113

Frequently I'll have my friends and family tease me, or ask questions about when my girlfriend and I are going to get married. Sometimes, they'll even make these kinds of jokes to me while she's around, which is very uncomfortable and awkward. (I have talked with her about it, and she finds it uncomfortable too)

In my opinion, asking a question like this is extremely inappropriate because it puts us in an uncomfortable position without a good answer regardless of how our relationship is doing currently.

For example, if everything was going great, and we were planning on getting married soon, this question is inappropriate because we haven't publicly announced that we're getting married, and it's none of their business. Or if we were going through a rough time, or had no plans of ever getting married, it's still inappropriate because it assumes that marriage is something we both want to pursue. (Note that I'm not directly saying either way where we're at because I think it's inappropriate regardless) I also think this question is very inappropriate because we are both pretty young and have not been dating for very long.

So I dislike this question because

  1. It's uncomfortable.
  2. It's making assumptions about us and our relationship/plans for the future.
  3. I feel like there's no good answer, and
  4. it indirectly puts pressure on us to get married sooner.

If and when we ever do get married has nothing to do with anyone else, so no one else should be putting pressure on us to conform to their expectations.

So how can I respond in a way that

  • Doesn't directly state anything about whether or not we are going to get married (saying We'll definitely be married by such and such date or We're not ever going to married both seem like bad options),

  • Makes it clear that it's none of their business, and that I find the question uncomfortable, and

  • Isn't lashing out or overreacting at them for making a harmless joke?

We live in the United States.

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    Comments are not the place to write answers. I've already deleted about ten comment answers. If you really like your answer, write one and explain why it's a good option. – Catija Aug 17 '17 at 12:52
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    "I was planning on proposing tonight, but thanks for ruining that surprise. Maybe in a few years." – user3306 Nov 30 '17 at 17:44
  • How serious are they when they ask these questions? When I was not yet married to my wife, I'd get questions that run the gamut of 'gentle teasing' to 'you'd better marry my daughter already' - and the answer you give strongly depends upon who and how serious they are about the question. – Zibbobz Apr 19 '18 at 16:50
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    @Zibbobz Well, if 1 is gentle teasing and 10 is you'd better marry my daughter already, then I've heard everything between 1 and 7. – DJMcMayhem Apr 19 '18 at 16:54
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a phrasing request and those kind of question are no longer accepted by the community. – Ælis Oct 31 '18 at 6:24

17 Answers 17

73

Welcome to the world of adults and the responsibilities of forming adult relationships. Your relationship status is not just your concern; you are part of broader communities which included society in general, broad circles of friends, your close friends, your intimate friends, broader family, and close family. All of these circles feel the effect of your relationship status, and your closest friends and family have a fair amount invested in your happiness and well being. You are going to have sex, be intimate, and act as a pair you need to be able to handle questions and situations that fall into the norm of expected participation, behaviors and responsibilities.

That said, you obviously are not communicating enough with your girlfriend to work out standard answers to these inquiries. You need to have a united front and consistent responses. Also, if your relationship evolves and grows, or becomes more casual, you should coordinate your stories.

Perhaps, your embarrassment and defensiveness are because you just don't know. The only solution is that more talking between the two of you. It is okay not to know where it is going but you should agree on where you have been and where you are. Then come up with humorous responses and serious responses as a fallback if you are pressed. Just be honest with yourselves, and the other stuff will be easier. Your family has a biological and familial interest in pressing you on this especially if you have been together for awhile (6+ months). You intimate and close friends are directly affected by your relationship status. You must be good enough together that people are emboldened to ask you if you're getting married.

Finally, if you are not ready to get married just say that. If you are too young use that as a reason too. Telling people you don't know is a cop out and will not reduce the gossip and conjecture that is obviously going on around you. Marriage is a serious step, and you should not think otherwise, and your friends and family do deserve straight answers. It is the price you pay for being an adult.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Nov 17 '17 at 19:55
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    -1 for endorsing rude behavior. I can't think of a time where the "So, when are you getting married? comment" was said to me in earnest; it is almost always teasing. People are often sensitive to that sort of question similar to "So, are you ever going to lose some weight?" Poking at insecurities is rude and you ought not endorse it. – BlackThorn Feb 2 '18 at 17:36
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    -1 for endorsing rude behavior and for being as inappropriate as the people who make such questions. "Your friends and family deserve straight answers" no, they don't, they deserve respect and all but no one deserves to know any personal detail about anyone else. To start with, assuming that every couple will or should get married is rude and incorrect, and asking couples about it is always intrusive and inappropriate. – user9858 Mar 15 '18 at 21:54
69

When this happened to me, I just said (my girlfriend and I had already talked about it, so we knew what we wanted to say, and how):

we're way too young and have a looong list of things to do before we can talk about that! We first need to settle down, secure a nice job, make a good living, and then, we'll see... If it's time for it (get married), we'll let you know, don't worry about that :)

This way, you deflect by setting a long time frame plus some little "details" like job and home. That means also a lot more time before we can talk about it.

