“Politics = Personal” is eating away at my marriage
November 6, 2018 5:11 AM   Subscribe

The election results of Nov 2016 were shocking for both me and my husband, but we’re dealing with things differently. I’m worried about him, which in turn makes me worry for us.

I am angry at much of what I see in the news, but refuse to let myself ruminate. I won’t let people who anger me live rent-free in my head, preferring instead to look for positive ways to give back to the community. Barring that, I can admit I’m not doing everything I can to be politically active and be the change I want to see in the world, so I try to accept the handful of people I know who have different priorities and thus are supportive of this administration. I’ve gone into forums to try to have respectful discussions with people who disagree with me - not very satisfying, but hey I made the effort.

My husband, on the other hand, has become angry and judgmental and weirdly confrontational. He has cut off his father, stepmom and the guy who was his closest friend for voting Trump - hasn’t spoken to them in the last 2 years. He gets into lengthy arguments on Facebook with friends of friends - being so rude that his own friends who AGREE with his viewpoints are asking him to tone things down when he argues with their friends. He goes into the pages of old high school classmates connected to him on Facebook, takes screen captures of their profiles showing their political leanings and “outs” them in his own statuses. Yesterday he got into it with his cousin who simply posted a picture of herself with her Trump-supporting 80 year old father, commenting “Eff that guy! He’s personally responsible for white nationalism, child separations, rape culture glorification, anti-conservation, dead Nigerians etc...” And it was an innocuous picture captioned “Love hanging out with my dad.” After the heated exchange that followed, he wasn’t satisfied that he’d made his point so he made another vague Facebook status passive-aggressively directed at his cousin -something about how “people should only spend time with good people, not bad people who are nice to them.”

Then he gets stressed out about/can’t let go of the conflicts he’s having and asks me to help him calm down. He feels justified in being unpleasant and confrontational because he is so thoroughly offended by the politics of our time that he sees anyone supportive of the current administration as the enemy. He feels very righteous in his positions and anyone who disagrees deserves his ire.

Still, he wants me to help him feel better. He doesn’t, however, want to hear from me that he brought any of his agitation upon himself. He wants my validation. His grievances are absent of self-reflection. “What’s wrong with people?”, he complains. “How can they go about their daily lives being so accepting of others when others have such disgusting views?”

Apart from his Facebook activism, I feel my husband does nothing to bring about change. He’s not phone banking, registering voters, getting involved locally, supporting local poor families, battered women, homeless, etc. He doesn’t avoid pollutants, recycle consistently, conserve energy or water (in our drought state). He doesn’t give as heavily to campaigns and charities as I do.

In fact, at home, he’s rather lazy, doing less than his share of chores (classic female emotional labor imbalance stuff), spending the rest of his non-work, non-Facebook time obsessed with the two cars he has and shopping for his next car. His kneejerk response in life is to find fault with anything that interferes with his desires and needs. He’s likely to feel attacked by any attempt to point out ways in which he might be unfair.

So because I see his selfishness and shortcomings at home and interpersonally, I am the last person to have patience for his self-righteous lambasting of others. We’ve had a couple arguments about his conduct online. I’ve flat out told him I don’t support his activities or his judgmental posturing. I can’t even get him to throw away his own trash, and he wants fist bumps from me because he called out another friend for lacking accountability?!?

I do think it’s important to speak out, but in a way that persuasive - that doesn’t alienate the people most likely to be on your side.

His behavior...it’s really wearing on our relationship. He’s anxious, seething and eaten away inside from current events. I sympathize with his feelings but can’t get behind the way he expresses them. I fear soon he’s going to turn on me for not being supportive enough. I believe he’s already resentful.

Does anyone see any way to turn things around? I’d do therapy with him, only he’s not shown much ability to reckon with his own flaws. I do want to make this relationship work.
posted by Libelula y colibri to Human Relations (37 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
One of the barometers I use for judging my own level of mental health and life functioning is whether I am arguing with strangers on the internet.

If I am arguing, that invariably means I'm feeling like a failure. Either because I literally failed at something (lost a job, pissed off a friend out of sheer stupidity) or else there are important tasks I am avoiding because they're hard or because I'm lazy or because I'm too anxious. Arguing with strangers on the internet gives me a false sense of accomplishment and self righteousness that I desperately need at that moment to compensate for my failure.

