As family members, we mean well.
We haven’t seen some of our nephews, cousins, and sisters for months, sometimes years. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas offer us ample opportunity to catch up with those we love most and find out about what they’ve done or who they’ve met since we’ve last seen them.
However, family members can also tend to ask questions that people, especially single people, absolutely dread. Such questions have inspired a phenomenon known as a "Thanksgiving Clapback" in efforts to avoid these unwanted topics of discussion.
When I hopped on Christian dating apps for a brief period of time, I saw many bios that said, “Just need a date so I can have my family members stop asking me why I’m single during the holidays.” I’ve even known Christians to avoid family gatherings at all costs to avoid these questions.
To avoid the clapbacks and tensions these questions bring, this article will mention some of the questions single Christians hate hearing the most during the holidays, and better questions to ask instead.
Remember, as Christians, we are called to build each other up (Ephesians 4:29). One of the easiest ways to do the opposite (tear each other down) is by asking one of the following:
1. Are You Talking to Any Boys/Girls?
This question, although appearing innocent, can cause a lot of embarrassment on the part of the person answering. Whether a person wants to actively pursue a relationship or remain single for the time being, this question implies something deeper.
It implies a person should talk to a person of the opposite sex, in order to pursue a relationship that will end in a marriage. And, implies that if they have not spoken with someone, they have done something wrong in the process, or there is something wrong with them.
This puts pressure on a Christian when they may not be ready for a relationship or want to pursue a season, or lifetime, of singleness (1 Corinthians 7). Although we may ask this to get to catch up, we might want to try a question that may seem more welcoming and less accusatory.
The Better Question: Tell me about what you’ve been up to lately?
2. Why Don’t You Put Yourself Out There More?
This question tends to follow up a lament from a single question (usually after a relative asks the first question in this list). They’ll usually say something along the lines of, “I’d love to date, but God hasn’t placed anyone in my life right now.”
True, if we hole ourselves in our houses and never speak to someone, that can decrease our chances of ever meeting someone. But this question has some harmful assumptions.
First, it assumes the person has not tried to find a significant other. Although that may be true, most likely if a person wants to pursue a relationship, they have put in effort, and this question completely disregards any attempts for them to reach out to someone of the opposite sex.
Second, it assumes that even if a person has tried to connect with a significant other, that they’ve not put in enough effort.
Furthermore, this may force them to settle for someone who may not align with their values (2 Corinthians 6:14) to avoid the shame this question can bring. They may jump the gun and date someone God does not intend them to marry, because they feel incomplete in their singleness, based on this question alone.
The Better Question (if they’ve mentioned they want to date): How have you seen God move in your life during your season of singleness?
The Better Question (if they have not mentioned they want to date): What victories have you had this year?
3. Do You Think You’re Single Because You’re Too Picky/Have Too High of Standards?
First, let’s break down a real example of “too picky.”
Too picky: The boy must have blue eyes, be 6’2”, and love Disney films.
Not too picky: The boy must be a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14), must be willing to listen and learn, and must pursue Christ first, above everything else.
This question assumes a person may have too picky a palette and must therefore settle for anyone who slides into a DM. This enters a single Christian into dangerous territory.
Everyone has different essentials they look for in a potential partner. If they intend to do missionary work overseas, and find a partner who doesn’t want to move out of the country, they have found someone who doesn’t share the same essentials.
Christians, when asked this question, may settle for someone who doesn’t have the same views on children (whether they want to have kids or not), calling, finances, etc.
Or worse, they may get with someone who does not share in their faith, or who does not pursue God, in order to appease relatives.
The Better Question to Ask: If you would want to pursue a relationship, what sort of qualities would you like to see in your significant other?
This question, first of all, doesn’t assume they want to get into a relationship. But if they do, it allows them to share what they would love to see in a potential partner without being judged.
4. I’ve Found a Man/Woman for You, Do You Want Me to Set You Up on a Blind Date?
Relatives can sometimes get a little antsy when it comes to the single people in their lives. They see them try and fail to date, or not date at all, and assume they need to play the role of divine intervention.
Yes, if a single person in your life asks you to set them up on a blind date, disregard this. But most of the time, they’ll see this intervention as premature, and will view the upcoming blind date with dread.
I have known Christians to marry after meeting someone on a blind date, but that method doesn’t always work.
The Better Question to Ask: Just don’t ask about blind dates at all. If they elbow you, wink, and say, “You going to set me up?” and you do have someone in mind, you can talk a bit about them. If they show interest, you can mention you’d love to put the two in contact with each other. But otherwise, best avoid this topic of conversation.
We do also have to keep in mind, not everyone will end up with a significant other. Many Christians stay single and live contented lives as single people. Having a significant other does not make anyone a better or more complete human being.
If you worry about what questions will offend the single person in your life, keep topics such as dating and singleness out of bounds. Ask more open-ended questions about their normal day-to-day activities.
- Tell me about work
- What do you enjoy doing when you have free time?
- What’s happening in your life that you’re excited about?
- How have you seen God at work in your life?
Remember, we don’t want to scare away family members from holidays, and we especially don't want to force them to bring pretend dates. So, this Thanksgiving or Christmas, or whatever holiday, ask them questions they would love to answer.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 450 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel Den for July 2020. Find out more about her here.