15 Things To Say To Relatives Who Ask You Why You're Single Over The Holidays
You go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, a family member’s birthday party, or what have you, and everyone’s having a great time catching up with you. Mid-everyone laughing, maybe your aunt or uncle blurts out, “So why are you still single?!” Everyone gets quiet and they all look at you, while other relatives start to ask you a variation of the same thing: “Yeah, why are you still single?” They say it with a tone that implies that something’s wrong with you for being single, which there’s not, of course. Plus, maybe you prefer being single and don’t even want a partner, which is also completely OK.
Even though relatives asking the “still single” question may be awkward and you may just want to flee the room or change the subject, there are ways to reply to their single-status inquiries. Whether you tell them, “I just haven’t found the right person yet” or “Actually, I like being single; I have freedom to travel the world and work remotely and it would be different if I did so with somebody else,” there are plenty of responses you can give them. The key is to be confident in your response versus defensive.
Kac Young, PhD, author of 21 Days to the Love of Your Life, tells Bustle to always assume the best when your relatives ask you why you’re still single. “They see you as terrific and think someone else should, too,” she says. She adds that they probably just want the best for you and believe that a loving relationship is the key to happiness.” However, just because *they* may think a loving relationship is the key to happiness, your definition of happiness may be something entirely different. Point being, they likely mean well.
Below, Dr. Young and other relationship experts offer suggestions on what to say when your relatives bring up your single status too much, especially around the holiday dinner table.
1. Thank Them For Asking
Dr. Young says that, when a relative asks why you’re still single, you can simply thank them. This way, you will avoid being flippant, hurting their feelings, or putting them on the defensive, she says.
“A great answer is to warmly engage their eyes, look at them, and say, ‘Thank you so much for asking and for your care about me; I know that when the right match for me shows up, I’ll be ready,” Dr. Young says. “You can also add, ‘For now, I am very happy, enjoying my life, and learning more about who I am so I can be a wonderful partner in the future.’”
2. Reply With Comedy
To relatives who just won’t let it go that you’re single, Emyrald Sinclaire, love and relationship coach, suggests answering them with a comedic response. “Tell them you’re way too focused on taking over the world first,” she tells Bustle. “Or, tell them you actually enjoy life as a single person, but will gladly accept holiday presents for two.”
3. Tell Them The Perks Of Being Single
Of course, it’s OK to not want a partner at all, either in the short- or long-term. Some people are more career-focused than relationship-focused, for instance. But, still, when your relatives all ask you why you’re single, you may feel defensive.
“Consider flipping the script and asking them: Why aren’t you single?” Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. “You don’t need to justify your relationship status, but you have a right to speak up if you’re in the mood.” Think about why you love being single and feel free to share, she says. “For example, do you love the independence, the freedom to travel, and/or the opportunities to grow?”
4. Answer Them With Facts and Statistics About Being Single
Dr. Jess says you can also tell overbearing relatives that new research suggests that singles report higher levels of fulfilment, self-determination, and personal growth. The more confident you are about your single status, the less you’ll have to convince them that you’re happy being single, because you naturally are already.
5. Answer Them With A Question
Sinclaire says you can also go the route of answering your relatives with a question. “Ask them, ‘Did you have someone you could set me up with?’ or ask them for relationship advice to find ‘The One,’” she says. This way, it’ll take the pressure off of you and they’ll focus on giving you advice, instead.
6. Change The Subject
If your relatives won’t stop asking you, “Why are you still single?” you can also change the subject. “Flip the question around completely,” Sinclaire says. She says ask if they’re still working on the spare bathroom or how the adoption process is looking for that new dog they want to get — just focus on anything but your single status.
7. Say You’re Actively Dating
Yue Xu, dating expert and host of the Dateable Podcast, tells Bustle that if you’re dating, but just have not found “The One” yet, just tell your family that. “The best way to address relatives who comment about your single status too much is to say, ‘I’m actively dating right now and have met some awesome people, but it’s just a little too early to say who has long-term potential right now,’” she says.
“You can also add, ‘I respect your opinion very much, and that’s why I wouldn’t just bring around anyone who didn’t have long-term potential. When there’s news to share, you will be one of the first to know about it!’”
Xu says that by saying these things, you’re showing your relatives that you’re trying to date, not just sitting back waiting for it to happen. “It also shows you respect their opinion (whether you really do or not), and puts the ball in your court by saying you’ll let them know ONLY when it’s newsworthy,” she says.
