It’s a time-honored holiday tradition as hallowed as decking the halls or baking festive cookies. You drag your single self to a family party, ready to eat all the home-cooked food and feign enthusiasm over the reindeer sweater an enthusiastic relative knitted for you … only to face a firing squad of family members, all armed with questions about your singledom. How is it possible? How long will it last? What are you doing wrong?!
These persistent inquiries are difficult and patience-testing to navigate, yes. But confident and self-assured answers can go a long way toward getting your nosy family members off your back. Here, we’ve laid out a few of the most common meddlesome inquiries that you’re likely to face this season, complete with responses that allow you to hold your ground with grace and dignity.
“So … anyone special in your life?”
Let’s begin with this old chestnut, repeated year after year by mothers, grandmothers, and overly-curious aunties the world over. It’s easy to react indignantly; while phrased in a very “No big deal, we’re just chatting!” manner, this question’s lack of directness often feels more galling than a more straightforward version.
And sure, there are definitely relatives out there desperate to see you paired off, who take your lack of a spouse and children personally, and who can’t understand why you haven’t found “The One” yet.
But in other cases (and honestly, in most cases) your mum and your nana really want to know that you have a support system in your life. Keeping this intention in mind can help you avoid the knee-jerk annoyance and answer in a more measured way.
What you should say: The tactic here involves a quick, honest, and upbeat response, followed by a change of subject. With a breezy tone of voice and a contented facial expression, offer a simple statement like “I have a great group of friends, and I feel really lucky.” Then ask nana about her bingo club or Mum about her new schnauzer. Clean, clear, and drama-free.
“Still seeing [insert Long-Time Ex here]?”
Here’s a question you’re likely to hear from older relatives and family members you haven’t seen in a while. Is it a bit disorienting to be asked over holiday eggnog if you’re still dating your prom date from 10 years ago? Sure. As far as relationship questions from your family go, though, this one’s more funny and eye-roll-inducing than truly invasive.
What you should say: With a question like this, you want to keep your response as brief as possible. Resist the urge to explain the circumstances of the breakup or to say anything disparaging about your ex; it won’t make you feel better, and it will give your relatives far more information than they need (or, likely, want).
A laugh and a “Nope, that ended a couple of years ago” is all that’s required. If they push you further, a neutral, “That’s old news”-style answer (followed by a strategic change of topic) should do the trick.
“Maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities?”
Now we come to the hard-hitting, Anderson Cooper-esque holiday interrogations. The domain of your family’s bluntest members, this segment of the conversation really wants to get to the heart of your life choices. They want to know why finding a partner hasn’t taken precedence over every other activity.
Although often well-meaning, these are the questions that make you want to turn tail and run to the playroom, where you can sit criss-cross-applesauce and watch cartoons with your five-year-old cousins.
What you should say: When this dreaded conversation begins, you’ll want to keep one thing in mind: you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life. Although you may feel tempted to dive into a monologue about your most recent dating disasters and the fulfilling nature of your career, it’s not necessary.
A version of “I’m happy with my priorities as they are” is all the response that’s required. Of course, you want to avoid the defensive note of irritation that so frequently accompanies statements like that. A pleasant but firm tone, an open stance with uncrossed arms, and a warm facial expression read as friendly rather than hostile, which helps you assert yourself with maturity and respect.