Fortunately, ever since I've figured out this link, I have been able to stop myself from arguing and ask instead, "What am I feeling? Why? How can I help myself feel better in a more productive way?"

Sounds like your husband needs to have this realization himself before he can stop being antagonistic. It's unlikely that he will hear it from you, IMO. I know how I feel about my arguments with strangers. I feel defensive and justified and self-righteous. Not likely to take feedback from others.

But here's how I think you can get his behavior to change: focus on his behavior as it affects YOU, YOUR folks, and his underfunctioning in OTHER areas. Just tell him that your friends and your relatives are out of bounds, that he HAS to be polite to them. Also make your needs and boundaries clear ito his contribution in the house. Stop coddling him and taking on a greater share of the housework. Stop doing his laundry and cooking his food, if necessary. WRT your relationship with him, your job is only to communicate how this is impacting your feelings for him, and then see if he steps up to do his half of the relationship labor by reciprocating your initiative to try and fix things.

By having a firm sense of your own personal boundaries and needs, and by unambiguously holding him accountable for honoring them, you will be able to mitigate his negative impact on your day-to-day life and other relationships. That is a goal worth working towards, rather than trying to change him or his ways of thinking. Changing his ways of thinking and behaving in other ways is a job for a therapist, not for you.
posted by MiraK at 5:46 AM on November 6, 2018 [82 favorites]

You've been putting up with this bullshit for two years, that's enough! Demand that he go to marriage counseling with you. If he refuses then you should start seriously thinking about DMFA. It's hard enough living with all that's going on and he's making it harder for you, and, if you have any, your children. Good luck.
posted by mareli at 6:21 AM on November 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

He should go to therapy. I absolutely agree with most of his political positions and his willingness to call people out, but it's obvious that this is actually compulsive - rather than dealing with things as they arise in his life, he's actively seeking out places to express his anger (and probably fear and sadness). Like, I feel very strongly that when someone is seeking out ways to be explosively angry over and over, that is because they can't move past a feeling, and the pain builds up, and there's relief for a little bit that comes from expressing the anger.

I ruminate and it's very hard for me to move past things. There was a point in my life where my particular set of compulsive ruminations were messing up my friendships and relationship, and a very wise friend wrote me a letter which basically said, "I hate seeing you this sad, but I cannot fix you through listening to you over and over. You should find a professional to help you manage these feelings." (And my friend had some recommendations, one of whom was great.)

Your husband doesn't need to change his feelings, he needs to change how he manages them so that they do not destroy him. (This isn't good for his health, either.)

The right therapist will be able to listen to him and help him figure out ways to process his anger/fear/sadness. It is not about "getting along" - he can cut off any Trump supporter he wants. It's about not having obsessive rage in your head all day every day.

If you think this answer would possibly be convincing, please show it to him. Talking to a sympathetic therapist helped me enormously. It did not change my beliefs or my actions (except for the action of ruminating all the time) but it helped me have a life outside of compulsive rumination/fear/anger/etc. You can find a therapist who shares your values - it's not about going somewhere where someone will tell you to, like, love white supremacists. You're looking for someone who will help you with the pain that comes from constant anger/sadness/fear.

You or he are welcome to memail me if there is anything else I can say on this front.
posted by Frowner at 6:28 AM on November 6, 2018 [63 favorites]

(Also, did he do chores before the election? If he didn't, that's a little more DTMFA. If this is some kind of "I am compulsively stuck and can't think about chores now", then it's just therapy time because that is classically depressive.)
posted by Frowner at 6:29 AM on November 6, 2018 [16 favorites]

This is vaguely reminiscent of my own husband. It is very hard to reason with someone who does not take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Therapy helps a lot. DTMFA is always an option.

Have you straight up told him, “you are embarrassing yourself on Facebook. If you want to effect real change you can do xyz so what’s the point of these witch hunts?”
posted by pintapicasso at 6:31 AM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

He labels the father and stepmom and friend as enemy because he is ego-identified and needs these people to side with him, or else he doesn't feel confirmed as a person. It's false, stuck thinking and I think a lot of us have been there.

