Dear Lulu Jeh,
These past few days haven’t been easy for me. As you know, Lunar New Year means that the presence of my girlfriend of four years is more or less required at family gatherings. And after sessions of what felt like legal interrogations drilling us for when we’re getting married and when are we going to buy a house, my girlfriend snapped at me for not standing up for her, saying how I could put her through this torment nearly every year.
I guess my question is, how should I skillfully dodge these burning questions without showing disrespect to my relatives? I usually just stay quiet, but they just seem to overstep all the more. — Pacifist
Having their personal boundaries intruded by relatives is quite a common complaint during family-oriented holidays such as Lunar New Year. Everyone has their own coping mechanism: some deflect and distract, some shoot pointed questions in their own defense, and some, like you, endure through the ordeal. While your relatives don’t mean harm with their curiosity, in an ideal world you’d want to let them know if they’re digging too deep.
Take a more lighthearted approach and let your relatives know that a relaxed time such as Lunar New Year is not a good time for discussing such serious matters. Instead, why not enjoy some sugary treats and focus on the must-watch comedy movies? Remember to keep your tone calm and friendly so there’s no reason for them to take offense.
But back to your girlfriend, take the time to understand where her anger is coming from. Is it because of the endless questions, how intrusive they feel, or is she disgruntled that you didn’t seem to have her back? It’ll help to have a pep talk before stepping into each family reunion to reassure each other that you are a team, and you will face whatever your relatives throw at you together. At the end of the day, you can get through most little challenges in life with a bit of understanding, mutual support and compromise.
Family gatherings are temporary, but a steady, growing relationship is for life. Good luck!