It’s the question singles dread most during the holidays: “Why are you still single?” But take heart —studies show that married people aren’t necessarily any happier than their single counterparts, especially if you’re over 40. Our how-to guide below can help you answer those queries with confidence —and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!

Understanding pushy parents

Before fending off mom and dad, try to understand that their comments come from a place of concern, not condescension. “I don’t take offense,” says Reid K., a 25-year-old grad student from Denver, CO. “I was annoyed by it a little bit before, [especially with the implication that] you’re missing something and you’re not complete, but now I know where it’s coming from.” Second, explain that you have things under control — and when you’re ready to settle down, you will.

Now, let’s explore your options for keeping well-meaning relatives in check. In a recent Happen poll, we asked over 8,500 men and women to complete this sentence: “When family asks why you’re still single over the holidays, you say…” The majority of respondents (58%) took the diplomatic route: “I’m waiting for someone as great as you found for yourself!” Another 25% of those surveyed chose the deflect-and-redirect approach, saying, “Hey, if it’s good enough for God/Oprah/George Clooney/Sandra Bullock…” and nearly 10 percent said “Because the divorce rate drops each year I wait to marry,” since couples who wait until after age 25 to wed reduce their chances of getting divorced by 15%.

Or, try one of these expert-approved replies…

  • Relative rant #1: “Why haven’t you found someone nice to bring home yet?”
  • Quiet-them comeback: “I know that you’re coming from a place of love and you want me to be happy and settle down and have a partner, but right now, there’s no one around that I’m crazy about.” – Karin Anderson, Ph.D., author of It Just Hasn’t Happened Yet
  • Relative rant #2: “I was married with two kids by your age, you know.”
  • Quiet-them comeback: “Well, according to the stats, everyone’s waiting a lot longer to get married. We want to make sure our marriages are fulfilling and really last.” – Gilda Carle, Ph.D., author of Don’t Bet on the Prince!
  • Relative rant #3: “I just don’t understand how someone like you can be single!”
  • Quiet-them comeback: “I’m in good company! Look at some of our role models: Catwoman is single. Buddha? Single. Actually, virtually all superhero types are single; Superman, Wonder Woman, Dudley Do-Right… and then there’s the ultimate superhero: God—also single.” – Karen Salmansohn, whose response was adapted from her book, Even God Is Single, So Stop Giving Me A Hard Time
  • Relative rant #4: “Why aren’t you married yet? You’re not getting any younger!”
  • Quiet-them comeback: “What an interesting question. I’m curious about how you made your decision to get married to [fill in the name of questioner’s spouse].” – Joni Mantell, psychotherapist and relationship coach

Finally, realize that this is a subject where you and your family might never agree — so if they keep trying to engage you in a discussion about your love life that you don’t want to have, deflect and redirect the conversation. If none of the above answers works, try changing the subject to avoid spinning your wheels. As Anderson says, “You need to be living your life for yourself, and you don’t need to be dating [people] you’re not excited about just so that your mom can sleep at night.”

Some of the above ideas were originally reported for Happen magazine by Haley Shapley, Michele Bender, Kimberly Dawn Neumann, Karen Salmansohn, and Dave Singleton.

  • Robinl

    Jeez this is exactly what i have to look forward to on the 25th