Lifestyle

You can unfriend bigoted mates but a relative with different views is for life

You knew there’d probably be some racists in your Facebook friends list.

The red flags might’ve started blowing during the winds of Brexit. A questionable post on immigration, a nasty meme, a suspicious number of St. George’s flag emojis.

But the past few weeks really brought out people’s true colours. Many of us will have spent time laboriously debunking the ‘All Lives Matter’ slogan using the burning house analogy illustrated for primary school kids. Others will have lost hope and gone straight for the ‘unfriend’ button.

But what if it’s the people closest to you holding beliefs that belong in the waters of Bristol Harbour?

Engaging online with the girl you played netball with in Year 7 is one thing, but having uncomfortable, challenging conversations with the people you love considerably raises the stakes.

Whether it’s social distancing measures, government policies or gender self-identification, the likelihood is that you won’t see eye to eye with everyone in your family. Long periods indoors together means more time for discussion, and an increased likelihood of it getting heated.

At the end of the day, you can’t unfriend your mum, but I believe we have a duty to challenge our families nonetheless.

Over the years I’ve had plenty of discussions with my parents that have ended in a door slam or two, but they have been necessary – not just to get a better understanding of the world, but of each other.

What about friends, though? Or, even more troublesome, partners?

They’re the family you choose, yes, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult when they throw an outrageous opinion in your direction.

We tend to gravitate towards people who share similar values to our own anyway and I like to think that my mates are all decent people (deep down).

Besides, it would be boring if we all thought exactly the same way (I’m not talking about the racists here, they can absolutely get in the bin).

Unlike friends, however, if the person you’re building a life with has opposite core values and beliefs to yours, it can have a much bigger impact on your existence.

I dated someone in the not-distant-enough past whose views were dissimilar to my own.

On our first date we discovered that we voted in different directions. ‘Not a big deal’ I thought. ‘It’s the same for my parents and they’ve been married 36 years. I’ll send him a good Momentum video or something, that’ll do the trick.’ Besides, he was extremely handsome.

Over the first few weeks he dropped a few misogynistic tropes here and there, but what straight white man doesn’t, right? Like a gender-role-reversal of Pygmalion, I could educate him on how to speak in a ‘fairer’ manner. Besides, I didn’t want to re-download Hinge.

The hardcore stuff came after a month. He recoiled at two men kissing on TV, then defended himself with: ‘I don’t want to see straight people kissing either’, despite his marked silence throughout The Notebook.

As painful as it may be, some differences of opinion can be make or break

He was adamant that his future son should play with trucks over dolls, and showed grave concern that I would ‘turn a straight child gay’ by putting him in a dress.

‘I’ll take him to Pride’ I decided, ‘then he’ll get it.’ My ovaries were slowly dying and I’d invested too much time in this guy to start all over again. I could miss the opportunity to have any kids at all, let alone one whose sexuality I could ‘convert’ with a floral garment.

I told myself that if I was expecting him to stop being so narrow-minded then perhaps I needed to open my own mind a little bit more. Maybe I was the bigot? Maybe I was the one discriminating?

Or maybe I was flogging a dead horse. We were, quite simply, incompatible.

In the final month came more clangers I struggled to look past. We argued, we debated, we discussed, and we were exhausted. Needless to say, we split up.

Now arguably, we all have a duty to challenge not only those around us, but ourselves as well. Progress is infinite, after all – Grandma once thought she was woke too, remember.

It’s all well and good telling your boyfriend/girlfriend/grandma what they can no longer say, but we must listen to others when they tell us that our own words are prejudicial, discriminate or hurtful.

But if other people refuse to do the same?

As painful as it may be, some differences of opinion can be make or break. Sacrificing your principles is denying a part of yourself, and that can’t lead to peace or happiness.

Relationships are all about compromise. Challenging my principles is something I’m open to, but denying them is not. Painful as it may be, some differences in opinion are too substantial to work with.

So your dad’s a bigot… but you can’t have a new one, so you may as well have a go at changing his mind.

But you can change your partner. I’m not saying you should end a relationship as a signal of virtue to the rest of the world, but don’t exhaust yourself trying to see eye to eye with someone who prefers being wilfully blind.

It’s okay to give up on a lost cause.