Blog

  • Defying Cultural Norms: Midlife Women Who Refuse to Fade

    by Dana Schwartz

    midlife women

    For me, midlife began in earnest not with the typical milestone birthday, but with an errant eyebrow hair. At first I assumed it was blonde, since I used to be, but on closer inspection I realized it was white. As in gray. Horrified, I yanked it out and searched for more. Nothing–not yet–but I couldn’t shake an uncomfortable sense of impending doom. That one eyebrow hair mocked me, but it also made me think about how I wanted to enter this new realm as a woman and a feminist.

    We all know who gets the shorter end of the aging stick. While men may not like the moniker “middle aged,” it doesn’t hamper them socially or professionally. If anything, it gives them a leg up. Their graying hair and laugh lines are described as distinguished, and their midlife crises come with clichés about sports cars and affairs, while women are expected to cover up any evidence of fading youth.

    So we pluck or don’t pluck, dye our hair or not; there is no “right” way to age, but eventually as the years go by women begin to disappear. As our fertility wanes, so does our desirability, and visibility, at least according to cultural norms. An unfair disparity, but this is no surprise considering we still live in a patriarchal society, despite the advances of feminism, and more recently, the #metoo and #timesup movements.

    The fact is, while men continue to stride through the prime of their lives, women are quietly escorted off stage.

    If you do a google search about midlife women and invisibility you will find a slew of articles, mostly written by women in their upper forties and beyond. The articles range from being actively ignored and undervalued (often by men) both in the world and the workplace. Somewhere along the way, this phenomenon was even coined, “Invisible Woman Syndrome,” and it spans the globe (though to be clear, despite its emotional impact, this is a First World problem).

    Of course you don’t need to be middle aged to feel invisible in our society. Just ask people of color or those in lower socioeconomic classes, but the particular invisibility I’m referring to here is one that occurs as the body ages: in particular, women’s bodies.

    Ever since my first gray eyebrow hair I’ve noticed other physical manifestations of age, but it just seems ironic–and unfair–that society deems my time to shine is up at the very moment when I feel the most vibrant and alive.

    After years of being a stay at home mom, my kids are finally both in school and I’m able to devote more time to my community and my creative life. I’m writing articles, maintaining a blog, and revising a memoir. After Trump was elected, I decided to run for office and I won–now I’m on the local school board. In many ways, I feel more visible than ever.

    And yet, the unspoken but understood role of my age group and gender is to fade away.

    However, I’m saying no to that bullshit, and you should too.

    Let’s not go gently into oblivion. Let’s rage to be seen, and if not by the fickle male gaze, then by the all the incredible women, middle aged and otherwise, we continue to share a stage with. I’m grateful for the women I know, in real life and online, who not only see me, but are happy to celebrate with me, as I am for them.

    Now, let’s be honest for a moment. It sucks to feel unseen and undervalued, even by a gaze we know to be a construction, and an unfair one at that. But instead of mourning this, and fighting an uphill battle to maintain our viability, let’s focus on our creative output. We can lift each other up. We can be each other’s witnesses. We can bring back all the invisible women. If we actively commit to seeing each other, maybe we can shake off this invisibility cloak that we never asked for in the first place.

    As we’ve seen recently, our gender is a force to be reckoned with, and the reckoning is just beginning.

     

    Dana Schwartz is a fiction writer currently residing in a memoirist’s body. After receiving an MFA and publishing several short stories in literary journals, she turned to personal essays, three of which can be found in HerStories Project anthologies. A former self-defense instructor, Dana is happy to give advice about personal safety as well as the proper use of an Oxford comma. She’s currently working on a memoir about motherhood and grief. You can read more about this topic on her blog, Writing at the Table. Find her on Facebook and Twitter: @danahschwartz.

  • How To Make New Friends as An Adult: 13 Ways To Connect

    Here’s how to make new friends as an adult: get creative.

    how to make new friends

    There’s no denying that building new friendships is more difficult as we age. It was all so easy as a younger person. It was as if potential friends were everywhere. The dorm, your classes, your apartment building, parties.