For the ego it's very seductive to label the other as wrong. It needs to be fed to stay alive and that's why he gets into these conflicts. The drama...it's all wanting and fearing. The ego identifies as victim. It loves to feel righteous --it needs the comparison.

He's playing out some other pain -- inadequacy, shame, etc.

If it were my husband I would stop soothing him. Stop confirming his behavior. It sounds like you're already doing this. I would go a step further and stop discussing politics at all. Change the subject. As much as I admire your advocacy, his form is merely a distraction. It's childish and lacking in understanding. Perhaps if you extinguish all support of his destructive behavior he might come to a realization. Best case scenario is soon he will be in too much pain and have an epiphany. Maybe he will get that all of us are "right" and just playing out our hurts and pain.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Relationships fall into ruts and I think the current political climate has really put a strain on people.

You can let him know that you don't think engaging with others on facebook is constructive, and that it's bumming you out to see him getting upset about things he can't control every day (so less calling out his hypocrisy, more showing concern to him). Then you can suggest something enjoyable for both of you do to together, like setting a date night and going out for dinner and agreeing to not talk about politics/stupid people/upsetting things. You can block him on facebook so you don't see his posts anymore. If you want to make things work you need to see him in a better light than you do right now and different situations might help. Also do more things for yourself so you resent him less. Ask him to help you with household things or if you can afford it hire some help and see if that gets him off his butt.

My boyfriend likes to watch CNN and tweet at Trump (I call it his "daily anti-gratitude practice"), but he recognized before me that there's no point of arguing with his facebook acquaintances over politics and environmentalism and has been amenable to us watching less CNN. I told him I can only take so much 24 hour news cycle because I was literally having nightmares about Trump at one point and he has listened. Now we'll watch John Oliver and Colbert because at least it's a funny take on the terrible things going on. We have also had a few fights about chores and resolved it such that he does more and I complain less, but I have to stick to my boundaries and not take on more when he feels like doing less.

Also I fully agree it is not your job at all to have to do all of this, it is more emotional labor so if you have had it, just take care of yourself and see if he follows you, but you might be able to help shift him a bit to get out of this negative cycle he seems stuck in.
posted by lafemma at 7:08 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

His behavior...it’s really wearing on our relationship. He’s anxious, seething and eaten away inside from current events. I sympathize with his feelings but can’t get behind the way he expresses them. I fear soon he’s going to turn on me for not being supportive enough. I believe he’s already resentful.

He sounds resentful, and you sound (reasonably so!) resentful, too. This is the kiss of death in relationships. Y'all need a come-to-Jesus meeting about how regardless of your political feelings, your relationship is the most important, and saving that should be prioritized. And note, I don't mean that YOU need to save your relationship -- it better be on both of you, otherwise you're just heaping more emotional labor on top. It's time for him to take ownership of his being a shitty partner and do something about it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:12 AM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

For you: therapy, so you have some support for working out the state of things in your head and learning to discern between things you have no power over (his behavior) and what you do (your boundaries and protection thereof).

For him: I think you should tell him, once, that this is not a sustainable life you want to be involved in and you are setting off on the process of working out what you do want, and that this is the polite warning that he should either consider getting his own shit sorted out or begin working on his exit strategy. Do not enumerate the specific issues because he will try to debate them instead of take in the ultimate warning, you can leave those for later if he chooses to engage in some kind of behavior modification journey. Keep it absolutely simple: cannot live like this, cannot "make the relationship work" by yourself (you can't, no matter how hard you try to do the work of two people), cannot continue down the path of social and potentially legal liability he is establishing with his behavior towards others, are concerned about escalation, are losing the will to tolerate his general behavior toward has part in the relationship.

(It is both fair AND manipulative to do this, but the thing is that sometimes people who are spinning out of control DO respond to the short sharp shock, they hear the blunt warning and the risk of losing everything makes them desperate enough to get and truly accept help. It's no guarantee, but it's an opportunity you may regret not providing later, or use to hold yourself in the situation instead of doing the harder thing.)

Your other option is to make the relationship "work" by just contorting yourself to accommodate whatever he wants to do. Those are your two choices: sort yourself out, or put up with it. You can't make him do shit, you can't make him want to participate in the relationship, you can't make him stop behavior that is eventually going to come home to roost and probably pretty seriously affect your financial life if it's tied to his. It's likely that eventually you're going to have to get out, or his anger and paranoia are going to drive him to leave, so this will only work for so long but it will keep you from having to deal with it right now.

