“You’ve been single for quite some time now, what’s up, why can’t you find a man?”
“When will you get married? You guys have been dating for a while?”
“Congrats on the wedding, are you pregnant already?”
“You don’t want children? Just wait for it, it will change!”
“Such a cute baby, congrats! When are you planning to have the second one?”
“You’ve been living abroad for so long, when are you coming home?”
“But why would you give up your cushy job and go through a career change?”
“Shouldn’t you have bought a house by now?”
The list goes on and on.
No matter the life choices, there are always expectations by other people. Unfortunately, many people are quite vocal about those expectations and make sure to convey their lack of understanding of your choices. For the longest time, I got really emotional about these types of questions or remarks. I took them personally. I was single for most of my twenties. It was my choice – I always thought I would rather be on my own instead of dating someone just for the sake of not being alone. I moved across countries and continents all on my own. It was not always easy but I also grew immensely by just taking the leap and doing it for myself. But the questions were always the same: “What about your private life? You must be lonely. But men are probably scared of you and your lifestyle choices.” (Insert a pitiful face.)
When I then started seeing someone and we decided to lead a life which does not correspond to the standard norms either, the questions did not stop – they seemed to become even more intrusive. Some people did not even try to understand us, they just accused us of not knowing what we wanted in life. Just because our plans did not correspond to “what is normal”. But what is “normal” anyways?
I never understood the expectations and intrusive questions. I frankly find them really rude. Especially in the Austrian context, I find them hilarious actually: it is an absolute faux-pas to talk about money, for example. It is also regarded ill-mannered to ask others for which party they voted. But when it comes to career, relationships, weddings or children, people just love to bulldoze right away.
I always try to respect the choices of my family, friends or people I randomly meet. Every life is different and I do not have to be happy with their choices, they have to. I have friends whose lives are completely the opposite of mine and I guess we would not want to swap with each other. But I know that they are happy and that is why there is no need for silly and intrusive questions. Sometimes I have the feeling that the “investigation” is worse if my counterpart seems to be unhappy with their own lives at the moment or if they are struggling with something. Hence, they try to criticize others to make themselves feel better and legitimate their own choices.
Even when I see things differently or if I think there are flaws, I try to let others live their lives. We all have this friend who is dating a complete idiot but is madly in love with them. What am I supposed to do? I can make a comment here and there or try to have a conversation where I do not aggressively accuse them of making a mistake. Why would I start an investigation which will probably drive my friend away just to prove my point?
Some people are happy living in a house in the country side and start a family. Others want to enjoy the bustling city life. Some want to put their careers first. And some do not want to have children. Yes, there are women who just do not have a the “natural” urge to want children. Others may be struggling to get pregnant. Whatever it is, I want my counterparts to be happy. That is why I respect boundaries. And I would appreciate it if more people would follow through with that attitude as well.
Whatever path you decide to take, however you want to live your life. It is YOUR choice. It is good to ask for advice to see problems from different angles. But never ever let anybody cast doubts on your choices. In the end, you have to live with the results of your decisions – not the people who may have talked you into them. And if you happen to get caught up in asking these types of questions – put yourself into their shoes. They, for sure, will have reasons for their choices. Maybe those reasons are just none of your business.