politics

Dealing With Political Divide in the Family

A therapist talks about ways on how to keep politics from souring your family connections

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The current political climate is heated and will likely continue that way for the foreseeable future. But what if those whose opinions we disagree with are members of our inner circle? Our loved ones?

That’s the case of Michelle Lubeski, a woman in South Florida. 

“I really judged people before for the way that they voted,” Michelle said.

Michelle Lubeski was raised in a family that has been passionate about politics and civically engaged for generations. Michelle and her husband Shawn got married a few years ago. He grew up in a family with polar opposite political views.

Michelle and Shawn Lubeski getting married.

Then came 2016. 

“We were all starting to get really close and everyone’s colors came out," described the wife and mother of three. 

Michelle says the situation forced her to make the decision to put her love for her new family over her desire to beat them in a political debate. 

“I had a mental shift and I really did, consciously though, have to say, I need to be much more open-minded, because I realized also I'm limiting myself to just one narrative,” explains Michelle.  

Michelle is not the only person who’s struggled with this dilemma.

Dr. Tania Paredes, a licensed clinical social worker in Miami, says 10 couples have come to her for counseling in recent months specifically seeking help managing their opposing political views. She recommends being curious, not furious. 

“If I cannot tolerate a conversation with a person who has an opposite belief system, what does that say about me?" Dr. Paredes said. "Which, by the way, it’s fine if it says that I have no tolerance. That’s okay. But then you need to know that you can only have people around you that have the exact same belief system as you."

But Michelle says she did not want to live that way, so she learned ways to not allow politics to interfere with the relationship she has with her husband’s family, including her mother-in-law Sandi, who explains she has had her own reckoning.  

“I think we just learned to... You don't have to be out there all the time. You can believe in what you believe and not have to advertise it to the world,” Sandi Gil said.

Sandi Gil with her son, Shawn Lubeski welcoming his and Michelle's recently born baby boy.

Michelle’s mother-in-law says she too eventually figured out it served their family more to place boundaries during conversations related to politics.  

“I kind of learned that we actually liked each other a lot. And we have such a beautiful family and a beautiful bond. We have so much to thank god for,” Sandi said.

And that is in line with Dr. Paredes’ recommendation to shift the focus onto what values you share with the person.  

“If you’re going to go to Thanksgiving, already risking being in a confined space with COVID, and this is going to be an argument, just say, ‘I love you, and I'm just not going to talk about this and let’s just take it off the table,'" advised the family therapist. 

Michelle and Sandi continue to hold opposite political beliefs, but she the former says she came to a powerful realization.

“In those conversations, I don’t think we’re going to change the world. But there is a higher chance of us damaging our relationship,” Michelle said.

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