I have a boyfriend, but still live with my parents and siblings. We've been dating for 8 months.

It seems that every time I have a spare moment with my significant other (SO) not present, someone's bound to ask me why

Why are/were you not with [boyfriend] right now/tomorrow/next weekend/yesterday?

Sometimes even adding the question if we're having a fight.

This question comes from my parents, siblings, one further family member and some friends. It creates the impression with me that I either have to be at work or with my boyfriend or otherwise have a really good reason why I'm doing something else (if I do give a reason as an answer, I can even expect some arguing about it). It annoys me.

I have explained to my parents and siblings that I don't want to have to justify myself for this every time and they answered: "You don't have to justify yourself, of course not." and then continued the question each following time. So I respond each time with that I don't want to justify myself. This gets them upset: "We're just interested in your life!" / "We just want to know if you're having a fight!"

My goal is to have a way to make these questions stop and/or deflect them as fast as possible without giving any reasons. Preferably this should not create bad feelings for anyone.

Note that I don't want to give any reason, even if there is one they'd understand, because if my SO and I ever really would be in a fight, I'd like to resolve it between us without nosy people interfering.

This is not a "why are you bothering me", as at other times they express the desire to spend more time with me. This is also not a "why haven't you moved out yet", since we're planning on that and they know the timeframe, which is pretty soon.

  • Does he get on well with your family? Is it possible he mentioned to your family he would like to see you more often, and that they are trying to prod you that way? – Nick Cardoso Dec 5 '17 at 15:03
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    sorry for being negative, but do they like him? are they asking because they are not sure you should move in with him and are half hoping there was a fight? perhaps you should just ask directly why they keep asking you that. – inarilo Dec 6 '17 at 8:50

17 Answers 17

up vote 38 down vote accepted

What irritates me about the answers given so far is that they imply there is an answer or reason worth putting into words, like life balance, planned breathing room, other engagements and so on.

But the whole point of the OP as I understand her or him is that the question is painting an issue where there isn't one: no fight, no planned distance, no explicit scheduling for the purpose of personal development.

It seems to me that both the most accurate and in the long run probably most conducive answer is:

No reason.

Whenever you answer with some explanation, you ascribe a meaning to the question/answer that will encourage checking again and again. Actually not just for the person asking, but also for yourself: once you work out a reason fit for telling, you feel compelled to act consistent with that reason, and you feel compelled to ascribe a meaning to any change of that reason and/or the behavior.

In short: you are made to play their game, thinking in their categories, and self-justifying your behavior in their categories. That's a trap one is better off without since it makes being together with someone wired differently than your family strenuous and a constant source of reevaluation.

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    You seem to have understood my point well. There really is no reason. I guess I needed to hear from someone else that that's possible before being able to consider it as an answer to their question. – Hekx Dec 3 '17 at 19:56
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    "no reason" I love it! – Dan Anderson Dec 4 '17 at 18:26
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    This and Joshua's "Should I be?" are perfect verbal shrugs to deflate the importance of the offending question. Sort of a you're-reading-too-much-into-this answer. – OhBeWise Dec 4 '17 at 18:52
  • @OhBeWise - I had basically the same idea, answering the literal question in a way that deflates the point, because the question doesn't make sense - though I'd go with "because I'm here" as an answer to why you're not with him (or "because he's there" for the reverse), just because it has a sense of you-should-know-that. – Megha Dec 12 '17 at 22:34
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    @Megha I had the same thought. Literally shrug, then put an arm around them and shoot a gentle smile, saying, "because I'm here with you, of course!" – OhBeWise Dec 13 '17 at 14:58

Bit left field but this happened to me recently and I just kind of laughed and shouted:

"Because I'm a strong independent woman who don't need no man!"

Edit: in response to Vality's comment, the above expression is a pop culture meme, so you don't need to be a woman (or dating a man) to say it. Although, in that case it would depend more on the humour and temperament of the asker (possibly their age as well, but they still might get the joke even without knowing the meme). This is just what worked for me.

