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Commentary: Relationships tested in the wake of the presidential election

FOR A WHILE, I've been referring to this as the "unfriend me now" election. Yet even I wasn't fully prepared for the number of ruptures in both online and real-world relationships that have followed Donald Trump's election.

FOR A WHILE, I've been referring to this as the "unfriend me now" election. Yet even I wasn't fully prepared for the number of ruptures in both online and real-world relationships that have followed Donald Trump's election.

"I'm losing friends right and left" - but yes, mostly left, says Vallerie Malkin, a lifelong Democrat who works in marketing in Newport, R.I. Last week, at age 52, Malkin cast her first Republican vote in a presidential race, and, on a personal level, she is paying for it: "My friends are horrified; they can't even look at me."

Since deciding that she just couldn't bring herself to support Hillary Clinton, Malkin has been called dumb, intellectually dishonest, a "Dixiecrat" - "I had to look that up" - and has been disowned by an ex-pat uncle who lives outside Paris. A close friend who is a therapist has suggested counseling, and online, "I don't hear from people the way I used to when I was posting Nina Simone videos."

Her political zigzag has also brought her closer to a couple of people - a college friend who has become "incredibly religious" and the Yale drama-trained biological dad she hadn't known very well. But at home, too, there are tensions now, because her boyfriend still doesn't accept her defection.

An enthusiastic two-time supporter of the current president - "I absolutely adore the Obamas," she says - the Connecticut native wants to make plain that she does not relate to red-state culture: "I like Emily Dickinson and Leonard Cohen; not beauty pageants."

Still, she knows so many people who are struggling and unhappy with their Obamacare coverage that she no longer believes "the progressive agenda is good for working people."

While Trump continues to send so many mixed signals that's it's impossible to say what's to come now, many Clinton voters saw the election as a referendum on democracy itself and a vote for this particular GOP nominee as a pass-fail test of character.

Which is why, though I do know one ardent Republican who fired her physical therapist after the PT confided that she was sad Clinton had lost, Trump enthusiasts seem to have been dumped more often than they've done the dumping since he won; several friends have even scrambled holiday plans so as not to have to hear political music that hurts their ears.

Not all of these breakups or timeouts are R vs. D: Third-party voters are getting it from all sides, and some Democrats who voted only grudgingly for Clinton have since been pelted for their lack of enthusiasm.

So far, thanks to their forbearance, I've kept my politically diverse friends and, on social media, have checked my temptation to block a Clinton supporter I've always liked for the post-election rocket she sent me.

You can't challenge others' views, then expect them not to do you the same favor. And it's more important than ever not to retreat into a community of the like-minded, where everyone just nods encouragingly, as our divisions are only deepened when we refuse to learn anything from those with whom we disagree.

Where I live, in a suburban Maryland county outside the District of Columbia where Clinton won 79 percent of the vote, I kept hearing people claim not to know a single Trump voter. (Oh, but you do.) And back where I'm from, in a deep-red county in southern Illinois, Trump took 74 percent of the vote.

The inhabitants of those two worlds often talk nonsense about one another. (No, the rural voters I've interviewed and grown up with aren't particularly "low information," though referring to them that way is an excellent repellent. And, no, residents of the nation's capital aren't any lazier, greedier or otherwise less virtuous than anywhere else.)

With the news business so reviled that I worry for the people's right to know, I hate to pile on, but will say that even with travel budgets slashed, we in the media have to get out more, too. A few months ago, a longtime political reporter asked why I was driving several hours each way to see Trump for the umpteenth time when I could cover the rally better via television. After hearing that I wanted to talk to voters, he laughed and said: "I haven't quoted a voter in 10 years" because editors so routinely cut such comments for space.

There again, it's the lack of listening to all kinds of people that got us where we are today - out of touch and out of sorts. And if we're ever going to address our problems, we have to hope that the "unfriending" and further self-segregating that's followed this election won't last.