How to Handle the holidays as a Single, Thoughtful, Caring, Adult Human Being
In researching the topic of being single during the holidays, I saw a recurring refrain of complaint. Singles are, almost without exception, tired of being asked, “Are you still single?” The advice given in many articles and blogs is to dodge the question or avoid the person who inevitably asks it at family gatherings.
I’d like to offer here some loving alternatives to avoiding Aunt Tillie and Uncle Bruce and their intrusive questions. And I want to offer us all some ways to express love and concern for our relatives – be they single or not.
So how can we communicate with each other to build connection instead of discomfort and alienation?
- Give the Benefit of the Doubt. Assume your friends and family have a sincere interest in your life, even if they have an insensitive, if not downright rude, way of asking about it. If that is the case, maybe what they really want to know is how you are. Go with that. What if, instead of trying to escape your relatives’ insensitive attempts to learn about your life, you just tell them about it all – work, play, love life, vacation plans or a great book you are reading. You get the idea. Ask them about their lives too. They will be grateful and surprised that you took the time to really listen to them instead of making a bee-line to the appetizers.
- Share Your Action Plan. You can also answer with the popular, “I’m just waiting on the right one.” The only trouble with this response is that it suggests a level of passivity that may not be true. If you think it is any of their business, you can let interested relatives know that you are actively seeking a great partner. You are working on your self to be a great catch and you are getting help from a date coach and matchmaker who is also on the lookout for a great partner for you. Maybe your relatives have some good ideas or connections to help you along. The possibilities are endless!!
- Ask Open Ended Questions. This is Communications 101! Don’t ask a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Instead of, “Are you still single?”, maybe what you really meant to say was, “Hey Jack, I haven’t seen you since last year and I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how things are going. If you have a moment, I love to catch up with you. What’s happening?”
- Resist the Urge! As a single, thoughtful, caring, adult human being, please resist any urges you may have to counter the, “Are you still single?” with similar insensitive questions like, “Have you thought about cosmetic surgery?” or “When are you and Aunt Agnes going to stop having that same argument?”
- Embrace Your Single Status! When asked the tired old question, answer with joyful enthusiasm, “Heck Yeah!!”
I was once accused of Aunt Tillie-ism and had a great lesson in life. Seventeen years ago I got married and there were some changes in my friendships. I kept up a pretty good phone relationship with my best friend in DC. In my single days, I had time to run 5 hours up the road for a weekend visit but, with my new married life and then the birth of my son, casual weekend visits were almost impossible. In our phone conversations I would often ask my BFF about her dating life as it had been a big topic of conversation when we were both single. I still remember one call when she got really quiet and serious. With great kindness and inter-personal generosity, she let me know that she experienced my interest in her dating life as an affront to her single status; as if being single was somehow a “problem” that needed a “solution.” At the time of this conversation, I felt ashamed. Was she right? Did I think of her single status as a “problem?” Was there a part of me that enjoyed hearing about all the new and interesting people she was meeting because my own life had so quickly gone domestic? Was she being over-sensitive? Maybe it was all of the above. Since then, I don’t bring up the topic of dating and she and I have found scads of other things to talk about. If she wants to talk about her dating life, she can initiate that conversation. Our friendship withstood the test of time and our differences in marital status. I’m so thankful to my friend for speaking from her heart and setting me straight so our friendship could last all these 34 years!
So, dear friends, my invitation to you this holiday season is to remember that we are all connected by an “invisible thread.” With acknowledgement to The Rev. Dr. Nancy Petty, this thread is our understanding of how inextricably intertwined our lives are. When we understand this, we would always seek to create love, joy, comfort and understanding for and with each other. So buckle up and start relating on a deep level with those you love and those you may one day come to love!
-Dr. Kate Freiman-Fox