Please help me silence my nosy relatives and friends
November 14, 2006 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I've recently turned 28, and am still unmarried. For various reasons, I would prefer to stay single. However, my extended family has other ideas

I'm originally from the Indian Subcontinent, so family is a big part of my life. There are also have friends who are basically like family to my mom and dad. They keep asking me when I will get married, especially now that I've turned 28, which seems to be the magic number for a man to get tied down. I really don't know how to tell them I don't have a desire to get hitched without coming off as rude, arrogant, or hurting their feelings in some way.

The real reason I have no desire to get married is because I have not seen very many happy marriages in my life. Most married people I know who have gotten married seem to be waiting until the end (of life or the marriage). Added to that, I still feel like I have a lot of goals that I haven't accomplished yet. Having a wife and kids usually seems to restrict what an adult can and cannot do. Finally, I have some unresolved emotional issues that make it tough for me to stay in a romantic relationship for very long.

I obviously don't want to tell my family any of this, but still want to politely communicate that it will be a long while before I'll be married, if at all. I just want to be able to get the point across so that people stop asking me about it all the time, and do it in a way that doesn't ruffle any feathers.

Thanks for any help you can offer, MeFi'ers.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why not just tell them the truth (without actually telling them you find their marriages unhappy?) As Andrew Sullivan wrote regarding coming out of the closet, you deserve to have parents.
posted by callmejay at 8:14 AM on November 14, 2006

Here's an answer I've used in the past, which manages to deflect their objections in a way that they can't possibly (reasonably) object to, and which you can use without it being a lie or platitude:

"I haven't found the right person yet. When I find someone I'm sure I want to spend my life with, we'll consider marriage. Until then, I don't wish to commit to anything that I do not feel is right."

If your family object to that, well... I'm not sure there's much hope for them to ever agree with you in this, sadly. Sometimes... that just happens.
posted by jammer at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2006

I'm 26, a woman, and I've been asked probably a million times since I was 22 when I was getting married. Now that I have a boyfriend of 3 years the questioning has only increased in intensity. I definitely sympathize.

You just have to laugh it off and see where your family and friends are coming from. If they're anything like my family, it's because they care about you and think that you deserve to have someone to love. I mean, yes, it is very common for most people to get married, and most people see marriage as one of those things you do as you get to be an adult. Marriage to a lot of my family members (most of whom are married themselves) means happiness. They care about me and they want me to share the same happiness and joy they get from their own marriages.

Bottom line, I know it is obnoxious to be asked the same question over and over again but you risk alienating people if you get angry or defensive or launch into a monologue about how marriage is not for you. I always try to keep it light-hearted and say stuff like (when asked, "So when are you getting married?), "Well, I was thinking Saturday, how does that work out for you?" Or I just laugh it off. I know I can't change people, so it's been easier and less stressful for me to just change my reactions.
posted by sutel at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't think you should try to justify to yourself that marriage won't work for you based on other people's failures. Try to communicate to your family that you are stressed about marriage and that the best antidote is not to be pressured. Assuming they are rational, maybe they will leave you alone to let you come to terms with it on your own.

You didn't say whether you are dating or not but if you are that may help to make them see that you are at least looking for a relationship. Try not to think about marriage as a primary goal and just work on getting into a comfortable relationship. Everything else will take care of itself later.
posted by JJ86 at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2006

I wouldn't tell them that you haven't met the right person yet unless you want them to set you up, because that is a major invitation to being set-up.

Something more like: I don't know. When I feel like I'm ready for marriage, then I'll look to take that step. Until then, just knowing that you're thinking about my happiness and fulfillment makes me very happy and appreciated. So, [question about them that gets them off the topic of marriage]?
posted by willnot at 8:47 AM on November 14, 2006

A lot of good advice in the replies above. Really. Just keep it light. It really is your life. Family can show such disrespect some times. Find a way to ignore it and certainly don't be serious about it. I think jammer had a great response. And sutel was right-on. Good luck. You know you are not ready for it and that is all that matters.
posted by JayRwv at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2006

Look at this as an opportunity.

Tell them, "find me the right woman, and we're on!".

Now, they may try to set you up with bad dates, but how would these be any worse than what you might pick out yourself?

Worse case scenario - happy family thinking they are helping you, bunch of bad dates.

Best case scenario - you find someone you really enjoy being with.
posted by ewkpates at 9:06 AM on November 14, 2006

I'm of Indian descent, and one of the things that helped (until, um, I got married) was to explain to my family that their choice to come to America (I'm assuming you're in a western country now) was also a choice to raise an American child.

I'd seen a lot of marriages, especially in the Indian community, that weren't happy. But there's some selection bias that happened for me here -- I went looking for the bad ones because I objected so much to the pressure that was being applied to (1) get married (2) to someone of my family's choice.

In the end getting married was the best thing I ever did. And I only started thinking about it after disabusing my family of the notion that my personal life, especially my marriage, was up to them in any way. You need to decouple your feelings about marriage from your family's pressure about marriage.

The message you need to communicate to your family is not about marriage, it's about control. Something straightforward is best: "I love and respect you, but in the culture you raised me in, these are decisions people make for themselves. The more you push, the less likely I am to want you involved at all, and I know that you trust me to have good judgement."

