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Friendship Divided By Politics

October 9, 2020 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

Divided by politics, a friendship seems to be on the verge of falling apart

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor,

I met Jillian in college. We lost touch but reconnected about 15 years later when we discovered we were living in the same town with children the same age. Since then, we’ve been very close friends and I’ve enjoyed the friendship with one exception. 

My friend’s political leanings are polar opposite to mine. I never gave that much attention, until recently. Now, with everything that is going on, I am passionate about my beliefs and surprised and saddened by hers. She also seems to be more strident in expressing her views.

I realize everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I respect hers although they are different than mine. But I resent her trying to shove her ideas down my throat and tell me what to think. It’s evident that we are divided by politics and I refuse to engage in the same conversations over and over.

I’ve told her this countless times and said I would hate politics to end our friendship. I asked her to refrain from constantly sending me extreme right-wing literature and making snide remarks about things I believe in. She just doesn’t stop.

We have plans to eat a socially-distanced dinner outdoors this week and I just realized I can’t tolerate the thought of subjecting myself to these diatribes any longer. I also feel hurt that she doesn’t respect my feelings. 

I’m thinking of sending her an email bowing out of dinner, suggesting we take a break in our friendship, and telling her why. What do you think?

Thanks!

Jillian

ANSWER

Hi, Jillian,

I’m sorry you are facing this thorny friendship dilemma but given the divisiveness of political discourse in the U.S. these days, your situation isn’t unique. Many people, sometimes even close family members, are feeling increasingly divided by politics. 

It sounds like you’ve given the situation with your friend a great deal of thought. You’ve tried your best, although without much success, to let her know you don’t want to be harangued about your political views and that her persistence is affecting your friendship.

At this point, I think it’s reasonable to be honest and let your friend know as soon as possible, that you aren’t comfortable keeping your dinner date. Explain that although you have always valued your friendship, your stark political differences are creating a divide that’s threatening the friendship and you don’t want that to happen. 

Take responsibility for your decision without blaming her, per se. Tell her that you’ve decided to take a break from politically charged interactions but hope you can resume the friendship when strong feelings (both yours and hers) settle down. This may only be possible after the election, or one or both of you may simply need a breather. Alternatively, you may come to realize that what seems to be limited to a political divide has actually exposed differences in values that run deeper than partisan politics.

Of course, long-term friendships can never be replaced so before you send your friend anything in writing, carefully review what you’ve written and edit it. Try to keep the note short and to the point and don’t send it on impulse. Read it again after it has had time to rest overnight and if you still feel the same way the next morning, hit SEND..

If you do go ahead and send it, will you let us know the outcome/response? My suspicion is that your friend may come around when she realizes the impact of her actions.

My best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (2)

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  1. Nancy says:

    I agree with Irene, except the part about writing which can be so easily taken wrong. I would just have a short phone or in-person talk with your friend and agree that to keep your friendship intact, a short breather until things cool down is best. Good and true friends are few and far between. Don’t let politics ruin what might be a good one.

  2. Amy says:

    Quality friends respect boundaries, whether or or they’re about politics or anything else.

    Politics are about values and priorities. I prefer my friends to share my values. Many of the activities I participate in with friends are peaceful rallies/protests/marches (only socially distant and masked until the end of the pandemic). I wear clothes that right wingers wouldn’t respect. I do have a few old friendly acquaintances from childhood who don’t share my views and maintain these friendships because we can agree to disagree.

    I have a rule of thumb, I respect people enough not to try to change their minds politically and I demand the same boundary whether or not we agree on 99% of politics or 10%. Interestingly, the people who’ve disrespected those limits aren’t conservatives, but people with whom I most agree though these are friendly acquaintances who routinely push boundaries in other areas.

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