I consider myself married to my work
May 17, 2013 12:10 PM   Subscribe

How to explain in a concise way why I'm not interested in dating anyone now and anytime soon?

Lately, I'm noticed I've gotten some pressure from family, acquaintances, and friends about my single status. I've never thought much about it, but I'd prefer to have a ready response where I'd explain in a clear way that I am NOT interested. I know most of the comments were not serious, but I find them annoying over time especially since I've explained myself before.

Basically, I'm in my early 20s but I've never been in a relationship before, but I get odd backhanded comments how I should be looking for a BF from others. I had gotten these comments before back when I was in highschool but I always had the option of being "too young." Apparently, this stops working when I turned 20.

I devote most of my time to my studies, commuting, and my other interests which vary from reading books to art. Most days I feel tired from classes and I could do without the added pressure of being asked this.

I'm the kind of person, who is easily obsessed with X topic where I spent hours researching all kinds of useless knowledge related to it. I also have similar approach to liking people, in that I'll be interested X person for a few days or week and then completely forget about it when I move on. I can't think of a relationship, where this would be a good idea.

Any advice to discourage questions about my lack of a relationship would helpful. I keep hoping that someday people will understand me. Thank you.

*The quote is from Sherlock BBC from the dinner scene, where I completely relate to Sherlock's answer.
posted by chrono_rabbit to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"I'm focusing on my career right now and will pursue dating when I'm ready." Insert annoying followup from relative who doesn't get it. "No, I am focusing on my career right now. I am not ready to date. Please stop asking."

"Hey, it bothers me that you ask me this same question every time you see me. It's disrespectful to keep asking it when you know I've given you the same answer over and over. Please respect my decisions and my privacy."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:14 PM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

"I am completely happy with my life as it is now, it is full and interesting, and I do not want to date. I'll let you know if that changes."

This let's them know that they are questioning your happiness (rude) and that they shouldn't bring it up again unless you do.
posted by ldthomps at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think that one thing you might want to consider is that indicating a lack of interest in dating at this point might be more information than you need to share. I suspect that this triggers a response from your family in which they try then convince you of why you should be interested, contrary to what you just said. So, although continual pressure on you is probably rude, you might be trying to move the mountain to solve your problem (i.e., convincing people that your dating perspective is right). Perhaps you need a type of response that simply doesn't engage at all (or minimally) and lets the conversation fizzle out with tact. I'm not good at that, but if I know metafilter like I think I do, you will be getting a lot of good examples on how to word this shortly.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I think it's good to have some answers ready to just put out whenever you're being prompted. If it doesn't stop, you can add something about that it's bothering you alongside. I loved the Sherlock quote from the first time I heard it, it should be one of your several responses!

Slightly off a tangent I imagine that you could try to work on not feeling too much pressure when people say this type of thing. Make an attempt to dissociate these comments from who you've found out you really are. People in your family don't have your inside perspective of who you are, so up to some level they're not even really addressing "you". Why should you feel pressed by them?

Just inform them and turn your mind elsewhere.
posted by Namlit at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2013

What about, "If I meet someone I like, I guess I'll date them, but I'm not really looking. I'm so busy with other things." And if you want to change the subject you could add, "Like, I just learned this really cool fact..."

I think this satisfies people's curiosity about why you're not boyfriend-hunting like your peers may be, and reassures them that you won't die alone (I know you're only in your early 20s and this is crazy) while discouraging them from setting you up or continuing to hound you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:22 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Yeah a lot of people have been asking me about that. Right now I don't wish to be in a relationship, and I really have no interest in dating because other people think I should be. I'm choosing to wait until it is something I want for myself."
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2013

Look faintly puzzled and say, "why on earth is that any of your business?"
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

A little white lie helps here: "I've done the internet dating thing, and I need a break."

It puts out the idea that you are looking, and so deflects that conversation, and also explains why they're not seeing you with anyone at the moment. Refuse to get into details, if asked.

"E-dating. It's the worst." Hopefully, they take over the conversation with a horror story of their own, and the original topic is quickly forgotten.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." And then smile and walk away. Or ride away on your Schwinn.
posted by headnsouth at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2013 [22 favorites]

"Nah, I'm really happy with my life just the way it is."

