The holidays are here – a time for joy, love, and… inevitable awkward questions about your dating life.
Whether it’s questions from your grandma about what happened to that sweet person she tried to set you up with from her ward, your cousin making fun of you for sitting at the kids’ table again, or your creepy uncle telling you that it’s about time you find someone so you can start multiplying and replenishing the earth (🥴gross) you’re bound to have at least one awkward encounter at a holiday get together.
While these questions usually come from well-meaning relatives, it can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk about your dating life (or lack of a dating life) because it’s personal and everyone’s experience is completely different. A lot of the time, you don’t have the answers because you’re still trying to figure it out. Not to mention that dating changes drastically from generation to generation, so sometimes, they just don’t get it.
The key to handling these conversations with grace and confidence? Preparation. Our goal today is to prep you for any cringey question or awkward encounter – no matter your relationship status!
Step One: Self Reflection
Before that first big family holiday event, take some time to reflect on your dating experiences. How do you truly feel about your dating life?
For example, if you haven’t been on a single date all year, how do you feel about that? Does it bother you because you really feel like you’re ready for a relationship? Or are you okay with it because you’re focusing on other things in your life right now?
Or maybe you’ve been on LOTS of dates or have been in a few relationships already this year. Are you angry because none of them worked out? Or are you excited about all the people you’ve met this year? There are no right or wrong answers here. It’s just about identifying how you feel.
Once you’ve figured out how you feel about your dating life, determine your boundaries. Decide beforehand what you’re comfortable sharing with others and what you would rather keep private.
Maybe you’re okay talking about the people you’ve gone on dates with, as long as no one mentions you-know-who. Or maybe you’re okay talking about dating and marriage in general but don’t want to share any specifics. Maybe everything about your dating life is completely off-limits. Whatever you decide, know that it’s okay not to share everything.
If you’re worried about drawing boundaries, remember that setting boundaries keeps relationships intact. Prentis Hemphill said, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” Letting your family members know that the question they’ve asked broaches a sensitive topic for you allows you to protect yourself and your relationships with your loved ones simultaneously.
Step Two: Prepare Your Responses
Come up with a few go-to responses for when questions come flying your way. Funny, but positive responses are great for deflecting questions. Honest but concise answers are great if you choose to share details. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
“I am so in love with my life the way it is right now.”
“I can’t tell you all my secrets!”
“I’m just really protective of my happiness.”
“I like staying at home in my sweatpants too much.”
“I’m just waiting to see what God has in store for me.”
“I’m taking care of me right now. I love myself!”
“I don’t need anyone special; I have you, Grandma!”
“I am seeing someone, but it’s still early, so I don’t want to jinx it!”
“We’re not together anymore, and it’s still a little fresh, so I’d rather talk about…”
“No, we’re not engaged. We’re just enjoying being together right now!”
Practice your responses so that they come naturally. You don’t want to be scrambling to remember your witty joke when the time comes to use it! You may want to have a few different responses prepared for different people or at least know how to tailor your responses to the person you’re talking to.
Step Three: Focus On The Positive
Once you’ve successfully deflected, shift the conversation towards positive things in your life. Think of achievements (both professional and personal), hobbies, and other exciting developments in your life.
Mention your aspirations and goals, and emphasize any personal growth or self-development in your life. Show that although you don’t want to talk about your dating life, you still have a rich, fulfilling life that you are happy to share details about with them.
Avoid negative or self-deprecating comments. It’s easy to play the blame game or tear yourself down when things aren’t going the way you’d like them to. Remember that your relationship status does not determine your worth as a human being and a child of God. The way you talk to yourself and the way you talk about yourself matters. Regardless of your current relationship status, present yourself with confidence to your family members. This is a time to gas yourself up!
If, at any point, the conversation takes a turn for the worst and becomes too uncomfortable to bear, politely change the topic. Remember, you are in control of how much you share and can set a boundary at any time in the conversation.
Step Four: Identify Support Systems
Ask some of your close family members to be your lifeline if you get in a little over your head. Ask them to be prepared to deflect or change the topic when you give them a signal or if they notice that you are looking particularly uncomfortable.
Ask your loved ones to hype you up before a family gathering and talk you down after everyone goes home. Sometimes, it’s good to just let everything out instead of bottling it all inside, so there’s no harm in having a little vent sesh together, as long as you’re not saying anything mean or rude behind someone’s back. Be kind when speaking about other people while also releasing any emotions you might be holding onto after a big event.
If you are dealing with intense or extreme family dynamics, it may be beneficial to seek professional guidance either before or after these family events.
Step 5: Prepare Exit Strategies For Difficult Conversations
Sometimes, no matter what you try, you might have a family member who is relentless with their questions or judgmental comments. In these situations, it’s important to calmly set your boundaries and let them know that you’re feeling uncomfortable.
You may think that your facial expression or lack of engagement in the conversation would tell Uncle Bobby to stop making fun of you, but he may not even realize that he’s hurting your feelings unless you tell him directly.
If they persist, try changing the conversation topic, or if necessary, politely excuse yourself. Leave the room, step outside for a minute, move to the other side of the group, whatever you need to do to separate yourself. It might be a good idea to have an exit strategy or a safe place in mind ahead of time if things get too overwhelming.
Know that it’s okay to disengage from a conversation if someone isn’t respecting your boundaries, even if it might feel awkward or uncomfortable to leave.
Step Six: Love Your Family, Love Yourself
It’s important to foster family relationships and create bonds with our loved ones because we’ll be with them forever. But remember that you’ll be with YOU forever, too, so it’s just as important to take care of yourself.
If you prepare beforehand, you’ll be much more confident in connecting with family members about your life while protecting your happiness and well-being at the same time. Remember that there are no right or wrong answers here – it’s just about what makes you feel the most comfortable so that you can enjoy the holidays with your family!
Remember that whatever your relationship status is, you are worthy of love. Romantic relationships are only one of many ways to fill your life with love and happiness. So, whatever your journey is, be excited about the path that you’re on. Heavenly Father’s got some great things in store for you, and your family members will be so excited to hear about all of it.
Kaleigh is a Marketing Coordinator for Mutual. She has worked with couples, relationships, dating, and love in a creative role for over a decade. She's a hopeless romantic who loves that her career allows her to help people find their soulmates. She downloaded Mutual when it first launched in 2016, coincidentally the same year she met her husband! They now live happily ever after in the Midwest with their two kids and dog.