At the end of the day, you are describing behavior that is verging into pathological, and it has very little to do with actual politics and has a lot to do with having something serious going on internally, so don't gloss this over on those grounds. But only he can get help for it, you need to put on your own mask and get your own support system going because only you can do that for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:17 AM on November 6, 2018 [21 favorites]

I see a few different things going on here that are worth separating.
  • Choices about whom he has relationships
  • Ways he is expressing his feelings about the current political climate
  • Way he conducts himself at home, within the context of your relationship
Choices about with whom he has relationship

Refusing to have relationships with Trump-supporters is a completely rational reaction to the horror show of what these people have done. He gets to choose who is in his life. With that sentiment expressed, however...

Ways he is expressing his feelings about the current political climate

is where I think the real issues begin. As you said, he's not especially active in undertaking actions to mitigate the worst aspects of this terrible situation, while also running around online aggressively arguing with strangers. Unfortunately, this method of 'activism' is one of the least effective ways to enact change.

My suggestion for him would be to find some better way to use that time--volunteering to GoTV, working to serve houseless people in your area, or any number of other prosocial activities that make a positive difference in people's lives today. When you're busy with doing such activities, there's a whooooole lot less time for telling that jerk on the internet why they are wrong in detail. If you have the bandwidth to engage with a positive, community building activity, it may be worth inviting him along.

It would also be reasonable to shut down conversation about his online activities or to limit it to a short period of time (like 5 minutes). If you don't have the emotional energy to get on his angry train, then don't get on it, especially if there is no concrete action towards working to make the change he wants to see.

Seeing a qualified therapist would also likely be a very good idea, so he can have professional help in processing the mega-shitty nature of the last two years.

Way he conducts himself at home, within the context of your relationship

It sounds like there are other major issues within your relationship that seriously exacerbate your reaction to his online conduct, including not being an equal partner in the housework and treating you like a validation dispensing machine. These situations are probably not sustainable for your mental health. If he is not receptive to making a plan for how he can be more active in the maintenance of your shared home (and then acting on that plan), then I would suggest seeing a marriage counselor together (or an individual counselor yourself if he is not amenable).

If you need to split with him, that's a difficult choice only you can make. I am sure he has many positive qualities that drew you to him, but those qualities aren't necessarily enough to overlook the difficulties you've described.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 7:37 AM on November 6, 2018 [13 favorites]

A friend of a friend wrote this, and when I read it, I saw a little bit of myself. I’m working on some shit.

Maybe it would be helpful for him to read, or maybe it would be helpful to you even if he doesn’t. No matter how righteous he may think his anger is, he still has a responsibility for how he uses it and who bears the brunt of it.

Don’t get mad, get allied.
posted by FallibleHuman at 7:48 AM on November 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Back to add a few things that have me thinking. I think this is a topic we can all relate to in our current state of affairs.

Your husband is using people to enhance himself. Your husband wants validation from you. He wants to strengthen his position by comparing and shunning others. Love does not want or fear anything and it's not fair on him to depend on you for validation. It's self-enhancement at the cost of others.

Reiterating that you might try not discussing politics. I would discuss and focus on things that are happening in the now in your immediate life. Your walk outside. The coffee you are making. The bird outside the window. The weather. The embrace you are in together. Accept that he is in resistance. Make your boundaries clear. Don't stroke his ego, it won't help him grow.

A personal story: My husband and I both dislike Trump. I cried for three days after the election. My husband is on Twitter nearly every day. He comments and follows people who align with his worldview. He has a few friends who are Trump supporters and they will discuss. He likes to debate but doesn't take things personally or label or drop his friends. My husband is a mature person, but I still mostly see it all as a waste of time. Arguing politics on social media, or anywhere, does nothing to further the cause. Also, reducing a Trump supporter (a person) down to a concept of stupid or enemy is a form of violence. It's equal to a Trump supporter labeling liberals as retarded, or Trump calling people rapists or invaders. If your husband really cared about humanity and furthering peace he wouldn't engage in this behavior. He would stop acting like Trump. But he is stuck and hopefully the pain and chaos and drama will be too much and he will soften.