(My husband and I have used this when asked about children.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

For one thing, avoid this type of statement:

I'll be interested X person for a few days or week and then completely forget about it when I move on. I can't think of a relationship, where this would be a good idea.

It's the perfect opening for someone to try to argue with you--you just haven't met the right person yet, I used to feel that way until I met my true love, dating is different from having crushes, etc. etc.

Instead, say something like, "I'm doing really well, and I'm happy with what I'm spending my energy on. Dating isn't a priority for me right now." If they press further: "This isn't something I want to discuss with you." If they press after that: end the conversation or leave.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I don't want to get into it" (meaning "this discussion" not "dating") goes a long way, in my experience.
posted by mskyle at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

How to explain in a concise way why I'm not interested in dating anyone now and anytime soon?

You: "My life is really full and busy right now, and I'm happy with how things are."

Them: "But...relationships important people dating blah blah blah"

You: "I appreciate that you want me to be happy. And I am! So. How 'bout them...[sports team, political party, new car model, interesting outer space discovery, new baby in the family, whatever]?"
posted by rtha at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of the best responses I've ever seen someone give to this type of discussion is much the same as your title here. It came from an academic I knew, who would say - quite enthusiastically - that his field of study was his girlfriend, and that to him, "[field of study] is a beautiful woman!" Sometimes he'd describe "her" (usually if he was a bit tipsy and the atmosphere was right).

His delivery was happy and silly in a way that made people lay off, and I never saw him have to defend himself any further. If you don't feel like explaining yourself (which you shouldn't need to) and can pull off something like this with happy heart, I'd say give it a try.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think the best statement I've used, that is true and people understand, is that I'm just too focused on X (in my case, X being schoolwork) to spend time trying to meet the right guy. If I happened to meet the right person, I'd give it a go, but my schoolwork and career is just too important to spend time on dating. My career is my forever, a guy probably isn't.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

i'm almost always single and some people just don't understand that i am very content this way. it's hard to explain and most of the time i don't even bother. so when i'm given the "so how's your love life?" i usually reply with "ohhh nothing worth mentioning. i'll let you know when there is." thankfully most close friends and my parents know better than to bug me with this question. if someone presses for more information i just smile as though i'm not incredibly vexed and try to flip the conversation to be about them instead of me - people love to talk about themselves.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2013

I agree that the best answers are the ones that close off further discussion. How about, "awwwwwwww, you're so sweet to bring that up!" with a big smile followed by repeating, "awwww, you're so sweet!" with the same big smile until the questioner gets bored and goes away.
posted by JanetLand at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2013

I'm not sure that for getting-people-off-your-back purposes, your answer has to be any different from that of someone who does want to date, but hasn't met anyone worth dating in a while. I think it might be hard to explain your actual position to a lot of people; a friend of mine who's like the older version of you couldn't get her mom, of all people, to believe that she wasn't lying about being fine with being single. But I think all but the most extreme busy-bodies should accept something like, "I don't want to date just to collect dating anecdotes, or rush into the first relationship that comes along. That wouldn't be very mature, and it usually ends badly anyway." (Soon you can add your friends' divorce horror stories to that answer, heh.)

(Also if you haven't seen it, you might like this site. They might actually have a few posts on this very question.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:51 PM on May 17, 2013

Yes, you will need to repeat (over and over and over) that you have Important Things that you are doing instead and it's just not a priority.

One caution: if you frame this as though you are just waiting to finish some specific project, people may well start making plans for you when that project is over. That is, the last semester of your senior year, they will be asking you if you'll go out with so-and-so over the summer, now that you're done with school? You will have to make it obvious that you have a lot of interests! Very busy! Perpetually.

