What does everyone do to deal with differing views with family?
October 14, 2020 6:26 PM   Subscribe

So, this is something that's come up lately with my parents. They're very conservative and I am not. Sometimes they say some things that are shocking for me to hear and I can't stand it. Lately I've been realizing that I'm the opposite of what they are.

I haven't dealt with this in the best way. I feel bad about something that happened today. My parents aren't bad people but they are supporting some things that are just wild.

My father is pro-Trump. He's obsessed with money. He's willing to support him on the guise that the Democrats are a bunch of communists and that they're just interested in taxing people and making the country a socialist state. Today I got angry at him because he keeps sending me WhatsApp messages with Trump's propaganda and other religious nonsense. I've told him to stop repeatedly over the years. Today I just decided to block him. It deeply hurt me to do so but he isn't respecting my boundaries.

On the other hand I've got my mother who tells me she's knitting clothes for children. So I ask about which children which was also a huge mistake. Apparently, she does it for some anti-abortion group that helps "teenage girls at risk of abortion". It sounded to me like a group of people that coerces vulnerable people into choosing certain outcomes. I just left the conversation when I heard about that and I told my mother I didn't want to hear anything else and that clearly this family was stuck in the middle ages.

I regret saying that, not because I don't believe it but because I love these people, even if they believe this stuff. I clearly cannot cope with that well enough. I am incredibly bitter about it. It's very hard for me to reconcile that they believe that stuff but that they are also my family.

I am a man of science and mathematics. I don't believe in any gods and I don't care very much about religion. I am also skeptical about the things that come from social networks. That also happens to be what they quote day in and day out. A lot of it sounds crazy.

I'm not trying to say my way or their way is better. However, I just don't know how to deal with it and every time they come up with these things I'm instinctively incline to refute them. I don't want to do that anymore but I don't really know how keep my opinions to myself.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I think that you've handled your father the right way - you've repeatedly asked him to respect your boundaries and he has not. You've shown him that there are consequences for not respecting your boundaries.

Your mother, however, that feels different to me. I mean, yes, the reason WHY she is knitting these baby sweaters is sketch, but....the thing she is DOING with this opinion of hers is actually in and of itself not a bad thing. What I mean is, instead of standing outside a Planned Parenthood clinic with a sign and screaming "don't kill your baby" and doing something traumatizing, she is knitting baby sweaters.

And maybe this suggests a path forward - their opinions are one thing, but their ACTIONS are something you can act on. The ACTION your father did was "continue to pester you by doing something even after you asked him to stop." If it was something else he was sending you WhatsApp messages about - say it was something intellectually innocuous, like he sent you yodeling videos - it would still be wrong of him to continue to send them if you asked him to stop. Meanwhile, your mother may be knitting baby sweaters for a sketch reason, but the thing she is doing is still a fairly innocent "knitting baby sweaters", and it's something you could have just continued to ignore and left her to do in peace. If she had been trying to get you to knit with her, that'd be different, but she was just sitting there quietly knitting and talking about other things until you asked her why she was knitting.

So I would maybe focus on their actions, and maybe everyone agree to tread very, very carefully about politics, and maybe just not talk about it for a while. If your father continues to send you messages, point out that this is about him sending you stuff that you've already told him you don't want (you can borrow my yodeling video analogy if you want) and that politics isn't even the point, and re-iterate he needs to cut that out. ...As for your mom - if she's just sitting there knitting, and you want to ask her about it, just focus on the knitting itself ("that's a really pretty color" or "wow, those are some nice stitches" or whatever).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 PM on October 14, 2020 [11 favorites]

I'm not trying to say my way or their way is better.

