dealing with nosy in-laws
There comes a time in every woman’s life when she’s obligated to go through the ritual of “meeting the family.” In most cases, a few cordial words over wine are shared and everyone becomes relatively merry. Perhaps Uncle Geoffrey is a little too enthusiastic when he leans in to pat your leg or perhaps your mother in law lingers on your short dress a little too long but overall, dinner seems to be going swimmingly. Until someone decides to asks that dreadful question.
‘So…are you getting married?’ ‘How much do you earn?’ and ‘Do you intend on having kids?’
It’s not uncommon for family members to shower you with a barrage of questions relating to life and at times, even though it may seem tactless and rude, their curiosity only stems from their love and care for their offspring. Aside from every generation’s biological drive to prosper and continue their family line, they want to confirm that their son/daughter isn’t about to wed Ted Bundy. After all, marriage isn’t quite the same as welcoming a new puppy into the family, is it?
Author Maggie O Cala describes family dynamics as a ‘possible landmine field,’ stressing the importance in acknowledging how your partner feels about his/her family before complaining about them. Oftentimes, people will feel obligated to agree with their families in order to keep a sense of tranquility, even if it means having their significant other feeling humiliated at the dining table. This can be especially true with helpless sons and their overly possessive mothers who regard their daughter-in-law’s with temporary hostility and a ‘How dare you take my son away from me!’ attitude. Oedipal complex, anyone?
Nevertheless, whether your partner’s family have little inhibitions or are just wildly inquisitive, it’s not always necessary to endure the Spanish Inquisition before the bread is served and in any case, a few of the following tips may work in your favour and save embarrassment.
1. Act aloof. Smile, laugh, look doe eyed. A woman need not answer everything honestly in order to be regarded as friendly or approachable. Simply pretending you don’t quite understand the question, may just embarrass Great Aunt Sue enough to make her stop.
2. Shift the focus. Shifting the focus from yourself may seem a little odd, but it might give your in-laws or nosy acquaintances a substantial hint that you’re uncomfortable with the question. So, the next time you’re asked whether you’re ‘thinking of having kids,’ reply with, ‘Oh, it’s funny you mention that, because a friend of mine recently had hers.’
3. Turn the question around. This is a perfect old trick for prying questions and often forces the other person into the spotlight. My personal favourite reply to ‘How old are you?’ is ‘How old do you think I am?’and while it’s not very forthcoming, you’ll be indulging the other person in a lighthearted guessing game.
4. Honesty. This is the type of tip that is universal when it comes to awkward situations. When circumnavigating, ignoring and avoiding a topic fails, politely tell the other person that you just find their question/s too personal and that you’re uncomfortable answering it at that particular moment. Furthermore, a little evasiveness will most likely prove that you have self-respect and are not willing to bend over backwards to be considered favourable.
5. Letting Go. Answer the question. Just this once.
Ultimately, if you don’t want to discuss your sex life, salary or past lovers in front of your mother-in-law, you are at complete liberty not to. Just don’t be too harsh on Uncle Geoffrey.
By Sophia Anna