These days I try to live by example by seeing a person for who they are -- a human being, and that includes Trump. I don't like Trump's policies or behaviors but lightened up when I realized Trump is a one-trick pony. It's boring. It's the same thing every day. Nothing new under the sun. And, most of the time, my peace doesn't depend on what happens.
posted by loveandhappiness at 7:50 AM on November 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

I have struggled with this. It is 100% a symptom of depression and impotent rage with me. When I've been in the deepest depths of my depression, I'll get into an argument about something fucking stupid like a collectible card game and the only thing that can make me feel briefly not just a huge void of pain is to get SUPER MAD. It's avoidance and unhealthy, and as you've seen, it doesn't help him in any productive way after the event. It probably just makes him feel worse.

He needs to go to therapy. People can be irrevocably lost to this sort of stuff if the feelings are allowed to build and build until he's just unable to actually function correctly. It's a self-reinforcing cycle unless he realizes it isn't helping and tries to change how he thinks.

So I would try to frame this as a mental health issue vs. a what the fuck is happening in the world issue. If democrats sweep every election today, I don't think that would solve the problem. He needs a professional to help and to want to help himself. I'm sure there is a kind person in there waiting to stop hurting.

edit: What MiraK and Frowner said really resonated with me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:02 AM on November 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is not about Trump. I mean, it is, but not really. This level of agression, alienation, and avoidance sounds like mental illness, not garden-variety political upset. Has he been checked out for depression/anxiety? These behaviours sound like symptoms, not causes.
posted by windykites at 8:12 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

“The personal is political” is actually an indictment of your husband’s behavior— he cannot credibly identify as a progressive while making your home into a regressive Republican fantasy where a man’s feelings are the primary treasure to be guarded and a woman is trapped into helpmeet performances while also handling all the domestic labor. He’s living the Kavanaugh dream where hurt feelings are an emergency and structural oppression is a fantasy. He’s experiencing the patriarchal bliss that Jerry Falwell Jr. insists is the definition of Biblical marriage. His refusal to listen to or care about your feelings means his whole stance is lip service. He is reifying the values of the Trump administration within your home and your marriage.

Have you pointed this out to him?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:25 AM on November 6, 2018 [80 favorites]

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
― Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
posted by Fukiyama at 8:48 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband had a time where he was constantly obsessing about friend drama. Like, he would pick up every phone call from this ridiculous drama llama group and then work himself into a frenzy of tearful anxiety over the latest news. Then I would have to spend two hours discussing every single one of his unlikely angst scenarios and talking him down from them. Every second day. While I was handling a toddler, a job and a series of failed IVF treatments.

I can‘t tell you how deeply pissed off I was. I think I probably snapped at him multiple times to STOP PICKING UP THE PHONE already and that I was sick of these dynamics. But it was compulsive. Not picking up meant more anxiety.

Finally, someone pointed out to me that a) he sounded depressed and b) all this headless freaking probably gave him something he didn‘t have otherwise.

So next time there was an incident, I let him ramble on and then I said, „You don‘t have to live this way.“
„Pardon?“ he said, startled.
I told him about how he sounded depressed and constantly anxious. And that it must feel horrible. I told him, you don‘t have to live this way. This is what therapy is for. Sure, it‘ll cost a fair bit, but —
„I don‘t care about the money“, he said assertively. „Do you really think I‘m depressed?“

Amd would you believe it, that evening he turned off his phone, and a month later he‘d found a therapist and...thrived. It was amazing.

So yeah! Cutting to the chase can help!
posted by Omnomnom at 8:51 AM on November 6, 2018 [39 favorites]

I honestly think the kindest thing you can do for him is refuse to "help him feel better". As in, "honey, it's actively stressful and bad for me to deal with your shitty mood all the time, the only time I will talk about this with you is if you're willing to go to therapy together. Otherwise, my suggestions are (list of therapy, yoga, meditation, whatever) but I can't sacrifice my well-being to constantly absorb your bad feelings any more."

This is the emotional equivalent of having a sprained ankle and asking you to help him hobble around for months instead of going to the doctor.

When is the last time he's done the kind of emotional support work he's asking for, for you?
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:22 AM on November 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

Stop comforting him. His behavior sounds out of control and completely toxic, and I think you need to draw a hard line re: talking smack and starting fights on the internet.

