How to deal with Trump-supporting Family Friends?
May 18, 2020 11:28 AM   Subscribe

My wife and sons love this other family that are Trump supporters. I can't stand them. It's tearing us apart. How can I navigate this?

I should start by saying that our marriage is pretty much on the rocks, and we openly speak about divorce in a few years when they're a little older and we can afford two houses in the same neighborhood. This isn't common knowledge to anyone but my family (and maybe hers).

My wife is a Democrat but has a much greater tolerance for Republicans (she comes from a family of them). So when I complain about how I hate talking to them she says, oh you just need to throw it back in their face, he [the husband]'s a doofus, etc. etc.

I don't mind the sons being best friends, and wouldn't have a great deal of control over that anyway. And I can't really control my wife's friendship either. But she speaks as if it's an inevitability that I'm going to have to deal with them being our best friends for the next ten years. She wants to go on vacations with them, etc. I've told her that, no, I don't want to hang out with them at all, and would prefer that they somewhat limit the amount of time that they're all together so we can find other friends that we all like. I also want it to be made clear (if subtly so) to the other family that I'm not exactly a fan of them, so the husband will limit visits.

Their kid is a sweetheart but I think the parents are a bad influence on my wife in terms of excess drinking and relaxing quarantine guidelines. The other day they were all over here playing together on the deck, and I let it go because it was my son's birthday, but then my wife got sick and threw up and the kids ended up inside while I was trying to clean up the house.

I brought up all this with my wife and she got really defensive (understandably) because it came out as thinking that she's a bad mother. I don't think she is, but I just really want these people out of my life and I don't see it happening. She was crying all night and isn't talking to me now.

The other issue is that I'm not very social and don't have local friends, so if they do anything social it will be through this group. Which means that sometimes my whole family just disappears to go down to their house, leaving me isolated and depressed.

I basically feel like Richard Dreyfuss in What About Bob, but instead of Bill Murray it's a couple of MAGA knuckleheads. I don't want to ruin my kid's friendship but I also don't want him to grow up thinking their personalities and view on civic responsibility are ok.

Ugh, what do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can't really do it now because of social distancing guidance, but you absolutely have to prioritize making your own friends. For your health and for your kid's health. And for your wife's health, honestly. It's a trope of emotional labor that men don't even put effort into having their own relationships and rely on the ones their women create for them. Don't be that guy. And my gosh, especially if you're going to split up. You need to have your own people.

You can start by looking up facebook groups in your area for parents, political initiatives, neighborhood improvement, etc, and creating online friends near you who have similar values. When the world starts opening back up, you'll have the groundwork laid for IRL friends as well.

You can't do anything about how your wife spends her time, but you can absolutely make choices to change how you spend yours. Build your own support network separate from your wife. For yourself, and to broaden your sons' social circle.
posted by phunniemee at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2020 [59 favorites]

If you're planning to get a divorce then you probably can't force your wife to make long-term decisions on her friend group. Not a lot of leverage there.

You can explain to your kids why certain behaviors are wrong or hurtful (it's interesting that you see the other set of parents as influencing your kid, but don't see yourself as a possible influence on their kid).
posted by kingdead at 11:48 AM on May 18, 2020 [19 favorites]

It sounds like there are a lot of things that could be going on here. You don't have to answer this, but you mention your wife got sick and threw up while this family was over, was that because she was drinking by any chance? I'm just wondering how much alcohol, and this family enabling your wife's drinking, is playing in to the situation. It might make a difference in what you should do about everything. If this is a drinking thing and your wife is willing to address her drinking and get help, she might be inclined to cut these people out of her life as she recovers. Meanwhile though I think you should be direct (politely) with this other family, don't put your wife in the position of being a go between. If you don't approve of someone or something say so upfront yourself. You need to show your kid that you have different values than these people and you are comfortable expressing them in a non agressive yet firm way. I hope you are able to make some progress with this. It sounds like a difficult and lonely situation, you have my sympathies.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:55 AM on May 18, 2020 [13 favorites]

