As the Easter holiday is coming up, I know you may be visiting your family and get asked questions about your love life. Because these kinds of conversations can drive you nuts and add even more stress to your life, I came up with some practical ways to handle them.
So that next time you mother, married cousin or sister-in-law begins grilling you on why you’re still single, or asks details about a new guy you’re dating, you’ll know how to answer in a calm and confident way.
Avoid approaches that don’t work, like getting annoyed and abruptly ending the conversation or storming out of the room in tears. As you know from your own experience, there is always someone who just won’t let the topic of you being single go.. They’ll keep prodding you to get a reaction. First of all, I’m inviting you to shift your mindset and look at this as an opportunity to develop a new skill essential for your future relationship with the right man. This would be your ability to set healthy boundaries. As a single woman, you don’t need to wait until you meet him to learn it—you can practice on your family members!
So think about and make a list of those questions or comments that cause you to be upset. For example, an insensitive question like, “Why can’t you find a husband?” implies that something is wrong with you. Clearly, the chances are good it would trigger a fight-or-flight response in your body.
Once you see how these questions and comments imply deeper issues and affect you, give yourself permission to set healthy boundaries. Do not say or do something that you’d regret later—just be clear about what is ok and what is not.
There are two main ways to set those boundaries: direct and indirect.
The direct way is clear, straightforward, and empowering. You simply state what you want, with absolute certainty and confidence. For example, “It’s my personal life, and I prefer not to discuss it now. When I’m ready to share, I will.” You may think that’s too simple and obvious, but that’s exactly why it’s effective. If you really “own it,” you’ll see how others will accept your idea.
The indirect way is also clear and empowering, plus, it gives you a couple of options to turn things around. One is to turn the question around. For example, if your married cousin with three children who’s been struggling with weight loss asked you, “Why are you single?”, you can respond with the question, “How would you feel if I asked you a question like why are you overweight?” That may sound harsh, but for some people, it’s the only way to get across the point that they crossed over the boundary.
Another indirect way is to turn the focus around. For instance, if your sister-in-law asked you, “When are you going to get married?”, you can respond by asking her, “When did you know that you wanted to marry my brother?” As she launches into her love story, ask for more details. Besides avoiding annoying questions, you can learn some insights and tips that might help in your own love journey.
One more effective indirect way to avoid the topic of your love life is to be proactive by asking your family member about something they are having trouble with. This way you shift from being on the defensive, e.g., having them approach and grill you, to the offensive, e.g., approaching them first and asking them questions instead.
Comment here to let me know which of these ways works for you over this Easter holiday. Perhaps you have other ways to handle family members’ questions and comments. If so, let me know.