Nothing can bring a family together tear a family apart quite like politics.
Gun control, gas taxes, gay marriage, immigration reform… great topics for the dinner table, am I right? Some debate can be healthy, but how about when you’re the only one in the family with an opposing viewpoint? The following women identify as the political black sheep in their family and share some of their coping strategies for managing these relationships—especially during the already-tense holidays.
Dismantle hateful jokes.
“Gotta say when I’m with really conservative people I’ve learned to not to try and change their minds. My favorite way to dismantle a ‘joke’ that’s racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, etc. is just to ask, ‘wait I don’t get it…why is that funny?’ It’s important to do this as nice as possible with a straight face. Then you watch them either squirm as they try to explain to you their blatant unjustified hatred/fear or they acknowledge that maybe it’s not so funny.”
Try to maintain a sense of humor.
“My entire family is republican, pretty racist/sexist/transphobic/Islamophobic, and super (Catholic or Southern Baptist) religious.
I’m a liberal, humanist, atheist, snowflake.
So you know… Christmas is fun.”
Pick your battles.
“It’s often about picking my battles (my husband and I the only liberals on one side of my family). I’ve learned who my family is as people, I know who is open to being educated on another person’s viewpoint, who is just talking to hear themselves talk, and who will fight you until the cows come home out of boredom. I have different responses for each. My cousin who will debate until 2 a.m. and use poor arguing tactics to declare himself right cause he said it the loudest? I don’t engage. Somebody who is open to learning, I have an actual conversation with. Somebody who will just talk to hear themselves talk I have a lot of quick one line remarks for. It’s draining but it’s better than being silent.”
Just don’t talk about it.
“My parents and I never have discussed politics, but my husbands side is all very republican except one of his sisters. It confuses me, but everything is usually ok since there’s respect/we don’t really talk about it.”
“My parents and I are the only dems in the family! Everyone ones else are southern republicans 🙄. I actually can’t even speak to my brother (who is in the Army and has been brainwashed) about politics because it turns into a HUGE fight (also he’s a bully and refuses to accept other people’s opinions).”
Try to see both sides.
“I’m a total black sheep of my family. To make it even more tense, I also come from a biracial household (my mother was an immigrant when she gave birth to me) and her views are extremely conservative. In recent conversations regarding ‘birthright citizenship’ I’ve had multiple family members (who came here as immigrants, married to American Military men) insult immigrants who come here ‘just to have babies’ I get baffled that they come off as so callous towards immigrants or people who come here seeking refuge. What we don’t talk about in my family is the stigma of immigrant women who ‘marry American men just to become citizens.’ My family will tell you “that’s different because I’m still married so obviously I did the right thing”. Why can’t they both be right?”
Use “I” language whenever possible.
“I’m now the only democrat in a Mormon family of republicans. While I don’t think they voted for Trump (I think they wrote in the Utah guy), I haven’t been able to bring myself to ask because I think I’d honestly respect them less. My dad and I often get into loud, passionate discussions about topics that scare off the rest of the family, but end up being pretty good. My family hates it, but I don’t shy away from talking about my perspective on an issue if it comes up.
I don’t bring it up because I know I’m the only one, but if someone brings up abortion, immigration, Trump, or whatever—I dig right in, using as much “I” language and facts as possible. It’s also been very useful to ask questions and understand why my family or my dad feels a certain way about an issue. Often we both end up walking away having learned something. We definitely always end the conversation in a positive place—even if there was yelling and frustration throughout.”
–Rachel Sandstrom Morrison
Back that shit up.
“If I bother to comment I come with (multiple) facts, statistics and sources—followed by ‘But feel free to research it yourself.’ Thankfully, most of my family is quite liberal, so this is mostly a tactic used in the rest of the world.”
Lead by example.
“My mom’s side of the family and my immediate family are very liberal. My dad’s side is very conservative. I didn’t come out to my grandmother until I was engaged (to a woman). No one from that side of the family attended our wedding, many of my wife’s family members also chose not to attend because they are against gay marriage. It is painful to us but we lead by example. We are kind, we speak our minds, and we exist. They have to grapple with that. There are also a few members of my family I do not have a relationship with, but I don’t want to break bread with anyone who doesn’t believe in basic human rights.”
Be kind always.
“I think if you’re going to talk politics (ever) the important part is to be kind and be polite. Everyone has their own beliefs and views and that’s okay. We live in America, so thankfully we have that right! Listen to the other person, don’t interrupt, and think before you speak. I used a lot of ‘I can see why you’re saying that, but have you ever put yourself in (fill in the blanks) shoes?’ Or ‘what if you had a family member that (fill in the blank).’
BE KIND ALWAYS.”