If you guys don't have any other local family friends, it's going to be really hard to give up being friends with these people. Family friends are valuable. You should force yourself to do the baby steps that lead to friendships with people you actually like -- texts, phone calls, dropping by lemons from your tree, eventually planning outings, etc.
posted by slidell at 11:56 AM on May 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I don't know how to solve the overall problem, but you might benefit from treating the political angle as a red herring. The point is that you just don't like these people. The problem would still exist if they were personally obnoxious Warren voters.
posted by trig at 12:00 PM on May 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

It's going to be a lonely decision and it's going to continue to make your wife mad that you won't validate her decisions, but I think refusing to participate is the right thing to do as a boundary you can enforce without forcing anyone else to do what you want. You may have to set additional boundaries if the kids start getting fascist, but you can opt out of a relationship with these people if you don't want to have one. Say hello and then excuse yourself for work or a family zoom or whatever. You may have to find some legitimate forms of connection and entertainment away from them...which is what the rest of us are doing for the most part, we're not having people over and going to people's houses right now.

Your wife will have to be friends with these "doofuses" on her own terms, if that's her idea of good friends. You can't dictate her choices, though you can set a boundary about quarantine even if that infringes on her behavior.

Life's too short to spend with assholes. Your wife can keep them in the divorce.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on May 18, 2020 [20 favorites]

Ghost them. Parents should not come over during PlagueTime, and I recommend fiercely following your state's and the CDC's recommendations, and wearing masks. No excuses, no BS; when around anyone not a member of the household, mask up, even outdoors if it's for longer than a couple minutes. Don't discuss them with her other than brief I don't want to talk about them, be with them. Ignore them as much as you can within being mildly civil, then disappearing. Vacation with them? Your wife may not be on the same page regarding the longevity of your marriage. Any time there's discussion of any time spent with them, No, I do not want to spend time with them and will not spend time with them. There's no sense discussing it further.
posted by theora55 at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

It’s not workable to make clear to the family that you don’t want anything to do with them except for the kids’ friendship. There’s really no good way to convey that that wouldn’t also end the kids’ friendship. Both families need to want the same thing for that to work (a polite but distant thing) and it sounds like the MAGA parents want to spend time as family friends, which means they’ll feel rejected if you try to put a “kids only” boundary around things.

You’re also trying to force your wife into an awkward position as diplomat to enforce this unworkable policy. She has a warm friendship with these people that probably helps her ease the sadness in your marriage by providing another outlet for connection. You’re asking her to turn a cold shoulder to people she’s friends with because of your feelings, not hers. (Also, you talk about your wife kind of patronizingly here.)

Have you considered that you’re putting your unhappiness with your general life situation on these people, because it’s too painful to realize that it’s the conflict within your family that’s making you unhappy?
posted by sallybrown at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2020 [20 favorites]

1. Turn your focus on the other family's influence on your kids to your own. Make sure you create opportunities for your sons to hang out with you - take him along to run a curbside pick up, do house projects together. You're their father. Talk about your values when opportunities present. LIVE your values together.

2. Make opportunities for your own family to have fun together, same idea. Rather than lowering the boom on this other family, make sure you are helping to plan family nights and games and grilling or whatever so that they (your own family) enjoy your company.

2. a. It's okay for you not to go over to this other family's house if you are doing the above, because they are the 'extra' and you are the core.

It's also okay, maybe not every time you get together, but occasionally, to also mention to your kids calmly, after the fact, "you know, I was thinking...when Fred said that immigrants are ruining the country, that really didn't sit well with me. I've been thinking on it. Here's what I think."

3. Yes, time to make your own friends. These friends are not preventing that, that's a red herring.

4. Be kind to your wife even if you are going to divorce; your kids will learn much more over the next few years on how to be good people by witnessing how willingly you supported her in her ventures, how truthfully you stood in your opinions without assaulting hers, etc.