It served the purpose of:

  • Being humorous, thus reducing any tension or awkwardness
  • Expressing in a non-confrontational way that I thought the question was silly and that I didn't feel the need to seriously justify myself.
  • Although it's a joke, it still explains my view pretty well, ie. that my boyfriend and I don't need to be around each other 24/7 and that we live fairly independent lives.
  • In addition to that, it focuses on me. So whoever's asking doesn't think this is a situation I'm unhappy with, being forced into, or that something is wrong in the relationship. I simply chose not to hang out with him today.
  • Dismissive enough that it puts a stop to that line of questioning (at least on this occasion). Repeat the exact line every subsequent time you're asked (perhaps growing slower and more emphasised each time!) and they will soon get the idea.

I guess the downfall might be that they might take you somewhat seriously and imagine that you've gone and broken up with your boyfriend. (I said the above statement after it had already been made clear from the conversation that we were still happily together.) If that's likely, something more like "Because I'm a strong independent woman who doesn't need to spend every waking moment with her man!" would do nicely.

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    +! because this works both ways. I don't constantly feel the need to hover near my girlfriend, and although there are times when I specifically want to be near her, there are other times where we're both in the mindset of "Go away, I don't want to be near you right now" when we're not fighting. – Anoplexian Dec 4 '17 at 15:38
  • I struggled with this from a male point of view, I am glad this worked for you! This didn't work for me. Ultimately my parents ended up putting so much stress on the situation that it just crumbled before it had a chance to grow. There are many other outside factors but this type of situation definitely added to it. – ggiaquin16 Dec 4 '17 at 17:47
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    @ggiaquin Do you mean you've struggled with the same situation as OP, or with this answer specifically? As I've mentioned in my edit, I did not intend this answer to be gendered, but perhaps your comment is a good caveat that gender may indeed play a role in some cases. – sudowoodo Dec 4 '17 at 20:40
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    @Vality Sorry I happen to know that sudo is a female from another SE! Sudo, I meant that from a male's perspective, I have been in this situation as the OP described and I have tried to use a similarly worded statement to my parents which ultimately did not work but as I clarified, my situation had a lot of other issues to add to it's collapse. – ggiaquin16 Dec 4 '17 at 21:48

Well, you can always tell the truth:

"It's none of your business." or "It's private."

Another option, which is also the truth, would be to explain that in a good relationship, each partner must give the other some space to do what they want, which makes the time they spend together more enjoyable. For example, if you enjoy reading, and he enjoys playing drums, doing both together in the same room would probably not be a good idea.

For example I enjoy cycling and MTB, while my GF does not. Simple, right?

So you could turn the question around and ask "why is your husband/wife/boy/girlfriend not there?" and let them figure it out. I think this one would be the best.

You can also answer a completely different question, and describe what you're currently doing. If you are reading a book, you can say "I really enjoy this book. We're not joined at the hip you know."

If this does not work, and they keep picking your brains, you can just nuke it and pick one of the following at random:

  • Which boyfriend?
  • He's been abducted by aliens.
  • I need time to think about my pregnancy.
  • He's with his other girlfriend. We have threesomes every tuesday night.
  • We had a fight about my girlfriend.
  • Etcetera, season to taste.

After the reaction, add "Well you asked" then, optionally "just kidding."

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    Turning the question around seems to be the best option when the asker is a) not single and b)their SO is not present at the moment. I'll keep it in mind for when it is applicable. I also like your other tactics. – Hekx Dec 3 '17 at 10:07
  • Hmm, shouldn't this answer be split into at least two separate answers so that they can be voted on independently? – Ooker Dec 5 '17 at 15:05
  • If the person likes to joke, another thing that can be said is something like: "Oh, we broke up, but we'll be getting back together again soon. The culture thinks that we must be at each others' sides all the time if we're dating, so we have to break up when we're not together." – Alex Cannon Jun 12 at 17:54

A good response might be

Should I be?