    Then we grow up. Friends move away, or get married, or have kids, or are consumed with their jobs. Or all of the above. Suddenly you realize that you have far fewer friends than you ever have before, and you aren’t sure how to begin to make more.

    Friendship is harder when we get older for many reasons.

    First, in general, we have far less free time. We’re pulled in many directions: raising kids, doing our jobs, caring for aging parents, taking care of our homes.

    Our living arrangements are not as conducive to making new friends as an adult either; where we once lived in a dorm or an apartment, we now live in more isolated houses.

    We also (most of us anyway) have a greater understanding of our own weaknesses and flaws. We might be more wary of opening up all of our baggage and personality quirks to strangers than we were as kids.

    Most of all, however, what our friendships are missing is consistency. When we were younger, we often saw the same people, at nearly the same time, in the same places. We saw our roommate every day when we got home from school or work, or we went to class with the same people each week.

    But making friends as an adult is not impossible. When I asked my own Facebook community about how to make new friends as an adult and how they’d done it in the past, I got terrific answers.

    Try an activity that requires a consistent schedule.

    Friendship guru Shasta Nelson, author of the new book Frientimacy and the foreword author to our first book, wrote: “If we join something—like a church, a co-working space, a book club—where the regularity is already scheduled then we can show up and build familiarity before taking the friendship outside of that setting.”

    Take a class

    One activity that requires regular commitment is a class — an adult education class, a writing class, computer class, dancing, grad school. As an adult, I’ve made several close friends in classes that I’ve taken over the years.

    Be bold.

    One of my friends from high school said that she approached a woman at a kids’ birthday party and said, “I’m in the market for a best friend, since mine moved. What do you think?” As she has gotten older, my friend said, “I can’t afford to be coy anymore.”

    Travel.

    A friend of mine from graduate school met a couple on a cruise ship that he and his partner still connects with.

    Start a club.

    If you can’t find an activity that interests you, start your own club.

    One writing friend of mine said, “I started a cooking club with a bunch of people I barely knew (one from work, one from a kid’s sports team, one was our doula), and it worked really well. These families are probably our closest friends in this area.”

    Do community service.

    Another Facebook friend told me, “I organized cultural exchanges and made numerous international friends.”

    Exercise

    Several of my friends mentioned that they found friends by joining a gym or going to an exercise class. One friend mentioned See Mommy Run, a site that connects moms through walking and running groups.

    Even walking around your neighborhood (especially with your dog or baby!) can lead to friendships.

    One Facebook friend told me, “When my son was about 6 weeks old, I started walking with him in a carrier around the neighborhood. I kept seeing the same woman about the same time every day, walking with her son and dog. It wasn’t long before we started saying hi and finally, we stopped to talk and then exchange numbers. As it turned out, our sons were a week apart, we had both had c sections, and we were both in the middle of postpartum anxiety issues. She is now one of my best friends.”

    School Pick Up Lines

    Several friends mentioned school pick-ups as opportunities to make new friends. When I first started waiting in the pickup line for my son last year after his day of preschool, I was intimidated. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, except me! How did they all seem to know each other so well? Why were they excluding me? It took me a long time to realize that they had met and gotten to know each other exactly this way, by being friendly.

    Shopping

    More generally, waiting in any sort of line can have potential for meeting new people. Just yesterday a woman struck up a conversation with me waiting in line at Target. She saw that I was buying a bunch of puppy supplies and asked me if I had gotten a new puppy. Fifteen minutes later we were still talking about my Bernese puppy, her family’s pets, and her children’s fondness for dogs.

    One friend said she made a close friend when “Standing in an aisle at a Homegoods store once which led to exchanging email info and an active friendship. Now that I think about it, I bonded with a woman once in a communal dressing room as we began helping each other pick out what looked best. I moved away but we still exchange holiday cards!”