I know this sounds tangential but...remember that the core issue is that you want your kids to grow up connected, healthy, and kind.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:23 PM on May 18, 2020 [46 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. You don't sound like Richard Dreyfuss in What About Bob. You sound like a normal person whose desires and values aren't being respected, to me. I think you deserve to set boundaries for yourself and your kids will benefit from seeing that.

You do not have to hang out with anybody who makes you feel unsafe. You're not being a killjoy. I agree that you should not worry about the political angle and focus instead on how their values don't jibe with yours. If she got sick because she drank too much, I will be honest with you, the fact that she stayed up all night crying because you didn't like that behavior is extremely manipulative. Did you call her a bad mother? Or is it possible that she feels like a bad mother and can't talk about that with you?

This sounds like a very difficult situation. I would not want to stay in this marriage too long without counseling.

This isn't so much about your friends and their values and their political leanings. This is about your wife and you not having the same values and not being able to come to a place of mutual respect of those differences. Your kids will get much more value out of seeing you hold firm boundaries about what you need and also respecting your wife's boundaries and what she needs, than any lectures about their friend's parents voting proclivities.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:32 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I agree with trig; the political aspect is irrelevant* and may actually be complicating the issue. Their support of a particular elected official has no bearing on your wife’s behavior. If you’re injecting politics into the discussion, it can signal to your wife that you’re not viewing the situation objectively, or worse, that you’re not even seeing problems clearly, thereby making it easier for her to ignore what you’re saying.

It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that part of the appeal of this family is that they are so different from you, and that your marital problems are leading your wife to swing too far in the other direction. It’s natural when coming out of a bad relationship for the aspects that have been suppressed to pop back up prominently. Perhaps because you’re not social, she’s just craving any social life, and this just happens to be the only outlet.

*I don’t think they’re completely unrelated; as a former Republican, I have come to believe that boorishness and social obnoxiousness are essential to modern conservatism. But you have to act as if politics is irrelevant.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:34 PM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Wow, you're really at a frog-boiling point with your wife's drinking. I haven't vomited from drinking as a post-college adult. To vomit from drinking at a daytime event while there are kids there--really extreme and very worrying.

Your son did not want to celebrate his birthday with a drunk, vomiting mother. She can get as defensive as she likes; her drinking needs to be addressed immediately.

Frankly, this would be "find a lawyer now" territory for me. I would want to figure out how I could get custody and limit my kids' exposure to a parent if they were engaging in this level of alcohol abuse.

Getting sick drunk at your kids' birthday party. Wow. The fact that this isn't the headline for you but a side note indicates that you need a wakeup call about the extent of your wife's bad behavior here.

Please seek support (Al-Anon?) and please reconsider your level of alarm here.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2020 [19 favorites]

Also what or who these people are is totally irrelevant. Your kids need to be recentered here. You're doing that thing people in bad/enabling marriages do where they center their marriage and their spouse's problems and push everything else to the wayside. Your marriage or these people's political beliefs and your wife's failure to listen to you are blah blah whatever. Ten years from now? This is not the relevant time frame. This is a problem now.

Your son's birthday became about your wife's alcohol abuse. That's the key takeaway here, and I'm really sad about it. He's not learning bad stuff from this other family, he's learning bad stuff from dealing with this behavior in his own household.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

As a minority, it is disheartening to see how many of these answers are encouraging OP to befriend the Trump supporters, or at least treat their political preference as a non-issue. The comment about hijabs and "weird-o guys in Indonesia" was also disturbing. This is making me re-evaluate my impression of the MetaFilter crowd.

OP, I think it is completely reasonable that you don't want to be friends with MAGA supporters. As a racial minority, I am thankful for people like you. If it weren't for people like you, the US would feel even more unsafe than it does now.

