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The U.S. Election is Straining our Marriage

August 25, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

Help! We're on different sides and things are starting to get hostile.

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have a pretty good marriage; actually it’s very good. We have been married for 30 years and have raised a beautiful family. We enjoy each other’s company and see eye to eye on most issues. Although we have our share of mild disagreements, we don’t usually fight – that is, until this election year in America. I won’t tell you who’s on what side but only that we disagree and it has started to get hostile. The same issue is occurring with some of my friends. It is very uncomfortable for me and I don’t really understand why everyone is so certain about their position and so scornful of the “other side” but it’s starting to harm my marriage. What should I do?

Voting Independent or Not at All

Dear Non-Voter,

I certainly know what you mean. Everywhere I go, tensions are running high and civility low. People are “unfriending” each other and “disinviting” close friends from their weddings. It puzzles me as well. Whenever I try to address the issue, someone always pipes up that they don’t want to talk about politics. I counter that it’s not politics I’m opposed to, it’s the way we are treating each other.

Hot on the heels of the Tisha B’Av, when the Temple was destroyed for gratuitous hatred, Jews are fighting over political parties and positions. I can’t think of a hatred much more meaningless than this, or a conversation much more futile. Well, that was my soap box moment and now to your situation. I think the solution is the same for both. In the first place, refuse to engage. Don’t get drawn in to that conversation, no matter what is said. There is no good that will come out of it.

“I love you too much to have this argument.”

The second is to establish some “rules for conversation.” You can tell those people you care about – spouse and friends – that your relationship is too important to cause even the slightest amount of damage to it over political disagreements. And then just clamp your mouth shut. They may argue that this election is important, that there are significant issues at stake. You have your mantra “I love you too much to have this argument”. Repeat over and over – in a soft and gentle voice. It will diffuse the situation and be good practice for the teenage years!

My Husband is a Negative Trigger

Dear Emuna,

I have a child with some serious challenges. My husband and I agree about how to handle it and recognize that the resolution of the situation is out of our control. We are trying the strategies available to us and praying – a lot! My problem is that I find it difficult to be around my husband because it just reminds me of our challenge. If I go out with friends, I can forget and have a good time. If I’m with him, I get depressed. It’s not even that we have this challenge but now it’s hurting our marriage and I don’t know how to fix it. Help!!

Fun with Friends

Dear Fun with Friends,

I understand what you’re saying. It’s actually very common where there is a sick child (I’m not sure what your situation is exactly) for tension to rise between the husband and wife. Some of it is over different coping strategies. Some of it may be over disagreement about treatment. And some of it is just as you described – being in each other’s presence is a reminder and reinforcement of the pain.

Avoiding your husband allows you to avoid some of the pain, at least for a short time. I see that you recognize what you’re doing and understand that it is harmful to you and your husband. In fact, it must be causing him a lot of additional pain to see that you can go out and have a good time with your friends but can’t bear to be with him.

The first step to resolving this issue is to discuss it with him. He needs to know that it’s the situation and not him personally that is pushing you away. The second step is to work on yourself. Avail yourself of professional help if necessary but begin by reminding yourself that everything is in the Almighty’s hands. Take a deep breath and ask Him to help you. Then turn to your husband and strategize. How can we cope? What should we do so this doesn’t hurt our marriage?

One simple suggestion is to find some “fun” activities to do together. You need to do something that will take your mind off the situation, something where you will bond over something silly. Then you need to remember that you and your husband are on the same team. You are allies in this struggle. You have the same interests in your child’s welfare and the health of your marriage. You need to make a conscious decision not to push him away and stop using your friends – or your phone or your email or your television – as a tool for avoidance. Together you will be strong and able to deal with anything.

I understand that this is a challenging time. You clearly don’t want to compound that by having marital issues to deal with as well. There is no easy way around this. You need to make a decision to put your marriage first and to focus on your husband as your partner, and not just as your child’s father. It will be difficult at first but it’s crucial – and I’m confident that if you make a sincere effort, if you pray for help and if you add in those “fun” activities (which are not trivial but essential right now) you will be able to turn things around and your husband will become a source of support and not stress.

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