Dear Annie: How I keep politics out of my friendships

Dear Annie: I just read the letter about a friend who talks about politics too much, and the writer said it was causing them to question whether or not to end their friendship.

I had a similar situation some years back with a cousin. So I asked my aunt (not the cousin’s mom) how she would handle it. That’s when I learned her hard-and-fast rule about three very sensitive areas of discussion and how to handle that situation.

If someone I care about, family member or friend, starts talking about any of them, I simply wait until I can interject this: “I do not talk politics, sports or religion with people I care about, as it NEVER ends well. Everyone has their own opinions, beliefs and thoughts on those subjects, and I don’t want to get into a conversation that can potentially ruin our relationship/friendship. Is there something else you’d like to talk about, like maybe a movie or book?”

That is usually all it takes to end that part of the conversation. I will repeat it if they persist, and then I walk away. I will repeat it each time we talk if one or more of the “Big Three” is mentioned. Eventually, the person remembers to avoid them in conversation with me, or they remember to avoid me if they really must talk about them to someone.

I do talk about those three subjects, but I’m very careful with whom I have those discussions. I know my close friends and family well enough to know what subjects are safe with each.

My Aunt was very wise!

-- Avoiding Arguments


Dear Avoiding Arguments: I never heard the rule about not discussing sports, but certainly not talking about religion or politics during parties, dinners or other social gatherings is usually a good thing.

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Dear Annie: I empathize with the many women who seem unable to persuade their husbands to participate in shared responsibilities. I faced the same issue even though my job came with considerably more responsibility as well as a higher salary. No amount of discussion with my husband changed the situation. Although I loved my husband dearly, I found myself feeling more resentful toward him over time.

After 15 years, I hit on a solution. I thought long and hard to identify which activities I could give up that would impact only my husband. I continued doing laundry for myself and the children but stopped washing my husband’s clothes. I started using the kid’s bathroom, which I continued to clean, but I stopped cleaning the master bath that my husband continued to use. I continued to do the shopping but no longer bought his beer and favorite snacks.

The immediate result for me was that I stopped feeling so resentful. It didn’t take long for my husband to notice the change. He never mentioned it to me but started doing these things himself. He eventually started doing more.

After 42 years of marriage, we share our responsibilities more or less evenly. He might have reacted very differently all those years ago, but the bottom line is that my growing resentment also could have destroyed the relationship. I’m thankful that I had the courage to stop enabling the man who I love so dearly.

-- Getting Him to Help

Dear Getting Him to Help: I am printing this letter in hopes that it inspires others to either stop enabling people they love from engaging in unhealthy behavior, or that it helps people who are taking advantage of people in their life doing everything for them. Although it might have been a little passive-aggressive at first, your actions did work. Maybe next time if there is something that bothers you, start with telling him what you are going to do and why you are going to do it, and then act on it only if you must.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: