Self-help

Holiday Survival Guide: For the Person Dealing With Questions That Are Way Too Personal

If you’re single, you might find yourself dealing with unwanted dating questions at holiday gatherings. You might feel interrogated by aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are non-stop asking you, “Have you found someone special yet?” or “When are you going to settle down?” or perhaps even worse – they try to matchmake you with some […]

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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If you’re single, you might find yourself dealing with unwanted dating questions at holiday gatherings. You might feel interrogated by aunts, uncles, and grandparents who are non-stop asking you, “Have you found someone special yet?” or “When are you going to settle down?” or perhaps even worse – they try to matchmake you with some other random single person they know. Heading to holiday parties solo doesn’t mean you’re opening yourself to a round of relationship Q&A, but somehow, relatives think it’s fair game.

Or, maybe you are in a relationship, and instead the questions lean more toward “When are you two getting married?” or “When are you two going to start having babies?” These questions can be just as uncomfortable, especially if you and your partner aren’t ready to discuss this publicly. Striking a balance between respecting personal boundaries and maintaining a cheery, festive vibe isn’t always easy.

Here are six tips for coping when your family won’t stop questioning you:

1. Set boundaries

“It’s OK to set boundaries when you are asked something you don’t want to talk about, and we can set boundaries in a kind way,” says Marcia LeBeau, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy. “It may be just providing a short and vague answer and redirecting the conversation, such as ‘I’m just dating casually right now. Anyway, tell me how your job’s going.’” Hopefully, they’ll get the hint and move on…but this isn’t always the case for nosy relatives.

It's OK to set boundaries when you are asked something you don't want to talk about.

- Marcia LeBeau, LMHC

“If your boundary is still not evident, you might need to be more assertive about your boundary,” says LeBeau. “It may be something like, ‘I appreciate you being interested in my dating life, and I’ll let you know when there is some news to tell, but for now, I’d rather talk about something else.’”You might find it difficult to speak up in this way at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will get with standing your ground.

2. Have responses at the ready

On the note of boundaries, if you just know in your bones that you’re about to be bombarded by questions, have some responses pre-planned before the event. This way, you won’t be scrambling on the spot to think of something polite yet effective to shut down the conversation. Plus, you can say these lines with a bit more confidence if they’re pre-planned. 

Catherine Del Toro, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy, suggests these responses: 

For the single person dealing with unwanted dating questions:

For the person bombarded with baby or family questions:

It’s OK to be assertive with these responses as you stick to your boundaries. You are not obligated to answer questions you don’t feel comfortable answering. “While others may not like it, it’s OK to do what’s best for you,” says Nakeya Gore, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy. “The more you do so, the easier it becomes to honor your own boundaries.”

3. Remember: These questions might say more about them than you

Although these questions are personal, you can take a step back and look at the situation in another way. The questions your relatives ask might say more about them than they do about you.

“Perhaps it would be beneficial to become OK with what others perceive as important. They’re saying more about their value system than they’re saying specifically about you,” says Gore. For example, maybe marriage is one of their greatest values in life and something they think is very important, and they don’t understand how single people are happy without a partner because they assume they wouldn’t be themselves, she says. Or, maybe this is how they feel about having children.

Regardless, you can try to reframe the situation. Remember the questions aren’t necessarily a personal jab about your worth and value, Gore says. Still, if the questions make you feel uncomfortable and upset, that’s valid too – but try to avoid jumping to conclusions or taking it too personally. 

Remember the questions aren’t necessarily a personal jab about your worth and value.

- Nakeya Gore, LCSW

4. Use it as a chance to self-reflect

Yes, it’s annoying getting interrogated by family members. But if you find yourself getting super triggered or more angry than usual, this could be a chance to take a step back and do some self-reflection. 

You might find the things that irritate you the most are the struggles that you have unresolved within yourself, says Gore. For example, maybe you are deeply struggling with the fact that you’re single, and your self-worth is taking a blow because of it. In this case, it makes total sense that your nosy aunt Kathy questioning you about when you’re finally going to be in a relationship triggers you. Or, maybe these questions remind you of your past relationship, and you realize that you aren’t as over your ex as you thought you were. 

Either way, this is an opportunity to explore your emotions more deeply after the gathering. Perhaps you can journal about your feelings, talk with a trusted loved one, or speak to your therapist, if you have one. 

5. Practice self-compassion

“Sometimes others asking about our relationship status or family status can cause us to have self-critical thoughts or be down on ourselves,” LeBeau says. “We might feel like there are expectations of what things ‘should’ look like or the timeline we ‘should’ be on.” However, “shoulds” and comparison traps will do you no good. 

That’s why it’s so important to be kind and gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that your journey is unique to you, LeBeau says. Everyone is on their own timeline, following their own path, chasing what’s most important to them.

“Remember to have some self-compassion rather than beating yourself up, especially if you’re facing challenges in these areas,” says LeBeau. “Relate to yourself kindly with self-love.”  

A couple of self-compassion exercises to try are writing a super kind letter to yourself from the perspective of someone with unconditional love, or practicing speaking to yourself the way you would speak to someone you really love and care about.

6. Get emotional support through therapy

If you’re struggling with your singleness, or dealing with issues surrounding marriage, infertility, or any other extremely personal topics, therapy can help. A therapist can provide you with coping strategies to improve your mental health. If you’d like this valuable support, Grow Therapy is here to connect you with an online therapist who accepts your insurance and specializes in these sensitive topics.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating people dealing with addiction, anxiety, depression, grief, communication problems, and other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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