February 04, 2019 at 11:35AM by CWC
Okay, let’s say you’re at a bar, harmlessly engaging in some small-talk, and all of a sudden, things feel…flirty. Or so you think. Could it be that your conversation companion is simply being friendly and that you’re reading into the situation? Regardless, you feel compelled to casually drop the detail that you’re in a relationship, just so it’s clear that you’re off the market. Well, there’s a good chance that regardless of whether or not flirting was happening, the next exchange will be the other person raising their eyebrows as if to say, Um, I wasn’t hitting on you, okay? Sheesh!
Share your “taken” relationship status too soon, and you may come across as presumptuous, having assumed the person you’re talking to is hitting on you. But waiting until you’re deep in conversation to drop the news like a bomb may seem like you were hiding the very important detail from an otherwise interested-in-you party. And the awkwardness doesn’t stop there. It can be tricky to navigate conversations that fill in your colleagues or family about personal updates. Is it even possible to be upfront without any collateral conversational damage? What if you don’t want to clue them into your personal life at all?
If anyone knows how, it’s certified clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, PhD. The How To Be Single and Happy author has helped her clients with all sorts of matters of the heart—and the often-uncomfortable accompanying conversations. Here, she gives her best advice for each situation.
If you’re chatting up someone you just met
Welp, some blows just can’t be softened—and this is a situation when you just might need to brace yourself for a hearty dose of awkwardness. “Instead of worrying about preventing a social faux pas, just be okay with knowing that the interaction may not be perfect,” Dr. Taitz says. “Part of being honest with people about your relationship status is being able to accept awkward moments from time to time.”
“Part of being honest with people about your relationship status is being able to accept awkward moments from time to time.” —Jennifer Taitz, PhD
A lot of times, your status will come up naturally and not be weird at all. (Especially if you’re—duh—wearing a wedding ring.) Conversations about your weekend plans or the last vacay you took may pop up, and voilà, you have an opening to share. But if not, and you can feel in your bones that the other person is going to ask for your number, it’s best to speak up so as to respect the integrity of your relationship. “You can say something like, ‘I’m not sure if it’s appropriate or not for me to mention this, but I’m seeing someone.’ Call out the awkwardness and embrace it, because life is uncomfortable,” she says.
If you want some privacy when it comes to colleagues and family
Dishing about life outside of the office is a great way to bond with your coworkers, but if you’re single-and-dating or newly seeing someone, it’s natural to want to stay mum about your personal life. “It’s healthy not to share too much because you don’t want to worry about how you’re going to couch it to your colleagues if something doesn’t work out,” Dr. Taitz says. “It can add a layer of stress.”
Still, you don’t want to seem like jerk or for a colleague to leave a conversation in which they innocuously inquire about your personal life worrying they crossed a line. So when in doubt about how to balance kindness with the vibe that you just prefer to be private, follow Dr. Taitz’s sample script. “You could say something like, ‘That’s so sweet of you to care and ask what’s going on with me. I’m kind of in this new thing, and I’m trying not to get too excited about it or talk too much about it before I’m sure. I hope you understand.’”
And the same goes for inquisitive family members. “I have some clients who if their mom knows they just started seeing someone, will text them every day and ask how it’s going,” Dr. Taitz says. While chances are that your fam’s questioning is full of good intentions, it can be, well…annoying. “How much you want to share with your family about your dating life varies depending on what your relationship is with them, but you could say something like, ‘Just know that if there’s someone I think is worth talking about, I’ll definitely tell you.’” Again, it’s the balance of being appreciative while communicating your preference for privacy.
If you’re breaking the news to someone you’ve been out with a few times
Telling someone you’ve already been on a few dates with that you’re actually in a relationship is perhaps the most uncomfortable conversation you’ll have of the bunch. In today’s swipe-right culture, dating multiple people at once is normal. But it means you have to tell the lesser suitors you’ve gone out with a few times that you have a stronger connection with someone else—gulp.
“You have to accept that there’s nothing you can say to totally eliminate their disappointment.”
“First, you have to accept that there’s nothing you can say to totally eliminate their disappointment,” Dr. Taitz says, Fortunately, she has a sample script for this scenario, too: “‘I really care about you and your time, so I want to be honest. I recently reconnected with someone and I’m really sorry. I’m not sure how you feel about me, but I know this is an unexpected turn. I just wanted to tell you right away, and I’m sorry.’”
Still uncomfortable? Sure. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from having the conversation. “So often people avoid it because they think there’s a magical way to not hurt someone else. Or, they aren’t sure about the other relationship and want to keep their options open. But being kind is a better, more practical stance.”
Ultimately, she says, it’s best to accept that life can be uncomfortable and awkward—especially when it comes to dating and relationships. “The key is balancing what works for you, honoring your relationship, and being attentive to both.”