Be prepared for these questions about all stages of your life. Many people have a very specific idea of how life milestones should be reached, and if you decide to skip or do them out of order, there will be many tiresome questions in your future about why you haven't [had kids/gotten married/bought a house/etc] yet. That's okay. Just keep repeating that you like your life the way it is and when it changes you'll let people know.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:59 PM on May 17, 2013

Have you tried saying "Mind yer own business"?
posted by BenPens at 1:04 PM on May 17, 2013

With intrusive questions like this, it can often be effective to react as if it were a joke: "oh, I'm still too young to be concerned with that. I'm thinking maybe when I'm about 70 . . .". Then change the subject.
posted by Corvid at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2013

With close friends and family, I agree with the many comments upthread to the vein of "I'm very happy and my life is full of x, y, z, ..."

I can totally understand your frustration with these constant questions, but I can also understand the perhaps misguided concern from your family and friends. The common misconception is likely that you really do want to date, but are too insecure, unsure, in the closet, etc. to pursue this.

I think if you openly discuss it in the manner as you succinctly put it in your post, most of your friends and many of your family may feel more secure that you are really and truly happy and if dating ever becomes a desire towards your continued happiness that you'll go down that road then, and they'll be a ton more likely to drop it. If you get defensive about it, it will exacerbate their misconception that you're hiding some secret fear.

The exception may be an over-involved parent, or on the flip side, people who aren't in your close circle and are only looking for schadenfreude or gossip, and don't really care about your well-being. For those people, well...

A long time ago, I was too terrified to get on a plane, and even being near an airport scared the life out of me. People used to ask me, "Tell me again, how come you can't go to X place?" (it was too far to drive, and too long by bus/train), so after frustrating re-explanations, my standard answer became: "Well... y'know.... Megan's Law. [turn and leave]"
posted by Debaser626 at 1:20 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is my advice as a 30 year old dude who has (and does) experience this difficulty, both for what it is and is not worth, in rough order of escalation:

Take it as a compliment. It almost always is! In the event that it seems like they don't mean it that way, still take it as a compliment that you are so awesome that it doesn't make sense to them that you are single. This makes me unresentful whenever someone brings it up. When someone does it just means that they think I'm prime relationship material, and how can I be mad about that?

Don't lie. If you aren't "focusing on your career", don't tell them that. You're just delaying the questioning, not confronting it. Even if you are "focusing on your career", this response makes it sound like once you've established yourself, your next step will be to find a significant other and work on the Next Step. Again, this becomes a delaying tactic, and you can do better.

For quickest dismissal if you just really don't feel like talking about it, "Nah, I'm good!" is pretty solid. Then ask about something else or just don't continue the conversation. If they bring it up again, just: "Nah, I'm good!" If they aren't getting it and you're getting annoyed, you're going to have to jump up a notch.

Be direct! "I just haven't met someone I would really want to be in a relationship with, and frankly I don't feel like my life is empty without someone else in it in that way, so I'd rather not use my time to hunt for someone when I could be doing awesome things like [interest], [hobby], [work], and [pursuit]!"

If someone tries to hook you up with someone, you can be a little more direct. "I'm sure your friend is awesome, but I am actively not looking for that in my life right now. If you want sometime I could try to explain that to you more, but not right now." more conversation... "If you don't understand it, that's cool! All I'm asking you to do is respect it."

If someone close to you keeps bringing it up, my go-to is to explain by way of an analogy about buying and owning a boat. To boat people, everyone who doesn't own a boat is either too poor to buy one or too clueless to want one, but there are many people out there who are really okay, psyched even, about not owning a boat. Does this friend want to own a boat? Why not? Can you imagine how annoying it would be if everyone around them assumed they wanted a boat and kept trying to encourage them to buy and maintain one, and that they were personally broken not only in their boatlessness, but also in their willingness or even desire to be in a boatless state?

"I'm good. I'm glad you are so into boats, I'm amped they do a lot for you, and I sincerely hope your current boat is awesome forever. But I'm just not a boat person. Is that cool?"
posted by Poppa Bear at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, it's small talk, not nosiness. Some people haven't much to talk about. No need to be rude, most people mean well.

"Eh, I'm just not that interested right now. When I am, I'll let you know. So, have you heard about this interesting factoid?" That should quash it.

If you just want to dick with people you can say, "Why? You know someone?" But that could lead to an actual fix up.

