Sex & Relationships

What To Say To Relatives Prying Into Your Love Life Over The Holidays

You can't pick your family, but you can pick how you respond to your family.

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Whether you're going home to visit family, or chatting with them via Zoom, it's inevitable that someone, at some point, will ask why you're still single during the holidays. Unfortunately, it's common for families to put pressure on your relationship status. They might question why you're "all alone" or ask when you plan to start dating. And even if they're well-meaning, it can be really difficult to handle.

Questions like these only add to the sense of stress many single people feel this time of year, Dr. Gita Zarnegar, PhD, PsyD, LMFT, tells Bustle. There's so much emphasis placed on romance during the holidays, which she says can result in feelings of loneliness. And for many folks who don't have relationship updates to share, meeting up with family and old friends — and being the only one at dinner without a partner — can even be kind of embarrassing.

This is true if you've been trying to date and have yet to meet someone. But negative feelings can also crop up when you're single by choice and loving it. All it takes is one offhand remark from an aunt before you start questioning every decision you've ever made. So, what can you do to successfully handle a barrage of questions, and protect your well-being during the holidays?

What To Do When Family Members Ask Why You're Single

Sometimes the best option is to avoid gatherings with people who are judgmental and shaming, Zarnegar says. If you know, for instance, that your cousin can't get through dinner without making a big deal out of the fact you're single, don't pay him a visit. Instead, try to attend a different get-together where he won't be, or only stop by for a quick dessert.

If things are particularly toxic, you could even tell your family you won't be coming home for the holidays at all. It'll be up to you to assess the situation and weigh the pros and cons.

That said, you can't always predict what people will say. Your mom, who previously never seemed to care, might come out of left field one Christmas evening, and give you a hard time for being single. If it bothers you, don't be afraid to excuse yourself. Zarnegar suggests cooling off, then talking about your feelings with someone who is empathetic, supportive, and positive — like a friend who understands what it's like.

It also helps to store a few clever comebacks in your back pocket, Julia McCurley, a professional matchmaker and relationship coach, tells Bustle. When someone asks why you're single say, "I wonder that myself sometimes!" Or be matter-of-fact about it and say, "I've been busy focusing on other things, but I plan to put more effort into dating next year."

If you don't plan on dating, briefly explain that you're happy being single, that it's a choice many people make, then immediately change the subject.

And remember: If you get upset for any reason, allow yourself to feel your feelings, Zarnegar says, and don't shame yourself for having a tough time, needing a break, or skipping a dinner. Many people feel pressured, stressed, and even depressed during the holidays, and when you add in other factors — like prying questions — it can be that much worse. So do whatever you need to do to feel OK.

How To Focus On Your Well-Being After The Holidays

If you found yourself in a draining or difficult situation during the holidays, get back on solid ground by prioritizing a little self-care, Jennifer Litner, MSx, MEd, LMFT, CST, a psychotherapist, tells Bustle. This might include enjoying some alone time, speaking with a therapist, or focusing on hobbies and interests that make you happy.

"Calling a friend to chat, listening to a podcast or favorite song, playing with a pet, or volunteering for an organization that you're passionate about may be a positive distraction," Litner says, and it'll all help you recharge and reset.

If you do want to continue dating, therapist Shannon Thomas, LCSW suggests waiting until the holidays are officially over. At the end of the year you'll be stressed and busy, others will be stressed and busy, and it just won't make for the right headspace to asses what you want, much less how to go about getting it.

Once you're back in a good place, however, and the near year is well underway, that's when you can open up your apps, take online classes — or whatever else will help you meet new people. Just make sure you're doing it for you, and not because your grandma made you feel guilty about being single via FaceTime.

Experts:

Dr. Gita Zarnegar, PhD, PsyD, LMFT, psychoanalyst

Julia McCurley, professional matchmaker and relationship coach

Jennifer Litner, MSx, MEd, LMFT, CST, psychotherapist

Shannon Thomas, LCSW, therapist

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