How to deal with your parent or partner backing a different political party to you
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Whether politics is something you actively engage in or something that passes you by, it’s a fairly inescapable topic at the moment with the General Election looming. As the campaign heats up, so do the debates about who’s best to be running the country – and those conversations become all the more uncomfortable and problematic when someone close, whether that be a partner or parent, announces that they’re backing an opposing side. Here’s what psychotherapist and couples’ counsellor Hilda Burke and emotional health and relationship expert David James Lees have to say on how to deal with relationship conflict caused by different political stances. Make sure your views are actually yours Parents can be guilty of assuming their children will follow their political views but people, in general, can also be guilty of soaking up the views of others and calling them their own, says Lees. So start by researching policies, not regurgitating headlines. “Take the time to do your own self-inquiry work and ensure that your political views are in fact yours and not something that you have inherited from your family, your environment or peers,” he advises. Don’t shy away from discussing the topic If you think it’s for the best to avoid talking to your boyfriend or girlfriend about political differences in case it leads to an argument, you should really be thinking the opposite, says Lees. He says: “Perhaps their partner’s opinion is correct, and so they can take this opportunity to learn something new. Or perhaps their partner’s view is misguided, in which case the partner can learn and benefit too. I see this as a win-win situation, which will strengthen both the individuals and the relationship.” And you never know, as Burke says, you might actually realise you share the same ideals but just see them being achieved in a different way. She adds: “In some ways politics reminds me of parenting. Certain parents feel the best way for their children to develop and prosper is to allow them a lot of space, not to interfere too much, whereas for others, they feel they should be with their children every step of the way – playing a more directional role. “And so it is with politics. Two people could have the same goal – that everyone in society thrives – but the way they see that being achieved is different. In short, there may be many points of commonality in terms of values even though they’re expressed through supporting very different parties.” Don’t say ‘you’re wrong’ As much as you might be tempted to yell at someone that they don’t know what they’re talking about, it’ll probably come as little surprise that that’s not the right way to respond to differing opinions. Criticising your partner’s views isn’t only unhelpful, says Burke, it’s not what the focus should really be on, which is listening. “Try to maintain a curious attitude towards your partner and give them the space to express themselves rather than trying to convert them to your way of thinking,” she says.
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