As in, he needs to quit it. completely. Cold turkey. No calling out, no subtweeting, no participating in comment wars of any kind.

If he can't do that, he's either got a serious compulsion for which he needs serious help, or he's choosing to make his self-righteous anger a priority over your needs and comfort.

You can't effectively deal with the emotional/household labor imbalance, his need to address his mental health issues, and other making-the-relationship work stuff while this is going on. And if he can't get himself to a point where he's fully participating in the project to make the relationship work, things are never going to get better.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:30 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband went through a similar spell. His main problem was he got blindsided by how selfish people were. He thought other people thought like him and was surprised to find so many didn't. I had to draw the line at using my emotional energy, which I was using to get me through very similar feelings, to help him feel better. I had to put on my oxygen mask first. Just be aware that ignoring a problem & acting like it's not happening & over focusing on the problem are both unhealthy ways to deal with a very real situation. It's OK for him to be angry, it's not OK for him to use that anger in stupid pointless ways he needs to find a constructive outlet for it, that doesn't involve ranting at you.
posted by wwax at 10:33 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

What you’re describing is a sorta bad habit addiction issue. He’s getting a chemical release when he behaves this way. That’s why he can’t see the hypocrisy...

He needs a more enriching and fulfilling life full of meaningful activity. If he won’t find the strength to make that switch, I mean, maybe the relationship ha run its course?
posted by jbenben at 10:49 AM on November 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

My dad has this exact thing going on. He is overwhelmingly depressed. My mom has told him that his options are prayer and therapy. She will not entertain his toxic internalization of everything nor the way it spills out. So far he has only gone with prayer. He really, really needs to go back to therapy.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:10 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

+1 depression. He needs mental health treatment. Can you convince him to talk to his doctor about this?
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:16 AM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I add one more thing? I have something for you to propose to him, maybe he can start noodling a solution for what I’m about to discuss?

About 1/3rd of any population is predisposed towards authoritarianism. For these people, diversity and free expression in themselves and in others feels deeply uncomfortable. If we are to be a truly inclusive society, we have to figure out how to talk to these folks and create spaces and roles for them that make them feel... safe. If this 1/3rd can be accommodated within the larger fabric, maybe society as a whole will not have to grapple with the rise of fascism every so often. There’s gotta be a better solution beyond beating these folks into a corner when they seek to remove rights and freedoms from their neighbors. I think this “eternal” conflict enriches the ruling class that always profits from war, they are lying that the only solution is some sort of never ending battle where they arm both sides for profit. We can stop playing that game. Let’s think of better ways to design our society.

Your husband seems to have a lot to say about these types of authoritarian leaning people. Maybe he can start thinking about how to include them instead of always being fruitlessly locked in battle? They truly can’t help the way they feel. How can we be truly liberal and make society work for everyone?
posted by jbenben at 11:23 AM on November 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

When my son was in child care, the teacher said When you tell kids "Don't run", they hear "run" but when you say "Please walk" they hear "walk. Don't tell him not to talk politics. Make a list of new topics. Local politics, the traffic design on that road, neighbor's dog, what color should the grout be in the renovated shower, wasn't that game where that athlete did that thing really great? whatever. Husband starts to wind up. Sweetheart, you are so right. It's genuinely awful. But have you seen neighbor's new car? Do you think it will actually survive winter? It's simple distraction.

Take an adult ed course together. See a movie together. Go build houses for Habitat in your area, take walks and pick up litter. Dating is good, and this kind of stuff provides stuff to talk about that is not Fiery Trousers.

Put yer money where yer mouth is. Volunteer. Make your community stronger. Go to vigils and marches. Write letters. Do something about Climate Change, like put up solar panels.

I am still barely coping, but stacking wood has to be done, gets me in shape, and if you're in Maine, send your husband over. Ok, really, some old and/or disabled and/or poor person in your area needs help. In the face of hatred and despicable behavior, doing good makes a difference. I voted today and left my lights on. Several people offered to help, and somebody had a truck with a good battery, and we got it started. Nobody cared how I voted. And if 1 of those folks was a supporter of President Pants-On-Fire, they showed me they're a good person.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on November 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

I agree with comments here that suggest reframing your thinking around this a bit.

