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Mother and adult daughter sitting together. Mother is asking prying questions about daughter's love life while daughter sits with annoyed look on her face.


How to deal with nosy relatives when you’re single and home for the holidays

Andy Phillips   |   Fri, 17 Nov 2023

‘Tis the season, singles! We’re approaching that special time of year when we gather with family ... and face the age-old question every great-aunt loves to ask: "Are you seeing anyone yet, dear?"

If you’re as weary as we are of holding holiday press conferences in defense of singlehood, then this article is for you. We know all too well how tricky it can be to shut down discussions of one's dating habits while preserving the peace. (And let’s face it, sometimes a confrontation is warranted or inevitable.) But dealing with nosy relatives diplomatically is possible, and this week The Vibe talks five tips for doing just that.

Read on, and keep your head held high knowing that being single doesn’t diminish the sparkle of the holiday season ... or any other one, for that matter.

Prepare a polite – but firm – response before your gathering

Preparation is half the battle when it comes to managing pushy relatives, so before you head to a holiday gathering, brainstorm a few go-to responses to have in your back pocket. Your answers should be firm but polite, indicating that you’re content with your current status or that you prefer not to discuss your private life. If you find personal questions about your relationship status to be painful, be upfront about it: "I appreciate your concern, but this is a sensitive subject for me and I’d rather not discuss it. Thanks for understanding." No matter which words you choose, having one or two canned responses can help you more effectively table an uncomfortable topic.

Change the subject by asking questions

If you’d rather not address your family's questions at all, have a plan in place to divert the conversation immediately. Questions are a great way to steer relatives away from your single status as the topic du jour – generally speaking, people love to talk about themselves! For example, ask about their work, a hobby, or a recent event in their life, e.g., "Forget about me ... I heard you just went on a fantastic vacation! Tell me everything!" This tactic not only deflects the attention from your relationship status, but it also engages your family member in a different, possibly more interesting conversation.

Set boundaries beforehand

Depending on how aggressive your curious kin can be, it might be helpful to set your boundaries before you’re in the same room together. Send a light-hearted message to family members before gatherings: "Can’t wait to catch up with you all at the party! And before anybody asks: yes, I’m still single, and no, I don’t want to be set up with your neighbor’s brother’s nephew. 😉 That’s all I’ll say about my love life, but I can’t wait to share the other great things I’ve been up to!"

Seek allies within your family

Another great tactic is to find a family member who understands where you’re coming from and who can help deflect inappropriate questions or change the subject when needed. Pull aside a sibling or cousin before the holiday revelry begins and let them know you’ve deputized them as your emotional body guard. Grandma might not back down easily if it’s just you in the hot seat, but if other family members rally to your defense, she should get the picture and retreat pretty quickly.

Offer a vague non-answer

Finally, offering vague non-answers can be an effective tool to ease the tension when the topic of relationships comes up -- executed the right way, they can be light enough to make your position clear without causing offense. For instance, if at dinner someone asks when you’re going to settle down like your sister, reply, "Romantic comedies are overrated, especially when you’re already the lead in an exciting adventure flick. Can you pass the potatoes, please?" If your family doesn’t get the hint that you’d rather not engage, you’ll have to get more direct, but sometimes an evasive brush-off will communicate plenty.

Bottom line, you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your love life, and there’s nothing shameful about being single. While most of our families mean no harm with their questions, they nevertheless seem judgmental, and they perpetuate the notion of couplehood as the quintessential benchmark of adulthood. But with a little grace, a healthy dose of confidence, and a whole lot of patience, it is possible to push back politely and remind your family that your happiness isn’t contingent on having a partner ... and theirs shouldn’t be, either.

Happy holiday season, singles!


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