This is a friendly but firm way to let people know you think they're incorrect in expecting you two to always be together, and it gives them a chance to explain why they think you should be with your boyfriend at a particular time. Once you understand that, it will be easier to determine a more specific and correct response.

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    That mostly seems like a rhetorical question. Note that it's a yes/no question, so it doesn't seem particularly reasonable to expect an explanation as an answer (unless you meant "why should I be"), nor does the explanation seem like it would be anything other than "because he's your boyfriend and you should want to spend your / this time with him", which you can just address directly without first asking this question (if you really want to discuss it and not just deflect). – NotThatGuy Dec 5 '17 at 8:54
  • I'd amend that to, Why should I be. Not a question; a statement. – Suncat2000 Dec 5 '17 at 17:34
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    @NotThatGuy, I think this question (or "why should I be?") is a less confrontational way to say "I don't agree with your apparent supposition that I should always be with my boyfriend" and leaves more space for discussion afterwards. – Joshua Dec 5 '17 at 18:33
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    And also, though "Should I be?" is a yes/no question, the idea is to point out to people that the supposition that she should always be with her boyfriend is an incorrect one, and then give people room to retract from their earlier statement with, perhaps, additional commentary that is not demanded by the question but still prompted by it. – Joshua Dec 5 '17 at 18:35

I think

Because we honestly enjoy life better when we trust each other with some autonomy.

should shut down the conversation, since denying it would likely involve denying (a) that you trust each other, or (b) that you are enjoying your life better this way, both of which are ridiculous.
Make sure to say "life" instead of "lives" to get across that you're not living disjoint lives.

Note that this would probably work better on friends than on family.

One thing you can do for the people who have already established the pattern of asking this question is shorten the conversation:

They: Why are/were you not with [boyfriend] right now/tomorrow/next weekend/yesterday?

You: No, we're not breaking up, thank you for asking.

For people who haven't "established" their "right" to ask invasive questions yet, questioning their question is a way to point out how inappropriate it is.

They: Why are/were you not with [boyfriend] right now/tomorrow/next weekend/yesterday?

You: What?

They: Why are/were you not with [boyfriend] right now/tomorrow/next weekend/yesterday?

You: Why would you even ask something like that?

And from here they either drop it, or you have a short conversation where you both figure out that you have different ideas of how relationships work, which is perfectly fine. An important point is that you're not answering the question, so if they ask again in the future you can just say "We've been over this."

My advice for situations like this would be to try some allusive humour. This applies in many generic situations where you don't like the question.

What you definitely don't want to do is:

  • Answer the question properly
  • Look annoyed about it

Instead tell them you've killed him and you could do with help moving the body. Tell them you you've dumped him because he kept asking questions. Tell them he dumped you because your parents are weirdos

If they ask again say it even more genuinely and go into more detail. E.g lets say you go with the first brush off. They retort with "No, seriously. Why aren't you with him?".

Then you say "I'm being serious! I'm digging his grave later on this evening and could really do with an extra pair of hands". Wink, smile and walk off.

  • I was thinking the same thing. If they haven't gotten the hint by now, I would definitely resort to sarcasm. "He's got ebola and is in quarantine for a week." – Kevin Dec 4 '17 at 0:33
  • Humor's good, but I don't think joking about murder (domestic violence too) is in good taste. You'll probably end up talking to the police more than you'd prefer. And it's just not funny, get some new material before hitting the stage. – Xen2050 Dec 4 '17 at 17:45

As long as you are living at home I think you can expect some degree of your parent's involvement/interest in what's going on in your life. That's just the way parents are.

It may be that they are just trying to find a way to connect with you and learn about how you are doing in general, or get a conversation started with you. Realistically I don't think you are going to be able to get them to stop doing that altogether.

With regards to them asking you this specific question, I have found that when someone is doing something that bothers me, I will generally sit them down, make eye contact with them (this part is crucial), and tell them both respectfully and bluntly that I don't like what they're doing and that I would appreciate it if they would stop. As textbook/therapyish as this is I've found it to work quite well. It may be that you haven't expressed the DEGREE to which it annoys you, and this will make that very clear.