The we'll let you know part was usually understood as a I'm the one that will decide what to say and when, and I don't really want to talk about that anymore, thanks, but in a polite way.

We were left alone and never bothered with that question again after that. Adapt the tone of the voice to who you're talking to, but for us, it worked with family (both sides), friends, and at the workplace.

No matter what you decide, wish you to be happy :)

44

Have you tried making a joke such as,

"Never - we plan on living in sin forever."

or

"Until just after our first child."

or even

"Until people stop asking..."

and then when they look shocked, tell them you were only joking :-)

Doing this would obviously require you and your SO to be secure and comfortable with each other, and having a similar sense of humour. If not, perhaps avoid comedy.

More realistically, you could simply say there is no rush. Their preconceived ideas about this are not yours. Be happy knowing that you will do it when/if you both want to. It is no-one else's business.

Or you could go down the really cynical route and point out just how many divorces there are among couples who rush into marriage (these stats are scary, no matter which country, culture or age group you look at.)

Example over on Skeptics:

2002 US data from the Center for Disease Control, says Divorce is more likely when women marry at a younger age (48% of brides married before age 18 divorce in 10 years, compared to 24% married at age 25 or later)

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    I like the idea of making a joke to respond. However, when the question comes from a more religiously conservative friend, those particular jokes would go over very poorly. But I like the idea still! – DJMcMayhem Aug 17 '17 at 14:17
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Aug 19 '17 at 2:50
  • Everybody likes statistics – Abhishek Ekaanth Mar 19 '18 at 6:44
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Why do you ask?

This is straightforward deflection. Or, simply go with:

I'd rather not say.

Because it's also a polite alternative to "none of your business"

That's a personal (or private) matter.

"That's a private matter" defuses the situation without causing offense.

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    There is also simply ignoring inappropriate questions, and carrying on talking about something else. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 28 '17 at 3:37
22

A classic technique of deflection without confrontation is to respond to a question with a question. Try using a minor chuckle and a warm tone, as if you're making a connection, not pushing back. If this is an older, married relative or friend, you might say:

Gosh. Did you like it when people asked you that?

If it's an unmarried person, of course, you can set that in the present tense.

19

As Scott pointed out, this could well just be teasing. They're probably not expecting an answer, just simultaneously making you a little uncomfortable (in a way that may be friendly within the culture) and expressing approval of your relationship.

If it seems like this might be the case, try recognising it for the compliment it is. Whatever these people know about you, they're saying that they think you and your girlfriend seem good for each other.

Then, react as appropriate when being teased by friends; give them a little laugh and talk about something else.

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    I do like the They're probably just making you a little uncomfortable and expressing approval or your relationship. That's generally the vibe I've gotten. – DJMcMayhem Aug 17 '17 at 14:15
  • Wait, wait, what is the appropriate way to respond to teasing? – Ramon Martinez Oct 10 '17 at 15:36
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    If its teasing, then "When are you going to lose weight?" seems like a perfectly reasonable response. – T.E.D. Oct 20 '17 at 13:16
10

You're right to feel that it's uncomfortable and inappropriate. Since you describe the people asking as friends and family, you definitely want a soft answer that acknowledges their asking out of affection.

For example, you could say "Definitely not before you've received an invitation," or "Don't worry we would definitely let you know right away."

10

When I asked a former boss when I would get a raise, he always replied, "Some day, just not today."

You're dealing with a social "raise," rather than a monetary raise, but the principle is the same.

It's a polite way of putting off people. You're not ruling it out, you're not committing to anything either, and in roundabout way, you're saying "what will be, will be."

  • This does still imply that they will eventually want to get married. (Other than that, I think it's a good answer.) – Erik Aug 17 '17 at 8:00
  • @Erik Seems like a question for the OP, not the answerer. – user2921 Aug 17 '17 at 13:52
  • @Physics-Compute the OP has stated that it shouldn't matter whether or not those involved ever want to get married, since they consider it rude either way. – Erik Aug 17 '17 at 13:54
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    @Erik: "Someday" could even be "the day after never." – Tom Au Aug 17 '17 at 14:28
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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – user58 Mar 14 '18 at 21:09
7

My partner and I always stuck with the line

When we are ready

This acknowledges the question we've been asked, does not commit to a date and does not imply never.

When we're ready could be next month, in 5 years time or even never - we may have never been ready for marriage. It lets the asker know that it has been discussed and needs to be discussed further between yourselves before you could possibly "bring anybody else in". The we is the key part as it lets them know that it is a mutual decision.

