5 things to do if you feel like you'll never forgive your partner for voting Trump.

This has been a tough week for many of America's couples.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take over the White House, interracial couples are afraid to go out in public for fear of physical or verbal assault. Gay couples are afraid their marriages might soon be disqualified by the Supreme Court.


But there's another kind of couple also battling fear and resentment right now: Couples where the two partners voted differently. Perhaps it was one for Trump, one for Clinton. Perhaps one member of the partnership didn't vote at all.

Whatever the reason, this new hurdle is threatening to rip many relationships apart.

"I've never seen this before," said Susan Falcon, a couples counselor of 25 years based in New Orleans. "Every four years there's an election, and sometimes the spouses might bicker about it, but I've never seen anything like this."

Some couples are turning to therapy (Falcon said she did, in fact, take on a few new clients this week for this very reason). Some are trying to find their own way through. Others are throwing in the towel altogether.

The question is, how can couples like these put their political differences aside for the sake of their relationship? Or can they at all? Here's what Falcon is telling her clients.

1. First, remember the person you fell in love with.

Photo by Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images.

Falcon, who sees an extremely diverse set of clients, said the most common scenario she's faced is a husband who voted for Trump and a wife who voted for Clinton.

"What's happening now is the Hillary spouse is really grieving. And afraid. And angry," she said. "And the Trump spouse feels that that's ridiculous, that that's a huge overreaction."

This fundamental disagreement can lead to the "Hillary spouse" seeing their partner, for the first time, as a racist and a misogynist. They might be this way, but there's also a chance that they aren't. So Falcon says her first and most important job is to get the partners, both of them, to reflect on each other and what made them fall in love in the first place; whether that's taking turns telling the story of their first date or swapping genuine compliments.

"If [she] wants to think Trump is Satan, she can have that," Falcon said. "But I try to get her to remember who she married."

2. Hillary voters: Remind yourself that your spouse is not, in fact, Donald Trump.

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Falcon doubled down on this point. She says it's the key to not just getting past these election results as a couple, but in maintaining a healthy bond throughout the Trump presidency.

"I try to nail that down so that, going forward, everything Trump does will not feel like their partner's responsibility," she said. In other words, despite this being hard to digest: Just because someone voted for Trump doesn't mean they've endorsed all of his future actions.

Election Day and the inauguration after that are only the beginning of a four-year conversation.

3. Trump voters: Now is not the time to gloat. It is the time to comfort your spouse because they are experiencing real grief.

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To those on the "victorious side," the response to this election may seem melodramatic. But Falcon reminds us that Clinton supporters are actually in a legitimate, and deep, state of mourning.

In fact, Falcon said she actually talks to her clients about the stages of grief. (You know: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.)

"I try to get the Trump spouse to understand the emotions of the Hillary spouse and to assume that she would have been loving and supportive toward them had Hillary won," she said.

4. But to both people, Falcon says listening is key. Really listening.

Here's an exercise you can try:

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In order to civilly "agree to disagree," you have to properly understand each other's position. Falcon recommends an exercise in which each partner takes turns "interviewing" the other about their views or support for their candidate.

There's just one catch: No arguing.

"The spouse asking the questions, their job is only to listen, take notes, reflect on what they're saying," Falcon said. "I don't let them argue or try to convince their spouse otherwise. I just want them to listen quietly and just leave it at that."

She admits this is a little easier in the presence of a neutral third party, so enlist one if you can.

5. And in the end, remember that, even if it feels like it, this is probably not the actual end of the world.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

A Trump presidency may mean really bad things for a lot of people. That much cannot be swept under the rug. But there will also be a lot of good people fighting for what's right. For that reason, at least, the world is not likely to come to an actual end.

"I'm older than a lot of my clients, so I try to give them some perspective," Falcon said. She talked about the first time she voted, when she was a 19-year-old student at Louisiana State University. She had friends who died in the Vietnam War, leading her to protest heavily. So when she watched Richard Nixon win the presidency on a small portable TV, she was devastated.

"I really believed, at 19, that it was the end of the world, but it wasn't," she said. "It wasn't the end of the world."

Getting through a major difference in world views, like the one Trump's election has presented, will take hard work from both partners.

It's not about the Clinton voter "getting over it" or the Trump voter constantly apologizing for the behavior of his candidate. It's about coming together and reuniting over common ground, over the things that made you fall in love in the first place.

And in the end, Falcon just wants couples to make one simple decision:

"Trump may damage our country," she says. "But it's up to you if you let him damage your marriage."

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."