Photo by Liza Summer

How to deal with conflicts at home

Conservative vs liberal, religious vs atheist, individualistic vs collectivistic. How can we co-exist with different fundamental values?

Any disagreement with loved ones can feel uncomfortable. These conflicts become insufferable when you feel like your core values are threatened. Perhaps your family member is homophobic or racist? Maybe they believe in God and you don’t? Possibly they support your government in a war and you — the opposition? Or you may simply not agree on responsibilities, rules of respect and what being a family entails, all of which are fundamental values that constitute our identity. Arguing about them may feel as if you are talking to a wall or worse – as if you are compromising a part of yourself. You may start feeling alienated and misunderstood or begin to doubt whether you like the person at all. Believe it or not, they feel the same way. And no matter what your beliefs are there is no right or wrong when it comes to perspective. All that being said, if you find yourself in a conflict with a loved one, how do you minimize the damage to your relationship?
The first, and perhaps the hardest, step would be to genuinely attempt to understand their perspective. Consider whether their arguments make any sense to you and whether they could fit into your framework of beliefs in any way. While in an argument, actively listen to what a person has to say, instead of just sitting in silence and reciting your next comeback.
However, sometimes the other person’s beliefs completely oppose yours. In this case, if you don’t understand their point of view, try to understand their context. Are they from another generation or culture? Were they brought up in a household with strong conservative beliefs? Did they have the same access to the same information you do? Understanding the background of the person allows you to reflect on why they think differently. And no, just because right now they are living in the same world you do with the same access to knowledge you have, does not mean they have the means to change beliefs that are a result of years of perpetuation. Let’s be honest, if we put you in Back to the Future and Doc Brown accidentally made you travel several decades back, you will not suddenly start believing lobotomies are a legitimate health practice just because everyone around you tells you so. Fundamental beliefs are engraved within us and changing them is very difficult, especially considering you believe there is no need to do so, since you are ‘right’.
Following this notion, do not take their beliefs personally. Are they racist and disrespecting your partner who is of another race? Are they assigning labels to you that you don’t identify with? If they are unable to accept you the way you are, it is not because of their revenge plot against you but because they believe that about any person in your position. They are either insecure about their values to the extent that they want everyone else to be in agreement with them or they just care (in a twisted way) about you more than the others. They probably want you to relate and identify with them because you are an important person in their life. Saying “take it as a compliment” is quite ridiculous but, yes, do take it as a compliment.
Let’s say they don’t accept that you believe, value and think differently and are aggressive about it. What do you do? If they are trying to change your values and are giving you an ultimatum, these are some of your options: to comply or to rebel. The one you choose depends on factors such as your dependence on the person, your closeness to them and the importance of the belief that is being argued upon. Especially if the person has control and authority over you, you can consider complying. When this sounds hopeless, remind yourself there is a difference between compliance and conformity. We comply with authority because we have no choice, while we conform voluntarily. You are not compromising or losing yourself. It may feel like self-betrayal, but whatever you say to them doesn’t mean you believe it. They left you no choice but to comply. Don’t feel guilty about playing dirty when they were the ones who started it.
If you carefully consider all the factors and decide to rebel, you are giving them a choice of either accepting you or getting out of your life. If they chose to accept you – great, if not – you are welcome to (and are allowed to) cut them out of your life. Rebelling does not mean going to the extremes of deliberately provoking the other person to hurt them in any way. It means limiting communication, or cutting them off completely, as well as any measure that you have to take to exist peacefully. Either way, checkmate. You are not doing anything wrong ethically, morally, or according to any other code because you gave them a choice. They chose to leave you. It is not your fault and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. You are being loyal to yourself, and there is no shame, only nobility.
In the end, it is important to remind ourselves that the world is not split into binaries and we all occupy different spectrums of beliefs. When you feel misunderstood, remember there are thousands of people having similar arguments with their loved ones. Getting off the call after a screaming match with your parents, siblings, a partner or a friend is a universal experience that ends in resentment, hurt and the thought of “I am the only sane person here.” We all deal with this at some point in our lives and we understand you. I understand you.
Anastasiia-Lei Yang is a Columnist. Email them at
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