I’m single – and happily so – but it seems that no one else can understand how I’m content without a partner. Family members are constantly asking when I’ll get a boyfriend, and friends try to set me up on dates or get me to use dating apps. How can I make it clear to my family and friends that I’m happy to be single and don’t need a love interest in my life right now? – Eva in Santa Monica, CA
Eva, there are a number of ways you can go here. Which path you choose will be dependent upon a number of factors: the degree of your relationship with the other person, that value you place on maintaining a strong and cordial relationship with the other person, and your own personal style.
I love the shock jockey approach in the movie 27 Dresses. Katherine Heigl as Jane responds with a great come back to the stupid question about her younger sister getting married before her.
Jane’s Aunt: “It must be so hard to watch your younger sister get married before you.”
Jane: “Yes. Then I remember that I still get to have hot hate sex with random strangers and I feel SO much better!”
The problem with this approach is that you could upset, alienate, or damage your relationship, regardless of how insensitive and cliché the question asked. Although I enjoy hearing this snappy and snarky response from Jane, it’s a movie, not reality. In the real world I follow Michelle Obama’s advice: when they go low, I go high.
A New Process
Like you, I had to contend with this same situation for many years, so I know how irritating this situation can be. I was happily single and had no desire to change my status to satisfy some antiquated ideology. From my experience, I developed an effective and kind process. The first thing to do is ground yourself with the belief that the other person cares about you and wants you to be happy. Second, acknowledge that their personal belief system is not illegitimate, simply different from yours. Third, prepare a number of responses so that the next time this comes up, you’ll be ready to shift the conversation into new channels.
Tactics to Try
There were a number of tactics I employed to achieve this; try out some of these:
1. Talk about something you’re excited about in your life. Ignore the “why don’t you have a significant other?” question and redirect the conversation to other activities you’re involved with. Be enthusiastic and ask them if they have done similar activities to engage the other person in this new conversation.
2. Ask the person you’re talking with about what is going on in their life. This especially helps to focus on a topic you know they are passionate about.
3. If they have the person they are “sure would be perfect,” get the contact information. After all, it is interesting to meet someone new. You never know when you can make a new connection and discover a great new friend.
4. If they are like a broken record and constantly asking this, take a few minutes to understand their reason. Say to them, “Help me understand why you keep asking this question.” It could be a Pavlovian response, maybe their belief system operates this way, or perhaps they are genuinely concerned about your personal fulfillment.
5. Answer by telling them you are happily single, content, and fulfilled. You love your life and have no desire or need to “find someone.” You are enjoying pursuing your own path.
By following this strategy, you will break the pattern of these questions. You are gently steering your well-wishers to know more about the activities that excite you and forming a deeper understanding of each party’s outlook. Over time, they will start asking about things they know you are interested in, building a deeper and stronger bond with your circle of family and friends.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.