I’m headed to my partner’s family’s house for Thanksgiving. My partner and I do not agree with his family on political issues and I have a feeling that there will be discussions about the Midterms and other issues. I’m not sure how to handle them, if I don’t just hide away in the bathroom and ride it out.
Any advice for surviving the holidays with a family on the other side of the big political divide? – K
I’m going to scientifically estimate that over 400% of readers will agree that politics at family gatherings is something they are dealing with, not only just at family gatherings, but on the regular. Even interacting with friends casually can sometimes erupt into political drama. All of us on all ends of the political spectrum are sitting with a huge lump of existential dread. It ebbs and flows but I can’t remember a time when it’s ever been this polarized and stress-inducing. So: right there with ya, pal.
There are loads of tactics to employ for dealing with in-laws, how to deal with a family on the other side of politics, and generally dealing with family gatherings, but I’m not sure if most of it is still relevant. I’m torn between trying to save your sanity and promoting self care and just getting through it, and wanting to stand up and keep resisting and trying to convince your family to see your side of things. The usual how-tos just don’t seem to apply anymore.
I went to the readers on Facebook because we often get high quality answers that are relevant for now. Here’s what they had to say…
Longtime reader Dootsie came at with a new classic:
And this was actually in 2015… before, well anyway…
Tactic: refuse to engage
I just refuse to speak on the topic of religion or politics. And if people want to argue… there’s the door.
Problem solved. – Lee Anne
This advice assumes you’re just going for dinner (not staying the weekend):
I suggest that you set a time limit (or tolerance limit) so you know when you can escape (before you spend your evening hogging the bathroom). My husband and I do this before family functions because I am easily overwhelmed by the crowds. I compare my method to the battery life of a cell phone: some phones can go all day with the right settings, and others die quickly and need to be recharged often no matter what. When I am in large groups of people, my battery is usually dead after three hours; ymmv, but I think that’s a decent benchmark for duration of your visit. If you do get to the point where you just want to hide, make an excuse and leave, even if the meal isn’t over.
While at dinner, try to change the subject (or the person with whom you are conversing) or straight up say, “talk of politics does not belong at the dinner table” if the topic of conversation veers into uncomfortable territory. If your partner’s family won’t play ball, restrict your conversation to your partner and block out your surroundings. This works best if you can snag a corner spot — that also makes it easier to escape the table if necessary. – Samantha
You don’t have to react at all. You don’t have to engage in political discussions at all, especially if it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find common ground. There’s just no point and people are allowed to have different opinions, and people having differing opinions doesn’t have to affect you in any way. If they make a statement you don’t agree with, just nod politely, or say “That’s an interesting idea.” Or just change the subject to something you would enjoy discussing. Or enjoy the food. – Andi
Tactic: refuse to engage unless a line is crossed
I feel like there are two good options. If they just express an opinion; I.e., “trickle-down economics are the solution to poverty,” and they expect a response, you can escape with “that’s a very interesting idea” or something similar. If they say something overtly intolerant, i.e., “our country’s gun problems are due to Islam” you can ask them not to speak that way in your presence. – Julie
Tactic: engage peacefully
I work with a lot of people who have differing political opinions than I do, and I’ve found ways to express my opinions in a way that smoothes over the divide.
They say “I don’t think a kid flipping burgers deserves $15/hr,” I say, “I just strongly believe that anyone working 40 hours a week deserves to make enough to not be on welfare.”
They say, “Obamacare has my healthcare premiums so damn high!” I say, “I think we really need to take profit out of public-good industries like healthcare and education, then companies are more inclined to take care of the human and not their bottom line.” – Samantha
What’s your take on familial political talk? Do you engage or retreat? Or does it depend on the company?