Learning to coexist with thy “enemy”
My husband and I come from similar family backgrounds. Both sets of parents identify as conservative Republicans with hearty appetites for all things tradition. All four are Trump supporters who plan to vote for him again in November.
Back in 2016, my husband was anticipating the much-anticipated opportunity to vote for Trump, believing in his own way that his vote would help “make America great again.” His family hails from northern Pennsylvania where coal veins and American convention run equally deep, and long-term job security is held in high regard. He simply couldn’t imagine voting for anyone other than Trump, who promised in his presidential campaign to boost the economy and create unprecedented numbers of new jobs¹, both of which would benefit my husband and his family greatly.
I exist towards the opposite end of the political spectrum: not quite all the way to the left, but somewhere left of the center. 2016’s election outcomes left me flabbergasted and, as time progressed, my feelings of confusion grew to become those that more closely resembled concern. Perhaps most worrisome, however, were the changes that Trump’s administration perpetuated in the very fabric of our two families, turning once innocent political and social discussions into cutthroat debates that spilled over into quiet living rooms and onto dinner tables. The national battle between Democrats and Republicans began to play out on a smaller stage, raging in the privacy of our homes as people who would normally think before they speak reversed their courses, choosing instead to get even louder about concepts on which they maintained no formal expertise or authority. Inflammatory (and sometimes shocking) opinions filled the air as family members now shared openly about their personal stances, taking a certain pride in airing those views that were once considered too controversial to share.
My husband and I began to argue about the news. I watched in shame as other countries condemned America’s seemingly endless violations against human rights and welfare, calling our country’s treatment of immigrants out on the carpet for all the world to see.
My shame turned to shock as millions of women lost their access to essential reproductive care as a result of Trump’s attacks on Planned Parenthood as he pandered to his base by threatening to limit our right to abortion.
My shock turned to horror when I realized that some of my family members condoned these actions, and even lauded them.
By this point, I had already realized that Trump was coming between my husband and I; he viewed me as someone who wanted to support those who failed to work for themselves, at the expense of people who worked their entire lives for what little they had.
I viewed him as the enemy.
To be fair, I made it very difficult for my husband to simply ignore our differences. I screamed at the television, ranted aloud about how far our collective morals had fallen since I was a young adult, and made vibrant comparisons between pre-war Germany and contemporary America under the Trump Administration. Eventually we stopped watching the news altogether, opting instead to read our information in silence. One day, we decided that even though we were actively avoiding politics, we could still talk about the wealth of other things that sparked our passion, including whether Glenn Danzig is truly as great as he thinks he is, or whether I have time to adopt another dog before our newborn son arrives in May (I’ve been really pushing it on this one, but I just can’t get enough of all things canine these days).
When we reconnected over these topics, we finally realized the magnitude of the wedge that had been driven between us by the chaos of the current political atmosphere. We’re still the same people we were before Trump, though time and age has moved in on us considerably over the years, leaving us both with an even greater appreciation for the lives we share and the peace we’ve tried desperately to create for ourselves. Our fears and frustrations over the state of our country, the anger and hostility exhibited by both sides of the political spectrum, and our desire to progress forward instead of rooting ourselves in the way it’s “always been” came in, turning us each into frenzied adversaries with our own intentions of being right. As a couple, we felt that we needed to make the decision to reject participating in the political rants of our family members and just simply live our lives as best as possible under the circumstances.
Marriage can be difficult regardless of who’s in office, but it should be more about finding yourself arguing over trivial things- including who ate the last granola bar, or who yelled at the dog unnecessarily, or who used all of the toilet paper. Despite the chaos and vitriol of the outside world, it’s more important now than ever to revisit what truly matters over the (hopefully) long courses of our lifetimes, versus what only seems to matter temporarily: love and marriage, prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our most precious relationships over the need to be right, and taking the time to remember who you both are at the end of the day.
Isaac Arnsdorf, Lena Groeger, & Daniela Porat. (2019). What happened to all the jobs Trump promised? https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/trump-job-promises