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April 17, 2014

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Ask Mr. Sun:

Can a family divided by election be reconciled?

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Steve Marcus

Therapist Terri Merz poses in her office Monday, Nov. 5, 2012.

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Mr. Sun

Mr. Sun, throughout the presidential campaign, my brother and I have disagreed so stridently on who’s better for our country that we avoided getting together socially for fear we would devolve into fisticuffs. We’ve battled privately in emails and publicly on Facebook, and with each exchange, the schism between us grew wider. Now that the election is over, how do we reconcile?

— Black & Blue

Well, B&B, that’s certainly a timely question on this morning-after. Obviously, one of you will be delighted by the results and the other likely will be furious. It is what it is.

I’m not great with personal relationships, so I asked Terri Merz for help. She’s been a marriage and family therapist for 26 years. Here’s what she told me:

“A priority in a relationship should be to respect each other’s point of view. But that doesn’t often happen. We get stuck on wanting to be right. What I — and other therapists — tell people is, ‘Do you want to be right or be in a healthy relationship?’ Because you can’t have both.

“In this case, with the damage already done, the bigger of the two of you may want to take the high road and apologize for choosing to want to be right rather than valuing the relationship. Own up to what you’ve done, maybe offer to buy dinner and then talk about something else, like sports.”

And if the brother wants nothing to do with that because he’s still seething in anger?

“That could be an outcome, too, in which case you allow a cooling-off and maybe try again in a month,” she said. “Time heals, absolutely. If you feel strongly about your candidate and your candidate loses, you will feel stung, but that sting will subside with time.”

Merz blames the media — especially cable TV — for the growing anger and negativity in political dialog.

“The vitriol is destructive, and it’s trickling into our homes,” she said. “It’s created a great deal of emotional drama that is completely unnecessary and partially destructive to relationships.”

Well, friends, here’s to sharing a bottle of sarsaparilla and making peace.

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