In a recent column you advocated that someone might want to continue having a relationship with their mother, even though the mom voted for Trump and won’t take a stand against the administration’s anti-LGBT actions.
But when is enough enough?
My sister, a proud Republican, not particularly religious, assured me following the election that she was not voting against me, just against Hillary.
That was of small comfort. I was appalled by her support of a guy who thinks and acts in the revolting and dangerous ways Trump does and I was horrified by her misogynous thinking.
But I thought to myself that family is family; while all of us see the world differently and hold different viewpoints, it is important to get along.
This was my stance until last week when I read that the Justice Department is supporting the guy in the upcoming Supreme Court case who didn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, because doing so offended his religious beliefs.
I brought up my unhappiness over this to my sister. Yes, I have remained disturbed by her vote and skeptical of her support of gay rights, so I wanted to hear where she stood.
To my disgust, my sister informed me that she supports the DOJ move because it’s all about “religious freedom.”
I don’t want to have anything to do with her anymore. Why should I talk to or stay connected with a person who believes I should be discriminated against and clearly doesn’t respect my own marriage?
I can foresee all sorts of complications, such as the upcoming holiday gathering at my parents (who are trying to stay neutral, but that’s another story). But aren’t there some circumstances where it’s OK not to have a relationship with someone because their point of view is so hateful? Even if that person is your sister?
Of course none of us is under obligation to speak, socialize or have anything to do with someone who is in favor of our being discriminated against.
And while refusing to talk with someone we’re angry at or hurt by can actually feel pretty great, there are a few drawbacks to cutoffs.
First, although there is no guarantee, sometimes we have the opportunity to influence other people’s thinking over time by talking about our point of view in a way that is neither too challenging nor too confrontational. Of course, this can be incredibly difficult to pull off when the other person advocates for your second- or third-class status. But if there is no communication, changing another person’s mind or simply opening their eyes to other ways of seeing an issue is less likely.
Second, when you cut someone out of your life, you often end up holding onto a lot of anger going forward. When the person’s name comes up, when you’re both invited to the same social event, when you cross paths — all these are opportunities to feel your rage over the awful things the other person has done that merit your not wanting to have anything to do with them. So if you’re contemplating a cutoff, you have to consider whether you want to expend a considerable amount of energy and brain space on strong negative feelings for years to come.
Third, as you note, things can get complicated. Maybe you’ll miss being with the rest of your family for the holidays because you don’t want to sit across the table from your sister. Maybe you’ll wind up having a troubled relationship with your parents as they feel caught in the middle between two of their children, one of whom won’t be in the same room as the other. And if you have any children and/or your sister does, future generations of the family will miss out on the opportunity to know each other.
Consider, too, how realistic political agreement is to you. Yes, these positions can feel personal, but if your barometer for friend and family interaction is total political agreement, you’ll eventually whittle your circle down to a very small group.
But this is your decision to make.
If you do cut her off, I hope for your sake that you’ll find a way to get past enough of your anger that you don’t keep feeling furious whenever you think of your sister or hear her name. Because that would not be a great way to live.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.