How to Deal with Nosy Relatives Over the Holidays

How to Deal with Nosy Relatives Over the Holidays

With Thanksgiving well out of the way, we are knee-deep in the holiday season. This is a time of love, peace, and new beginnings. ‘Tis the season of delicious meals, creamy eggnog, and quirky gingerbread decorations. For many of us, it is also that time of the year when we travel home to have dinner with the family, reminisce about the past, and try our best to deflect intrusive questions from nosy relatives.

If you’re in your early to mid-thirties and happen to be single, you can probably predict the torrent of awkward questions you are bound to face. From “Are you still single?” and the follow-up “Why?” to “When is the last time you were in a serious relationship?” and “Do you plan on having kids anytime soon?”, things can get deeply unpleasant at the dinner table. That’s not to mention a flurry of passive-aggressive remarks you’ll receive like “Did you gain some weight?” and “You’re not getting any younger”.

Your Life Is Nobody Else’s Business, But…

In reality, you’re an independent adult who makes their own decision and pays their own bills, so what you do with your life is nobody else’s business. However, saying that to your family members would only add fuel to the fire. In their eyes, you’re still that eight-year-old who would answer any questions they asked without blinking an eye, no matter how private or awkward it may have been.

Rather than making your family get-together more awkward than it already is, there are some strategies that can help you deflect intrusive questions, ignore hurtful comments, and stay in the holiday spirit.

Change the Subject

As soon as the conversation at the Christmas table starts feeling awkward, the best thing to do is to change the subject completely. When you’re dealing with family, however, that’s easier said than done.

Asking your mother, your grandmother, or your nosy aunt to change the subject will only make them insist even harder that you discuss the matter at hand right then and there, as if there are not 364 other days in the year when you can talk about your love life, lifestyle choices, and unhealthy habits you need to kick. To change the subject when talking with your nearest and dearest, you need to do it discreetly.

If, for example, someone asks you if you plan on getting married to your on-again, off-again partner of several years, you shouldn’t just say: “I don’t know. By the way, has mom made a great dinner or what?” Instead, you need to make the transition as smooth as possible. For example, you could say: “I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it. Tell me, how did you know the two of you were right for each other?”

Just like that, you’ve shifted the focus of the conversation from yourself to the nosy relative. With any luck, they’ll keep talking about themselves long enough to forget what they asked you in the first place.

Shut Down Uncomfortable Conversations

Conversations at the dinner table can quickly turn from awkward to deeply uncomfortable to downright negative. Anything related to physical appearance, gender identity, sexual preferences, immigration, race, and politics in general can create a rift between family members that could take years to heal.

Rather than risking ruining holidays for yourself and the whole family, it is always best to shut down all conversations about sensitive issues before they get out of hand. You should politely say that you don’t want to talk about a certain topic and that Christmas at the family home is neither the time nor place to discuss sensitive topics. If your relatives don’t want to let go of the subject even after you’ve politely asked them to, you can spare yourself the drama by quietly leaving both the room and the conversation.

Have Someone to Vent To

When family members get you down with their intrusive questions and hurtful comments, you need someone to pick you up. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, go to your room, phone your best friend, and vent to them until you feel better. Even if you’d rather not talk about your family, just talking about anything with someone who doesn’t drain you emotionally could do wonders for your confidence.

Venting to a friend is also a great way to release tension and negativity, which will help you keep your cool with your family. However, if you don’t want to get your friends involved in your problems or can’t get through to them – after all, it’s Christmas, so they’re probably dealing with nosy relatives of their own – chances are that you can find the support you need inside the family. No matter how sad you feel, there’s probably someone else in the house who feels the same and needs support as much as you do.

In every family, there is that one aunt/uncle/sibling/grandparent who understands exactly what you’re going through. Whenever you feel you’re about to break down and cry, take that one family member to the side and have your own little Festivus in the midst of your family’s Christmas celebration. Air your grievances to each other, discuss everything that’s bothering you, and try to pick each other up.

Keep Calm and Accept the Reality

While you may consider staying at home and missing out on your family get-together, you have to be prepared for the awkwardness and the guilt that accompany such a decision. Instead of avoiding meeting your family members, you should adjust your expectations and learn how to keep your cool.

Look, you have known most of your family members for your whole life. Chances are that their views and values haven’t changed much over that time, so why would you expect it to happen now? Why would you expect your aunt who gave birth at 18 to understand why you still don’t have a child in your mid-thirties? Similarly, why would you expect your Republican uncle to understand your alternative lifestyle or your self-centered, spoiled little brother to suddenly start showing compassion and kindness?

You know very well who your family members are, so you might as well accept the reality and stop thinking that anything you say or do could change their outlook on life. Hear what they have to say, answer the questions that you want, deflect those that make you feel uncomfortable, and avoid sensitive topics altogether. Don’t let anything ruin Christmas for yourself or your relatives. You will all have 52 weeks to deal with the stress of your daily lives, so you might as well have some fun during the holidays.

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