They're on My Case About Being Unmarried

Hi Karen,

I’m going to my family’s home in Ohio for Christmas, and I am dreading it.  I’ll be around a bunch of nosy, judgmental family members that I don’t even like, and they’re going to get on my case about being unmarried.  I hate it!  It happens every year, and even though I do a great job of answering their questions and keeping a stiff upper lip, I feel more and more upset every year.  I have a hard enough time not feeling like there’s something wrong with me because I still haven’t met the right guy, without having my family grilling me (thankfully my parents are wonderful about it all, but I sure could do without the rest of the bunch!). – Judy, MA

Dear Judy,

I have a couple of things for you to ponder:

~ Is it possible that they all mean well, rather than just being judgmental of you?  If you can shift your perception of what their motives are, my bet is that it would sting less.

~ You are a grown woman, and you are in charge of your own boundaries.  It may be time to set them with your family.

Here are a few ways that you could handle their questions:

a) Ask them this question: “Why do you ask?” in response to their question about your dating life.  That will often have them look at what their own motives are, or at least put it back on them.

Another option is:

b) Have a “pat” answer to any and all questions…it could sound something like this:

“I appreciate your concern.  I fully intend to be married, and I am not willing to settle for less than what I want.  I’d rather stay single forever than end up in a marriage that doesn’t work for me, and, as we all know, too many people do that.  I won’t be a statistic”.

If you’re with a particularly “tough” crowd, you could always go for this option:

c) When they start their inquiry, you could announce that your relationship status isn’t on the table for discussion any longer.  And then you’ve got the hard job, which is to mean it. If someone brings it up, you’ve got to stay cool, calm, and firm.  And just repeat that the topic is not open for discussion.

We Teach People How to Treat Us

We’re always either inviting or rejecting people’s treatment of us, in every relationship.  It’s up to us to determine how we want to be treated, and then to be clear about that, through our actions and requests, with the people we interact with.

People will appreciate getting your guidance about how to be successful with you (and if not, haven’t they identified themselves as someone you don’t want to have a relationship with?)

So, if you teach your family members that your journey to the relationship you want is your business, and you’ll share it freely when you want to, and that you do not want them to question you about it, then that is what people will (eventually) do.

Most of these people have known you since you were a child.  If you don’t show them that you’re a grown woman now, they may just continue to treat you the way they always have.

You’re the one who needs to shift the dynamic in this family tradition, and when you lead them there, you’ll be a lot happier.

If you can’t lead them there, and I’m sure that there are families where this would not work, then you can exercise your ultimate option, which is to spend the holidays with people with whom you choose to be.

It’s your life, Judy, and you are the one who is responsible for it being aligned with your desires, values, objectives, dreams, etc.…not anyone else’s.

I have a feeling that when you draw these new boundaries with your family, it is going to work beautifully…for everyone.