I sat on the couch, watching the election results come in state by state, crying and fighting the urge to vomit. My husband sat beside me, reading the news on his phone, silent. Occasionally, I would burst out with an angry, “What the hell?!” or a despondent, “This can’t be happening.” He murmured in agreement. We both walked around in a fog the next day, stunned.
As Inauguration Day drew closer, I began to think about what I could do. I had to DO something. I researched and read vociferously about the Women’s Marches being organized, and began planning how to attend the Los Angeles march with my husband, 6-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter. I talked about how important it was to teach our children about our rights, and obligations, as Americans – our right to vote, to protest, to make our voices heard. My husband murmured, in what I thought was agreement.
The day before the march, as we spoke about our plan, I began to sense his reluctance to attend.
He worried that the message of the march was exclusionary. I was admittedly fired up about everything, and reacted in haste. I (not-so-gently) suggested he stay home with the children, and I made plans to attend with a friend. The next morning, as I got ready to leave, he came to me, and asked if he could write a message on my arm. It said, “I march with you.” I apologized for my rash behavior the night before, and headed out, (somewhat) optimistic about the future. Upon my return, he expressed his regret over not attending, and we joked about how many opportunities to protest the next four years would provide us with.
The first weeks of Trump’s presidency unfolded. Executive orders were signed, rolling back the Affordable Care Act, banning immigration from certain countries, and targeting sanctuary cities, to name a few. Presidential memorandums were released, reinstating the Mexico City Policy, prioritizing building the Dakota Access Pipeline, and more.
I got progressively more and more angry. My husband suggested we “wait and see.”
When I expressed my surprise at his mild response, he said, “I’ve seen this before, with Reagan. The pendulum swings both ways.”
I argued that we couldn’t stand by, that we had to DO something. He suggested calm discourse was the way to get results.
I pointed out that calm discourse didn’t end British rule, the Revolutionary War did. Calm discourse didn’t stop slavery, the Civil War did. Calm discourse didn’t give women the right to vote, protest did.
I begged him to see how important it was that he – a white, middle-class American male – stand with all marginalized communities.
We were at a stand off. I was getting increasingly outraged at what I saw as his unwillingness to recognize his position of privilege.
It’s easy to “wait and see” when you aren’t one of the targeted groups.
Things culminated one evening after dinner, when I ended up crying and yelling to the point that I couldn’t breathe. This was obviously not healthy, but more importantly, it made me worry about the future of our (previously strong) 16 year relationship. I didn’t want our relationship to fall apart because of differences in how we handled our political beliefs, especially since our core beliefs were inline — but I also couldn’t pretend not to care.
When we woke up the next morning, he asked if I wanted to stay in bed while he got the children ready for the day.
“No,” I responded. “I can get up. Why do you ask?”
“You were so upset last night,” he said. “I’m worried about you.”
My anger flared once again. How condescending and patronizing, I thought. The patriarchy rearing its ugly head. The rational man, worried about the irrational woman. I stewed all day.
But, after speaking at length with a close friend, I realized I needed to find a way to accept that he processes things in his own way. Although I may react to news in one way, that does not mean that it’s the right way, or that he has to follow suit. We sat down and tried to discuss it again. He explained that it was going to be a long four years, and the depth of my feelings worried him. How would I survive if I continued to be eaten up like this? I conceded the point and was relieved that it wasn’t that he thought I was being irrational, but that he was genuinely concerned. He agreed to try and understand that the depth of my anger was due to how important these issues were to me.
I asked him if he would get involved if I came to him with concrete ways that he (we) could help, and he said yes. I felt relieved.
In the end, it was a series of difficult discussions and uncomfortable truths, but our relationship is too important to let it be another casualty of the Trump administration. There’s a greater lesson here, too – we should all strive to take the time to listen to one another, and remember that compromise is the greatest tool we have in life — whether in our personal lives, or our political ones.
Kristen W. Terry is a Connecticut-born, Los Angeles-based writer. She has a never-ending appreciation for “Grosse Pointe Blank,” a not-so-secret fondness for romance novels, listens to Ani DiFranco and Bruce Springsteen on constant rotation, and prefers Davines hair products — mostly for the packaging. You’ll have more luck trying her on Instagram, but she also has a website and Twitter, and solemnly promises to do better at both.