Answering the "Do You Have a Family?" Question
- Thursday, April 26, 2012
EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: The question that stumps me is when people (often clients) at work ask when we talk about [holiday] plans is "do you have a family?" Since I am single and do not have children, I feel like I should say “no” (and it hurts too much to say “no”). But in my heart I can't. I have a wonderful family, am close to siblings, have many chosen family members, nieces and nephews—but that takes too long to explain. So . . . how do you suggest we answer the question "do you have a family?"
HE SAID: No matter how terrific our friends and family, what we have accomplished in our life or how we have adapted to our (lack of) marital status, that question—“Do you have a family?” (based on the condition of our heart at that instant)—always seems to touch the nerve many of us have tried to suppress or deaden over the years.
Dependent upon the individual asking, the length of the relationship I have with them and how I am feeling at the time, often affects the way I answer that “simple” question. Unless it is a close discriminating friend in a private conversation, a long, detailed, heart-felt explanation is neither required nor appropriate in a work setting, especially to a client.
For the most part, I have learned to just take it all in stride and plainly receive it as a cordial, curious, non-threatening inquiry, usually responding with a short comment and reciprocating question.
A simple reply like, “Hopefully someday, how about you?” or “Yes and no—I don’t have one of my own, but I have many family members to spend it with, what are your plans?” normally suffice.
When I’m in a “punchy” mood and have a more “expectant” state of mind, I will sometimes respond in a lighter tone, “No, just looking,” or “No, do you have one in mind?”
Whatever the case, the person asking is not the adversary and (more often than not) means no harm, nor even realizes he is touching a nerve. Therefore, there is no need to respond with twenty years of pent up anger against the opposite sex or an emotional breakdown requiring a straight-jacket.
Most people can empathize with where we are and just want what they think is the best for us.
Questions like these remind me of the blessings I have been given in the form of friends and their families whom I have graciously been invited to be a part of.
SHE SAID: I love that you asked this question about this oft-asked question. So thank you for bringing it to the fore for some discussion!
People ask me questions that stump me as well. It’s usually “Why are you single?” . . . which you’d think I’d be able to answer quite easily and succinctly given the fact that I’ve been single for quite a long time now. But as I’ve aged, I guess I just don’t expect to be asked this question any longer, just as I’m sure married folk don’t expect to be continually asked, “Why are you married?”
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