Wedding season is upon us. As if the stress of finding something appropriate and affordable to wear was not enough, you may find yourself very stressed out at the idea of going to another wedding single. You may have no partner in site and feel extra singled out. Or be in a long term relationship and constantly defending yourself as to why you two are not married yet. Maybe you are oriented to polyamory and other nontraditional relationship styles and feel violated by others asking you personal questions that do not fit for your life. Regardless of your personal circumstances, there are several key strategies for surviving the wedding season single.
Weddings are a ritual that showcase a lot of cultural and familial traditions in the celebration of the commitment one couple is making to each other. However, sometimes other people’s decision to get married and the joy of celebrating can unintentionally put pressure on others to define their own relationships.
Little did you know that the invite to your friend or family member’s wedding day meant the invite for all the other guests to comment on your relationship status.
So what do you do at a wedding when you get asked “how come you are still single?” when you feel like they are really asking “what’s wrong with you?”
Dealing with relationship status questions can be awkward. To help you navigate this potentially uncomfortable situation of being single at a wedding we applied basic communication styles to help you develop the perfect answer for each situation. While some examples are extreme, we used them to highlight reactions you may internally have and what you wish you could do and point you towards managing these awkward situations in healthier ways.
- Ignore & allow yourself to be distracted by something else so you can walk away best used when you barely know the person asking the question
- Change the subject best used when you want to hold your boundary to not disclose anything personal, do not feel like getting closer to them, and want to continue talking with them to maintain the relationship
- Share what happened in your last significant relationship. Pull them into your world. Agree, and use this as a learning opportunity, maybe this person has an interesting perspective that you could learn from
- Bring up your ex and how she / he broke off the relationship. Overshare and acknowledge the pain of being single.
- Observe if the other person is not really interested and tuning out your answer to decide whether or not to continue to put yourself in a vulnerable position of opening up
Passive ways of communicating usually put the other person’s needs first at the expense of your feelings and needs. It could look like passing on any type of meaningful reply or giving the person a lot of yourself without having established trust and motives for that level of conversation.
- Make a joke at their expense to embarrass them getting you out of the hot seat
- Change the subject while internalizing the message that everyone is against you and sees you as unworthy
- Say you do not want to date any of the terrible people you know
- Swallow what they said and make sure to avoid hanging out with them in the future so they are punished for hurting your feelings
- Thank them for stating the obvious that you will die alone
- Laugh at yourself being a mess and unable to take care of yourself let alone someone else
- Ask them if you should go to the bar now so that they can have a word with your partner because you are in agreement with them. You too believe you should be married by now.
- Share that you too are wondering why you are still single, but as soon as you know you will be off the market, they will be one of the first to know.
Essentially the passive aggressive style can feel like a harmless joke, but usually brings up a deeper issue and spins your singleness into making the other person feel bad for asking and may even feel less willing to have future conversations with you.
- Punch them in the face
- Blame them for stealing your boyfriend in the 5th grade
- Tell them that marriage is a patriarchal capitalistic tool for socially controlling women’s sexuality
- Tell them that you are waiting for your partner to propose and all assistance in this area would be helpful
- Ask them when they will be setting you up on a blind date. You want to make this happen too.
Obviously, these examples are very unlikely to occur at a wedding. Being aggressive can sound obvious in its physical forms, but verbally can be a little more difficult to identify. It often includes blaming or intimidating the other person. A wedding is not the place to get aggressive with others no matter how offensive their questions or comments may be for you.
- That is a great question, I have no idea. I’d rather be the other planning a wedding.
- I am working on it, so if you know of any single men or women who might be a good match don’t hesitate to set me up on a blind date.
- It’s hard to meet the right person. There are so many options of men to date, but very few that I can imagine wanting to grow in the same sort of ways that I wish for myself.
- I am picky.
- This sounds like a conversation to be had over a beer and not at a wedding.
- I feel uncomfortable that you’re asking me this right now
- I feel so strongly about the idea of marriage, it means a lot to me that you care enough to check in on how I’m doing in relationships
- I do not view marriage as some prize to be won and am interested in finding the right person and deciding with them when the right time will be for us to make such a commitment
- I have found what these two have and am still optimistic
- I do not know if I see myself marrying anyone and feel fine about it
- This is a conversation for another time as I do have feelings about my singleness in a context of a couple-ist society, but I do not need to go into that now…
- I hear what you’re saying and agree there is a traditional or typical way people usually go about marriage and you’re happy you haven’t fell into the pressure of it just for the sake of a wedding
Assertiveness is the style to strive for as it is the healthiest in owning what you are saying with honesty to best maintain a relationship. The other 3 styles (passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive) often are used as defenses against feeling vulnerable when faced with insecurities
Weddings can bring a lot of insecurity up for single people. You are in charge of the story you tell about your life and choices in and outside of relationships. Just because you are in the intimacy of a wedding means you have to have a heart to heart with any other guest about your life choices.
People used so many different styles of communication and depending on the trust and foundational relationship you have with the person you are interacting with. Some statements may be good humor to ease the tension or call out the awkwardness. Other times, it is a sign of deeper feelings and inability to manage them in ways that keep strong relationships. These can also be applied/considered when dating across all age spans, but especially outside of the twenty-thirty something age range considered socially acceptable. Using humor is a great way to help yourself get through it with less emotional damage. Assume people have good intentions and care about your wellbeing in and out of relationships. You are in control of the direction you take the conversation and what you might get out of interactions. Love is in the air. The whole purpose everyone is there is to celebrate two people loving and committing to each other. If you are interested in finding love, it can be a great opportunity to open communication about meeting other singles or secrets to other’s successful dating experiences.
You tell your singleness story however you want. Author up some responses you would feel comfortable with to prepare for the expectedly awkward conversations ahead so you can answer confidently in whichever style of communication you prefer to use. It can be fun to imagine saying all the outlandish things back that you would really want to if you had no filter, especially for the great story later on. Take some time now and decide how you want to respond. Depending on your closeness to the others attending the wedding, you could have help in addressing it or make a game out of how many times you are asked and the responses you get depending on which communication style you use. Expect that you will get asked these questions over and over again. Decide what is your end goal out of them. Do you want to question to be a conversation stopper? Or to lead to a deeper more enriching conversation? What doors would you want to see open? What story of your single status do you wish to tell?
If you find yourself struggling to manage family or societal relationships under the pressure to couple up or are managing loneliness that often looks like depression, you do not have to deal with it alone. This exercise may have made you realize you are not over your last relationship and you need help grieving. Therapists at the Center for Growth are available for help.