Psychotherapist on how to handle politically opposite family, friends post-election

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020
How to handle politically opposite family, friends post-election
Psychotherapists are reminding people not to put politics over love and friendship.

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- As tensions between married couples, family members, and friends who support different presidential candidates begin to escalate in the hours before Election Day, psychotherapists are reminding people not to put politics over love and friendship.

"Let's make the relationship more important than whoever it is we vote for on Tuesday," said Josh Jonas, clinical director of the Village Institute for Psychotherapy in Midtown.

Jonas said it's not uncommon for people who are close to one another to engage in deep, emotional fights over politics.

"When we're talking about politics, we're not just really talking about politics," he said. "We're talking about values. We're talking about beliefs. Then, all of a sudden, we feel that they may not share those values and beliefs with us. It can feel scary and even kind of threatening. The fear is, I'm not going to be able to connect with you as deeply as I want. I'm not going to be able to get as close to you as I want."

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Jonas shared some tips with Eyewitness News on how married couples, family members, friends and co-workers who support different presidential candidates can get along in the weeks following the election.

He said people should discuss politics with others only after assessing the individual with whom they would like to have the conversation.

"'Is this someone I can actually have a good, open back-and-forth with?'" Jonas said people should ask themselves. "If they can't, then it's best to walk away."

Jonas said people also have to look at themselves honestly.

"Everyone wants to say, 'Geez, this person is crazy,' but it's also important to assess where you are in terms of your feelings of openness and willingness to have a back-and-forth," he said. "The only way a conversation about politics can happen is when you allow yourself to be open and get curious in a very authentic way, really trying to understand where the other person is coming from."

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Eyewitness News spoke with some Suffolk County residents on Monday about how they're managing relationships with people who support a different presidential candidate from themselves.

"I try not to, you know, get too involved in it because I know what I believe in," one woman said.

George Ketterel, of Dix Hills, finds he is selective with whom he discusses his presidential pick.

"We try not to talk about it with certain people because they're a little more edgy than others," he said.

Steve Malichek, of North Massapequa, said he isn't experiencing a lot of tension in his friend group.

"Most of the people I know voted already, and they did what they had to do," he said. "Whoever they voted for, we get what we get."

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