Psych37News - Why Aren't You Married Yet?
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Why Aren't You Married Yet?
A Step-by-Step Guide to Addressing Family Pressure

"Tina, I haven't see you since last Christmas. You look great! Are you seeing anyone? I have a dress all picked out that I'm just dying to wear to your wedding."

Nothing can irritate you more than seeing a family member whom you see 1-2 times per year, and the first topic of conversation is why you aren't attached. Before you know it, you are looking at your watch trying to figure out how long you have to stay before you can give an excuse to leave, even though you just got there.

What's worse, some family members will have this conversation in front of others every year until you announce your engagement. While family and friends often mean well, they have no clue how they affect us at times. Other people's words are their choices; therefore, there is nothing that you can do to change them. Remember, however, that your words are your choices. Shame on them for putting you in an uncomfortable position. Shame on you for willingly staying in that spot. Never allow anyone to make you feel uncomfortable and you take it lying down (unless you are lying on a therapist's couch where the goal is to talk about things that make you uncomfortable to find insight and healing). 

You have to advocate for yourself. Here are some steps that you can take to make sure that you are heard.

1. Pull your family member aside and talk. 
Don't embarrass your aunt in front of other family members by calling her out on her rude behavior, even though she has done the same. In some cultures, this could be seen as "talking back." Simply ask if you can talk to her about "something important" in another room or ask if she can come with you to the bathroom (if you are in a restaurant).

2. Use body language that is loving.
Your body language often sets the tone for how people receive you. If you stand in front of her with your arms folded maintaining a stern face, she will get physical signs from you that she is going to be attacked, which in turn will make her defensive.

As you walk, grab her hand or put your arm around her. You want to send the message that your words are coming from a loving place.

3. Focus on your feelings, not her words or actions.
"I am sure that you don't know this, so I wanted to let you know. I feel terribly uncomfortable when you make comments about my relationship status. I know that you are excited to see me find love but really, right now, I am happy just finding myself. There are a lot of things that I still need to learn about myself, and I am confident that when I am ready, God/the universe (whatever you believe in) will send a companion my way. In the meantime, would you mind not making those comments? I really enjoy my time with you and when you make those comments it makes me uncomfortable. Did you know that?"

Notice that the conversation started and ended with your feelings. Additionally, you used the same word twice (i.e., "uncomfortable"), which indicates that this is an pervasive feeling for you. Also, give her a glimpse of how content you are so that she won't be concerned that you are sitting at home every Friday and Saturday night crying and watching Bridesmaids

Anyone who truly cares about you wouldn't want you to feel uncomfortable. Most people would apologize, hug you and move on. Problem-solved!

Unfortunately, some of us have very defensive family members. If your aunt says, "Oh, I was just kidding with you. You are being too sensitive, doll."

4. Maintain your original stance.
"I understand that you may mean well, but I'm not taking it that way. I have always enjoyed my time with you, and I would hate to have this stop me from having fun with you. You know, we have a lot of things that we could talk about besides me getting married. Did you know that I just got a new job/just moved/am graduating in three months?"

Again, focusing on you and not her should disarm her. Notice that you are deflecting to a more comfortable topic at the end of this conversation. Hopefully, she should hug you and concede her point (forget getting an apology). Problem-solved!

Still stubborn? "I did know that you moved. Your mom told me. But this is unnecessary. They are just harmless words. You need to get some thicker skin."

5. End with love and strength.
"Well, actually it's my thick skin and love for you that is guiding me through this conversation. You know, I just thought that you would be interested in knowing the impact of your words. I love you, and I would never say something that purposely makes you uncomfortable. I would would just hate to stop coming around family because I didn't feel that same love. But, thanks for talking to me. I appreciate you hearing me."

End with gratitude move on.

Some people don't have a lot of empathy, so it may be difficult to put themselves in your shoes. The point here is that you advocated for yourself. In this case, it's the process, not the prize that's important. In other words, the important part of the situation is the process of standing up for yourself, regardless of how you are received (the prize). Of course, it's a bonus if the process works and you get the prize (i.e., a changed aunt), but don't expect it. Go into the situation expecting to just share your concerns.