Dear Patti,

The topic of President Trump comes up frequently when I’m with my son, Jason. It may seem like a little thing, but it isn’t. Jason and I have been on opposite ends of the political spectrum for a long time, but mostly we’ve both just accepted it.

Whenever the subject of Trump comes up, however, we invariably argue because we’re both so hot-tempered. I just can’t accept how Jason could admire someone who is so crude, controlling, disrespectful, angry and defensive when someone disagrees with him or his policy, and has very little concern for others who are struggling. To me, he brags and boasts just like a wrestler rather than behaving like an American president.

President Trump reminds me of my stepfather who believed he was always right and didn’t seem to ever care about anyone except himself, his buddies and having power.

It hurts to know Jason resonates with someone like that; I thought he had better values. Jason knows I had to struggle in order to gain my rights as a woman growing up because of power-hungry men and yet he continues to talk about Trump with pride. It disappoints me and I just don’t get it.  

  — Nicole

Dear Patti,

I heard my mother was writing you and decided to write you as well. My mother is so opinionated that I can’t get a word in edgewise. I love her and understand she had a difficult childhood but that doesn’t give her the right to project her past traumas on others and dictate who I can or cannot respect and admire.

President Trump may be loud, but I feel he cares about hard-working Americans and is protective of the average man when most politicians aren’t. I just want to “agree to disagree” and respect the fact that we each have a right to our own point of view.

— Jason

Dear Nicole and Jason,

When you’re passionate about something that’s based on core beliefs, it can be painful when those beliefs don’t resonate with someone you love. Even if you’re politically miles apart, it sometimes helps to understand the other person’s feelings. Rather than discussing current beliefs about a political figure and what he represents, it may be beneficial to discuss the deep values on which your choices are based in an emotional versus intellectual context. The problem between the two of you may have psychological underpinnings.

Jason, it sounds like your mom has a deep desire for leaders in power to embrace the values of empathy, humility and compassion. If she doesn’t believe a leader recognizes those values, she has a strong, negative, emotional reaction. It’s also important to her that you understand and believe in those same values. Having experienced men in her life who were weak of character, it’s important to her that you’ve become a good, kind man.

Nicole, it appears Jason values caring and protectiveness toward his fellow Americans at a time where he sees very little of it. He wants you to understand that he needs you to respect him as a separate adult with separate ideas. It sounds like he values his freedom to be able to think for himself and doesn’t want you to judge him if you can’t change or control his beliefs.

Jason and Nicole: Could politics have become the avenue to convey other repressed or unresolved emotions? Are your debates the only safe outlet where you can both express feelings of hostility or competitiveness? Do either of you feel your intelligence isn’t respected? Do you feel especially discounted, dismissed or bullied whenever expressing a different point of view? Is there a need to be independent, confrontational or even a little argumentative?

It can be difficult (but not uncommon) in a key relationship to have polarization in areas such as religion, finances or politics. It’s easy to show kindness when you’re getting along, but the real gift is when you can be loving during periods of discord. The more you trust one another to be understanding and nice when there’s friction, the easier it will be to accept your political differences. Hone your listening skills and be sensitive to what the other one is trying to say. Try to keep an open mind without compromising your own beliefs or interpreting contrary views as a personal attack. If the antagonism between you is becoming more intense, however, I definitely recommend counseling to explore the reasons for its existence.


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.