I don't think this is a politics issue, although it's triggered by politics and the crazy times we live in. This is about addiction to arguing on the Internet, and about a passive approach that is bleeding into your marriage as well. And that's hard.

If you feel like you really have clearly expressed that the way he is living is toxic to your relationship and it is dying, then I think it's basically giving him the choice to do therapy/change or that you will end the relationship. But if you think it's not clear, I would take the approach above of telling him what you do need:

"I need two days a week free from any Facebook arguing - I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to deal with your feelings about it. So I need two days a week that you are not on Facebook."

"I need you to refocus your energy on building our life together. I need to go out with you without looking at our phones twice a month. I need us to do chores together without Facebook one afternoon a weekend."

"I would like you to be a partner with me in building our local "team us" in our community. I need you to help us make and keep some friends/neighbours/support a charity/join a hobby group/etc."

"I need you to deal with those tense, adrenaline-seeking behaviours by exercising, not getting angry [fight or flight]."

"If you can't do these things, I need you to go to therapy."
posted by warriorqueen at 12:11 PM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think there are related but separate issues here that need to be untangled a bit: your reaction to the 2016 election versus his; your marriage and the balance of chores in the household; and his current state of mind, including his use of social media.

Your reaction to the 2016 election versus his
I would try hard to let go of your judgments about how you reacted versus how he did. This isn't exactly an issue of right or wrong. You did react in what seems like a pretty healthy way, but other reactions (attending protests every weekend? starting a zine?) might have been healthy, too. It's not so strange to me that someone might pull back from a best friend who feels so differently than you do about political issues. I think this is the most minor of issues here, but your framing of this situation -- including your reaction as a contrast to his -- suggests you might be feeling a bit superior to him. Is it contempt?

Your marriage and the balance of chores within it
This is an issue regardless of his political leanings. Sure, it's hard to see someone espousing lefty politics and then not living that in their interpersonal relationships. But has this been an issue since well before the election? It'd be annoying if housemate didn't take care of their own stuff regardless of political leanings. I'd try to separate these issues out in conversations because bringing the political issues into it is likely not helping and only making him defensive.

His current state of mind and use of social media
I agree with others who are saying this is likely depression and/or anxiety and should be treated as such. I know a couple whose marriage ended about a year or so after Sept 11, when he went into a similar kind of despair. Is there something like a midlife crisis going on? He might also be more socially isolated, especially given that he's ended some pretty big relationships in his life. I almost wonder if he was moving into a self-isolating depression anyway? And the election gave him an excuse?

So right now I think you are trying to reason with him, which is making him feel defensive. I don't think logic is going to win here. You won't convince him to stop doing this stuff, probably. I agree with others who are saying this is likely depression and/or anxiety. I do think he should consider individual therapy. It would probably be great for both of you to be in individual and couples' therapy.

Does anyone see any way to turn things around? I’d do therapy with him, only he’s not shown much ability to reckon with his own flaws. I do want to make this relationship work.
This is a bit defeatist. It's reading life a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you all discussed therapy? It can't hurt. But I think regardless of his willingness to pursue therapy, it would be helpful for you to go into therapy (and please don't say "But he's the one with the problem," because then we have a case of pot calling the kettle black, right?) so you can learn how to have healthy boundaries because, despite everything I've said here, this sounds truly exhausting.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:45 PM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Step One: get him off Facebook - completely and entirely
[There may actually not be a need for a Step Two]
posted by mannyfeefees at 6:45 PM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Anger is a legitimate response to the present situation (I, for one, do not find 45's dismantling and auctioning off of the regulatory state to be at all "boring," inasmuch as I think being able to breathe without getting cancer, eat things without being poisoned, and use ordinary consumer goods without being maimed is really quite interesting), but it is vital to resist the urge to slide into an all-consuming self-righteous rage. I do think even legitimate anger can supercharge anxiety and depression, particularly in men, and the results can be ugly. I agree with the advice above about encouraging therapy and the like, but I would also suggest trying to bring him along to some kind of positive community engagement. Something that takes him out of the endless self-fueling feedback loop of arguing and into activity that reminds him that, in the end, this really is about the well-being of people, and yelling at people on the Internet advances that in only modest ways, and can often be counterproductive. (I am not exactly in a position to say that one should never do it...) I've been looking out for more opportunities to do that recently, even in little ways--like, this weekend I spent 15 minutes cheering for random marathon runners getting near the end of the course--and I think it's been vital to maintaining my sanity.