I'd say that the feeling of discomfort is your conscience. As you've seen, there is a lot of social pressure to conform, avoid rocking the boat, and avoid confronting the Trump supporters. It's easy to do that if supporting Trump doesn't lead to your family being torn apart, your wife getting deported, your marriage being voided, or your child facing violence.

It's tough to be faced with increasing evidence that your spouse doesn't share your principles. I recognize it is complicated when there are kids in the equation, but perhaps it's time to DTMFA?
posted by sandwich at 1:23 PM on May 18, 2020 [41 favorites]

Just a note that everyone seems miserable in this situation, including your wife if she is day-drinking to the point of vomiting, especially if this is something new for her. I know you're saying divorce is not on the table right now, but it sounds like you guys need to figure out how to make things works at least as long as this quarantine lasts.

I'm not trying to be sympathetic to the MAGA people, but if she feels desperately alone in your house during isolation, or that this couple is your only option in terms of socialization, she may be taking what she can get in terms of outside contact (again not your fault if you're not getting along at the moment). I am saying this as someone who tends to swallow my feelings (along with a good amount of wine) if I feel like I have no options and just need to accept the state I'm in.

I think you should explore venues for couples' therapy that are online. You may be able to find someone to help you talk through your options. I don't think you need to befriend the other couple, or that it's acceptable that your wife is drinking too much, but I do think it would be helpful to see things from each other's perspective - you're both in difficult circumstances - and a neutral 3rd party may be exactly what you need right now.
posted by elvissa at 1:48 PM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Your primary obligation is to your wife and kids, who you promised to protect for better or worse. That obligation is still there, even if you're talking openly of divorce. It's clear from your question that she's having a rough time (aren't we all) but your job is to make sure she's having an easier time and your kids are safe. If these people are providing some things she needs and some other things she doesn't need, then you guys need to work together to figure something out. But you must continue to think of yourselves as a team for now, or it's going to be a lot harder than it should be for everyone.
posted by bleep at 2:08 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Followup from the anon OP:
To answer some questions - yes, the vomiting at the party was from alcohol. She never does that, but she has been drinking pretty heavily in the past few years. So I don't see it as hitting rock bottom, but it's something I'm increasingly concerned about (Also, I recently stopped drinking, which is yet another thread in this story)

Another thread that I want to clarify - the kids see me as the "fun" parent, which adds to the bad dynamic to this. But it's not a situation where I feel as though the kids are choosing this other family over me - it's more like, given anything they'll want to play with other kids and I get that.

And I just wanted to thank everyone for some great ideas and support. I'm definitely intending to make more friends and I'm already taking care of my own mental health. I think I was somewhat blind to the fact that I was making her the mediator. I was not as blind to the fact that I was being paternalistic towards her, and it's something that I will need to change.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:24 PM on May 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Mod note: Also one comment deleted earlier, which compared wearing a MAGA hat to wearing a hijab, which is 100% not an okay comparison. If you find yourself thinking, "the point I'm trying to make with this analogy might be misconstrued as racist or Islamophobic etc so I better explain more".... no. Don't explain more. Back up and make your point without an analogy. In the Community Guidelines we talk about being sensitive to context, and avoiding analogies about charged subjects or hypotheticals like "what if the positions were reversed" that requiring ignoring or distorting real world context -- this is an example of that guideline. I'm giving you a 24 hour ban to make this point stick; do not do this again or it will be a permanent ban.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2020 [22 favorites]

I recently stopped drinking, which is yet another thread in this story.

It’s very common to have a big shift in perspective in this situation. It took me by surprise how much my preferences shifted in how I want to spend my leisure time, and also how much new energy I had to think about other ways I might want to make changes in my life.

When it’s safe again to mingle, maybe you could take charge on getting the kids involved in an activity where you might meet other parents you feel more compatible with? A rec league or something else local? That way it’s less about you (and potentially the kids) cutting off a friend, and more about adding new ones.
posted by sallybrown at 3:43 PM on May 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

I should start by saying that our marriage is pretty much on the rocks, and we openly speak about divorce in a few years when they're a little older and we can afford two houses in the same neighborhood. This isn't common knowledge to anyone but my family (and maybe hers).

