You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Has the polarizing election stressed you out and strained friendships?

Experts share advice on how to move forward


It’s been a contentious election season, and throughout the course of the presidential campaign many in Central Texas and beyond have been feeling the stress.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Republican and Democrat voters are now further apart ideologically than they’ve been in the last 25 years. And 7 percent of voters, according to a recent Politico poll, have ended a friendship over the election.

When we asked if the presidential election was wreaking havoc on friendships, marriages or other relationships, we heard from numerous readers who have been navigating opposing viewpoints in their own circle of friends or family in different ways.

“They threaten to unfriend me (on Facebook), ask me to delete them and randomly resort to name calling,” American-Statesman reader Carolyn Liles wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook page. “I just laugh at the immaturity and keep supporting Trump/Pence!”

Austinite JoAnn Moran Furner, 60, says she’s been disappointed after some friends and family have turned to personal attacks when they disagree with her on political issues. As a retired librarian, Furner says research and fact-finding are her expertise. When she’d point out inaccurate information, she says some in her circles would get upset at her.

“I noticed the resistance to factual information,” she says. “My conclusion is that (this election is) emotional and some people automatically reject anything that disagrees with what they’ve decided.”

The long election season coupled with the surprising twists and turns along the way have been a recipe for wearing people out, according to author and stress expert Genella Macintyre.

“Under stress, we do not operate from our best self, but are primed (literally) to react,” says Macintyre, who wrote the book “Five Steps to Reducing Stress: Recognizing What Works.” “The fight or flight stress response is triggered every time we hear about, and disagree with, what is happening on the campaign trail.”

After Election Day, though, once all the ballots have been counted and a president declared, can a strained relationship caused by a polarizing political season survive?

Part of maintaining perspective, says David Blackburn, a psychologist at Baylor Scott & White Health, is understanding that even though we don’t like it when we don’t get our way, we can’t control how other people vote. “The only thing we can control is our response,” he says.

Shifting the focus forward starts with yourself, Macintyre says. “If your candidate won, avoid putting salt in an open wound. In other words, avoid the ‘I told you so’ approach.”

Many Americans will be put to the test soon with holiday gatherings that will bring together relatives and friends, including those with opposing viewpoints.

Blackburn suggests managing expectations and perspective before coming together. “Some people anticipate the hallmark perfect Christmas or Thanksgiving, which adds increased levels of stress,” he says. If heated political discussions come up during a gathering, Blackburn says it helps if you and your family have discussed a plan. “Do you have an exit strategy?” he says. “Do you need to limit the time you are there?”

Moran Furner says she has realized that although some of her strained friendships are not worth saving after this election, there are others she’d like to re-evaluate. When thinking about whether to repair some of these strained friendships, Blackburn suggests asking yourself, “Can we still have a relationship even if we disagree politically? Maybe a 10th or less of your friendship is politics, and 99 percent is everything else you enjoy and have in common.”

Macintyre says it’s OK to acknowledge that each of you feels passionately about your political views. It’s also fine to acknowledge there has been tension, she says. But if you’re both choosing to move forward, she suggests, it’s best to “agree to let it go and agree to disagree.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

This spring, plan for a colorful garden with these ideas
This spring, plan for a colorful garden with these ideas

GARDENING This spring, plan for a colorful garden For me, few things are more inspiring than the arrival of early spring blooms. One of my favorite harbingers of spring is flowering quince. Its bare, sculptural branches typically come alive in February with charming clusters of red, pink, apricot or white flowering buds. This year, mine also bloomed...
Austin’s Hand to Hold starts ‘NICU Now’ podcast for parents of preemies
Austin’s Hand to Hold starts ‘NICU Now’ podcast for parents of preemies

This month, local nonprofit Hand to Hold released podcast “NICU Now” on iTunes and Stitcher. Hand to Hold connects parents of babies who are born early or are medically fragile to resources like peer mentors and written materials about life in the neonatal intensive care unit. The podcast is a new way for Hand to Hold to reach more parents...
P.J. Hoover is back with ‘Tut’ sequel and at BookPeople next month
P.J. Hoover is back with ‘Tut’ sequel and at BookPeople next month

Writing the sequel to a successful novel can be even more challenging than penning the original. An author must revisit the elements that made the first book a hit while steering clear of retreads. The plot must be kept fresh enough to satisfy stalwart fans, yet still win over new ones who might not be familiar with the backstory. Back in 2015, Austin...
Beautiful confidence on runway from teens with cancer, blood disorders
Beautiful confidence on runway from teens with cancer, blood disorders

Cami Eagle, 16, walks the runway with a huge smile on her face. She is radiant in three looks: a black hat, gray plaid shirt and black leggings casual outfit; a more formal black crocheted dress; and an elegant green silk top and skirt that closes out the night. “I feel great!” she says after the Third Annual Children’s Blood & Cancer...
Teach how to love the community around you for all its diversity
Teach how to love the community around you for all its diversity

A parent of a Trinity first grader sent me a photo of her son. He is holding a handmade cardboard heart, perfect in its imperfections, filled with many colors and the words “Ubuntu Choose Love.” So simple, yet powerful. We are a community that, above all else, chooses love. Ubuntu is a South African philosophy meaning “I am, because...
More Stories