I recommend that you start. Your way of thinking is better. Theirs actively props up a set of social arrangements that causes vast amounts of completely avoidable suffering by allowing a tiny minority of grifting freeloaders far more influence over what is to be done than they could ever conceivably justify. Yours doesn't. End of.
posted by flabdablet at 7:11 PM on October 14, 2020 [52 favorites]

I think you have the right idea--block 'em if you can. Don't bother trying to talk to them about it because clearly you don't think you can change their minds. Change the topic, leave, hang up, suddenly develop a case of diarrhea and you gotta go, whatever. Remind yourself every time that trying to teach the pig to sing does nothing but wastes your time and annoys the pig. Remind yourself that pointless arguments do no good and just leave you annoyed and angry. People are gonna believe what they want to believe and especially these days, you probably aren't going to change their minds. I'm not sure what WOULD, mind you, but if anything, some kind of life circumstance change happening to them for the worse might be more likely than their own child saying anything.

(This brought to you by years of dealing with my mom being a Republican, though thankfully she got over this shit, hates Trump, etc.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:11 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Look, these aren't "differing views". Lying to and manipulating vulnerable teens into having unwanted babies is evil. Supporting Trump's mission to give money to his friends at the expense of vulnerable and poor people is evil. They are constantly trying to drag you in. And your question is how to be polite?

I think you're doing fine and you ought to go on having honest responses to what you see. Stop making it all your problem to maintain a polite relationship. Let the burden be theirs. They're the ones crossing your boundaries. You deserve to have boundaries.
posted by fritley at 7:14 PM on October 14, 2020 [18 favorites]

To be clear, my mother doesn't support Trump. She does however agree with the abortion stuff and is very Catholic.

My father is the way he is, and he's determined to see communism wherever there is disagreement. He really has it out for people of color and he really thinks that they're trying to invade the suburbs and institute communism. I don't know how he thinks that but he does.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 7:49 PM on October 14, 2020

Why are you keeping your opinions to yourself??? I think you need to call a spade a spade. Tell your father that you're blocking his messages because you think they're garbage and you've asked him to stop.

I also don't understand why you regret being honest with them. You are not a child. You can say "I disagree with you and think you're wrong, misguided and ill-informed." Be honest about how you feel about these topics.

If my mother told me she was knitting for an anti-choice program targeting vulnerable teens, I would tell her that I think that is horrible. She doesn't have to agree with you and you aren't asking her to stop.

Their opinion does not matter more than yours.
posted by shoesietart at 7:56 PM on October 14, 2020 [19 favorites]

I posted this answer to a similar question a few years back - it felt relevant here.

I have similar issues with my father.

A big part of it is background. My dad grew up in small town Utah, graduated HS but never went to college, and has a six figure job now only by virtue of working his ass off for the last 40 years - he's a blue collar guy through and through who has reached success not through education, but blood, sweat and tears. I enjoy visiting him, but after about three days I get to the point that I just have to leave. He is politically as ignorant as anyone I've ever met - liberals are causing all the problems we have in America, Obama is a muslim, Obama has a plan to stay in office forever and enact martial law, minorities commit voter fraud in droves, minorities systematically abuse welfare... the list goes on and on.

I used to try the logic approach - when he'd say something that obviously wasn't true or real, I'd find evidence (that he would trust) that countered what he was saying. Not once did he say, "Gee son, I'm glad you showed this to me, I probably need to rethink my stance on this." It is always a non-acknowledging change of topic, and I rarely hear that argument again. At first I thought with enough time, I'd be able to counter all his arguments or opinions and never have to hear it again. I was wrong.

The problem is, when someone has spent a majority of their life thinking a certain way and they still live in an environment that condones or even promotes those beliefs, there are limited options on "changing" them. I even hesitate to use that word as I have never wished to "change" my dad - more to inform him. Once I realized that while I disagree with him, nearly everyone he comes in contact with probably agrees and supports him, I realized it was somewhat of a lost cause. At this point, I've gotten to the just-ignore-it strategy and it has kept me sane during visits for the past few years.

I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying, at a certain point there is no concrete way to change someones deep seated personal beliefs. Despite being a relatively smart man, my dad will go to his grave believing those things and I've just had to become okay with that.
posted by _DB_ at 8:31 PM on October 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

Having never met your dad, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that he believes those things because he's in the Fox news/conservative talk radio/Breitbart information bubble and those ideas have been constantly reinforced for approximately 40 years. In other words, he's been brainwashed.

