“Why are you still single?” “When are you going to settle down?” “What’s the deal with you, anyway?”
During the holidays, singles often brace themselves for a lot of annoying questions and comments from relatives, family friends, high school acquaintances. And during this time, writers like me offer snappy retorts to such irritating queries—and sometimes even a whole book.
But many singles say it can feel worse when no one mentions their relationship status at all—as if the topic were simply too dire to bring up.
Your loved ones’ conspicuous silence might be a result of their horror at your situation, but there is another very plausible explanation. They’re not asking about your single status because … they’re not thinking about it.
We often project thoughts and judgments onto our friends and relatives, but most people are too busy worrying about their own stuff—a misbehaving child, an age-old rift with an aunt—to spend much time contemplating anyone else’s issues.
In other words, sometimes the only person judging you for being single is … you.
The next time you start ascribing motives to friends or relatives, consider some alternate explanations:
The situation: You’re the only person at the holiday office party without a plus-one.
You think everyone’s thinking: “He’s all alone. How sad.”
They’re probably thinking: “[Spouse name] hates these things. Why didn’t I just come by myself so I could relax and have fun?”
The situation: Your mother gives you one of those footed pajama suits made of fleece.
You think she’s thinking: “My daughter is single and therefore still a child.”
She’s probably thinking: “That looks so good with her coloring! And she’ll be so warm!”
The situation: Your younger cousin Lulu announces her engagement on Christmas Eve.
You think everyone’s thinking: “Lulu is a winner—unlike some people at this table we could name.”
They’re probably thinking: “Please lord, not a destination wedding!”
The situation: Your grandfather says: “Your mother tells me you’re got quite a career.”
You think he’s thinking: “In other words, your personal life is a disaster, so let’s discuss this consolation prize.”
He’s probably thinking: “I’m so proud of her!”
The situation: Answering your aunt’s question, you say “No, I’m not seeing anyone at the moment.”
You think she’s thinking: “He’ll die alone.”
She’s probably thinking: “He’s not seeing anyone at the moment. … I sure would like another slice of that peppermint cake.”
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her any questions here.