This won't do the trick by itself, though. He needs to grapple with the anger and fear and sorrow underlying this compulsive adrenaline-surge seeking more directly.
posted by praemunire at 9:01 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

He has cut off his father, stepmom and the guy who was his closest friend for voting Trump - hasn’t spoken to them in the last 2 years.

I love that he did this and wish everyone would. So, I mean, he's not the only one who feels that is the only moral course of action.

Some of us just don't...have the ability to not feel the things we feel. We have strong emotions ALL THE TIME, no matter what. The concept of being able to choose to "not ruminate" (what even is that, I just have constant feelings) is bizarre to me.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:15 AM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

He's justified in feeling upset, but I made the decision that I am not going to give Trump the satisfaction of ruining my life. I will stay engaged, but not at the cost of my mental health. I too have avoided associating with extended family members who voted for Trump, but when my brother got married, I sucked it up and was polite to everyone for my brother. Your husband needs to draw a boundary for himself. The question, it seems to me, is how to convince him that his behavior needs changing. What I don't see in your post is whether you've told him everything you have written here? Have you ever said to him, "So what do you think yelling at your friends on Facebook is going to do? Get off the couch and volunteer at a campaign" or anything like that? Have you let him know, in case he hasn't realized it, that he just sits around on social media all day and contributes nothing to society at large or your marriage? If not, perhaps you should just show him this thread?
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:01 AM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you, everyone, for helping organize my thoughts.

I think it’s fine that he cut off Trump supporters who were close to him from his life (frankly I wasn’t keen on them anyway). I mentioned it because I suspect the loss/malfunction of those relationships in his life has contributed to his pain and negative state of mind.

My biggest takeaway here (and there was lots of fantastic food for thought aside from it) is to focus on our relationship at home and set firmer boundaries for myself related to household labor and the support expected from me when discussing Facebook.

We have had talks around emotional labor and housework (I shared the “Women aren’t nags...” article with him back when it came out and he was receptive but we’re both unclear on next steps). We’ve also had the discussion around volunteering more locally. He tried for a brief burst and then settled back into old patterns of inaction and Facebook activism.

I’m a believer in therapy. I’m happy to see one myself. It will be an uphill battle to get him to be receptive to it.

He suffers insomnia and I see him awake in the wee hours on his phone. He’s also looking to improve his station at the office as an opportunity is currently being dangled in front of him. It’s possible I can convince him that therapy can improve his anxiety and sleep patterns, which would then help him perform optimally at work.

I appreciate you all, and thanks again. I hope I can give back in the ways you all do here.
posted by Libelula y colibri at 7:42 AM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

That's a promising response. It won't solve all the issues, but I wonder if deactivating his Facebook account would be an option. He can always reactivate it. I've done this and I recommend it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2018

Well, it sounds like he has a pretty awesome partner, and that's a hopeful response.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yesterday he got into it with his cousin who simply posted a picture of herself with her Trump-supporting 80 year old father, commenting “Eff that guy! He’s personally responsible for white nationalism, child separations, rape culture glorification, anti-conservation, dead Nigerians etc...” And it was an innocuous picture captioned “Love hanging out with my dad.” After the heated exchange that followed, he wasn’t satisfied that he’d made his point so he made another vague Facebook status passive-aggressively directed at his cousin -something about how “people should only spend time with good people, not bad people who are nice to them.”

I want to comment on this because it's something that I feel really strongly about too. It offends me to my toes that people who claim to oppose fascism still hang out with fascists. It's NOT an innocuous picture to me at all! It's a picture of a Nazi having fun, and I don't think he should get to have fun.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2018

I agree with what you said in your update. Start with the relationship you have with each other. The mood/anger problem and the insomnia point to a need for deep psychological help, but he's probably not going to go for that just yet. There are plenty of specific ways to work on the interpersonal aspect within your relationship -- if the two of you can't make progress there by yourselves, the next step should be relationship counseling. Whatever counselor you see together may be able to influence him to seek psychiatric solutions.
posted by wryly at 2:39 PM on April 10, 2019

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