I want to encourage you to either work on your marriage or accelerate the divorce. Living with this kind of conflict and tension isn't healthy for anyone (and perhaps is contributing to your wife's poor behavior with alcohol?). First, sometimes it's easier for kids when parents divorce when they are younger. It can be less disruptive in the long run.

Next, you are teaching your kids what kind of marriage they should aspire to. You are modeling marriage for them. So think carefully about the lessons you are teaching them.

Also, being able to afford two houses in the neighborhood is ... a big ask. It's pretty typical that standard of living can decline when parents divorce. What if you each had a townhouse, for example? Having two parents living separately in slighter smaller residences can be much better than living in a house with miserable parents.

But if you are all going to try to stick this out for now, I really want to encourage you to get into therapy for yourself and pursue couples' therapy together. Even if you both want out, couples' counseling can help you get there in a healthier way.

This sounds super unhealthy and really sad and difficult. It's not great for your kids, either. I think the issues with the other family are a bit of a red herring. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2020 [15 favorites]

You need to be a lot more involved in your own life. Like, if you're okay with the kids being best friends, then you need to be engaging with the parents of your kids' best friend. You need to be around so you can speak up when they say hateful stuff. You need to be around to say no when they decide to flout social distancing. You also need to be around so you're not home sulking and feeling isolated when your family goes out. Do you have non-local friends you could Zoom with, at least to tide you over? Even better if some of them want to talk to your kids or play games with them.

There needs to be a lot more communication going on between you and your wife so it doesn't come out in blowouts. I think individual and couples therapy for both of you is a really good idea here - your goal doesn't have to be staying together, it can be trying to give the kids an easier time while you figure out splitting up. COVID + existing friction + changes in drinking is a lot, you both need a support system ASAP.
posted by momus_window at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Lyn Never basically said what I would, but I would encourage you to still be as warm and friendly as possible to the other family's kid. It's not their fault. They deserve to see better ways of thinking and treating each other modeled for them. And some day they may really need to know a nearby friendly adult who won't judge them for being gay/trans/etc.
posted by praemunire at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

You need to say “It is immoral to be friends with Trump supporters and that’s not something I’m going to do.” Then stop acting as if you’re friends with them. It’s also admirable and right to divorce someone who befriends Trump supporters, so hurry up and do that.
posted by Violet Hour at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

the parents are a bad influence on my wife in terms of excess drinking and relaxing quarantine guidelines. The other day they were all over here playing together on the deck, and I let it go because it was my son's birthday, but then my wife got sick and threw up and the kids ended up inside while I was trying to clean up the house.

Your wife isn't associating with these people despite their being MAGA assholes. She befriended a family of morally and socially irresponsible people (drunks, breaking quarantine, racists) because she's in the stage of self-destructive alcoholism where she wants to surround herself with people who are going to make her drinking seem normal, and make her feel like less of a terrible person because they're openly terrible people and happy and proud of it.

^^^^ I wrote this before you posted to clarify some details about the family drinking situation-- you're recently sober, your wife's drinking is escalating, your kids used to see you as the "fun parent" and now that you're not drinking you're finding yourself in the "responsible parent" role in a way you aren't sure how to manage... this is all way bigger than your wife retreating into the warm and welcoming bosom of these MAGA people. I wouldn't be surprised if she started associating with them BECAUSE you got sober, although I cannot stress enough that it isn't your fault. It sounds like your wife is rapidly decompensating under the stress of quarantine and of her alcoholism being thrown into high visibility because you aren't drinking with her anymore. I don't know if she was the more high-functioning partner before you stopped drinking, but you're the more high functioning partner right now and it's going to be on you to step up. If you aren't in therapy specifically about the alcoholism in your family, you need to be. Being annoyed at the prospect of going on family vacations with these shitty MAGA chuds who don't want to socially distance is a distraction. I'm sure you're VERY familiar with the pattern of an active addict picking a fight with someone who's witnessed how out of control they are, manufacturing some unrelated problem to argue over to change the subject from how serious their problem is. The Trump people are definitely her new enablers, but the core issue here is that she's binge drinking badly enough to have been sick at your child's birthday party and then having an emotional breakdown-- crying all night, which i'm sure the kids could hear. That's the issue here, not the annoying MAGAs. Don't let yourself fall for it.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2020 [25 favorites]

