The recent election cycle, both unprecedented in its form and emotion on every level, has stirred up more than controversy on all sides of opinion and belief. And now, an already contentious nation is divided that much more.
There’s no more concrete proof of this than within the walls of my own home.
It’s difficult for me to admit — and more difficult to accept — all the ways the election divided our house. A lot has changed through the course of the last couple of years — none more than my central moral compass. I’ve felt it shifting and evolving through my lifetime, but as the election came to a close, I also felt it emerge as something fully rounded and unwavering. It was unexpected and welcomed in the same breath.
I grew up in a fairly conservative household. We went to church on Sundays, and all the way through high school, my mother would pray with us at night. And while the social messages were somewhat mixed due to my parents’ volatile divorce and their questionable relationships during the following years, the constant theme was based on commandments, sin, right and wrong — and often times — misogyny: The power remained with the man of the house, and I was to be subservient and submissive.
At least, that was the message received (even if not directly broadcast).
I carried these ideals into my young adulthood, cementing things I thought I believed into everything I chose to do with my life. From who I’d marry (directly out of high school, mind you), to finances, and everything in between, I did what I thought I was raised to do.
The problem, I realized just four years into this marriage was, maybe I didn’t necessarily believe all I was told. Maybe I had my own beliefs that were waiting to be fostered and nurtured.
As these things began to emerge, my husband at the time and I also saw that we were not right together. It wasn’t an easy decision to divorce, but it’s one that led me, happily, to where I am now.
Once that marriage ended and I’d moved to another state to start anew, I met and, eventually, married my (now) husband.
We’ve been together nearly 13 years — and yet, I’ve only recently realized how vastly different our world views are.
This time around, political debates among people I knew came with so much vitriol and resentment. However, I took comfort in knowing I had a partner to turn to when in the face of backlash or differing opinion.
Only, not long before the election, it became terrifyingly clear that our visions were not in line with one another — not at all, actually — and we’d be voting for different parties.
My first reaction to my husband’s blatant statement for his choice was anger. I yelled at him. I screamed. I sobbed and pleaded for him to vote otherwise.
At one point, I threatened divorce. This is how very scared I was — am — for the future of our children.
For weeks after, we grew apart. I felt the walls I’ve worked so hard to tear down in my relationship, re-build, brick by brick — and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I didn’t want to talk to him, to look at him, because even with his reasoning (which I challenged), there was not any part of it I could fathom. Still can’t.
The day of the election, I woke with such hope — and yet, a heavy weight resting on my chest, much like a heart attack. I took our young children (ages 5 and 10) with me to the voting booth so they could witness the process and see the patriotism I was bursting with.
As my daughter nears the age when I began to question the beliefs I was raised on, I was so proud to have her at my side as I cast my ballot.
As I explained the voting process to her, I could see she was proud, too. She’d been informed of the candidates in school, She’d taken part in mock voting, and even in our highly conservative town, she continued to use her voice in the name of diversity, equality, and freedom for all.
However, once it became clear that our candidate would not win, that heart attack-like feeling became more of an all-out crushing sensation. I awoke the morning post-election day to find her in tears as she stared at the television.
That image will forever haunt me, as I felt the same kind of defeat. I held her, told her not to lose hope, and together we decided to face our day with a new force.
Then, when my husband came down the stairs, everything came flooding back. All the anger. All the resentment. All the confusion. And in those moments, I couldn’t understand him, not even a little.
I never thought I’d say that about a man I love and have devoted myself to. It didn’t register that I am with someone who could believe so differently from me. This day was one of the hardest to get through. But we did, and we are still trying as the aftermath of the election unfolds.
In the days after, as we all settled into our new reality, I had a chance to calmly speak to my husband about his choice. For me, it has nothing to do with one candidate losing and another wining, but where our country is headed. I’m scared.
The more we communicated, the more I (somewhat) understood his choices. He, like many Americans, seems to be able to disconnect one candidate’s words and attitude from the issues. I, personally, cannot, and don’t agree with those who do.
Yet, he still respects everything I am fighting for. So instead of being dormant, I want to work to fix the divide within our journey together — politics and all.
However unsettling, the stark reality is that the majority of people voted their conscience which, after eight years of democratic control, fell in line with a more conservative approach. My husband and I will have to agree to disagree — or the state of our marriage will be in jeopardy for the next four-eight years.
And that’s not something I want to model for our children. I need them to see that, despite our differences (however big), we can find common ground with love and respect.
This election changed me in ways I never saw coming, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way (I still am). Issues I had straddled took firmly to one side. Stances I had avoided are now at the forefront of the deeply rooted feminist beliefs I’d been afraid to express. And mostly, after many years of feeling unsure of where I fit because of my alternate beliefs within my family unit, I’m now emboldened by what I know is right.
With my daughter’s eyes hard-pressed on my words and actions, now more than ever I see how important it is to lead with authority and compassion, and not cower to those whose opinions contradict mine — even if it’s within my own house.
The biggest takeaway from this whole process hasn’t only been that I now know what I believe — but I now know all of the things I definitely do not believe.
Hate, intolerance, and bigotry are not things I stand by or condone. They never will be.
Hopefully, someday, my husband, and those like him who are good-willed and good-intentioned, will vote the same — and if not, let us all come together to vote for someone who will fight against all of the above and unify the divided.
With that hope, my house will muster the strength to move forward, and I hope all of your homes divided by this election will, too.