Just repeat that 150 times a year for the next few years and you're all set. (Grain of salt: I'm 31, and my father is still suggesting it's not too late for me to chuck my career and go to medical school. :))
posted by anildash at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2006

ah, the joys of being Indian.

First is was:
Get good grades, so you can go to a good college.
Then it was:
Get good grades, so you can go to medical school.
Then it was:
Wait, you're not going to medical school?! Okay, get good grades so you can go to graduate school.
Then it was:
NO GRADUATE SCHOOL? okay, get good grades so you can get a good job.
...and now it's:
When are you going to get married?
which will be subsequently followed by:
When are you going to have kids?

To make it past these last two, I really think you'll have to humor them. I'm still a little young, but my cousins are going through the same thing. They give their parents the joy of looking for matches (be picky, this can take months) and then set up potential meetings. Go to the meetings, but take a friend with you (this is me). If you really have no interest in the girl, give a signal, and then let your friend try to make it known that you're not interested. In the past I've started talking about the joys of alcohol, hilarious stories from my college years, etc. My grandparents hated this, but it got the point across that they were not interested, and viola, no more matrimonials.

Another option: tell your family that you want to be wealthier and richer before you get married, so you can secure a better "match."

I don't think you're in too bad of a position. Imagine if you were an indian girl. I think they have the worst. We can still get married when we're 33,35, or 40.

option #3. Make your best girl friend your girlfriend for your parents.

just do anything to buy time. sooner or later they'll get the picture.
posted by unexpected at 11:06 AM on November 14, 2006

My experience with the Indian culture is limited, but in familial relationships, it seems similar to that of many Middle Eastern cultures. Which is to say, unless you're shooting for an arranged marriage, asking them to fix you up with "eligible marriage candidates" is a very bad idea.

I can't even imagine how weird my life would have gotten if I'd let that side of the family present potential suitors. I would suggest that perhaps the Anglo experience is radically different than the experiences of coming from a culture where arranged marriages are not unknown, and therefore flippantly suggesting that they bring candidates to you is a potential trouble spot.

I suggest using phrases like "I appreciate your concern, but I have so many other things I want to do before I settle down." or "It would be unfair for me to marry when I can't dedicate the attention/time required to ensure a good marriage." Or "I'm gay, leave me alone!" ;)
posted by dejah420 at 11:15 AM on November 14, 2006

You might just lie and tell them you're a lesbian.

The other solution might be to tell them that you never know what kind of man you'll get-axe murderer, bank robber, schizo, latent homosexual, predator. Of course, it's likely that they may just dismiss your concerns, but I seriously don't get why. You can know a person their whole lives and they might just snap. You'd think your parents would be concerned.
posted by onepapertiger at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2006

Not sure if this is entirely relevant, but...

I was certain I'd never get married until I met my fiancee. Now I can't imagine not getting married.

Finding *the one* can change your point of view in a second.
posted by tremolo1970 at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

The first answer, from callmejay, seems very sensible, as does Anil's. Sounds like you're not the one living an unhealthy life, it's the people pestering you to get married. You might consider helping them out. :)

Whatever you do, play-acting your way through it is pointless and will just wear on you. You might not want to get married today, you might want to tomorrow, or a year from now, or never. But your parents and you have to deal with one another each day, for that day - and what you want is what you want. Come clean, disappoint them if you must (if that's the way they see it); then all of you can grow up together.
posted by waxbanks at 12:56 PM on November 14, 2006

onepapertiger: not to derail but I think the OP is a male, just to note from the modifiers he used.

what worked for me (I'm a never-married 38YO caucasian female btw) was to just keep saying 'it'll happen when it's right'. my mom was the Worst. EVER!! about this right up until about 35... well that's pretty much when everyone gives up on women well that is if they don't assume one will be picking out sensible shoes and is merely one flannel short of a lumberjack... I mean despite popular opinion one CAN be a spinster WITHOUT being a lesbian don'chy'know!

and seriously: for those of us who really don't feel marriage is the be-all-and-end-all - those of you who INSIST on telling us we're Just Wrong? please. stop it. keep in mind the parable of teaching a pig to sing: it merely frustrates you and pisses off the pig.

you can spout all the fancy statistics about 'married couples living longer... bla bla' that you like, but it's like hassling a smoker about quitting. and anyhow - why does it bother YOU so much, hmmm?

anonymous: don't let your family ruin your joy. just tell them kindly and directly that you are not playing around, you simply aren't interested. oh and I do agree with Anil here... even tho it hasn't happened for me, you really never do know when The One is going to crop up. I've seen it happen to a couple of my most direly commitment-phobic friends.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:12 PM on November 14, 2006

Yes tell them kindly and stand up for yourself.
posted by leyna howe at 3:30 PM on November 14, 2006

I'm in the same boat almost, and I've found that delay is your best friend. I always treat my parents' efforts with mild interest and laugh it off. Of course now (I'm 30) the BrideSpam (selflink) has increased a tenfold, so it's getting harder to maintain my composure, but seriously I think in an Indian situation, it's not a quick fight. Its a test of endurance. I suggest you develop some formula and stick to it. Mine was; wait till I finish my PhD, and after that it will be: wait till I finish my Post doc etc. But always with humour, because humour is a great deflector.
posted by dhruva at 3:57 PM on November 14, 2006

Answer a question with a question: "Are you kidding?"
posted by Netzapper at 8:54 PM on November 14, 2006

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