Or you can try, "You know Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory? That."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:25 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to just say "I've taken myself off the market for the next little bit."
posted by small_ruminant at 1:45 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I usually say, "I'm really focused on [school|work|sports|hobby|taking care of my grandmother|moving to new place|whatever thing takes up your time] right now." Sometimes I add, "Dating isn't a big priority right now."

If people really push, I say, "I'm happy being single right now. If I want to pursue dating in the future, I will."

You can be as firm or as friendly as you want when you say that.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:48 PM on May 17, 2013

This is one where explaining only proves that they have the right to butt in to your business. That is a bad place to go and amounts to putting out the fire with gasoline. My rule of thumb: If someone is not hoping to get into my bed themselves, it isn't their business what I am up to in that regard.

So, depending on who it is, I might ask "Why? Are you hoping to lay me?" This might be especially effective with same sex heterosexual friends and family.

If I was pretty confident they would know I was kidding, I might suggest I don't have time, energy or interest in sex after servicing Johns all night. Or, gee, since I get laid constantly as a hooker, who needs a relationship? (Yeah, I'm a smartass. It does sometimes come back to bite me.)

Or I might suggest that my pervy kinks are really particular and it's tough to find the right person to take me up on it. Again, I would do my best to make it clear I am kidding (because, as others have indicated, casual attempts to deflect can lead to sitcom style unintended consequences later). My point would be to clue them that they have no idea what my needs and preferences are and do you really want to open that can of worms?

In situations where I felt over the top jokes would be a bad idea, I would downplay and change the subject. Do not "explain". Do not justify. Disengage as fast as possible. If you are tired, tell them "I am tired and, ugh!, new topic pretty please."

(I have been alone a long time. People seem to not ask. I am pretty sure I have done a lot to arrange the not asking but I can't say what at the moment. I think part of it is that I just firmly believe this is no one's business and that somehow steers conversations away from my love life. I just don't give openings. For example, my metafilter status is listed as "unavailable.")
posted by Michele in California at 1:49 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or I might suggest that my pervy kinks are really particular and it's tough to find the right person to take me up on it.

Do not do this in the SF Bay Area. Then you turn into a fun project for them.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:52 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, I thought I covered that. I am assuming conservative friends and family who would give looks of horror in reaction to such a joke. Obviously, don't say that to someone who might try to hook you up with just the right person for your kinks.
posted by Michele in California at 1:55 PM on May 17, 2013

So, depending on who it is, I might ask "Why? Are you hoping to lay me?" This might be especially effective with same sex heterosexual friends and family.

I do not recommend gay-baiting as a strategy.

You have not given examples of some of these comments, but I think you just state your position as concisely as you have here that you (from what I can tell) do not have the time or inclination for such matters at present.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:56 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I promise I'll let you know when that's something I want to talk about, but I'm fine right now. I mean it. But hey, did I tell you about [thing]? It's so cool, [yadda yadda]"
posted by argonauta at 2:12 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This Sherlock quote is a common response for a reason. This is just small talk, a step beyond "so, how about this weather." Just redirect and tell them a little bit about your latest studies: your last test or project or whatever is taking up your time.
posted by RainyJay at 2:13 PM on May 17, 2013

One last clarification for the benefit of the OP, because I thought I covered this but apparently not and I would hate for someone to step in it: It depends a whole lot on who it is. I would be inclined towards politically incorrect jokes with people relatively close to me where I was confident beforehand that I knew how they would react. With casual acquaintances, no, I wouldn't. They might take it at face value, etc. and the next thing you know you are being fixed up with same sex dates or people from the bdsm club you didn't know your town had.

In all cases, my goal would be to convey the idea that you don't know what is best for me and butt out. Humor usually makes such a message more palatable and people close to me know I am a smartass. No, don't try something like that with casual acquaintances. But it is frequently siblings, parents, etc who seem to think your love life is their business and are the hardest to both effectively deflect and also not offend. That is the point at which I might say something intended as outrageous/over the top and also humorous. But perhaps your relatives aren't the "cannot let it go" bulldogs and thin-skinned pouters that mine tend to be.

