How To Handle Relationship Questions
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By Woman's Day
Couples are often buffeted by pressure from friends and family: to get married, have a child, buy a home and so on. “People like to think that what they are doing is right, and if you do it too, that validates their choices,” says Mark Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Aiki Relationship Institute in Illinois. Here’s how to navigate pressure points without offending anyone.
“When are you getting engaged?”2 of 11
Couples in long-term relationships or those, ahem, of a certain age, may get pressure to seal the deal — particularly from family. Whether you’ve chosen not to marry for now or you’re still working that out with your significant other, it’s a question that can make you sigh over and over.
How to Deal3 of 11
You can try fobbing it off with a dose of humor, says Hannah Seligson, author of A Little Bit Married. But when the pressure’s coming from those closest to you — like your parents — be gentler and more honest. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give them the answer they want. Say, “I know you want me to be happy, but this is something Joe and I have to work out together, and it would be really helpful if you didn’t ask so often.”
“When will you have kids?”4 of 11
In our current culture of oversharing and overasking, there are areas of our private lives that just don’t feel very private anymore. It feels incredibly intrusive, especially if you’ve made a private decision to remain childless or if you are trying but have been unsuccessful conceiving.
How to Deal5 of 11
Babies are something your family has an emotional stake in. Julie Hanks, LCSW, clinical director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, suggests saying to your mother, “I know you’re dying to be a grandmother, but that’s not the only reason to have a baby. Can you agree to stop asking, and you’ll be the first person I tell?”
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“Now that you’re pregnant, are you still going to work?”6 of 11
This is a loaded and often contentious cultural issue. “Women feel all kinds of pressure from people around them, who make assumptions either way,” says Hanks, and if you don’t agree with those assumptions, you end up feeling judged.
How to Deal7 of 11
Be sure you know what you are going to do — a decision you can only make with your partner (and your checkbook!). Once you have a plan in place (with the caveat that you can always change it as circumstances change), you are better equipped to handle pressure. Often pressure comes from other women who’ve made their own decisions and may want you to do what they have done.
“When will you buy a home?”8 of 11
This one usually comes from parents and in-laws, and it can feel pushy because it gets at two things you may prefer to keep private: how much money you two have and where you prefer to live.
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How to Deal9 of 11
Try turning the question around, especially if it comes from parents. Hanks suggests that you “reflect back what you think you hear the person saying, like, ‘Mom, it sounds like you’re really excited about us possibly getting a house because you want us to have a nice life.’” Hanks adds that “asking questions helps you see where your parents are coming from.”
“Where will you spend the holidays?”10 of 11
This is already a huge source of conflict between many couples; adding pressure from families on top of that can turn any fun holiday into a miserable grind.
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This is, ideally, something you should hash out between the two of you before your wedding day because “once you’re married, that’s your main family,” says Hanks. Your aim is to try to please that person/family first, then take your families-of-origin into consideration. If your parents or in-laws push back against your plans, Hanks suggests acknowledging the emotional message underneath the pressure.
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