A little bit of googling will turn up articles about how to engage with people who are in cults or who have been brainwashed. Those may give you some ideas.
posted by Sublimity at 4:46 AM on October 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I don't know if you're a child of immigrants, OP, but I feel like this is something we encounter fairly often: parents with old-fashioned, ignorant views whom we love dearly and want to continue a relationship with despite that.

It may help to think of yourself as the voice of reason in their lives. Your parents have access to a whole world of terrible ideas, as someone else pointed out, but you may be one of the few or the only one who keeps them in touch with a different way of looking at the world. Then you can keep arguing with them or 'talking back' as it were, but in a more relaxed way. Try to keep it light and diffuse the tension when you feel it building, and you may find that does more to win them over, over a long time, than any intense argument could.
posted by guessthis at 5:02 AM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can possibly gain a fractional bit of purchase on non-core issues if you approach them obliquely, with care to avoid using right-wing trigger words and to frame things in very concrete, situational, “non-political” ways, point is to avoid flipping the switch on identity and beliefs about the world. I don’t know that you’ll get far, and it’s exhausting.

Best to change subjects and take breaks from them, and perhaps focus on advocating for *some* regulation of the media platforms that are poisoning their minds. (If you’re in Australia (ONLY), sign that anti-Murdoch petition.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:51 AM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

My wife taught me that you can love people even if you disagree with their behavior on a very deep level. Some of us don't really learn that lesson growing up. But it's tricky, and sometimes you need to not interact with them, even though you still love them and care about them. It can be painful, but it's not your fault.
posted by rikschell at 6:11 AM on October 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Perhaps ask your Mom to consider using her knitting skills for children in foster care? What a treasure for a child separated from their family to have a handmade piece of clothing.
posted by kittygrandma at 7:22 AM on October 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

There must be things about your Dad that are lovable and neutral. Maybe he likes woodworking or loves dogs. Try to connect with him about that stuff cause he's your Dad. But, when he keeps sending you Trump BS after you said stop, he's playing gotcha, trying to show you you're wrong. Blocking that is the right move, because the only way through that is to hammer back harder with more and better facts, and he's retired, watching Fox and will put in way more effort. Likely, Trump will lose, and your Dad is going to be angry and full of conspiracy crap and your boundaries will still be needed.

I'm sure there are groups that serve the homes and need mittens and hats. Do what you can to establish common ground, maybe you could read books and discuss them.
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on October 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry. I've been through this with my dad, and to a lesser extent my mum. The moment that I realised that they were fallible, that their opinions had calcified into fear about certain things, and that I no longer looked up to them as my role models in everything, was so painful.

We fell out in a big way, several times. One of them, for a while they said they would not attend my wedding. Family get togethers have been ruined.

Anyway, I am a little older and wiser now, and have realised two things:

- That for the sake of our relationship, we have to have certain things that we don't talk about. We've literally agreed not to bring up feminism or gay marriage, because those conversations absolutely never go well. The interesting thing is that since doing this, those things have subtly come up in conversation, and their opinions are evolving. I honestly didn't see that coming - it seems like they needed their own time and space to do it. Arguing with me was maybe even holding them back from doing so.

- That I love them for everything they are, as well as, and despite, being disappointed in what they're not. My dad has ways that he is that upset me a lot. But he's also incredibly kind to children, animals, and people who are lonely or vulnerable. He's got so many amazing qualities and, with only a few decades or maybe less of time left to spend in his company, I choose to see those and spend less time thinking about the ways in which I wish he was different. I hope my children do the same for me one day.
posted by greenish at 8:40 AM on October 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you're in a position to do so, you could donate to an anti-Trump org or politician every time your dad sends you some bullshit, and let him know you're doing it. (I see you've blocked him, which is totally valid, so maybe you are past this tactic now.)

You could also, privately, donate to Planned Parenthood or another pro-choice org in honor of the teens harmed by the org your mother is supporting. Did she tell you the name of it?

These suggestions are to give you a way of feeling you are remediating the harm you feel your parents are doing, apart from anything you may do about your relationships with them.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:46 AM on October 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

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