When I was single, some of my most awkward conversations happened when I went home for the holidays. Well-meaning friends and relatives inquired about my (usually non-existent) relationship status. On the bright side, they seemed truly baffled that I wasn’t married or at least dating someone, which I took to mean that they did not consider me a hopeless case. On the not-so-bright side, these questions tended to make me feel like there was something wrong with me, and I often became tongue-tied in their wake.
Here are three awkward questions I encountered and some creative ways you can respond to them if you get them:
1. Are you seeing anyone?
What you could say: “You see them too?!” and take off running the opposite direction (I got this from a meme I saw on Facebook recently, and I think it’s great).
What you should say: Although this inquiry can make you feel as if you have nothing to show for yourself — especially if you don’t date a lot — realize that this question is actually a compliment. The person is asking the question because they believe that you are the type of person who could be seeing someone. A good answer is a simple, “Not at the moment.” An added benefit of this polite disclosure is that the person with whom you’re speaking may know someone you might hit it off with.
2. Why are you still single?
What you could say: “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have significant personality issues” (one of my friends used to say this, and I always got a kick out of it).
What you should say: Having someone ask you the reason for your singleness can put you on the defensive. While this question seems rude, many times the person asking is genuinely interested in any reasons you may have for staying single. When people asked me why I was still single, I would tell them that I desired to be married and I hoped one day God would bless me with a spouse, but I was trusting Him to make that happen.
3. Aren’t you worried that … people will think you’re gay, you’ll be alone forever, you’ll be too old to have children, etc.?
What you could say: “Of course I’m worried! Wouldn’t you be if you were me? Help me! Please! I can’t live like this!”
What you should say: The truth is, unwanted singleness can come with many worries and uncertainties. In her article, “Dodging the ‘So, You’re Still Single’ Holiday Question,” Shana Schutte explains that sometimes these questions sting because they reinforce insecurities that singles are already feeling, such as “Am I too picky?” or “Am I undesirable?” She writes:
Without exception, before anyone has ever asked me about my marital status, I have already posed the same questions to myself. That’s why the questions hurt so much. It’s like having a sore toe that someone unknowingly steps on. Therefore, you can deal with the pain of the questions about your single life by bringing them to God for healing and truth before anyone has a chance to ask them. That way they won’t hurt quite so much.
When it comes to this question, honesty is the best policy. Say something like, “Yes, sometimes I do worry about all kinds of aspects of being single. But I’m working on trusting God with those worries.” Remember that worries are a part of life for singles and everyone else, but they are opportunities to cultivate deeper trust in God. And awkward questions can be opportunities to open up lines of communication so that others can better understand and support the single people they know.
Copyright 2015 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.