    Another friend wrote, “I moved to Florida, pregnant, knowing only my sister. So I stalked moms buying diapers and baby food at Target.”

    Take Advantage of “Coincidences”

    Like my Facebook friends, I’ve made friends with people whose paths seem to intersect with mine regularly. Recently I made a new friend in my neighborhood when I saw her at the playground, after having seen her at the local coffee shop, library, and another park.

    One friend told me, “I ran into this woman three different times in several different situations — I bought a breastfeeeding pillow from her off of Craig’s List, then saw her at a professional conference, then saw her at the gym a few months later — and got her number and became friends.”

    Political or Social Activism

    One way of meeting like-minded people is through joining local or national groups organized around advocating for specific causes. Whether you’re passionate about local politics, a certain political party, environmentalism, gun control, or a political candidate, this common interest can lead to deeper connections.

    Online: Social Media and Blogging

    Several friends mentioned relationships that started out online — through blogging, Facebook, or Twitter — and then transitioned into “real life” friendships. My co-editor Stephanie and I are examples: we met through a Facebook blogging group, then started emailing each other, and eventually created this site. Only later did we meet in person!

    Common Struggles

    Several of my friends mentioned that they had made new friends when they were going through difficult times of their lives. They joined therapy or support groups for coping with divorce, addiction, special needs parenting, infertility, or other issues, and made friendships with those who could relate to their challenges.

    Bottom Line

    None of these suggestions will work to build meaningful friendships unless you allow yourself to be vulnerable and make an effort. For the most part, making new friends as an adult requires you to be proactive, as well as reflective. You need to know yourself: what’s important to you, what you value in a friend, and what you can offer as a friend.

    What have I missed? What are your suggestions about how to make new friends as an adult?

  • The Grown Up Friendship Breakup: How To Break Up With a Friend, Like an Adult

    A friendship breakup is tough on everyone, often just as hard as a romantic breakup. How do you break up with a friend, with as little drama and hurt as possible?

    break up with a friend

    First, realize that not all friendships last forever. Friend breakups are common. The fact that you want to end a friendship — or a friend “broke up” with you — is not a reflection of your worth as a person.

    (We published a whole book —My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends — of stories by women about their experiences with ending friendships and breaking up with friends. Through our friendship breakup survey, we’ve also heard from hundreds of women who’ve gone through breakups.)

    Some of our relationships might be situational — you go to the same church or gym or your children are friends — and once it is no longer as convenient to meet up, the friendship becomes less close.

    Next, make sure this is really something that you want to do. Are you getting less out of the relationship than you’re putting in? Have your previous attempts at mending the problems in the friendship failed? (Click here for 7 signs that your friendship is over.)

    It’s also possible that, instead of a breakup, maybe what your friendship needs are new boundaries. (Our friendship advice columnist Nina Badzin answers letters frequently about this topic!) You can try to make the friendship more “casual” and less intense.

    Most importantly, always try to end a relationship — whether it is a romantic or platonic one — with kindness and respect. This was once someone that you cared about deeply — and maybe still do — and they deserve that much.

    Once you’ve made the decision — you want to end it and you do not want to keep the door open for future reconciliations — you have two basic options: fade away or initiate a formal end.

    Fast or Slow: Which Is Better?

    There are probably some who think that a friend always deserves a clear explanation for why the relationship has ended. In my view, that’s not always the case.

    Sometimes you can sense the decision to end the friendship is mutual. You’re both growing apart. The intervals between phone calls become longer. In other situations, once you begin to decline invitations to meet up or start taking longer to respect to texts or phone calls, the message is received and the friendship is mutually phased out.

    In these cases, the friend is usually not a very close — or best — friend.

    What if you want to break up with a friend who is far more than a casual friend, one who you’ve been close to for a long time? Or what about a friend who doesn’t get the message when you attempt to “fade away”?

    There are also times when a friend has betrayed you, and you want to be direct about why you’re ending the friendship. You want to be clear that you can’t be friends with someone when you’ve lost trust in them.

