Pressure point: "When are you getting engaged?"
Couples in long-term relationships, or those, ahem, of a certain age, may get pressure to seal the deal-particularly from family. Whether you've chosen not to marry for now or you're still working that out with your significant other, it's a question that can make you sigh over and over.
How to deal: You can try fobbing it off with a dose of humor, says Hannah Seligson, author of A Little Bit Married. Try: "We'll get married just as soon as society shifts its patriarchal structure." When the pressure's coming from those closest to you-like your parents-be gentler and more honest. However, that doesn't mean you have to give them the answer they want. Say, "I know you want me to be happy, but this is something Joe and I have to work out together, and it would be really helpful if you didn't ask so often." It's best to get out from under the pressure, says Seligson, "because it can be dangerous to your relationship if it distracts you from figuring out if you actually do want to get married." Sometimes, too, good-natured peer pressure from friends or family might push you to think deeper: Do you want to get married? Are you staying in the relationship even though your partner really doesn't want to wed? In that case, use the peer pressure to initiate a conversation about the topic with your significant other.
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Pressure point: "When will you have kids?"
In our current culture of oversharing and overasking, there are areas of our private lives that just don't feel very private anymore (which is another way of saying no one ever asked your grandmother when she was going to have kids). It feels incredibly intrusive, especially if you've made a private decision to remain childless, or if you are trying but have been unsuccessful conceiving.
How to deal: If you truly feel invaded by these questions, especially if they're coming from people you're not close to, deflect with an outrageous response. Seligson suggests something like "Um...in 16 months, 14 days and 9 hours." But as with marriage, babies are something your family has a different emotional stake in. So while there should still be boundaries, try to set them without being flip, says Hanks. For example, try saying to your mother, "I know you're dying to be a grandmother, but that's not the only reason to have a baby. Can you agree to stop asking, and you'll be the first person I tell?"
Photo by Nicole Hill.
Pressure point: "Now that you're pregnant, are you still going to work?"
This is a loaded and often contentious cultural issue. "Women feel all kinds of pressure from people around them, who make assumptions either way," says Hanks, and if you don't agree with those assumptions, you end up feeling judged.
How to deal: Be sure you know what you are going to do-a decision you can only make with your partner (and your checkbook!). Once you have a plan in place (with the caveat that you can always change it as circumstances change), you are better equipped to handle pressure. Often, pressure comes from other women who've made their own decision, and may want you to do what they have done. Best response in that case is to say, gently, "I know we're coming from different places on this subject, and there's no right or wrong choice. This is what we've decided."
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Pressure point: "When will you buy a home?"
This one usually comes from parents and in-laws, and it can feel pushy because it gets at two things you may prefer to keep private: how much money you two have, and where you prefer to live.
How to deal: Try turning the question around, especially if it comes from parents. Hanks suggests that you "reflect back what you think you hear the person saying, like, 'Mom, it sounds like you're really excited about us possibly getting a house because you want us to have a nice life.'" Hanks adds that "asking questions helps you see where your parents are coming from."
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Pressure point: "Where are you spending the holidays?"
This is already a huge source of conflict between many couples; adding pressure from families on top of that can turn any fun holiday into a miserable grind.
How to deal: This is, ideally, something you should hash out between the two of you before your wedding day because "once you're married, that's your main family," says Hanks. Your aim is to try to please that person/family first, then take your families-of-origin into consideration. If your parents or in-laws push back against your plans, "use the turn-the-conversation-around method," says Hanks. Say, "Mom, I know you're going to miss me. It makes me feel good to know you care that much, and I'll miss you, too." What you're doing, and should try to do with all of these peer-pressure moments, is acknowledging the emotional message underneath the pressure.
Photo by SW Productions.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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