You can also say that you learned in school that when two people fail to maintain their own independent lives in a relationship it is called codependence and can be extremely toxic, and so you will occasionally have to work on maintaining other aspects of your life.

If none of this works I would just come up with a canned response to give when it comes up and try to force the perspective that you are very fortunate to have parents and friends that care about you and are interested in what's going on in your life.

P.S. At least you're not being asked "when are you going to find a boy/girlfriend", as growing up I got that one incessantly, and it was quite humiliating ;)

  • What I got from this answer is to steer the conversation to something in my life I'd like to talk about. ("you can expect some degree of interest in what's going on in your life") I'll continue the conversation in this manner after the answer to their original question. Thank you for clarifying the askers point of view more for me. – Hekx Dec 3 '17 at 10:10
  • @Hekx Sure. Sometimes that's called controlling the "frame" of a conversation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(social_sciences) . That sounds like a good approach. – David Reed Dec 3 '17 at 14:21
  • Better get prepared for future questions: "When are you two getting married?" – joeytwiddle Dec 3 '17 at 14:57
  • @Hekx I don't know that they'll go so far as to ask you that. But he's correct in that you should bear in mind that if they ultimately get the desired outcome from asking this question, they may be prone to ask it more. – David Reed Dec 3 '17 at 15:03

This sounds like an XY. What they really want to know is is your relationship in trouble? The best answer there is to just say "we're going to see each other again tomorrow" (or whenever). If they make it into an XYZ (wanting their original question answered nonetheless) just say "its not just about us -- it's also about me, and right now it's about me". Then turn and walk away.

  • A new thought just came to me -- perhaps one person is driving this all. When someone asks "why aren't you with....", ask who requested you to ask that? Whatever their answer is, go to that person and ask them, "who requested you to request that {person who asked you} ask me that? Follow it back as far as you can. There's a possibility that it all leads back to one person. Then have a talk with them -- why do want to know? Why is that important to you? What are you hoping to accomplish? That sort of thing. – Jennifer 442 Dec 4 '17 at 13:59
  • Your comment sounds like a conspiracy theory to me, Jennifer... I'm pretty sure my family does not gossip behind my back and agree to ask this. It's just what comes up in their head first when they hear I'm not with my SO. – Hekx Dec 4 '17 at 21:02
  • This whole interaction seems to be untypical. I have never heard of anyone being asked "why aren't you with ..." at all, let alone consistently and repeatedly. This makes it seem like one person is behind it all. – Jennifer 442 Dec 6 '17 at 6:36

You are probably too considerate for their feelings, since they are not for yours. What I can tell you from my experience, since they already poke their nose where it doesn't belong, that it will get worse.

After being in relationship for some time, there will be questions when are you getting engaged.

After being engaged for some time, there will be questions when are you getting married.

After being married, there will be questions when you will have kids.

After having a kid, there will be questions when will be next one, as one is not enough. Like immediately, we are holding a baby, and mother asked when there is next one. Right now I am sorry I have not kicked her butt that moment.

It just never ends. Don't send them a message that it's ok to press their view on you. I felt pressure from parents, even being a guy who is not burdened by those relationship stuff. They live their life, you live yours. If you ask me, peufeu's answer is the best.

I'd hit the central point with a bold

Because "love relationship" - where trust and respect are core values - does not mean "wearing a dog collar"; were's the bad in having some (and I'd like to stress the word some) spare time alone?

Try understanding why are they asking the question. So the most straightforward way is to ask:

Why should I?

In this way you turn the tables on them, and now it's up to them to explain what they had in mind.

It's quite an aggressive move, because you're openly questioning their motives and perhaps genuine care about health of your relationship. So you need to expect aggressive answer (or yet another question), likely questioning you getting your life right. The key is that at this point you have to deescalate and simply explain that you spend enough time with your boyfriend and your relationship is healthy despite not being with him right now.

