Reality Check: Does the News Hurt Your Relationships?

There’s almost always an election in season somewhere.

A survey asked whether an election has negatively affected a personal relationship with a friend or family member. It wasn’t about a Canadian election. No matter; it’s still an interesting question that leads me to ask, how does news and information affect your relationships?

We have tremendous access to information, or misinformation, as the case may be. Much of it has little or no connection to our daily life or to our relationships. Despite that, we may find our emotions pulling us all over the place, responding to whatever happens to be the story of the moment.

Jacob and Jill had been happily married (they thought) till they started arguing over the news. Jacob perceived that the actions of a particular leader were appalling and stupid; Jill perceived the same actions as reasonable and prudent.

Suddenly, it’s as if Jacob and Jill don’t know each other at all! “Who is this person I married?  How could I have misjudged so badly?”

The rift that’s exposed when a contentious issue comes up may have existed all along. Before it was brought to light, both Jacob and Jill assumed, “My belief is the sensible belief, so of course, we would agree.”

Now, Jacob and Jill can’t sit together through the evening news without a near-shouting match. Even a glance can convey, “I know what you’re thinking; don’t start.”

Is there any hope for Jacob and Jill? Here are a few suggestions.

Remember what brought you together. At some point, you believed that you had a deep connection. You could choose to look at this time of conflict as a brand new “getting to know you” opportunity. Try listening to each other rather than trying to convince each other. Take turns asking questions without judgment, as if you had just met. Get to know your mate. Better now than never!

Examine your values. What’s important to you? How do you want to live? Are you headed in that direction? Are you in harmony with your partner about the actions that really matter in day-to-day life?

Try an experiment. This will be more fun if both Jacob and Jill participate, but one is better than none. Look up opinions that agree with your mate’s perspective. If you have no idea where to look, ask your mate. Try to understand it without preconceived disbelief or contempt. Does that bring any new perspective for you?

If the nastiness is too great, Jacob and Jill could choose to not watch the news together. Or at all. I’m serious. It’s not a requirement. People can live full and satisfying lives without TV, news, movies, or other forms of “entertainment.”

When we watch stories designed to provoke anger, pity, contempt, and so on, it’s easy to forget that we have some control. If they are not helpful, consider turning them off.

Finally, Jacob and Jill—do you have good will toward each other? Do you want to get along and have a peaceful, loving relationship? Or do you want to be right, and be acknowledged as “the one who is right”? Which is more important to you?

With good will, you can have a loving relationship without agreeing about everything. Without good will, you may find your relationship broken over disagreements about matters that have little relevance to your daily lives.

Does the news hurt/help your relationships?

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