We’ve all seen those ridiculous memes.
“This is Bob — he’s a Republican. This is Sally — she voted Democrat. They’re still friends, blah, blah, blah…”
I call bullshit. I think it’s perfectly OK to end a relationship over the very whopping political and social events that are occurring all over the world. Do I think it’s necessary to end things over differing opinions? No, but let’s be really clear about something: you can end a relationship over anything that makes you feel unaligned with someone. You do not have to stay friends with someone just because you have remained so in the past or because they want to keep their title.
At the beginning of COVID, I had no idea what the following year and a half or so would hold for me. A divorce, solo parenting, two moves, a book deal, a TV hosting contract, memoir publication, and running my own company were just the start. Throw in trying desperately to avoid contracting a deadly virus and being stuck at home. I found myself with little free time, which caused me to reevaluate what I did with those moments. Naturally, I was also very picky about who I saw in that time, too.
One of those people was someone I referred to as my “best friend” at the time. We had met a few years before, just after the 2016 election. I didn’t know that she and I were poised at exactly opposite ends of the political spectrum on almost every single topic until nearly a year into our relationship. We had so much to bond over otherwise: motherhood, writing, grief, and marriage. But when the 2020 election began, it became clear how polarizing it would be. It cemented us into our opposite, chosen ends of the political spectrum and weaved its way into almost all of our conversations.
At first we had reasonable, calm arguments that ended with me smiling and nodding (otherwise they just wouldn’t end). She would often thank me when I stopped talking and state she couldn’t host such conversations with anyone else because they wouldn’t receive it the same way. It took me over a year to realize that what she meant was that I was the only person who ever backed down while wielding my own values or morals in her presence. I realized that I was allowing her to create the boundaries in our relationship, and that those boundaries enabled her to minimize my opinions and stances.
Eventually I resented the way we communicated because of it. I resented that she barely listened, and I resented myself for not being entirely authentic and open. Then my book, a true crime memoir devoted to victim advocacy, was released. And I began resenting the way she questioned what I promoted in it, and thus, the purpose of my story.
So, when she planned herself an intimate shindig, I suppose I carried those resentments with me to the “party,” too.
About an hour into the outdoor, distanced hangout, she began spouting off her beliefs surrounding the last year or so, as well as the recent election.
“I just don’t think our kids will ever recover from this past year,” she said between sips of wine.
And that was all I had to hear (for the third or fourth time). I interjected because I felt I had to. I couldn’t contain my stances anymore. She had felt entitled to share her opinions; I figured it was time to share mine.
Although I now know there was probably better timing for me to have this discussion with her, I also know she would have never received my words openly because of the boundaries we had already set up.
Still, I said, “My opinion may not be popular, but as a former homeschool teacher, I know our kids are way more resilient than we realize. I mean, all of our kids are under ten, and none of us have gotten COVID. I think that places the onus of responsibility on us to protect them from some of the crazy realities of it all.”
I was sure I’d be heard at this point. Unpopular belief or not, it’s valid. I mean, how can you argue with the thought of appropriate communication?
But instead of understanding, I received, “So, you’re saying I’m a bad mom?”
WTF? I was confused as to how that was her response. I offered assurance that she wasn’t, and that what I meant (as a teacher) was that with lots of effort and perspective, our kids will be fine.
“You were a teacher; this year was a lot easier for you, we get it,” she countered.
HUH? Easy? My year was hell, and in my moment of defense, I felt forced to go in to a long diatribe of all the things I had gone through to prove it wasn’t easy.
“So, you think your year was harder than ours? We had a tough time, too,” she barked.
There was no winning. I finally got a taste of what it was like to not back down, to stick to my guns, with her. By the way, the argument did not end until I left in tears. It also ended our friendship, too.
At first it hurt, losing someone over something that felt so silly initially, especially after the year we had just had. We both saw that and tried to realign via e-mail afterwards, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t work. Not because of the hurtful or harmful way we disengaged from our friendship. In the end it wasn’t because we had different opinions either. It was because I finally realized just how unseen and unheard I felt. And I became okay with the dissolution.
But no matter if a relationship is terminated in fireworks, or it just fades away over time and without communication, I think it was meant to end. Relationships born from mutual respect, communication, and understanding carry on without too much effort. Sure, they take consistency and respect. But as long as both people are honored, one or both of them will work to keep it going.
See, I am of the mind that we are not meant to keep some people in our lives forever. Humans revere loyalty so highly, but what about allegiance to yourself? If a friendship forces you to compromise your values, morals, communication skills, or even just your energy, it isn’t worth it. And you can move on as quickly or as slowly as possible. Because it can take time to get to know someone, and it can take even more time to get to know yourself.