Have you noticed family’s questions tend to be extra prying? For instance, every aunt feels entitled to the intimate details of your relationship status. They ask “Why are you single?” which makes you ask… “Why am I single?”

It’s a recipe for disaster.

When you’re not in a relationship, this can feel like a life-or-death matter, and you might go to great lengths to avoid explaining your lack of romantic partner.

Don’t Let the Questioning Sway You

Interrogations at family gatherings will always be tough, especially if you’re not in the right mental place for a relationship. You might not even be thinking about your relationship status, but you’ll certainly be confronted with it (even if it’s well-intentioned).

While our relatives might have the best intentions, their huge interest in our relationship status can deceive us into thinking we should be paired up – is something wrong with me for being alone?

If we dwell on words that plant discontent, those seeds take root. Don’t let the pressure of the culture, media or family make you discontented. Connecting intimately with another human being should match up with your own internal timing. And those who claim to know what you need and when are sorely mistaken.

When you’re tired of family insisting you partner up, don’t avoid the questions. Here’s how to stand your ground and proudly assert your independence, based on the intentions of the person asking.

Good Intentions

As irritating as it is, first, keep the questioner’s intentions in mind. If they just want you to have the support system that you deserve, calculate your answer to reassure them. It’s easy to automatically give generic answers to inappropriately personal questions. However, it’s also possible to keep your irritation in check while answering why you are single, relatively openly.

Key Strategy: Positive Deflection

The strategy here, especially during the mist of the holiday season, involves a quick, upbeat and honest response, possibly followed by a change of subject.

The best way to go about this is with a breezy/calming tone of voice and a warm facial expression. Give a simple, truthful reply like “I’m not seeing someone, but I have a great group of friends and I feel very lucky.”

Next, change gears, and throw in a question or two about your relative’s bingo club or new pet. This balances the conversation and keeps it clear and drama-free.

Questionable Intentions

We all have one of those blunt family members, who launches hard-hitting, Diane Sawyer-esque interrogations. This person expects you to come up with a 5 paragraph essay and supporting facts, explaining why you’re still single.

They want to know the reasons why you haven’t prioritized looking for a partner – and they’ll often tell you those reasons aren’t ‘good enough.’ Although their intentions may not be overtly bad, they continue, even though their questions obviously make you uncomfortable.

If you find yourself overwhelmed, you may want to try ‘grey-rocking’ the prying aunt, or shutting down the conversation completely. On the other hand, if you’re up to engaging with this family member, keeping your composure will set the stage properly.

Key Strategy: Owning Your Choices

When this dreaded conversation begins, keep one thing in mind: you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life and your choices!

Although you may feel tempted to dive into a speech about your most recent dating fails, it’s really not necessary. Of course, you’re going to be irritated with this person, and nobody would blame you for it. However, you can save yourself further trouble by using a firm tone with a warm facial expression.

You don’t have to be as nice or deferential as if their intentions were clear, but a good response would go along the lines of: “I’m happy with my priorities as they are.”

Your family member may be inappropriately determined to see you settled and paired off. They may wrongly take your “single living” personally. And they may not understand why you haven’t found the one yet.

But rather than an angry one, this approach should help you assert yourself with maturity and honesty – defend your single status and shut down any further prying!

Written by: Alyssa Foster