It may boil down to differences in life views, eg. "If I was in your place, I'd want to spend every minute with my boyfriend" or maybe even them viewing their own past through pink glasses. But keep in mind that your life is yours and remind this to others if they need such reminder.

Spring-boarding my answer off some good answers here, I'm going to start to answer this one by suggesting some more motives for people asking you about your relationship.

Your family is probably basing their queries off their own experience or what they expect people to do. When people think "young love", they expect the couple to be constantly hanging onto each other. Whether that is factually accurate or not is part of your issue.

If you already spend a lot of time with your boyfriend, then "surprise" them by showing up one night without him, they may be thinking there's a problem even if there isn't.

On the other hand, if you don't spend much time with your boyfriend, they may truly wonder "why not?" This goes into the casual vs. formal relationship question as posed by a comment above.

Families tend to like to help members with their love lives, so, please, try to take these questions as a version of "I love you and want you to be happy", with a side of "How can I help you be happy?"

Answering your family's questions flippantly can cause problems, such as pushing them away, so only use that kind of response if you feel it won't cause problems.

Trying to evade this type of questioning generally only prompts more questions, or fights, effectively having the opposite effect of what you want.

Try to answer sincerely and truthfully. This usually is the best type of answer, to any question. Answering the same question repeated may be annoying, but this may be a good type of annoying, where people genuinely want to help.

I know this isn't exactly what you wanted to hear, but it's the answer I have to give.

  • +1 for making me think more about the askers perspective, which is a technique generally needed to solve most interpersonal problems (at least, I think it is). This probably boils down to the "no reason"-answer given by user9790, as that would be the sincere answer most of the time. – Hekx Dec 4 '17 at 20:56

If this were me, I would reply in a light-heartedly, upbeat way:

Oh yes!, Because Reasons. *Nod*

And leave it at that.

Make sure you use the word because (it magically makes people want to accept what you said) & keep the reply upbeat; so that they don't project bad scenarios into it.

Then follow up if needed with:

Why do you ask?

Because they may be:

  1. Worried about the health of your relationship
  2. Want to live out young love veraciously through you.
  3. Hoping you go out, so they can <censored>
  4. Something else.

It is up to you to judge if you want to act on what they say.

So for 1 & 2 leave it at that (or one of the other answers here)

For 3 maybe you should go hang or go out by yourself for a while; so your folks can <censored> <censored> and <censored> while <censored>

A lot of these answers seem to me to reinforce any preconception that there's an underlying problem in your relationship. Personally, I'd just opt for a lighter non-answer like

Oh, he's at home

or

He had his own plans

or

This isn't really his thing

If you want to address it head on, I'd opt for something like

Because I'm with you guys right now

You can follow that up with something like

I'm not going to be one of those people who drags her boyfriend everywhere or starts shunning my other friends in favour of my relationship.

That answers the question and makes it clear that there isn't an issue in your relationship.

I found sudowoodo's answer a bit defensive and oppositional, although I can get where she's coming from. I would go for something that doesn't put gender politics into it (but maybe that's because I'm a man). So I'd prefer something like

Because we both have lives and interests of our own.

That said, I can't say I've ever had your experience. I have to ask my wife if she's encountered that.

You specified you wanted to shut down the conversation. If you find yourself willing to teach your interrogator, I'd go with

Why do you ask?

I know I'd like to know.

My answer is different than the rest: Be silent. Ignore the question completely. Pointedly keep ignoring it until the person asking gets angry or walks away embarrassed. And if they get angry, ask calmly:

"Why do you need to know? Everything is good with our relationship, he is doing his thing I am not interested with, we are connected via phone. I am not going to lie to him by feigning interest in something I am not. Lying is not conductive to healthy relationship, you know. Why, do you want to get rid of me? Am I in the way? Am I bothering you somehow?"

The questions will stop soon after. The other way is to give waaaay too much information and embarrass them. Or threaten with giving them too much information. "He needs to rest today. Last night, sex was amazing! What he did to me, you wouldn't believe it! First he..."

They are gross by asking for too much, you can be gross by offering to answer too much.

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