It’s like Groundhog Day every holiday: Your mom or a friend of the family opens his or her mouth and asks you a highly personal, probing question (“When are you finally getting married?”) and you’re left fuming and causing a holiday-halting shouting match or else embarrassed and sullen. Now if that doesn’t say “the holidays,” we don’t know what does.
So why do people launch into these off-putting inquisitions year after year? “Sometimes people feel obligated to say something and they are not always sure how to say it,” explains Larry Kubiak, Ph.D., director of psychological services at the Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center in Florida. “You feel like you should say something, but rather than thinking it through, you regret it as soon as you say it.”
Other people know exactly what they're doing when they ask you a rude question. Adds YouBeauty Relationship Expert David A. Sbarra, Ph.D., “Families often say mean things couched in a nice way.”
Unless you plan on hiding out at home, there’s no escaping these nagging questions that relatives or family friends feel compelled or even entitled to ask within five minutes of walking through the front door. While it’s hard not to bristle and then throw out a sarcastic remark, there are better ways to handle these aggravating moments.
Whether your man hasn’t popped the question yet or you’re in between jobs, here’s how to cope with those annoying questions we’re all faced with when we head home for the holidays:
“When are you finally getting married?”
There’s nothing quite like being asked this question in front of the entire holiday gathering or worse, right in front of your boyfriend. Can you say awkward? This question really hits a nerve if you yourself are wondering when the heck your guy is going to propose (grrr).
So why does nearly every parent on the planet ask their adult children this question? “Part of it is a parent’s role to see their children through to a good, satisfying, happy relationship,” says Sbarra. “You almost think it’s the end of your parenting work.” Parents may fear that their adult child won’t find someone who will take care of their son or daughter after they’re no longer alive. In other words, they ask because they care. Adds Sbarra, “adult parents know the value of finding a good partner whether they themselves are married or divorced.”
How to handle it: It’s all-too-easy to blow up at the nosy person asking you about your marital plans. Take the high road rather than tossing out a sarcastic comment that will make the next six hours go by painfully slowly. “I would start with the assumption that it could be an innocent question where they weren’t trying to demean you or make you feel like an old maid,” says Kubiak.
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