A psychotherapist's guide to keeping relationships together when politics are pulling them apart


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Many relationships are suffering because of opposing political views. And those arguments can easily boil over at the Thanksgiving table. A Philadelphia psychotherapist has some guidance.

Ron Sexton, with Retreat Behavioral Health, says, first decide if the relationship is worth saving. If so, both people have to show each other respect. Sharing one’s own political views is much different from belittling someone else's.

“Friendships have been broken. Families have been broken. I have friends who don’t speak to their parents, and it is divisive," Sexton said.

He explains, a person’s worldview is shaped by life experiences.

“We have to step back and consider: Why is this person thinking this way?” he said.

When having political discussions, make sure to stay calm, he said.

“Make sure that what you’re stating is factual. And why are you replying? Are you replying to be hurtful? Are you replying to further the conversation and contribute to it?" he said. "And what are you feeling in that moment? If you’re angry, don’t reply.”

If someone is extreme, he advises, remember that no one can rationalize with a person who is behaving irrationally.

“A lot of what may be happening right now is because we’re not having as many face-to-face conversations," Sexton said. "And then when you pile on the stress of COVID and people’s insecurities about what’s happening next, it’s created this volatile situation.”

When it comes to holiday family gatherings, he said, sometimes it’s best to all agree to not bring up the subject.