    Be Honest and Direct

    With these friends, you need to pick a time to tell them in a direct and truthful way about you want out. Think in advance about the time and place and prepare what you’re going to say. Would it make more sense to talk on the phone? Or get together in person? (In my humble opinion, you need to do more than just text.) Make it clear that you’re not asking for permission to end the friendship.

    In your explanation, begin by telling them what has been positive about the friendship. What have you learned? What have you gained? What do you like about your friend?

    Then — gently, kindly, but firmly — explain why this relationship is not working for you. Take responsibility for the breakup. For example, talk about why your needs or your schedule make this friendship impossible. Do not focus on blaming either of you for why things didn’t work out.

    How To Break Up With a Friend: The Bottom Line

    All friendships take work. But if your friendship isn’t nourishing you and making your life better, it’s okay to break up with a friend. Just do it respectfully.

    Everyone deserves to be around people who want to spend time with them.

  • How To Tell When a Friendship Is Over

    When should you end a deteriorating friendship? How do you know when a friendship is over?

    When a friendship is over

    In a romantic relationship, the signs are clearer: you stop going on dates, you move out, you stop hanging out. There’s a clear “cultural script” for how a romantic breakup goes. In friendship, the signs can be much more ambiguous, especially since it’s perfectly normal for friends to fade in and out of our lives at different points, particularly during major life transitions.

    Friendships come to a close for a variety of reasons. You grow apart. You change priorities. You move. You have kids. You get or lose a job. A loss of some sort — a divorce, death — rocks you to your core, and your friend either gets it or doesn’t. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell just what the reason is.

    How can you tell when a friendship is over, or should end?

    There’s no one definitive sign, but here are some clues:

    1. The relationship is unbalanced.

    You realize that your relationship is one-sided. You — or your friend — is always the one to initiate contact or make plans. If you don’t take the initiative, then you just won’t hear from her. You feel like she’s making excuses to get out of spending time together.

    This is one of the most common dilemmas that Nina Badzin, our friendship advice columnist, hears about. In previous columns, for example, she’s advised a reader who feels like her friend only gets in touch with her when the friend’s “real” friends are busy; a reader (“Needy Nancy”) whose friend suddenly seems cold and is pulling away; and a reader whose friend consistently cancels plans at the last minute.

    Many of us are also bad at telling who are friends actually are. While we assume that our friendships are reciprocal, research shows that in actuality half of friendships are one-sided.

    2. Conversation feels too hard.

    It feels stressful to keep talking, beyond the usual updates of each other’s lives. It doesn’t feel natural anymore. There’s no chemistry. You might end up sniping at each other or there may be lots of awkward silence.

    3. You don’t have fun together.

    You don’t seem to have much in common anymore. It’s okay for friends to have different interests, but it could also be a sign that spending time together is too much work for both of you.

    4. After spending time together, you find yourself annoyed and drained.

    After being together, you feel emotionally depleted, instead of supported and recharged.

    5. It’s only through social media that you often find out what’s going on in her life.

    You no longer share the “big” or small daily life happenings anymore. She leaves out important information about what’s going on in her life even when you do talk. Or, alternatively, your friend never interacts with your posts on social media.

    6. You don’t act like yourself when you’re together.

    After being together, you reflect and realize that you don’t like the version of yourself that emerges when you hang out. She brings out the worst version of you.

    7. You feel like you’re “suffocating” in the relationship.

    You feel like you’ve given so much of yourself, but it’s never enough. Or she may be controlling or needy or possessive. You feel like she needs you for everything, including validation. Or all of the above.

    In one of Nina’s previous columns, she advised a reader with a needy and lonely friend. The friend wrote: “Since she has no one else to talk to, she uses me to vent. I mostly feel awful after these talks. Yet I realize she is alone in a new city and has no other support…She knocks on my door or phones almost every day. I feel harassed and have spoken to her about my need for better boundaries, but she does not get it. I find myself turning off all my lights so she will not know I am home and I don’t answer my phone or go to the door.” This friend knew she wanted out of the relationship, but wasn’t sure how to do it.

