People are going to continue to ask you about your love life and they’re not going to stop. There’s not really a “getting over it” so much as a “getting used to it.” Most of the time, they mean no harm. They’re not trying to be aggressive or intrusive or stress-inducing, this is just what they’ve been conditioned to wonder about you. When you were a kid they wanted to know what sports you played. (My answer: “I’m bad at everything, Grandpop. Next question.”) When you were in high school they wanted to know what college you were going to. When you were in college they wanted to know what you were majoring in. As you were preparing to graduate college, they wanted to know wtf you were planning on doing with your history major, or how many job offers you got with your finance degree. And now a switch has been made, and whether you’re Single AF or in a serious relationship or have been recently broken up with, people want to know when you plan on settling down. They watch you as if they expect you to provide them with an exact date and time, even though they know, at least subconsciously, that this is a stupid and pointless question.
But people ask you about marriage anyway, because they want some, any, kind of insight into who you are right now.
They ask you these questions because people organize life into phases. It’s the only way we know how to make sense of anything. We like to categorize, organize, classify. We feel more comfortable looking at someone and knowing: they’re in college, they’re single, they’re dating, they’re married, they’re divorced, they’re an accountant, they’re unemployed, they’re an artist of some kind, they’re pregnant, they have no kids, they have two kids, they’re an entrepreneur. We want to understand each other. But it’s easier for us to associate two or three key concepts with a person than it is to spend a lifetime trying to understand each and every aspect of their complicated, three-dimensional personality and existence.
But I think, deep down, even more so than trying to understand someone, the “when are you settling down” question is an empathy thing.
Underneath all the probing and uncomfortable questions and intrusive conversation, there lies concern. Because for most of us, our greatest fear, more so than dying or being tortured or drowning or any other horrific experience, is being alone. We want to know that if we stopped breathing, someone would notice. We want to know that at the end of the day, we’ll be coming home to a home full of energy and life, rather than one that’s cold and empty. We want to know that if we were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, our world wouldn’t be the only world that was turned upside down. We want to know that in a world full of suffering we will not suffer by ourselves. We want to know someone will be there to acknowledge that our pain is real, to hold our hand, to help us breathe through it.
I think some people want to ask about our plans for marriage because they’re shallow and nosy and they don’t know what else to talk about. But I think the majority of people want to ask us about our love life because they’re worried about us, and they don’t want to be. They want to know that we’ll be okay. They want to find a strong – albeit removed – comfort from knowing that someone else is going to look out for us. They’re afraid of being alone, and because humans are an empathetic species, they’re afraid of us being alone too. They don’t want us to wonder if anyone will notice when we stop breathing.
The marriage question is tiresome, annoying, exhausting. The concern is (mostly) genuine, innocent, tenderhearted. But not everyone gets married. Not everyone finds their person. Some people want it badly and they never find it. Others have known their whole life that romantic partnership is not for them. But whether we’ve found the person we want to spend our life with and simply have not yet gotten engaged, or we are still single and searching, or we have no desire at all to find someone and get married, we do not need to apologize for it. We owe nobody an explanation. Whether someone’s question is nosy and pushy, or innocent and caring, we are not required to give them an answer to quench their curiosity or soothe their concern.
It’s a question that’s not going to stop. It’s going to make us feel uncomfortable, stressed out, irritated, awkward, sometimes even uncertain of our own reasoning. It sucks. It would be so much easier if we didn’t feel like our marriage status was the only true source of validation people are looking for. The most we can do is just get used to the annoyance of it all, as unfair as that is, and remember that we do not need to apologize to anyone for our life situation. And to remember that, at the heart of it, under the uncomfortable prodding and poking, usually lies care, thought, support, and empathy. Even if they’re just unintentionally projecting, people simply don’t want us to be alone. If only they realized their question in and of itself proves that we are not.