Going home for the holidays means lots and lots of family time. And, unless you're particularly lucky, all that family time means a lot of awkward questions. It doesn't matter if you're single, in a relationship, or just broken up — family and family friends can always find a nerve to hit. But it's good to separate those who mean to make things awkward and those who don't.
“Keep in mind your family member's intention isn't malicious and he/she may not realize the topic is sensitive to you," sex and relationship therapist, Courtney Geter, LMFT tells Bustle. "Family gatherings can be stressful under pleasant circumstances, and defensiveness may create conflict or more stress. Plus, if you didn't drive yourself, you might not have the option of leaving early! If the topic is sensitive, you have a right to inform the person, change topics, or remove yourself from the situation."
But the truth is, whether they mean well or not, it can be really difficult to answer these questions. Especially if you're feeling insecure or sensitive and then you have to answer the same question over and over again to different people, it's easy to lose your cool — or your sanity. Unfortunately, a lot of the times you just have to do your best to breathe and take the high road. But you'll get through it.
So here are all the awkward questions you might get and how to answer them, because remember — a holiday meal can go on for hours :
1. Why Are You Still Single?
Ah, yes. The classic question, especially around the holidays. "The holiday time is like wedding season for the winter; we are invited to many events that typically allow a plus one. When you are single and unhappy with that status, those invitations are a constant reminders of the status and possible feelings of loneliness. Family or friends asking about one's single status can also trigger feelings such as loneliness,” sex and relationship therapist, Courtney Geter, LMFT tells Bustle. “Some family members may ask out of curiosity and not realize your single status is a sensitive topic. It has become very common for 'why are you still single' to be a default question. If a family member hasn't seen you in a year, it may be a way to see what has changed in your life since the last gathering. Another reason for asking is a family member may think you're a great person and trying to understand what's keeping you from getting coupled up OR they might be trying to set up a blind date and assessing you really are single. None the less, the constant reminder of your status hurts.”
If you're uncomfortable, just keep the conversation as short as possible, try to make a joke, and walk away. If it's someone you feel comfortable chatting with, go for it.
2. Why Can't You Be More Like Your Brother/Sister/Cousin/Arch Nemesis?
"Beware of sibling rivalry," New-York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "It rules many a Thanksgiving holiday — and not with a kind hand. Old arguments and competitions are easily rerun at Thanksgiving, sometimes subconsciously. Make an effort not to compete and to compliment your family members instead — even if you don’t feel like it in your heart. Being polite will make Thanksgiving dinner a lot more peaceful than speaking your mind. This isn’t the moment to hash it out."
Just point out that you guys are really different and have different wants. You can be happy for them and not want the same things.
3. Why Aren't You Pregnant Yet?
It's amazing that this still gets asked, but it does. "You're going to have to be the bigger person here, and rather than get angry at them, accept that you're not going to get the sensitivity and etiquette from these folks, that you'd really like to have." Masini tells Bustle. But what if you're trying and having trouble?
"This is an opportunity for you to deal with disappointment and allow these folks in on the window of sadness you're feeling because you're not pregnant yet. If you're lucky, they'll respond to your sadness with compassion. If not, they'll say, 'You can do it!' as if the touchdown is within reach and your biological clock and private parts are public sport. Go to tier two and say, 'It makes me kind of sad to talk about this — but I'm very happy for you guys and your beautiful kids. Maybe one day, I'll be so lucky!'"
And what if you just don't want kids? That's fine to say, too. Point out the other things in your life that you're passionate about.
4. When Are You Getting Engaged?
For some things, a preemptive strike is key. "If the question is really painful or upsetting, I am a big fan of giving a heads up before the holiday," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "Tell mom, dad, or grandma that you don’t want to talk about the subject. Or you are willing to talk about it but not in front of the entire family! If it’s less painful but more 'annoying' it never hurts to get out in front of it.... If you know it’s an inevitable question in your family, bring it up yourself. Say something like 'We have no plans for an engagement yet but things are going great!'"
5. What Happened To Your Ex? I Liked Them!
With this one, just smooth it over and get out if it as quickly as possible. You don't need to get defensive or go in the details of your breakup — unless it's someone you feel comfortable doing that with! Instead, just saw you went your separate ways and leave it at that. It will save you the trouble of getting into a debate about whether or not they were good for you.
The holidays can be tough, but just remember that you're in charge. You always have the power to walk away and you can prep your family if there's stuff that's totally off limits. Finally, if you have a family member who you're close let them know you might need help deflecting. Other than that, focus on the potatoes and try to talk about the things you are passionate about.
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