Q:I am a privileged white woman who, like many (if not all) of you, is now terrified and sickened at the reality of a You-Know-Who presidency. My (also privileged, also white) husband thinks I’m overreacting, and keeps suggesting I stop reading all the “Day 1 of You-Know-Who’s America” stuff, because I’m just getting myself worked up over nothing and, “It’s all going to be fine.”
This is a man who, before now, considered himself a feminist in that he believes in equal rights for all and choice for all (to choose whether or not to change your last name, for example, or to choose whether to be a stay-at-home mom or a working mother). He adores me, is over the moon for our daughter, is genuinely one of the sweetest, most empathetic, kind, gentle, and intelligent people I know. And here he sits, rather blatantly turning a blind eye to all the public hatred that has cropped up, because America elected a president who not only sanctions this behavior but encourages it and thinks it laughable.
I want to vomit. I don’t know how to approach a conversation about this with him, because I get stonewalled as a crazy harbinger of doom every time I so much as hint at speaking about the election or what’s happening in the world around us. I’m heartbroken. We have a daughter. She’s young enough that hopefully, HOPEFULLY, she will get through the next four years none the wiser, but who’s to say there won’t be (ever)lasting repercussions that screw with her?
I’m not sure what my question is. I guess a good start would be, how do I engage in a conversation with someone whom I care deeply about but who simply put, doesn’t want to hear it?
A: Man, Anon, if that isn’t everyone’s question this week. I know it’s mine. How much harder, though, to have that “everything will be fine” guy living in your own house and sharing your bed.
First up, you need to find someone other than your partner to help you mourn. Right now, it ain’t him. You can’t rely on him for emotional support and comfort about this, and that’s fine for now, but needs to be fixed eventually. Not because you should turn to him for every emotional need (NOPE), but because this signals a couple of other things.
First, it points to an issue with your communication. You’ve probably already figured this out: telling you not to worry doesn’t make you stop worrying. Saying everything is fine doesn’t make everything fine. On this relational level, it doesn’t matter if he sees the magnitude of your concerns. He’s gotta find a different way to deal with the stuff that bothers you that he doesn’t understand. Because, guess what! Dismissing someone’s fears doesn’t make them go away! It only adds frustration on top of that fear. So, he doesn’t want to talk about politics. You can still have a conversation about being dismissed, and how you’d hope for him to instead respond when something’s bothering you.
It also signals a narrow perspective on social injustice. Long-term, it’s incredibly important for him to recognize the full weight of struggle and fear that he’ll never endure. That’s crucial for anyone, but especially shruggy white guys. Making him do that will be frustrating and exhausting, but just imagine how much more frustrating it is for marginalized folks to listen to his mouth. This, frankly, might take a lot of time. Empathy is tough.
And just so I’m clear, it’s not your job to make your partner a better person. But it’s everyone’s responsibility to encourage those closest to us to have broader perspectives and be better concerned about others.
As far as how to do that, well. Like I said above, I’m facing this question, myself. Trying to weigh how much to say, how to say it, when to take a break and shut-up. And in my experience, it all sort of depends. Maybe your partner is a facts-and-figures guy, or maybe he needs to read personal accounts, or maybe he needs you to connect the dots and show him, “If you believe in this kind of equality, do you see how that applies to this other situation?”
I’m going to bounce this over to the readers now, because a wild hunch says lots of us are thinking about this very thing. Guys, how have you handled these conversations? How do you get through to someone who isn’t interested in hearing what’s up and insists that everything is “fine”?
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)