When You Can No Longer Conveniently Overlook Differences With Your Family Or Partner
You may recently have been confronted with an aspect of your family member – or partner – that you’d previously overlooked in order to keep the peace.
There’s been an unspoken rule that you won’t talk about a certain topic because you’re aware you have radically different views, and that going there would open up a can of worms.
But now something has happened and you can’t avoid the topic anymore.
Loss of connection
When you speak with or see them, it’s hard to feel connected. Things have become tense. The places where you and they don’t see eye-to-eye have been pushed to the forefront – for example, they voted in a certain way for reasons you can’t fathom – and so the can of worms is wide open.
Perhaps you feel deeply disappointed – heartbroken, even. You may feel personally hurt by them – their choices make a comment about who you are or your lifestyle, or you feel aggrieved on behalf of others. There’s a sadness, a despair.
Maybe you know that this relative – or your partner – is a good person, but you just don’t feel in touch with that right now, given their views or their actions.
Perhaps healthy debate feels impossible. It all feels so raw, so personal, so close to the bone. Perhaps they’re dismissive of you and your beliefs.
You may have reduced contact with them – or stopped speaking all together. There’s a divide, a rift that has become more and more evident.
And you’re seeing them soon
This disconnect is even more of an issue right now because you’re due to see them soon for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another family get-together. With tensions high and relationships strained, how’s that going to work around the dinner table?
There was a certain bliss in ignorance – that deliberate ignorance you chose, in order to get along. Now your eyes are wide open to how they see THAT TOPIC, is there a way to feel peaceful and connected?
Step 1: Get factual about them.
If you’ve previously been focused on wishing reality were different, take a deep breath and acknowledge what is. It doesn’t mean you like it or endorse it.
For example: My mother-in-law believes women should stay at home with the children until they’re school age. My partner voted for Brexit. My sister doesn’t believe people of the same gender should be allowed to marry. My father is pro-Trump.
Step 2: Get honest about yourself.
When you hear your family member or partner speaking about this topic, what happens for you?
Imagine a camera were focused on you and observe your reaction. Who do you become? This may not be very comfortable! But if you’re committed to peace and freedom, this is essential.
For example: When my brother speaks about immigrants, I become enraged. I lose all respect for him. I argue back, I stop listening, I try to get others to agree with me, I call him racist and other names, I have the urge to shake some sense into him.
When you interpret their perspective as wrong, notice how it affects your words, your tone of voice, your body language and your actions.
Notice the impact on you. Notice the cost.
Step 3: Choose how you want to show up.
Take charge of your experience. What could you say? What could you do? What’s the best version of yourself that’s possible in these challenging circumstances?
Could you listen more closely – to recognise their fears and concerns?
Could you share a personal story with them – not to forcefully change their mind, but to offer a fresh insight?
Could you acknowledge their values, or even an aspect of their perspective you agree with – to identify some common ground?
Easier said than done
When our family member or partner holds views that clash with every value we hold dear, it can seem impossible to speak civilly, to listen respectfully, to be kind or caring or loving. We might even think: “I don’t want to be kind to them! They’re a bigot! They don’t deserve my respect.”
Perhaps this position works okay for you. But if you’ve read this far, my guess is that you want to be free from the pain of disconnect. If this relationship matters enough to heal the divide, there is a way to peace.
The three steps above give you an insight into WHAT to do, but there can be a lot of resistance. It takes commitment and courage to show up as the best version of yourself when someone’s point of view is utterly opposed to yours.
Committed and courageous? Book a free consultation to discuss your situation and what’s possible.