The 2016 presidential election has caused enormous strains on relationships of all sorts, from friendships to families to marriages.
According to a Monmouth University poll, 7% of voters report having lost or ended a friendship because of this year’s divisive presidential race. Despite party affiliations, one thing most voters could agree on was that this election brought out the worst in people.
As The New York Times and The Atlantic both reported, for the first time in US election history, the 2016 presidential race even divided married couples, who, in elections past, tended to band together when it came to voting.
“Part of the problem is not just preference,” Republican pollster Whit Ayers explained to The Atlantic. “It’s that if you’re not for Trump, you have a hard time understanding how any rational human being could be. And the same is true for Clinton.”
Reports on social media of people being uninvited from Thanksgiving festivities this year because of their presidential picks seem to bear this deep division out.
But while we know this vitriolic election will have a number of long-term effects, will your bruised and battered relationships be one of them?
Making peace with close friends and family who backed the other candidate is possible according to the experts, but it won’t be easy.
“Reconciling with those you sparred with and continuing the discussion feel more complicated because so much uncertainty surrounds life after the presidential election,” Dr. Michael McNulty, a master trainer from The Gottman Institute and founder of the Chicago Relationship Center, tells Business Insider.
He says that, since few thought Donald Trump would be elected president, no one really knows what a Trump presidency will look like and we face an uncertain future.
“Uncertainty is very stressful,” he says, which can cause people to lash out and have much more impassioned, sometimes hurtful, debates.
The road to recovering relationships after hurtful things were said shouldn’t be all that unfamiliar, but that doesn’t make it any easier to navigate.
“If conversations got heated and you were out of line, apologise,” McNulty says.
“If someone apologizes to you, accept the apology,” he says. It’s as simple as that.
It’s also helpful to know when to have these discussions. Perhaps waiting until everyone is sat down to the dinner table to eat is not the most tactful approach. Instead, try blocking out some time or even setting up an appointment so that the problem can be handled with much more care.
“This year, a lot was at stake,” McNulty says. “This left people extremely passionate about the issues and candidates. If you or your family member crossed a line beyond debating into poor behaviour, try to repair and set a more positive tone. Competitive athletes do this every day.”
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