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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

End ties over politics

Lucy Atkinson
A donkey and an elephant linked together by a yellow connection are snipped apart by a large pair of scissors. Given the meaningful values that are often linked to our political beliefs, it is OK to break ties with family and friends over politics. (Lucy Atkinson | Northern Star Graphic)

It’s another election year, and political differences are increasing stress on family and friendships. Some may say it’s important to preserve these ties despite ideological differences. However, we must stand up for our values.

Our mental and emotional well-being should always take priority. The constant attack of arguments and tensions over political views can inflict unnecessary stress, undermining our happiness and peace of mind.

Suzanne Degges-White, chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education, said relationships and social support are essential to overall mental well-being and promote longevity.

“When we have bad relationships physically, we suffer, and when we’re suffering physically, we’re suffering mentally,” Degges-White said. “So if you’re constantly stressed when you’re around family who are always pushing their views on you, it’s going to create stressful situations.”

It is inevitable to have ties with people whose political views differ from your own. Still, some people wear their politics on their sleeves. Suddenly, everything that happens in the world is politically motivated.

“We should be able to compartmentalize people if their relationship has a lot of value, because we have to, you know, with political views, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity,” Degges-White said. “We’ve got to be OK with people being different as long as it’s not getting in the way of making us feel attacked or feel bad.”

While mutual respect and understanding are the bedrock of healthy interactions, political differences can transform into heated arguments, destroying connections and reducing the importance of respect.

“We live in the social media era and so the ability to listen and learn from other people seems to have really declined, but it really is empathy, understanding and curiosity about another person’s views that are gonna be able to get us from this place,” Degges-White said.

In 2022, 792 registered voters were surveyed on the November general election and 19% said they had disagreements with family or friends over political issues that hurt their relationship, according to The New York Times.

In addition, political views are often based on deeply held ideals and beliefs. If your core values don’t match those of your friends or family, it might be hard to find a way to get along without putting your own ethics at risk.

“As far as political discussions and differences, when my values are being questioned or belittled, that’s gonna be my hot topic,” Degges-White said.

By ending these kinds of interactions, people can stay true to their values and maintain their sense of self-respect. It might seem extreme to end a relationship because of political views. Still, it is ultimately a matter of self-preservation and personal growth. 

“If you’re willing to end a relationship, and it’s about values, then that happens,” Degges-White said. “Values change over time, and friendships aren’t gonna last forever. Usually, there are few that do, but as we change, relationships may change too, and they have to.”

While one can separate a person’s political views from their other redeeming qualities, if their politics are part of their values and character, the ability to be your authentic self around them could be hindered.

“It’s hard because before, politics were just kind of something out there and something we were, either Democrat, Republican, whatever it might have been,” Degges-White said. “But now, when you claim you’re a political party, I’m already presuming so much about who a person is based on that. And so it’s become too big a part of how we see people.

Ending relationships with family and friends over politics can be a necessary step toward putting our mental health first, keeping our self-respect and living a happier life. It might be hard to choose, but if our values clash with others’ ideals, it’s not a relationship worth having.

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