Carry on.
posted by Michele in California at 2:30 PM on May 17, 2013

From some people, this sort of question is basically a friendly reminder to take care of yourself by investing in social capitol. "Boyfriend" or "girlfriend," from people like that, is shorthand for "ally and confidante."

It's like they're saying "Don't forget to save some money for a rainy day!" or "Don't forget to keep your car well-maintained!" or "Don't forget to go to a doctor when you're sick!" or whatever — only instead they're saying "Please make sure you have people who you trust! Make sure there's someone looking out for you! Don't go through life all alone!"

For people like that, "I'm too busy to date" isn't really going to be a satisfying answer. Because what they hear is "I'm too busy to take good care of myself by building a trusting relationship with another person," and that's scary to hear. (It would be just as scary if you said "I'm too busy to take care of myself by going to a doctor when I'm really sick," you know?)

What you might try instead is to emphasize that you do have a support network. You have friends / classmates / teachers / coworkers / whatever who you like and trust, and who you can discuss things with, and who you know will help you out if you ever need it. It just so happens that you're not in the habit of interacting with any of their genitalia — but you're getting all the other benefits of a relationship, and the sex isn't the important part, right?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:53 PM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

When this period of your life ends, be prepared for the "When are you getting married" and "When are you going to have children?" phases.

It's awful, but some people just can't comprehend any path but their own.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:56 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a sharp intake of breath. Then change the subject to something like 'How about local sports team/popular local restaurant/popular television show watched by millions?'
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:23 AM on May 18, 2013

I like to use the phrase "on the back burner." It implies that I am technically actively working on it, but I've mostly just been too busy with my other life stuff to make it a priority. Which is true for me, it may or may not be for you but it might be a good way to deflect people. I agree that people aren't being nosy, they're just making small talk. But if you say, "Oh yeah, dating's great, but it's kind of on the back burner for me right now because I've been so busy with ___" they may feel less inclined to offer advice. You know how to date, you're perfectly capable of it, you're just not prioritizing it at this moment. Works for me.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 8:19 AM on May 18, 2013

Wow, thought you were going to say you're in your late 30s or older.

I always said: Nah, I'm focusing on getting my life straightened out right now. If I meet someone, great, but it's not my priority.
If they counter with the "you're not getting any younger" bull sh*t. My response: I have other life goals that keeping me busy and I'm very happy.

People think that they're saying stuff like that for your own good, and they do mean well (I hope). But that doesn't mean you need to convince them otherwise or that you are doing anything wrong. Keep living your life the way you want to and don't let their questioning get under your skin.
posted by Neekee at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2013

Response by poster: BenPens: "20Have you tried saying "Mind yer own business"?"

I have considered this reply, but I didn't want to appear to be confrontational to others.

Thank you for all the good responses to this question. I'm in a odd situation, where I'm considered "old enough" to make life choices on my own, but at the same time not many people seem to respect the choices I make.

Now that I feel much better about this issue and I hope as I get older more people will understand me better.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 10:12 AM on May 18, 2013

I'm in a odd situation, where I'm considered "old enough" to make life choices on my own, but at the same time not many people seem to respect the choices I make.

It doesn't matter how old you get, this will never change.
posted by Dynex at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well, now that I'm in my forties, people have FINALLY quit telling me that someday I'll want children, thank god.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:03 PM on May 18, 2013

I got this quite a bit at the same period of my life, particularly from my mom's friends who just couldn't comprehend a woman being single past her early 20s. My chosen retort:

"A boyfriend? Why would I ever want one of those when I have so many more interesting things to do with my life?"

And of course they would reply, "Like what?" and then I'd have the opportunity to tell them about the fascinating class I was taking or new hobby I'd taken up or the trip I was planning and we'd swiftly move onto another topic without anyone even noticing.
posted by Fuego at 3:02 PM on May 18, 2013

Also, if your current choices become long-term choices you'll find that impertinent questions and attempts of people to set you up with their other single friends decrease or perhaps I have just trained my circle to mind their own business...
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:09 PM on May 19, 2013

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