She never does that,

Yes she does. She just did. You are in denial. Please get more outside opinions on this instead of listening to your instincts because they are dead wrong.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:20 PM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also I have no clue why you think she needs to hit rock bottom or why that's relevant. She got puking drunk at your kids' birthday party. That is really, really scary for kids and it's not okay by any stretch of the word. It's not okay for your kids to be around it, period. That doesn't have anything to do with her personal journey or whatever. Again, you need to center your kids and not her and/or your marriage. It is not okay for them to be in a circumstance where someone is puking drunk at their birthday party. Regardless of whether it's "rock bottom."

Honestly, the thought of any kid having to be around this level of alcohol abuse is making me tear up a bit. I think most people who answered that you need to be more tolerant of your wife were responding to your initial minimization of her behavior. You deemphasized it a lot, and wrote it like she just sort of got sick, and also was drinking, it's a very vague and hand-wavy and ambiguous way to write about her abusing alcohol to the point of vomiting. It's not that people generally think this is normal and okay behavior.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:28 PM on May 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Just want to agree with Rock 'em Sock 'em. It's deeply upsetting that she drank to the point of throwing up. At their birthday party. In front of their friends.

I don't really understand your points about who is the "fun parent" -- but it would be extra destabilizing if it was the responsible parent who drank to throwing up. Nor do I understand the relevance of this not being "rock bottom." Seems like it ought to be a wake up call of some kind, for you if not for her.

You called her on her drinking, she got upset. Are you now maybe focusing on this friendship as a lower-stakes thing because they can be removed from your life fairly easily? I understand being angry with them for contributing to this. But they might be more "symptom" than "cause."

You say that she never does this, and while I agree that evidently she does, it's also significant if she drank to excess in a way that she almost never does. The only times I can think of having done that myself (drunk excessively in an out-of-character, one-off way), there was some source of extreme pain in my life that I needed to remove ASAP. I'm not defending the drinking, it really isn't acceptable whatever the reason. But if it truly isn't characteristic of her, then what situational factors are causing her to act out of character and how can you work together to address those?

I could imagine that being quarantined in an unhappy marriage with kids could be really stressful. Is it maybe time for one of you to move out or at least temporarily stay elsewhere for a bit to give yourselves some breathing room?

Either way, this needs focus and to be addressed. Either the drinking is characteristic, in which case you need to take action to protect them from being around it so that they don't think it's normal, and you need to get them more supportive and present adults in their lives. Or it's not characteristic, in which case you need to find out from her why she acted so out of character and face the need to do something about that, and also discuss how she can find other ways to cope so this doesn't happen again (again, assuming this was truly just a one-time thing).
posted by salvia at 5:45 AM on May 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

You should not depend on spouse to make friends. I know it’s really difficult to make friends in adulthood, especially now with the lockdown. Regardless, it’s entirely your responsibility to make and cultivate your own friendships, not your spouse’s responsibility.

It might help if you reach out to your out of town friends via Video chat.
posted by Neekee at 6:52 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

You need to take care of yourself here. Don't spend time with people who bum you out, but also stop trying to control your wife. Take the time she's hanging with these folks to try to meet people who are more your speed, decide how much time you can have with this other family and if the answer is more than zero minutes, also get clear with yourself on what the best format is. Then only do that with them, and let the rest of it be a chance for you to have some sweet time with yourself.
posted by spindrifter at 3:02 PM on May 19, 2020

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