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 series looks 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.
"As a vocal activist on women's rights and empowering minority voices I've found it difficult to gain the same depth in conversations I had before with friends. It's either about politics or it's not, and if it's not about politics then this is a conscious decision that was made. While many are getting sick of talking about it and might not even be seeing the news or know what's going on currently, it's important to remember that ignoring it is normalizing it."
"Since the election, I’ve made the choice to end a nearly 10-year friendship. I am a liberal, and she’s been a Republican fundraiser ever since I first met her. We avoided talking about politics as much as possible for many many years (even while both living in D.C. — she works in politics!), but after the election things snapped for me. To see her attending the inaugural ball was really too much for me to handle, and I’ve backed away from the relationship. It’s become harder for me to maintain friendships with people I don’t respect, and I don’t respect those who support a leader who does not advocate for the rights of women around the world."
"I thought the political election would make my group of my friends more politically active and eager to engage in discussion with each other. We'd done that for years — always discussing current events and politics. Instead, I was surprised as my friend circle basically shut out all current events. The intellectual discussion we used to have disappeared and we rarely talked about any news. I can't figure out why — whether it's a fear to state our opinions, whether it's the anxiety caused by even reading the news, or whether we use our time to hang out as a form of 'escapism' where we think about fun things rather than the current political state. For whatever reason, it turned this area of our friendship off."
"Prior to the election, I was never well-versed on politics and while I’m still not a pro, I find myself researching quite frequently what’s happening in the political world. I’m definitely NOT on the Trump bandwagon but my family is. We’ve determined that (in an effort to not cause arguments) politics are a no-go subject whenever we have gatherings. We’ll legitimately get into intense fights about the state of our country because of it (especially because I’m the only one not team Trump). I’ve noticed this is the case with friendships too, but more seem against Trump than for, which is refreshing. My best friend is gay and every so often our convos get dominated by Trump and how we’re terrified for the future, especially him as a gay man. Twitter is CONSTANTLY fueled by politics which means #DumpTrump battles occur often. Furthermore, politics HAS taken over the conversation — on social media, in the office and out in the 'real' world. Everyone is JUST as concerned for the future of our country and the mental stability we have dealing with it. It’s quite sad."
"In my immediate group of three best girlfriends, I am the only Trump supporter. We rarely bring up politics because of our different views, and because we respect each other's rights to believe different things. If we do bring it up, we just let the person vent and then politely talk about the situation. I find it funny, however, how at work and with acquaintances (looser relationships), people I am with find it OK to bring up politics in conversation (most of the time just to bash Trump). It seems it'd be the other way around, but I guess you know who your true friends are when you can vary in beliefs and still grab drinks and a movie!"
"One of my best friends has become way more political than she ever was before, even making signs with her young girls and going to several protests here in Salt Lake City as well as up in Ogden (about 45 minutes north), since the election. We have been friends for 20 years. We both grew up Mormon but I have since left the church and she is still a faithful member. We've still stayed pretty close friends over the years, but since we don't have the same religious connection we used to have, our friendship feels different than it once was. Now that she has started getting more politically involved, I think it's actually helping us grow closer because we have something else we can connect about on a deeper level that is still tied to common values and beliefs."
"Over the last few months, I've seen many of my friends become more interested and involved in politics, volunteering, and philanthropy. And who could forget the Women's March? After Trump's inauguration, almost everyone I know skipped brunch in favor of attending the Women's March on Austin. At the same time, we're all looking for a support system and for ways to make a difference. I'm a member and serve on the board of the Young Women's Alliance, an Austin-based, volunteer-run nonprofit geared toward educating and empowering the next generation of women leaders. (Our members predominantly fall into the millennial generation.) After the election, I noticed we had an influx of new members."
"Instead of watching the Oscars or a basketball game with friends, we spent last year drinking wine and watching the debates. Yes, we drank every time they said 'Russia' or the 'Clinton Foundation', but we also discussed the issues of education, feminism and integrity. I found myself texting my friends over the latest breaking news and getting into long conversations analyzing the consequences, and I still do. And my male friends who became more outspoken against a certain type of "locker room talk" — I respect them even more."
"I had one close friend who, despite a liberal upbringing and education, was a closet Trump supporter. We had always clashed a bit on values, but enjoyed a solid friendship nonetheless. After the election, her behavior placed in the context of values that could elect Trump became completely untenable. I let the friendship go with more peace of mind than I ever could have afforded prior to the election."
"I have a group chat with some of my best friends from grad school, now spread out across the U.S. We have always bonded over our shared interest and belief in political action. Since Trump won the electoral college, our chat has become a support group with added activism opportunities. I am so thankful that I have had my ladies to rely on and turn to when the rest of the world went crazy. We share our laughter and tears in turn to get through every CRAZY week of this administration."
"Since the 2016 election I would say my relationships with friends have been a little rocky. I'm not Democrat or Republican, but my friends are not used to hearing me be so optimistic about a Republican president, nor a president like President Trump. We have political conversations, but they usually end with them not totally understanding my position and we usually have to change the subject within 30 minutes of the conversation. I have also noticed that they tend to be less political with me and sorta apprehensive about some of my thoughts on issues we use to agree on."
"My two best friends voted for Trump, and I tried my best to see that point of view but I just couldn't come around. Now that things have declined so quickly with the presidency, I have stopped chatting with them about it. Pre-election is was kinda funny and a "no way" game but now it's real and really scary. Protests have not replaced brunches but some of my other friends have helped get involved with my website Psychnsex by helping to educate women around the world about everything from sexual health, non-heterosexual/binary relationships to birth control and non-gender conforming people who have periods. Through education and social media, we're trying to help as much as we possibly can."
"Since the election (and even leading up to it), I've found myself slightly irritated with my close friends, because a day doesn't go by where there isn't some sort of political talk in our group chat. Obviously, I understand that politics are important to keep up with — particularly under an administration that I so strongly disagree with — and it's awesome to have educated, open-minded friends who want to discuss that stuff. Yet there's nonetheless a selfish part of me that misses the carefree days when the group chat didn't *always* revolve around Trump's latest blunder."
Whether you've realized it before now or not, the 2016 election has no doubt had an impact on the way you and your friends interact, even if your crew isn't particularly politically active. And if it's a negative impact, know that there are ways to deal. "The election of a misogynist president has had a wide impact across the country and world and there are ways to address your negative feelings," Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and creator of OneMinuteDiagnosis.com, tells Bustle. "Also, remind yourself that this is just a snapshot in time and the ideological landscape can change very quickly. Nothing lasts forever. If you are feeling enraged by a friend's online comments regarding Trump try talking to someone who is more moderate in their views to see if you can get some perspective on comments that you may read from friends of yours who are on the other side of the idealogical spectrum. Try to use it as an opportunity for personal growth. Research has demonstrated that looking at an issue from a different point of view helps your critical thinking skills."
Although it might not be the outcome you expected or hoped for, Trump's election has one silver lining: it's shown how willing young people are to speak up about their views, and how much of an impact we can have if we band together with our friends to challenge the status quo.
*Names have been changed