    8. In your gut, you feel that the friendship is a “toxic” relationship in your life.

    The lines between healthy friendships and “toxic friendships” are sometimes fuzzy. A toxic friend doesn’t have to be someone who is always mean and terrible; she doesn’t have to be a “bad” person.

    According to Dr. Irene Levine, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend, a toxic friendship is “one that is consistently, or more often than not, unequal, non-reciprocal, demanding, clingy, stress-inducing, demeaning, and/or unsupportive.”

    As Nina Badzin points out, sometimes the question of when to end a question boils down to this:

    “When there’s more frustration than joy. Life is too short.”

    About your friendship, ask yourself, Nina advises, “Do the pluses outweigh the minuses?”

    It is hard to let go. It’s hard to admit what you perceive to be a failure. You try to ignore the ways that this friendship no longer works or feels right to you. You make excuses for your friend’s (or your own) behavior.

    The bottom line: When a friendship is more of a drain than an asset, it’s a good time to step back and reflect about whether your life would be better without this person. No friendship is perfect, but it might be time to cut the cord if you think a friendship can’t be fixed.

    What have been the signs for you that a friendship is over?

    Read more about how friendships end — from both sides — in our essay collection, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends

     

     

  • Platonic Friendships and Jealous Spouses

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter about a longstanding friendship between a man and a woman that the man’s wife objects to now (years later). How much influence does one spouse get to have on the other’s platonic friendships? And can a friendship successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    platonic friendships

    Dear Nina,

    I am uncertain about how to proceed in a longtime friendship that has seemingly created some tension in my friend’s marriage. By way of background, I am female and he is male, we met a long time ago in college, and our relationship has ALWAYS been platonic. I mean not even the “too much beer at a frat party” kind of kiss has ever even happened. Each of us has also been married for a long time; I am quite happily married and, for the most part, he has seemed happy in his too, minus a rough patch they had a few years ago (the details of which I do not know).

    Although we attended college together, we have not lived geographically close since that time, so our communication has always been online. Before the advent of Facebook and texting, we kept in touch via intermittent email about life events (marriages, babies, jobs, etc.). Then when Facebook became de rigueur, we connected that way instead (though not much interaction happens there), and we text every once in a while (say, maybe once every month or two at most, usually about an article one of us read that the other might be interested in, asking about jobs, etc.). Once in a great while, like when he was going through something in his personal life that he needed another take on, a longer email might be exchanged, but that is very rare.

    Like I do with virtually everyone in my life, I occasionally sign my texts/emails with a (what I thought to be) nonchalant “xo” to signify that I was “signing off” so to speak. Flash forward to now and it seems as though there is some kind of distress being felt by his spouse about several of his female texting friends who do this kind of thing, though it is unclear whether she considers me one of them too. Their marriage does appear to be on the brink and this all seems to have been the proverbial straw after she went through his phone recently. In not so many words, he alerted me about this, that his spouse reads his texts and will do more so now, and more or less told me to keep it “professional” going forward.

    This has left me feeling very uncertain about how (or whether) to proceed in our friendship. I want him, above all else, to work out his marriage problems because he is my friend. And though I can certainly eliminate the “xo” from our communications (and will!), I feel like I cannot be myself anymore and that I am being monitored by his wife despite a completely platonic   relationship. If anyone is sensitive to this kind of thing, it is me having witnessed a close family member deal with an extramarital affair. Is this friendship salvageable, and how? How does one go from being fairly close for almost two decades to feeling like it must be limited to small talk?

