By Wendy Rose Gould
Even if people mean well, and they almost always do, hearing, “Why are you still single?” can quickly spark an internal groan. For starters, there’s often a sense of pressure that accompanies the question, as if you ought to be in a relationship. It can also open the floodgates to a bevy of complex emotions and thoughts, some of which you may not want to discuss for very valid reasons.
While having a conversation about your dating life with some people in certain scenarios is welcomed, that’s not always the case. So how do you politely brush off or steer the conversation away from your love life without coming across as rude or offended? We tapped a few experts about the best things to say the next time you’re on the receiving end of the age-old question: “Why are you still single?”
“I’m dating here and there. How are things with you?”
This approach answers the question vaguely and then pivots the topic back to the asker’s life. When said casually and quickly, there’s little room for them to feel like they misstepped or tapped into a sensitive topic, which helps avoid awkwardness.
“It’s important to remember that most of the time when people ask this question, they’re trying to give a compliment,” says psychologist Dr. Renee Solomon. “They’re saying that you’re so great that they can’t imagine why you would still be single.”
To pull off this response as neutrally and kindly as possible, remind yourself that many people who ask why you’re single are mostly just curious about what’s going on in your life and want to show they care about you. (Even if they don’t ask the question in the most eloquent way!)
“I know you’re just curious…”
To change the topic without coming across as if you’re annoyed, say something like “I know you’re just curious, but I don’t have the energy to discuss that right now,” or “but that’s a whole can of worms,” or “but I’d rather talk about something else.” Responding this way “can give the person asking a bit of grace by assuming positive intentions, while still notifying them you’re not comfortable discussing your current love life,” says therapist and dating coach Bree Jenkins.
“I just haven’t met my person yet.”
When someone asks why you’re single, there’s often a hint of underlying urgency behind the question. In other words, it might feel like there’s an implication that you should be dating someone, which can feel pretty off-putting and make you feel as if you need to defend your single status.
One of the best responses is simply to share that you haven’t found your match yet. It lets the asker know that you’re still dating, and it also “tells them you’re open to finding someone and are in no rush,” says neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez.
From there, you can add a little bit of humor to lighten the mood. Try saying something along the lines of “You’ll be the first to know when something sticks,” or “I promise you’ll get a wedding invite.” Then you can gracefully change the topic.
“I’m focusing more on myself these days.”
Use this response if you want to share that you’re not very interested in the dating scene right now. “With this response, they know that you’re single purely out of your own choice, and that you’re not upset about it in any way,” says Dr. Hafeez. She adds that this is an effective response, because instead of ignoring the question (and potentially being subjected to more questioning), you’re facing it head-on. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to change the topic and discuss something in your life that you do want to talk about, like a new hobby, an upcoming vacation, or your career.
“Why do you ask?”
This is another way to circle the topic back around to the asker, and it gives them a moment to ponder whether their question was appropriate to ask in the first place. “This is ideal with coworkers, acquaintances, and other people,” says Jenkins. She explains that it’s a gentle way of signaling that the topic isn’t one you feel comfortable discussing. You can soften the delivery by chuckling or smiling while you ask, and if they give an answer you can gently say, “Hmm, well I’d rather talk about something else.” However the conversation goes, there’s a solid chance they won’t ask again.
Maybe you prefer to be single at this moment in your life, or perhaps you’ve been trying to date and aren’t finding much luck. You might even be seeing one or two people, but aren’t interested in discussing your love life. Whatever the case, any of the above phrases will help you steer the conversation the next time someone inquires about your single status.