A lot has changed in the six months since Donald Trump was sworn into office, both on a political level and a personal one. Bustle’s State of Our Unions serieslooks at how millennial women’s relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners have been affected since the 2016 election. Today’s topic: millennial women on how their friendships are being impacted.
It pretty much goes without saying that things have changed since the 2016 election. No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, you’re bound to have noticed that President Trump’s election has had a major impact on day-to-day life in America. Because Trump was such a controversial candidate, people have been super outspoken about politics both leading up to and in the wake of his election. The “Trump Effect” is super real, and you need look no further than your Facebook feed for proof, where previously unengaged friends and acquaintances are up in arms, actively protesting, raising money for charities, unfriending political foes, and debating one another over the issues they feel passionately about.
But it’s not just our social media friendships that have been affected; naturally, this intense political climate has also had an impact on our IRL friendships, too. I personally can’t think of any other time in my life when my friends have been so politically outspoken, and it’s definitely changed the dynamic of the group — now, it seems almost frivolous to focus on anything that’s not the Infuriating Trump News Of The Day. Sure, we still talk about pop culture and what’s going on in our personal lives, but Trump talk is also pretty much omnipresent, and it’s really tough if you and your friends don’t agree.
“As I’ve been helping my clients navigate how the Trump era is impacting their relationships, I’m observing a pattern that appears to divide friends and family: fears and feeling unheard,” Melody Li, licensed marriage and family therapist associate and relationship specialist,tells Bustle. “When people disagree, it can feel very personal. But when we distill down the political opinions that people hold onto so tightly, even at the cost of relationships, we will find some deeply embedded fears. Pain comes in when people are so focused on being right (to protect their fearful feelings) that they are unwilling to hear and understand each other. When we feel heard and understood, even if we disagree, we can maintain the connection.”
That sounds great, but keeping the peace is often easier said than done. “So one strategy I teach my clients when they feel that their relationship is threatened by disagreements is to slow down, to listen to underlying fears instead of the issue on the surface, and to try their best to understand and empathize,” Li says. “At the same time, one can reflect on their tightly-held views and examine their own fears. Speaking from a place of vulnerability will increase the opportunity for connection and to decrease the chance for political issues to create divide. This is hard work and may take several attempts. My last encouragement is to only focus this intentional energy on deeply meaningful, important relationships. It’s often not worth engaging with people that aren’t truly important to you.””
In case you think you’re the only one struggling through this new territory, here are 13 millennial women on how their friendships have changed since the 2016 election.