6

Note, the people doing it are almost certainly aware that it makes you uncomfortable. They are teasing you (in a friendly way), and just want to watch you squirm. The effect is maximised if the person's partner, parents etc are present.

The more you squirm, the more they will tease.

Suggested answers (depending on the person asking).

If they are single, or in a relationship but not engaged: "Throw the bouquet towards me/my girlfriend at your wedding and we'll see", or "I dunno, those wedding rings you were looking at the other day were expensive" - followed by feigning an embarrassed glance at their partner as if you've given away the person's secret.

If they are married, but don't have kids. "I'll propose at your baby shower/when you make us Godparents"

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    Careful on some of those, especially the last one - they might do it. – WBT Aug 17 '17 at 5:53
  • While the initial point is correct and turning the question about highlights that they are intruding in personal matters, the suggested answers are more likely to make the situation more awkward than to defuse the situation. You have no idea what plans or struggles they may be having, and it would be easy to inadvertently intrude far more than they're doing. What if they really had been ring shopping and you spoiled the surprise? Were about to break up / divorce? Wanted to have kids but were infertile? Other answers have better ways to deflect the intrusion without attacking in return. – brichins Oct 10 '17 at 20:27
5

As an (Eastern) European, I thought that adding a somewhat different perspective might be potentially useful.

From my perspective, this is may be a very serious offence.

Whenever someone tries to invade my private space, I first try to ask myself if that person really understands what is he/she doing.

In most cases they don't, so, in my opinion, the best way is to very slowly and clearly state something along the lines of: "Excuse me, but I consider this a private matter, please don't ask such questions in the future" <- it sounds very formal, and this is intentional. It makes people feel they are way out of line without actually hurting them the way open anger/sarcasm would.

On the other hand, in (rare) case of people who should know (because, for example, You informed them previously on this or similar matter) that they are crossing a line, I think that controlled cold outrage is the most justified reaction.
I stress controlled-cold, expressed preferably in situation when no one can overhear You (taking this person immediately into a different room is preferable), in half the usual volume of Your voice, cold intonation, very clear pronunciation and maintaining 100% direct eye to eye contact.
You want to control Your choice of words in order to be perfectly clear and stay on completely objective grounds. Be excessively polite.
The objective is to state in no uncertain terms that such behaviour will not be tolerated and repeating this again will lead to a major conflict, but it has not - yet. It is always advisable to state very clearly and precisely what You consider a no-go ground and observe carefully in the future if the offender is actively trying to accommodate Your demands and be nice/not nice accordingly - particularly, expressing Your gratitude to people who try to understand and play nice with You is always a good idea. Carrots are better than sticks with most humans.

In general private space is that, private. In my eyes intentional violations of that space are an extremely grave offence. There is a reason why, for example, taking pictures of people without their consent is not just rude, it's actually punishable by law in some EU countries.

Having said that, this particular question is typically dictated by positive attitude and feelings to You, and in general its a bad idea to make people feel bad for caring about You - thus, the option 1.

On the other hand if some people just refuse to understand, then You have to make them. Its always better to do this sooner rather than later, because the more You allow such people to stick their nose into Your life, the more they will push forward, and in extreme cases (which I have witnessed myself, unfortunately) this can lead to serious pathologies - especially when kids come into play.

In general, in life, any problem is better solved earlier rather than later. Finally, as some other answers noted, You should coordinate with Your girlfriend so that You both present a united front - generally talking about everything important is, well, important in a relationship :)

5

You are right. It is an inappropriate question. Similar to the "When will you start on kids?" question.

You can talk to the family members and friends asking the question one on one (without your partner) and tell them that it makes you and your partner uncomfortable, and that you are just not interested in making that step right now. You dislike the pressure it puts on your relationship and would like them to stop asking the question. If they object or see it as a chance to bring it up again, you repeat that you are not interested or thinking about it right now.

When someone asks you the question when you are in company, you can curtly say you (both) are not interested in marriage right now and change the subject to something else that occupies your time and attention at the moment. Take a minute right now and come up with some positive subjects (a project at work, an upcoming vacation, a new hobby/interest, ...). Try to find something that not includes your partner to take the spotlight off of you both as a couple even more. It's important that you have something to say after you tell them off, so as not to make things awkward. So again, prepare something to say. Bonus about this tactic, you don't need to discuss it with your partner and talk about "the question" again.

  • I wouldn't say anything about being uncomfortable (anything that they can argue about), just say "this question is inappropriate". It tells them that the question is inappropriate, and makes it clear that no answer will be forthcoming. – gnasher729 Mar 15 '18 at 0:55
5

Note: this assumes that you are in an culture where these things are not a "fundamental" or even religious issue. Ignore this answer if this is not the case.