8. Repeat Your Answer So They Don’t Pry
Lesli Doares, marriage coach, relationship expert, and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Worksays that the goal is to respond to your inquisitive relatives without directly answering their question. “Repeating your answer in the same, or varying forms, will acknowledge they spoke to you, but they are not entitled to pry,” she says. “Create a response in your voice and practice it until it feels comfortable.”
9. Talk To Your Relatives One-On-One
Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness, tells Bustle it also might be worth talking to certain relatives in private after they ask about your single status. “Sometimes, a relative’s intentions around this question might be unclear, and when bombarded with this question over and over again, it can certainly feel kind of threatening or a judgment on you and your value,” he says. “Take a moment to have a real conversation about it, and something interesting might come up that could help better the relationship altogether.”
10. Remind Them That You Have Them
Dr. Jess says that sometimes when people partner up, they see friends and family less due to investing more time in their romantic relationship. “Because love and social support come in many forms, it’s important to maintain social ties with friends and family, whether you’re single or partnered,” she says. So, you can tell your inquisitive family that, since you’re single, you have more time to see them and like doing so — don’t they, too?
11. Be Honest
Sinclaire also says that if you’re single but are looking for “The One,” you can just be honest about it. She says you can say, “Look, while I’d love to be in a relationship, ‘The One’ just hasn’t materialized yet, and honestly, I’d rather be single than with someone just to be with them. I know you want the best for me, but I’m happy being single right now.”
Doares agrees, “You can address it without needing to defend or justify your single state,” she says. “You can say, ‘I am just so grateful for all the wonderful things already in my life, but thank you for caring about me.’”
12. Tell Them You Are Happy Being Single
If you are happy being single, just let others know, Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in private practice in Lancaster, CA, tells Bustle. She says to tell your curious relatives something like: “I am happily single and plan to remain that way for a while. Thank you for your concern, but I am living a good, healthy life, and feel fulfilled being single. No need to worry or question me anymore about that.”
Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), agrees. “A person who does not care what other people think is free, and being single does not have to mean one is sad and lonely,” he says. “People who love themselves usually have an active social life, hobbies, close friendships, a loving family — and they’re happy regardless of their marital status.”
13. If They *Always* Bring it Up, Ask Them Why
Dr. Larsen says that the first question regarding someone always bringing up your single status is: What do you define as “too much”? “If it is brought up by the same person every time you see that person, and your answer is consistently the same, you might want to ask them why they bring it up,” she says. “It is important to not bring it up in a defensive, angry way but, rather, in a curious, gentle spirit.”
She suggests saying something like: “I notice that you ask me about my marital status on a regular basis. I’m curious about why you do this. Can you help me understand, please?”
Dr. Larsen says that the person might think that single people are unhappy and they might want happiness for them. Or, if it’s a parent, they might long for grandchildren. “Instead of getting mad or annoyed, I think it’s healthier to be curious and ask them about what motivates their behavior,” she says.
14. Skip The Holidays With The Family
When all else fails, Sinclaire says you can also just avoid holiday parties with the family altogether if their single-status questions tend to be too much.
Darné agrees. He says that some families are notorious for teasing each other around the dinner table, but the love and support they have for one another is unbreakable. “However, if you have an intrusive family which seeks to make you feel bad for not being in an exclusive relationship or married, don’t feel obligated to spend the holidays with them,” he says. “Suffering is optional, and you are always where you choose to be.”
He says that, instead, it’s not uncommon for a group of single friends to travel to Cancun, Jamaica, or anyplace but with their families for the holidays. “In other instances, a group of friends may have dinner together as oppose to spending time with their families.”
15. If Someone Brings It Up In A Critical Way, Tell Them You’re Uncomfortable
Dr. Larsen also says to pay attention to how someone asks you about your single state. “If the questioning is done in a negative or critical way, the single person might want to let the other person know, ‘I am uncomfortable with your asking me this. I would like you to please stop doing that,’” she says.
She says that in some households, that would be an acceptable show of healthy boundaries, yet other people may find it offensive. “For that reason, the single person can get up from the table and ask to speak to the person privately before letting them know it makes them uncomfortable,” Dr. Larsen says. “That way, the questioner can save face.”
Darné says that, ultimately, it comes down to how you feel about yourself and your relationship/marital status. “Nothing anyone says will bother you unless, on some level, you are in agreement with them,” he says. “Remember: Being married or in an exclusive relationship is a lifestyle choice and not a requirement for happiness! If marriage was the greatest thing since sliced bread, the divorce rate would not be so high.”
All in all, only you know how you feel when relatives ask about your single status. But, if you keep in mind the advice above, hopefully, you’ll be ready when they ask (yet again).