Dr. Mike,

My husband and I have watched politics ruin many of our closest friends’ relationships and now it’s happening to us.  I’m wanting to unfriend certain friends on-line because of what I see them posting, and I also don’t even want to have some people in my life anymore at all because their views are so different from ours.  My husband and I are Christians, and we’ve always tried to be non-critical and patient in God’s light, but it’s getting harder to do with everything that’s happening in the US right now.  This has also been very painful for me since some of the friends I no longer wish to have in my life are lifelong friends from college or high school.  Your advice is appreciated. 

Upset in Loudoun

Presidential Election 2020

Dear Upset in Loudoun,

You’ve probably heard the saying that you should never discuss politics, religion and money with people, but those topics (and several other sensitive ones) are being discussed publicly now more than ever on social media and in our lives.  Sure, openly sharing your views on a personally charged topic with friends – on or off line – can be productive, but the risk for upset and hurt can also be great.  But these are the times we live in, and avoiding social media or public opinion isn’t always realistic or possible.

Regarding your friends with opposing political views, I recommend that you carefully assess each friendship that you want to end individually, rather than lumping all of your friends into a group that you need to break up with.  If you’re a Republican is it really the case that you can’t have any friends who are Democrats or vice versa?  In assessing each friendship, I think you should carefully think through the things that drew you to that person to begin with; shared values, common interests, etc.  If you find that there are still lots of positives and only political differences in a particular friendship, for example, then maybe that’s a friendship to continue.  You can always openly discuss your concerns and differences with that friend, and even agree to disagree when it comes to politics, without having to part ways.  Just like you might have long time friends with different cultural backgrounds and/or religious beliefs, why can’t you maintain friendships with others who hold different political views?

However, you didn’t share anything specific, so I don’t know where your political differences with your friends lie, and perhaps comprising isn’t best for you (or them).  Certainly, if your friends’ views are too off-putting for you to tolerate and accept in the friendship, then perhaps it’s time to move on.  Again, by carefully assessing each friendship of concern, you will be in a better position to determine what you should do.  This exercise will very likely help you to either accept and continue some of your long time friendships where politics could be something that your friends and you can respectfully compartmentalize away from your discussions or it will help you to let go of others for the right reasons.

“I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.” ~Thomas Jefferson