Humour, light-weight, ease

Above and beyond all else, use humour. The trick to good humour is that it must not be artificial. I won't give you concrete lines to say. But I remember one thing in my own distant past, when I was together with my later wife for a few weeks... When people were asking us what we were up to ("wink wink..."), we explained, very earnestly, that we are right now busy finding children names, how difficult that is, and so on. That put a good shock on everyones face, and we left it at that (no, there were no children coming or planned at that time, just yet).

Another example would be: when the next person asks you such a thing, look each other in the eyes dreamily and start hugging or whatever is just appropriate in your culture (kissing would maybe be too much, who knows). Whatever kind of body language you can do. People will be flustered enough so that it will turn a non-issue.

These are really just examples to draw a picture. Use the occasion to demonstrate extreme "togetherness", that you are "an item". Avoid any unhappyness whatsoever.

But how?

we are both pretty young and have not been dating for very long

There you have it. You are both pretty young, period. High time to learn about the constant nagging and yanking-of-chains going up in the adult world. Learn to roll with it. It's on the one hand more civilized than what would be usual amongst adolescents (not so outwardly cruel), but can on the other hand be very bothersome. It is the same as the adolescent version in that if it works on you, people tend to do it more.

It helps if the two of you are clearly in the same boat in this. Try to frame the issue in a more light tone for yourselves (in private), to achieve the goal of being able to handle it in a humours way.

Before this eternal argument comes up: I am not suggesting to solve the problem by bending yourself only; but mentally reframing something does help a lot to make your reactions (examples see previous section) more easily and naturally - and generally in a more genuine way. Which in turn is a prerequisite to make it actually work.

No sarcasm/irony

I would strongly suggest to keep everything very good-natured. Laughing is the best way to show your teeth. No sarcasm, no irony, no "hitting back" (like "we marry when you marry" or whatever). You want them to stop doing something, so you should not do it yourselves. I personally find sarcasm/irony ugly, and you surely don't want to cover your relationship (neither between you and your friend, nor your relatives) in ugliness...

  • Good points overall, though I would note that marriage is still "a fundamental or religious issue" in significant portions of American/Western culture, despite what entertainment, news, and popular media may portray. Especially to older friends / relatives. – brichins Oct 10 '17 at 20:33
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    Fair enough, @brichins, I have removed the country references as they really don't do anything in the answer. – AnoE Oct 10 '17 at 20:36
4

I would personally use some sarcasm. They might either respond to it or not, however, be sure the sarcasm is understood by those who need it otherwise they might get offended.

Or how I sometimes respond is more like:

"Actually... Somewhere in the future, might be next month or about 30 years or so ;)"

4

I have been asked this a lot and I was respectful in my answers (along the lines of other answers).It never helped and we eventually got married so these questions stopped.

Then we started to be asked at family reunions when we would have children. One day I had enough and responded loud enough for everyone to hear "this is probably because of all the oral sex". Then I went on explaining what this means for procreation in the "for dummies" version until the aunt who was constantly asking the question flew away (which I made very difficult).

Nobody ever asked the question anymore. I am not at all sorry for the ones who were offended, I would not like to speak with them anyway.

For me such questions are innapropriate, almost like bullying so a strong and bold answer is the way to go.

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    Heh. I'm gay and when people ask when my husband and I are having children, the reply is "We keep trying but can't seem to get pregnant!" Shuts 'em up fast. – user3306 Oct 10 '17 at 13:50
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Be honest. Tell them "I'm not comfortable being asked that, I'd rather you didn't", and explain why, exactly as you did here.

You can throw them a question back, but one that makes them think and see it from your shoes - "Suppose you'd known someone X weeks/months, and people kept on, how would you like that happening to you. Well, I don't and I'd like to ask you to respect that and not do it."

You are indeed entering the world of adults in a more significant sense, but the truth is - most adults are poor communicators a lot of the time. You might look for ways to communicate better than those who would suggest avoiding, answering a question with a question, telling people off, but wouldn't just level with them about what you prefer.

You might also have allies here. If you have adults you trust (parents? Others?) maybe you can ask them to have a word and get the people who are asking to lay off. I know my mum for instance would be happy to have a word on my behalf in this situation, and say quietly to someone else, that its not nice and makes you uneasy, could they have a word with [person who is asking] and ask them not to. If you have the kind of family or friends where you can do that, it can be much easier and work wonders.

0

If anyone asks me questions I consider to be personal or inappropriate I just become sarcastic and give answers which have nothing to do with the subject or seem to be nonsense, then people stop bothering me, e.g.:

Q: "Why don't you have a boyfriend / girlfriend?"

A: "I like dogs but having cats is so much more manageable -sit down and be quiet."

Q: "It's time to have children, you should hurry up!"

A: "It's time to buy a travel mouthwash, hurry up!"

and so on...

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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – user58 Mar 14 '18 at 21:57

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