and acceptance issues at www.losingcontrolfindingserenity.com and at Danny's Decontrol Yourself Blog.