    Signed,

    Not The Other Woman

     

    Dear Not The Other Woman,

    I see two questions in your letter. First, how much influence should one spouse have on the other spouse’s friendships? Second, can a friendship successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

    Some readers may wonder about the underlying question of the viability of platonic relationships when one or both participants of that friendship are married or committed to other people. In April 2015, I received a letter from a married woman who missed having male friends in her life. Since this woman works from home, she finds that the only men she interacts with on a regular basis are her friends’ husbands, and she doesn’t find conversation with any of them particularly stimulating. She wanted to know if a friendship with a man was worth pursuing for its own sake.

    In that situation, it was clear (to me) that purposely fostering a new relationship with an opposite sex friend was risky territory for a married person. (Several commenters respectfully disagreed.) My thought was that while the friendship could certainly stay platonic, it was also reasonable to acknowledge that many romantic relationships start with a friendship.

    Your situation with a friendship that preceded your marriage feels entirely different. And the fact that you and this man had no sexual tension in your history makes me believe the friendship has been worth holding on to all this time. As the woman in the April letter pointed out, it’s no easy task to make opposite-sex friends the older we get. Especially if you work from home! All that said, two decades of friendship doesn’t necessarily mean this particular connection is worth keeping with the current issue at hand.

    Should a spouse’s opinion matter?

    We can make the argument that men and women can be friends with no romantic implications, but if one member of a couple doesn’t like it, then that opinion matters more than all the commenters who will insist that spouses shouldn’t be jealous in these cases. “Should” and reality are not the same. When two people have built an entire life together, I do believe the spouse’s raised eyebrow counts for a lot, especially if her discomfort seems based on his (assumed) crossing the line with another female friend.

    Of course we don’t know if your friend crossed the line physically, emotionally, or at all. Perhaps it’s the sheer number of female friends giving her pause and not any particular “thing” that happened. We simply do not know what is happening in their marriage, and frankly, that’s not your problem anyway. For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe that your occasional “xo” is bothering her. Though I get why you feel a bit funny about it in hindsight. I’d eliminate them no matter what you decide about how much effort to put into this friendship.

    So, how much say should a spouse have on his/her partner’s friendships? It’s a case by case basis. In general, I think every adult gets to make independent decisions regarding friendships. However, if a friendship is making one part of the couple feel awful, it’s time to discuss what’s going on and address the pain or confusion. It doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship, but it wouldn’t be inappropriate or unexpected to put the marriage before the friendship.

    The more pressing question we need to solve here is the second one.

    Can platonic friendships successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

    In other words, is this friendship worth keeping if he’s going to become one more Facebook buddy among many other college acquaintances and connections from all walks of life?

    It sounds to me like the friendship is headed in the casual direction. It is probably more effort and drama than it’s worth to maintain the same comfort of communication you had with him before his wife got upset. I think you have to accept a more casual “small talk” connection with him, or completely let him fade out of your life.

    To answer the general question bolded above, I believe it is possible to change the terms of a friendship, but it usually works best (as in, without hurt feelings) when it happens naturally such as times of transition like moving out of the same city or leaving the same workplace. In most other cases, the change in closeness is probably instigated by one friend and reluctantly accepted by the other. But a new normal is always possible and often preferable to a full break up. I tend to caution against drawing permanent lines whenever possible.

    There is so much going on in this question and my answer. I hope I’ve given you something to help the situation, and if I haven’t, hopefully the smart readers at HerStories will!

    Thanks for writing to me and best of luck,

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

     

     

  • Can Your Friendships Survive Donald Trump?

    ending friendships over trump

    Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

    Yet Thomas Jefferson never had endure a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What would he say about arguing over the Muslim ban? Or building a wall to keep out the “Mexican rapists” and criminals? Or fights about private email servers? Or bragging about sexual assault? Would the America of this election cause him to rethink this idealistic view of friendship?

    What is politics, really?

    Is it about differences in how to write the tax code, in how to interpret particular amendments to the Constitution, in how to eliminate the debt, in how to protect the environment, in whether or not to sign trade agreements?

    Or is politics about something much bigger? About how we treat others who are different than we are? About the culture that we want to create for our children? About whether our country’s best days are behind us or right in front of us?

