No matter what’s happening in the news, it can be truly difficult to get along with people who don’t share your values and political ideologies. With the United States still reeling from the fallout of one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent history, it can feel more challenging than ever to maintain healthy relationships with loved ones if you don't agree with them. At least, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately.
It’s hard for me to accept the fact that 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump last fall. This is a man who’s been accused of sexual assault by over a dozen women, and who now refuses to condemn white supremacy in its most explicit form. What’s been even harder for me to be accept, however, is the fact that several of the women in my life were part of that percentage. I know my loved ones had their reasons for supporting Trump. I also know that it can’t be super-easy for them to support the voting habits of this far-left progressive. Still, I can’t support the way so many of my loved ones voted last November — and I don't think my situation is at all unique, especially after the events in Charlottesville.
Fortunately, I don’t need to agree with the Trump-supporting women in my life to keep on loving them. In fact, I’ve found there are lots of ways to support women you disagree with — and none of them include getting into political discussions that keep going in circles. Of course, it's important to challenge those whose beliefs conflict with your own, because maybe, just maybe, you might be able to change their minds. But it's going to be hard to do that if you don't support them, first and foremost. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve been able to support the women in my life with whom I disagree.
Try To Find Common Ground
When someone doesn't share your political ideologies, your stance on religion (if any), or even your hobbies, it can feel like the two of you have nothing in common. This doesn't have to always be the case, though.
I'm the only woman in my immediate family who didn't vote for Trump last November, and I'm the only pot-smoking agnostic atheist in my family. Still, I've been able to find some common ground with my folks since Trump's win last November. This guide can help you unpack some of the reasons you feel like you have nothing in common — and get you both to a place of mutual understanding.
Listen To Them
To be clear, there are absolutely times when you never have to listen to people. If your mom brings up a topic that you're not comfortable discussing with her (like abortion, your sexuality, or your diet), then it is 100 percent acceptable for you to respectfully and firmly shut that conversation down. It's your right to set boundaries.
That said, one of the easiest ways to support the women in your life is to listen to what they have to say. So the next time you're hanging out with your mom/sister/girlfriend/aunt, just make sure you're actively listening to her when she's speaking. If listening proves particularly challenging for you, this article might help you improve your skills.
Encourage Them To Pursue Their Goals — Professional And Otherwise
Whether it's a small goal (like exercising daily) or a big goal (like finishing graduate school), we should all be encouraging the women in our lives to follow their ambitions. Of course, this doesn't mean you should drop everything to help your friend apply for a new job. It doesn't mean you should feel obligated to be their new workout buddy, either. It just means you should try to verbally and emotionally support them in their endeavors.
Take it from someone who's been there: Emotional support goes a long way when you're struggling to make good things happen for yourself. Sometimes encouraging a friend means being there for them when they're feeling insecure. Other times, simply telling someone to go for it can be the catalyst that pushes them toward self-improvement. At least, that's been the case for me.
Offer To Lend A Hand When You Can
Millennials are some of the busiest people of all history — or so it feels. Personally, I feel like I can barely keep up with my own to-do list, so I know better than to volunteer to babysit my nieces or mow my mom's yard right now.
I've found that you don't actually need a ton of time to help out the women in your life, though. In my experience, it takes very little time to change a diaper, walk a dog, or introduce people over email, but all of these small actions can be incredibly helpful. (Plus, they require zero political discussions, or even talking of any kind.) So the next time you're with a lady in your life, offer to help her out in whatever small way you can. It might not seem like much to you, but it's a show of support that will probably mean a lot to her.
Celebrate Their Successes, Even When It's Difficult For You
No matter how nice you are, or how much you want your loved ones to be happy, I think it's safe to say that we've all struggled to celebrate the successes of others. This isn't something to feel guilty about, either. The fact is, it's not uncommon to struggle with jealousy from time to time, and some studies suggest that humans tend to be competitive creatures. (Here's looking at you, Monica Geller.)
That said, if you're not at least trying to be happy for the women you love, then that's something you should consider working on. I know it's easy to turn someone else's success into your failure in your mind, but that's not healthy or fair to anyone involved. Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and your loved ones deserve your support in both good times and bad.
Comfort Them When They're Down
In my experience, you don't need to have a ton in common with someone to effectively comfort them when they're feeling low. My sister and I have radically different views on abortion, religion, politics, and lots of other things — but she's always there to comfort me when I need her the most. When my first longterm relationship ended, she drove over an hour (with two toddlers in tow) to spend the night with me. She was there to comfort me during my last breakup, too. I don't always know how to return the favor when my sister's feeling low, but I've found foot rubs and wine usually help.
However you decide to do it, make an effort to comfort the women you love. Your comforting methods might not "fix" their problems, but they'll probably appreciate you for trying. Plus, just knowing that you have their back should make their situations seem a little less dire.
Tell Them That You Love Them
OK, so this one is pretty simple, but even I need a reminder from time to time. If you want to show support for the women in your life, tell them that you love them, and tell them often. Even if your loved ones already know how you feel, they probably still need to hear it once in a while. It's a simple act that'll go a long way.
Stand Up For Them
I know this is easier said than done, but it's super-important for women to stand up for other women. What's more is, sadly, opportunities to do so abound. So whether you choose to show your support by marching in peaceful protests, calling out sexism at work, shutting down trolls on Twitter, or telling street harassers to f*ck off, start taking more opportunities to show the women in your life that you have their back. It's empowering as hell to stand up for other women, but more importantly than that, it's becoming increasingly necessary in today's political climate.