What to Say When Your Family Only Wants to Talk About Your Relationship Status

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What to Say When Your Family Only Wants to Talk About Your Relationship Status

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Talking points for exhausting conversations.

It’s officially the holiday season, which reminds me, have you practiced your responses to the following questions:

Are you dating anyone?

Why are you still single?

Why haven’t you two gotten married yet?

When are you going to have a baby?

When are you going to have another baby?

While dodging these questions might be reason enough to contemplate staying home, we know that grinning and bearing it often goes hand in hand with spending time with family and friends.

But so does pushing back against needless judgments and overstepped boundaries. So we’ve put together some key phrases and stats that may help your loved ones look at things a different way.

“I have a few other priorities and passions at the moment. Would you like to hear about them?”‘

Bring the focus back to what’s important to you and what you’re actually experiencing in this season of your life. Nearly half of US adults are single, and yet most can’t escape the finger-wagging and patronizing platitudes about life not “really starting until you have a family.”

But whether it’s getting into a grad school, starting a business, or getting that hard won promotion, there are so many milestones that go unacknowledged because they don’t revolve around someone else – like a partner or a baby. So don’t be shy about bragging about what has been lighting you up.

(Related reading: Wedding and Babies Aren’t the Only Milestones Worth Celebrating)

With any luck, this response will steer the conversation away from criticism about what you’re not doing and put the focus back on the things you’re actually excited about.

“My student debt is my baby. And I can’t wait until she’s out of the house.”

It’s no secret – kids are expensive. Reports show that having a child can cost a dual-income family approximately $13,000 per year, or nearly $300,000 (factoring in inflation) by the time they turn 18.

According to The Atlantic, “Spending on daycare, nannies and other direct-care services for kids has increased 2,000 percent in the past four decades.” 2,000 percent – talk about a perspective check!

And while the decision to have or not have children comes down to so much more than money, pointing to those costs can provide a concrete way of articulating your priorities.

So if Aunt Marie is asking you when you’re gonna have a baby, you can respond with a lighthearted nod to those realities – my student debt is my baby and I can’t wait until she’s out of the house. Or, Aunt Marie, I don’t have a kid yet, but I have a 401K – and my company matches — which is quite the commitment!

And if nothing else, bringing up money sometimes has a funny way of getting people to change the subject.

“It’s funny you should ask. I was just talking with my friends about how women are still asked primarily about their relationship status or motherhood. Why do you think that is?”

Whether we love or loathe a family member, it’s fair to assume that they, too, had social expectations hurled at them, and they, too, should have an opportunity to evolve and learn from those around them.

We can find a healthy level of common ground when we ask (respectfully) why someone believes what they do, and share our own perspectives in the process. Maybe you’ll learn that Aunt Marie held more progressive beliefs at one point, or maybe you won’t. But you will be holding room for her to confront societal norms that she’s accepted.

“I wonder if Kamala Harris is getting this question at the dinner table too.”

Of course, proceed with caution if politics are a heated topic in your family, but this lighthearted quip really illustrates where we are today. Women are more educated than ever before, choosing to hold off on getting married and having children (often altogether), and starting to hold more influential positions of power. Vice President Harris was nearly 50 years old when she married now husband, Doug Emhoff, and became a stepmom to the children from his first marriage.

The point? We have more to offer than our reproductive organs, and sometimes it’s worth chiming in with a clear reminder.

“Are you going to ask [male relative] this question too?” / “OK, now it’s time to ask [male relative] the same question!”

Another lighthearted response to illustrate a larger point: women are more likely to be asked about family planning than financial planning, or well… seemingly anything.

And yes, it’s blatantly sexist, but when it comes to friends and family, we can give them grace by assuming the best intentions behind their prying. They may be pointing us toward their definition of happiness without realizing ours may look like something entirely different.

But maybe you can test out one of these responses to help clarify. Or proudly claim your single or childfree status with, “I actually enjoy my single/childfree life, but I’m gladly accepting holiday gifts for a family of four!”


Additional reporting by Jazmine Reed-Clark

Image: The Good Brigade/ DigitalVision via GettyImages

Are you facing down a challenging conversation or preparing your rebuttal to a *headdesk* remark? I’m here for you. Leave a comment and I’ll consider it for a future edition of Talking Points.

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