    Is politics at its core really about — as a viral article (“I Didn’t Unfriend You Over ‘Politics'”) — nothing less than morality, decency, and humanity itself?

    In that article, Jennifer Sullivan writes:

    “I will not be made to remain friends with people who see [Trump’s] continued attempts at oppression and discrimination as an ‘inconvenient consequence’ of ensuring that their party remain in power. Because ultimately, if discriminatory practices aren’t a deal-breaker for you, if they don’t inspire in you a pain and an anger so heartbreaking that it leaves you aching for your less-privileged neighbor, then I don’t want to know you. And I shouldn’t have to simply because we shared the same floor freshman year of college.”

    Our Friendship and Election 2016 Survey

    During this campaign, I have struggled with these questions, and when we asked about this topic in our Friendship and Election 2016 survey, I was hoping that many of you had good answers. It turns out that most of you are just as confused and pained as I am about friendship and politics, for the first time in your lives.

    I’ve been unfriended by relatives, I’ve cried when I’ve read words defending sexual assault from friends that I’ve formerly respected, and I’ve unfriended others who post positions so racist, so vile, and so uncivilized that I have begun to fear that I never knew my country at all. I’m certainly not alone.

    About Half Lost a Friend

    About 55% of the respondents to our survey told us that they have lost a close friendship because of the election. Nearly three-quarters have unfriended or unfollowed a close friend or family member on Facebook during this election.

    • Christy of Educate to Eliminate: A man who is like a father to me, who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, unfriended me and has stopped all communication with me. He’s known me my whole life and just recently didn’t acknowledge my birthday which he does every year.
    • Elura N.: I’ve lost serious respect for people I actually know. I’ve had strained relationships and conversations with family members with whom I’ve never seriously disagreed about anything. I’ve unintentionally offended and antagonized people I trusted to have moderate views by being surprised about their willingness to tolerate sexual assault, racism, and authoritarianism.
    • Christina L.: I found out a few of my oldest friends from middle/high school had strong opinions about immigrants, and spoke out as firm Trump supporters. I am a first generation Asian American, and was deeply troubled by their positions, some of which were laced with racist overtones. I initially challenged some of their views but have quietly distanced myself from the rest. It’s not a large number, but enough for me to question whether they understand how hurtful it is for someone they consider a friend.
    • Joy of Evil Joy Speaks: When women I know who have daughters the same ages as my girls support Donald Trump, it makes me question what they values they hold. I want to empower my girls and teach them to be fierce. In turn, I make sure playdates don’t include political or religious discussions by adults in earshot of children. I also note with whom I will no longer have political or religious discourse.
    • Julia: I can’t talk to some friends about the election and I avoid them. It’s too upsetting to me. I’m very careful to know where someone stands before I mention politics because I’ve been sexually assaulted and I don’t think I could remain friends with someone who supports or votes for Donald Trump.
    • Erendira of Rejoice Beloved: I am a Christian and am part of the #NeverHillaryorTrump camp. A group of our friends are Trump supporters and because of our biblical convictions, we could not reconcile (as our friends did and still do) standing for Christ while parking our faith at the door in support of a candidate who is double-minded in all his ways.

    Should You End Friendships Over Politics?

    Respondents were evenly split on whether, even during this election, we should seek to listen, to respect, and to maintain friendships with friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

    About a third said that they find nothing wrong with severing ties with friends who are supporting Trump. (No one mentioned severing ties over supporting Clinton.)

    • Laura: I’m trying to see this as just one part of a person, but in this election, it’s so much more than that. The severity and ugliness of Trump and his supporters has permeated my view of some friends and close family. I respect them less and am less interested in trusting them.
    • Kristin: I normally have no problem with maintaining diverse friendships, but this year I knew I personally could not look my Muslim or gay friends or my Mexican-American sister in law in the eye again if I didn’t clearly state how very against Trump I am. I believe any friendships lost this time around weren’t real friendships if I could not keep my integrity around them and speak my mind. I think a lot of people who hid racist tendencies under coded language and silence before have been exposed, and I refuse to just sweep that under the rug for politeness’ sake anymore .
    • Julia: Bring it up as rarely as possible. Don’t let it affect your friendship unless it means looking the other way about something that is one of the tenets of your life or is critical to human rights and of moral obligation (racism, sexism, gay rights). I decided about a month ago I’d give up a friendship if someone strongly supports Trump. He’s a dangerous man worth ending a friendship.

    Dialogue or Avoidance?

    Another third of respondents were divided between those who welcomed dialogue and discussion and those who said that the best strategy was to avoid talking about politics altogether:

    • Laurel: I find it best to be an active listener, have an open mind and see someone else’s perspective. But I keep most of my political views to myself until I know where the other person stands on a candidate. This election in my opinion, has been polarizing on a gender basis, not a political party basis. I find myself feeling safe to talk with other women about the election, no matter their affiliation. I do not find it safe to talk to men, even family members about it. I get very upset when I have to explain how hurtful the misogyny practiced by the candidate and his backers against women feels.
    • Stacy M. of The Novel Life: Don’t talk politics. period. With several extended family members voting for Trump we have a very, very strict line in the sand about discussing politics. I don’t think we could ever come back to our good relationships if we got into a discussion. I’m not willing to lose family members over Trump or Clinton.
    • Gretchen of Drifting Through My Open Mind: I’ve been trying to remember that they have fears that are probably compelling them to vote a certain way. Or issues that they are just as passionate about as I am about mine. At some point you have to agree to disagree.
    • Mandi C.: Walk away slowly.
    • Sarah C. of Housewife Plus: I still maintain friendships with several folks who are following Trump, but they have never said aloud or demonstrated the gross sexist attitudes that Trump has. While I vehemently disagree with these friends’ political views, they have been respectful in the way they express their political leanings and I can respect that.
    • Morgan H.: Don’t get personal and see things through life experiences.
    • If you’ve seen evidence your “friend” is a decent human being in non-election years, get over *yourself*. There is more to life than electing a new POTUS. Be compassionate and magnanimous. If you are ugly to others, will it reflect well on your chosen candidate? Additionally, consider you may have become a crushing bore with incessant political talk/preening. Are *you* loveable? Extend the same grace to others you’d appreciate.
    • MyLove Barnett: My super close friends and I have made a deal to not discuss it at all. We talked about it earlier in the election cycle, around the time of the primaries. But we don’t agree and we know we don’t agree and we love each other too much to even talk about it right now, because we are all so passionate in our views. We’ve decided that since we can’t change each other’s minds, it’s a moot topic of conversation. As far as online relationships, if the same comes up with close online friends, I simply unfollow their feed so that I don’t see it. And if I do see it, I don’t engage.

    We’re All Clueless

    Some just aren’t sure. The last third of respondents said they had no idea at all what advice they would give about navigating friendships during this election.

    • Stephanie: I have no idea. I’ve literally never experienced this before. The fact that this election really transcends political values is probably the reason — the human rights issues, sexism, racism, general character flaws of a candidate, have gone so far beyond Republican/Democrat political differences that I have no idea how to navigate it. I’ve never had this kind of a problem with my own reactions to Republican friends or family members. I guess I’m more surprised by my own vitriol toward Trump supporters and I just don’t know how to handle it.

    I’m uncomfortable with these divisions. They aren’t good for our country or for our relationships. I don’t want to live in a bubble, only interacting with people who think like I do. However, more and more it seems that are political differences are no longer about genuine philosophical splits. They’re tribal. They’re about human rights. They’re about how we see the world and our fellow citizens. They’re perceived by many as a fight between good and evil — and the frightening thing to me is that I’m not sure that they’re wrong.

    They are about so much more than politics.

    Do you think that these divisions — within our country and in your own life — will get better after Election Day?